BEST WILD PLAYER (2001)
You were all thinking we were going to bestow this accolade on Darby Hendrickson because he's our homie, Richfield native, and an alum of the University of Minnesota men's Gopher hockey team. But we just can't do it. Not with Marian Gaborik, a 19-year-old left wing from Trencin, Slovakia, breaking club records left and right. Gaborik was the Wild's first-ever draft pick, acquired in the first round of the 2000 NHL Entry Draft. He subsequently became the youngest player to score the first-ever goal for an NHL expansion team (scoring the first shot in the Wild's inaugural NHL game against the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim). Since then Gaborik has tied for the lead among all NHL rookies in shots (179), placed fifth in goals (18), and tied for fifth in points (36). He finished the Wild's inaugural season tied for the team lead in goals and ranked first in shots and points. Not coincidentally, Gaborik will be among seven Wild players set to participate in the 2001 World Championships in Germany. Our only disappointment is that there he'll be representing Slovakia.