Ever since the naming of Chuck Fletcher as the Wild's General Manager, there has been a sense of optimism within the fan community. One of the Wild's main weaknesses was the lack of any bluechip prospects and when previous general manager Doug Risebrough was fired, he left the team with a roster barely holding itself together and a prospect pool highlighted with Colton Gillies and Tyler Cuma, both considered good, but not bluechip prospects.
The lack of quality prospects who could represent the core of the Wild raised many questions about the future of the team. However, with the 2010 Entry Draft completed, the Wild acquired six new prospects in addition to three new college prospects acquired at the end of the 2009-10 regular season.
Here, on Hockeywilderness, we will rank our prospects, and hopefully, you will be entertained and informed about the future of the Minnesota Wild
(Part 1 of 4. There will be four rankings throughout the year, during the beginning of August, December, February, and June)
Requirements for rookies:
*Under the age of 27
**Has played less than 15 NHL Games (some exceptions apply e.g Gillies)
***Has played less than 4 years of pro hockey
|Rank||August Rankings||December Rankings||February Rankings||June Rankings|
1. Mikael Granlund C
Drafted by the Wild with the 9th overall pick in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, Granlund has been described as a Saku Koivu clone, which speaks volume about the SM-Liiga Rookie and Gentleman of the Year. Considered to be the smartest player in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, Granlund accompanies his hockey sense with an intriguing package of creative hands, shiftiness and hard work. He has the ability to play either center or left wing and to play well at both ends of the ice. The only worry some have is his lack of explosive speed, considering his small size, but that can be easily exaggerated as he is listed as 5'10 180lbs, which is actually quite a solid build. That, along with his determination and hard work that makes him hard to push off the puck, has given the Wild confidence that he can make an impact in the more physical NHL environment.
2. Marco Scandella D
Finishing his junior career with a bang (winning silver with Canada WJC team, suspended 15 games for a high hit, achieving career high PPG), Scandella looks to translate his success at the pro level. Known mainly for his defensive game, Scandella possess a hard shot and is a decent puck mover. Wild Coordinator of Amateur Scouting Guy Lapointe told Aeros.com that Scandella reminds them of "A better Hall Gill type of defenseman but with more ability." Last year, he was one of the last cuts at the Minnesota Wild training camp so he will be looking to compete for that open 7th defenseman spot. If not, he will have time to polish his skills with the Houston Aeros.
3. Casey Wellman C
The Wild's prized college acquisition, Wellman showed he was able to compete at the NHL level. Already 23 years old, Wellman NHL-ready ability have some wondering where he fits with the Wild. Is he ready enough to play on a top-six forward role, can he compete on a bottom-six role with his lack of physicality, or should he develop with the minors while getting top-line minutes? While it may be a hard decision, it has Wild fans excited that they actually have a choice instead of placing a youngster into an NHL role they aren't ready for (e.g James Sheppard). Last season, his speed and hockey sense impressed many but it was evident that he was not physically ready, but over the summer, with the help of large amount of eggs, chicken and steak, Wellman arrived at Development Camp fourteen pounds heavier. He will have his chance to audition for a Wild spot during training camp.
4. Tyler Cuma D
Like Scandella, Cuma will be eligible to play with the Houston Aeros, the question is, will he. Tyler Cuma is seen as a mobile defensive defenseman that possess good hockey sense and puck moving ability but his juniors years since he was drafted has not been one of optimism. Cuma was injured during the 2008/09 season and never seemed to gain back his confidence, which has led him to make constant mental lapses. It will be interesting to see if the Wild will decide to groom him with the Aeros or hope he will grow with top minutes with the Ottawa 67's. Wild Coordinator of Amateur Scouting Guy Lapointe told Aeros.com that Cuma is "A puck mover defenseman, good mobility, has good understanding of the game. Plays both sides, competes hard; comparable to Nick Schultz". As we are all very familiar with Schultz, we can expect Cuma not to be a physical defensive d-man but a smart, well positioned player.
5. Matt Hackett G
The Wild will potentially have three of their top five prospects graduating to the pro-game, and Matt Hackett is one of them. Hackett finished the OHL 2nd in save percentage with a 0.925% and posted 0.940% 2.38 GAA in 5 playoff games, however, he was suspended during the playoffs and his starting position was given to Scott Wedgewood. During the Wild Developmental Camp scrimmages, Hackett looked nervous and his play was shaky. With Anton Khudobin showing promise with the Aeros, it will be interesting to see whether GM Chuck Fletcher keeps Hackett with the Aeros in order to challenge for the starting job, or if he gets sent elsewhere in order for insured starting goaltending minutes.
