After missing half the season with a back injury, Zach Parise closed out the 2017-18 season showing flashes of his old brilliance (before his untimely injury in the postseason). He tallied 12 goals in the final 18 games of the regular season and then added three more in three postseason games.
It was a nice glimpse, but given his injury history Wild fans weren’t exactly betting the farm on him rebounding big time to begin the 2018-19 season.
Coming into this season Parise knew he would have to perform now that he had a summer spent in training rather than in the trainer’s room. He noted that he was in great shape and it had been a few seasons since he felt that great. “I feel like I’m back to the player that I was before this started a couple of seasons ago. I feel normal again,” he told the St. Paul Pioneer Press back in the preseason.
But with those healthy feelings, Parise added that he knew the expectations on him were high to come through now that he was back at 100 percent, “I know what’s expected of me with the whole contract and everything. I’m not dumb. I know I need to perform.”
Parise has been a man of his word so far in the first 20 games this season, as he has been the team’s biggest offensive force outside of Mikael Granlund. The more impressive part of his start to the year is that his work has come in vintage Parise-like ways — out front of the net, redirecting pucks, and cleaning up rebounds.
It started right away on opening night.
— Giles Ferrell (@gilesferrell) October 5, 2018
Nine goals and nine assists is how Parise has started his season. In 20 games played — he missed last Thursday’s game against Vancouver due to illness — those 18 points come in second on the roster behind Granlund (19) for the team lead. Parise has gone with out a point in just seven games this season, and the most impressive part of that is he came back to register a point the following night in six of those instances.
— Giles Ferrell (@gilesferrell) October 31, 2018
To give you an idea of just how well Parise has produced in Minnesota’s first 20 games this season, the last time he was producing at this level was 2009-10 when he played for the New Jersey Devils. That season, Parise finished the year 82 points — 38 goals and 44 assists. He has never produced a point per game total this high since coming over to Minnesota in 2012.
As you can see, the last time his point per game mark was up over 0.90 was that 2009-10 season when he had the aforementioned 82 points.
But the most impressive part is that even though Parise is fully healthy, he is performing at this high level despite his age — 34. In today’s NHL, players tend to decline sharply around this age, not revert to a scoring form from 10 years previous.
To give you context for just how rare this level of production is, here is a list of players from the past 10 seasons aged 34 or above who carried a point per game average of 0.90 or higher.
If you are counting just individual players on that list, you only find 12 players in the past 10 seasons including number 11 to get up over the 0.90 points per game mark. Pretty elite company for him to be a part of, including a current teammate of his (*eyes emoji*).
— Giles Ferrell (@gilesferrell) November 7, 2018
In addition to his great start to the season, Parise also enjoyed a great accolade on Saturday against Buffalo when he became the NHL’s all-time leader in goals scored by a Minnesota-born player with 341 career goals.
— Giles Ferrell (@gilesferrell) November 17, 2018
“People, friends had been telling me about it, but I hadn’t been thinking about it,” Parise told The Athletic. “I’ve gotten to know a few of those guys [he passed on the list] and some nice people, good company to be with.”
While Parise’s success has only come in the first quarter of Minnesota’s season, there is hope that he can continue this incredible stretch of play as he continues to be healthy and has gotten back to doing all the Parise-like things we fondly remember him being able to do.
Without a true goal-scorer on this team, the Wild need Parise to do exactly what he has done – clean up garbage out front of the net – to compensate for that. Because it has been a trait that has been lacking on the team in quite a few seasons.