It is certainly going to be a WILD day for NHL esports on Saturday, February 2nd. There will be not one, not two, but THREE tournaments being carried out. The Washington Capitals and Tampa Bay Lightning will have their qualifying tournaments starting at 10 am EST, while the Minnesota Wild will have their first of two qualifiers at 1 pm EST. The Xbox bracket will be run on Saturday, while the PS4 bracket will occur on SuperBowl Sunday. There are limited spaces available, so sign up on FaceIt ASAP!
Both qualifiers will be a 256-person, single elimination bracket. However, the final round of the tournament will not be played. The two finalists on each console will be flown to Minneapolis (travel and hotel paid for) to play each other on LAN. Full details of the tournament can be found in this article.
This means that in order to book your ticket to Minneapolis, you will have to win seven games in a row. As we saw with the 2018 NHL Gaming World Championship qualifiers, this can lead to some very crazy results. With the community still adapting to a new tuner set that was implemented on Tuesday morning, it is truly going to be a battle of who can adapt the quickest. I’m positive there will be some form of luck involved, and we’ll see some unfamiliar names make deep runs through the bracket. It’ll be difficult to predict a winner for these qualifiers, but I guarantee at least one person will get the short end of the stick after dominating their opponent. Alright, so you know how this whole thing works – let’s examine the Minnesota Wild roster in NHL 19.
As we have seen with the other NHL team-run tournaments, most rosters have at least one or two star players. Toronto has Matthews and Tavares, the Jets have Laine and Scheifele, and pretty much every player on Tampa Bay’s roster is useable. Who does Minnesota have? 86 overall Mikael Granlund, Eric Staal (85), and Zach Parise (85). There is no clear star player, but they’ve got a deep roster to work with.
In goal, you have a stellar netminder in Devan Dubnyk (86) who’s rocking a beastly 6’6″ frame. To defend him, they’ve got a solid core of Suter (88), Spurgeon (84), and Brodin (83). Don’t forget to substitute Matt Dumba (85) from the scratched players list. The defense has size, speed and the ability to fire the puck from the point with one-timers. Personally, I make the switch to have Eric Staal (85) on my second defensive pairing, as his 6’4 frame is able to successfully bump players off the puck while his shooting stats are able to provide additional offense from the blue line.
The main reason I drop Staal back is that there are too many left-handed players on this roster. Granlund (86), Parise (85), Staal (85) and Zucker (84) are all left-handed. So unless you plan on putting one of them on their non-shooting wing, you’re going to end up with a stud on your fourth line. In contrast, the team lacks strong right-handed wingers, with Coyle (83) being the only one above an 80 rating. Another option for a right-handed winger is to substitute fellow NHL 19 gamer J.T. Brown (77) as he provides more speed down the wing.
In the middle of the ice, the top four centers based off of faceoff rating are captain Mikko Koivu (84 OVR, 85 FO), Eric Fehr from the scratched list (77 OVR, 82 FO), Victor Rask (81 OVR, 80 FO) and Marcus Foligno (78 OVR, 79 FO). As mentioned before, there are no superstars on the Minnesota Wild roster like there are on other powerhouse teams. With such a wide variety of players, it will be interesting to see the different line combinations that the top players come up with.
Logically, if you are a competitive player, it would make sense to compete in the tournament that offers you the most prize money. Tampa Bay and Washington have prize pools of $10,000 each, which is larger than the $7,400 offered by the Minnesota Wild. For that reason, I believe most people will opt to play in the other tournaments this weekend. The fact that the other tournaments are double elimination is also something that the majority of players like.
Unless there are upsets that occur in the first three hours of the Bolts and Capitals tournaments, I do not expect many top players to be involved in the first bracket on Saturday. Watch out for the Sunday bracket, as all of the top dogs will be out to play. Europeans are also not eligible to play in this tournament, so the connection for most games should be pretty good.
For my finalist predictions, I will offer four names in no particular order who I think have the best chance at qualifying. It’s also important to note that because the bracket is randomly generated, it is entirely possible these guys match against each other in the first round.
Regs and Josh have already qualified for Washington, so they do not even need to worry about that tournament. They can focus all of their time practicing this week with Minnesota. Similarly, Yung Gren can also focus his attention on the Minnesota tournament, as he is not allowed to play in the Washington or Tampa tournaments. Lastly, I’m picking HockeyKings (HK_OFs). While he will be trying to qualify for Tampa earlier in the day, he has proven that he can play back and forth through two brackets. Two weeks ago, he placed 1st in the Winnipeg tournament while also achieving a Top 6 finish in the Capitals qualifier.
For a wildcard honourable mention, I’ll choose Keso_Paghuni. Coming off an epic run taking down all the top European players last week to qualify for Washington, it will be interesting to see if he can do the same this weekend against the North Americans.
Make sure to keep an eye out for all the streams to keep up with the games. In addition, I will be live-tweeting the results as this tournament plays out. Let me know who you think will be heading to Minnesota by tweeting me @TheOohwayy.