It’s only a rumor, but the New York Islanders are being linked as a possible opponent for the 2021 Winter Classic against the Minnesota Wild.
The New York Islanders haven’t played an outdoor game since 2014, but in 2021, that could change. Judd Zulgad of SKOR North indicates that the Isles are emerging as a possible opponent for the Wild at the marquee event hosted at Target Field.
There isn’t a rivalry to speak of between the Islanders are Wild, on account of these teams only playing 27 times since 2001. So seeing the Isles linked here is a bit odd. But getting the Islanders on national TV, in a premier NHL event is all that matters.
The St Louis Blues seem like the best bet for an opponent to the Minnesota Wild in an outdoor game. They’re a divisional rival and recent Stanley Cup champion. But according to Zulgad, that matchup isn’t a done deal yet.
As a fill-in, Zuglad believes the Islanders, who could draw an East coast market and make are a good fit because of the number of Minnesotans on the roster. Nick Leddy, Anders Lee, and Brock Nelson all come from the land of 10,000 lakes.
"There is another team that has emerged as a possible opponent for the Wild. That would be the New York Islanders, who could attract a television audience from the East Coast and also have three Minnesota natives on their roster (Anders Lee, Nick Leddy and Brock Nelson)."
We also can’t forget that Cal Clutterbuck played some of his most productive hockey while as a member of Minnesota Wild. In 2010-11 he scored 19 goals and 34 points, both are career highs.
The only team with more Minnesotan’s are the Arizona Coyotes with four: Alex Goligoski, Aaron Ness, Jordan Gross, and Derek Stepan. Although, to be fair, Ness and Gross aren’t exactly at the same level as the others on the list.
If the criteria to play is an East-coast team with a draw that also has a connection to Minnesota, then Buffalo with Kyle Okposo and Casey Mittelstadt on the roster make a compelling link. Mittelstadt might be in the AHL today, but by 2021 he’ll certainly be on the Sabres NHL roster.
Getting the Islanders in on a premier NHL event would be great. It’s hard to think this will be the event. At the very least maybe the Islanders are being considered and that’s worth something.