6. Colton Gillies LW
After seeing the result of rushing prospects to the NHL level firsthand with James Sheppard, the new Wild management quickly tried to rectify their mistake and sent Colton Gillies down to the Houston Aeros, hoping to avoid wasting his potential development time sitting on the bench. Drafted by the Wild for his high paced physical game, Gillies has shown flashes of talent but like any rookie, showed a good amount of inconsistency. But now that his rookie year is over and with new head coach Mike Yeo arriving, Gillies will be hoping to improve his consistency and to impress the Wild staff for a call-up back to the Wild pro roster.
7. Brett Bulmer LW
Originally thought to be an off-the-board pick by the Wild during the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, Bulmer showed why the Wild chose him so early during the Wild's Development Camp. Bulmer exhibited solid skating, decent puckhandling skills and a lot of physical play, even stirring up some action with Tyler Cuma and Maxim Noreau. Regarded as a late bloomer, Bulmer still has room to grow into his 6'3" frame and will be relied on by the Kelowna Rockets as he is looking to pair off with potential top five pick in the 2011 Entry Draft, Shane McColgan.
8. Cody Almond C
Although Almond only scored 18 points in 48 games with the Houston Aeros, there seems to be a 'fan favorite' love growing within the Wild community. Almond played solid during his call up to the Wild, which surprised many, expecting little from the rookie. Almond is a complete player, able to playing both sides of the ice, complimented with a physical edge. He showed up in development camp ready, outplaying every single Wild prospect during scrimmages. Almond is an interesting project, with many confused on what type of player he will develop into as he is extremely versatile. Mike Yeo, the Aeros new head coach, will have the opportunity to mold Almond into the player that he wants.
9. Erik Haula LW
Selected in the 7th round, Haula remains a mystery. Originally thought to be a top 90 pick in the 2010 Entry Draft, Haula slipped to the #182 pick during the last round of the draft. He started to tear up the USHL, becoming top 10 in goals, assists, points, and PPA. However, despite his success, he was left off the Finnish U-20 WJC team, which had many confused as to why. He will be heading to the U. of Minnesota in order to continue his development, but with the recent departures of U. of M players heading towards different developmental avenues, accompanied by the public dispute between GM Snow and Don Lucia over the progress of Kyle Okposo, some are worried about the quality of the Gopher's development program.
10. Maxim Noreau D
During the end of the season, the Wild began calling up many Aeros players for evaluation at the NHL level, including Nate Prosser, Justin Falk, Cody Almond, Danny Irmen, Petr Kalus and Maxim Noreau. Noreau played sparingly, playing only 7:01 minutes on the ice. During those minutes, Noreau looked somewhat nervous, disappointing to many. However, his play with the Aeros cannot be ignored: AHL Canada All-Star, tied for second in points with the Houston Aeros and tied for the lead among AHL defensemen with 18 goals and placing fifth with 50 points in 71 games. However, Noreau remains undersized for the NHL game so the 2010-11 will become his make-or-break season with the Wild.
11. Johan Larsson LW
Drafted in the second round of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, Larsson went on a hot streak during the WJC U-18, playing as team captain for Sweden, and scoring 6 goals and 8 assists in 5 games. Thought to be a strong two-way player, his offensive breakout have the Wild hoping there is some more hidden offensive talent within Larsson.
12. Nate Prosser D
One out of the three college signings by the Wild, Prosser played 3 games with the Wild, in which he impressed the staff and fans with his solid play and strong shot. No one was expecting Prosser to play solidly an average of 19.36 minutes per game. Prosser will be one of defensive prospects challenging for the 7th spot with the Wild.
13. Justin Falk D
A stay-at-home defenseman, Falk possess huge size and good mobility that has had Wild's head coach Todd Richard excited about his future. Amongst the number of late season call-ups for the Wild, Falk showed a very long reach and physical play. He will most likely head back to the Houston Aeros but his future seems to be bright.
14. Jason Zucker LW
The Wild traded its third and fourth round picks in the 2010 Entry Draft to move up into the late second round and select Jason Zucker. During the 2009-10 season, Zucker won three gold medals, impressive for a 17 year old, including a gold with Team USA during the U-20 WJC. Known for his forechecking skills, Zucker will have another year (hopefully two) to make the Team USA team again and head for a championship medal.
