There’s no doubt that the Minnesota Wild significantly improved their roster at the trade deadline. While Marc-Andre Fleury headlined the Wild’s investment, Tyson Jost and Jacob Middleton were two other sneaky-good additions.
Minnesota’s recent loss against the division-rival Nashville Predators ended their 10-game point streak. But that 9-0-1 stretch means there’s no question that the Wild made the right decision at the deadline. Still, they need to make a few adjustments down the stretch if they want to maximize their roster heading into the playoffs.
It starts with Jost who has played primarily on the fourth line with Nicolas Deslauriers and Brandon Duhaime. Jost has made a strong impression since his arrival, but he hasn’t found the opportunity he needs to flourish. If the Wild want to unleash his untapped potential, they can’t keep deploying him in a defensive role with limited minutes on the fourth line.
Granted, there’s not much wiggle room on the roster. Dean Evason found the right line combinations earlier in the season, which created a dangerous 1-2 punch. Centered by Ryan Hartman, Kirill Kaprizov and Mats Zuccarello are flourishing on the top line. And it’s universally accepted that Jordan Greenway, Joel Eriksson Ek, and Marcus Foligno have become a formidable line, with some of the best numbers across the league.
Jost’s fourth-line duty seemed inescapable until Matt Boldy went down with an injury. He finally got an opportunity to succeed with a bigger offensive assignment. Although he can play both wing and center, he has been playing as a winger alongside Kevin Fiala and Freddy Gaudreau on the second line. Since his promotion, Jost has made the best of it with a goal and two assists in four games.
It’s important that his production — even in a small sample size — doesn’t go unnoticed. Boldy’s absence left a major hole in the lineup, so Jost’s ability to play in a larger role during a crucial time in the season is worth noting. While Jost had a rough outing against Carolina, it’s fair to put that aside as an outlier. Not only were the Wild thoroughly outplayed but just four players managed an expected goals percentage above 50 percent. Looking at the past three games, he’s been even better.
Jost’s underlying numbers have been better in Minnesota than his numbers in Colorado this season. In the past three games, the 24-year-old has a 59 percent expected goals rate in 5-on-5 play.
While Jost hasn’t been astonishing like the Wild’s other top players, he has chipped in here and there offensively. And there have been several cases where it’s clear he just needs some more time to run away with this opportunity. One of those moments was Jost’s first goal in a Wild sweater.
Jost’s skating put him in a position to fend off Nicklas Backstrom before creating an odd-man rush where he beat Vitek Vanecek far side. That’s just one example of his potential that has been on display. In the game against the Hurricanes, Jost made a nice backhand feed on Kulikov’s goal to get a primary assist.
Another example of Jost making plays happen was in the recent overtime loss against the Blues where Jost shot the puck on goal from the point before Fiala put away the rebound.
This goal shows Jost’s patience and confidence with the puck. There were two Blues players challenging Jost near the point, but Jost continued to skate at the top of the point, creating space and an open lane to the net.
Jost has three primary points in four games and is making things happen offensively. He has made a strong case to stay on the second line. A Fiala-Jost-Boldy line could be in the making, an intriguing trio that could make the Wild’s top-9 more dangerous. It’s worth noting that he’s been responsible on the defensive side of the puck, too.
Jost has shown he’s capable of a larger role, but that means the Wild would have to swap him with Gaudreau when Boldy returns from injury.
That’s a difficult decision to make since Gaudreau has made significant improvements as the season has progressed. Since Jan. 24, the 28-year-old has 8 goals and 21 points in 32 games. He only had 11 points in his first 31 games. He’s been noticeably better, too, but moving swapping Jost with Gaudreau seems inevitable.
There’s too much on the line this season and Jost simply has much more to give offensively. And it should be noted that some of Gaudreau’s second-half production can be attributed to Boldy’s arrival. Likewise, it would put Gaudreau in more of a defensive role where he could flourish. It may offset Deslauriers, too, who has his flaws defensively.
Placing Jost on the second line makes Minnesota more dangerous come playoff time. The next step is giving Jost special teams time, specifically on the power play, at least on a trial run. And if there’s any hesitation, Jost should at least be given an extended time on the second line down the stretch to prove he’s capable of the larger role.
Plus, with the dead money from the buyouts becoming more expensive over the next three seasons, it will be important to figure out what Jost’s ceiling is before he becomes an RFA at the end of the 2022-23 campaign.
Simply put, the Wild need to give Jost more time in an expanded role. Sure, he can be an effective bottom-six option. But if he can make the top-six more lethal, it will significantly help Minnesota’s playoff odds.