15. Anton Khudobin G
Undersized and relatively unknown, Khudobin was given the call when Niklas Backstrom was scratched due to injury and Josh Harding was injured during a game against Edmonton. Within nine minutes, Khudobin made a few good saves and secured the win that Harding fought for. With both Backstrom and Harding injured, Khudobin was given the start against the Flyers, in which he allowed only 1 goal and scored a 0.974 save percentage. At only 5'11" and playing a quite unorthodox style, Khudobin's future with the Wild would seem bleak but with 2 wins on his resume (good ones at that), some would have to wonder if he will prove doubters wrong. He will be challenging for the starting position with rookie Matt Hackett for the Houston Aeros during the 2010-11 season.
16. Kristopher Foucault LW
Inconsistency and work ethic seems to be the issues with Foucault. Described as a "Skilled offensive winger with quality hands and a pro release", Foucault's regular season play can be considered underwhelming, but will become an offensive force during the playoffs. He will most likely head back to the Calgary Hitmen and try to repeat his playoff success during the regular season.
17. Darcy Kuemper G
The biggest thing for Kuemper is consistency. He has the large size and the good mobility but he had a disappointing start to the season and a disappointing playoff performance as well. His second half performance was surprising a lot better. He played solid for his try out with the Houston Aeros so there is promise, he will just need some time to develop his game in the juniors.
18. Kyle Medvec D
Medvec has one more year with the University of Vermont, and will serve as an assistant captain as a senior. Little is known about Medvec, but in his recent play during the developmental camp scrimmages, he displayed huge size, good mobility, and decent hockey sense. If he can improve his skating, he could make a decent bottom paring defenseman but will most likely to spend one more year in college and a few in the AHL before making it to the NHL.
19. Chad Rau C
Rau's rookie year was impressive, being the Aero's top rookie for the 2010-11 season. He has those abilities to make him a dangerous forward but also has some glaring flaws, such as skating and physicality. If he improves in those areas previously mentioned, perhaps there might be a future for Rau with the Wild as he does possess offensive skills that make him a dangerous opponent.
20. Jarod Palmer RW
21. Joel Broda C
Signed even before developmental camp started, Broda was signed by the Wild to a three-year entry level deal. Broda scored 73 points in 66 games and was part of Calgary Hitmen, who won the 2010 WHL Championship. With the Wild actively trying to improve their prospect pool, Broda is a welcomed addition, possessing decent size and good hands. While his skating ability and his defensive play is somewhat lacking, Broda will have time to develop with the Houston Aeros and the Wild do not mind adding a youngster to the Aero's roster.
22. Johan Gustafsson G
Selected in the 6th round in the 2010 Entry Draft, Gustafsson possess the size and the athleticism that NHL teams look for in goalies. Former Assistant General Manager Tommy Thompson, who also ran the draft for the Wild, had Gustafsson ranked 44th overall in his rankings. He will head back to Sweden where he will be given time to develop
23. Petr Kalus LW
Since returning from Russia, Kalus has shown that he has matured but still was not overly impressive, especially in his 2 games with the Wild, in which fans felt underwhelmed by his non-existent play. By now, fans can only hope for a energetic 4th line grinder if Kalus does not decide to move back to the KHL.
24. Matt Kassian LW
While considered a great teammate, his future with the Wild seem to be bleak as the acquisitions of Brad Staubitz and Eric Nystrom, along with the decision to not re-sign Derek Boogaard, has seem to point the new emphasis on tough guys who can contribute offensively, a future without pure enforcers. With only 6 points in 59 games last season, there is little Kassian can do but to provide that physical presence.
25. Jere Sallinen LW
In Sallinen's first full season in the SM-Liiga, he scored a modest 11 points in 38 games. However, his main strength, and the reason the Wild drafted Sallinen, was his ability to provide physical play. Some worry that his reckless style of play and some wonder if he can overcome his injury plagued career (a back injury during the 08-09 season and a hit from behind during the most recent U-20 WJC), and continue to improve his overall game.
26. Dylen McKinlay RW
With their last pick in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, the Wild selected Dylen McKinlay. A skinny forward that can play the two-way game and score goals, if he puts on more muscle, he can become a more effective hockey player.
27. Anthony Hamburg, C
28. Carson McMillan, RW
29. Sean Lorenz, D
30. Bjorn Krupp, D
31. Chris Hickey, C
32. Julian Walker, C