The draft is upcoming here and when the Wild goes up to the podium and announces their pick, it is interesting to figure out WHY they picked who they picked.
Recently, HW did its player grades on the players on the professional roster, but what about those players and prospects elsewhere in the organization? The Wild have players playing all over the world. They have prospects in the American Hockey League, ECHL, CHL (WHL, OHL, QMJHL), NCAA and in Europe.
In addition, the Wild are on the verge of creating an entirely different image. Wild veterans Andrew Brunette and Antti Miettinen are expiring unrestricted free agents and the discussion of trading Brent Burns has become a real possibility. So let's go and take a look at what the Wild already have in the pipeline.
First off, we’ll take a look at the centers:
#64 / Center / HIFK
Feb 26, 1992
|2010 - HIFK||39||8||28||36||6||14|
Great playmaking skills ... superb hockey sense ... extremely crafty ... can play center or wing, extremely versatile ... very hard-working ... underrated shot ... plays with high energy ... not afraid to get into dirty areas ... world-class hands … a bit undersized ... lacks explosive speed ... SM-liiga Rookie of the Year (2010), Gentleman of the Year (2010) and SM-liiga Champion (2011) … World Championship Gold Medal (2011).
The center prospects are highlighted by Finnish sensation Mikael Granlund. By now, we all know who this kid is so I'll skip the introductions and everything. Fact is, he's going to be one heck of a hockey player.
GM Fletcher tried to bring Granlund over for the next season to play either in Minnesota or Houston, but the kid finally decided to stay in Finland to take care of some personal goals. He’ll likely command top playing minutes with the HiFK, and it will be interesting to see whether he continues developing at center, where he did not perform the best, according to a few Finnish fans.
Drafted 8th overall during last year’s draft, the center has dazzled fans with his shifty moves and ability to create plays out of nothing. Exhibit A:
Mikael Granlund UNBELIEVABLE lacrosse goal vs Russia IIHF WC 2011 Semifinals (via NHLvideosOnly)
#17 / Center / Houston Aeros
Oct 18, 1987
|2010 - Houston Aeros
possesses quick feet ... has a quick, solid release ... superb vision ... has soft hands ... willing to drive, go into the corners and contribute on the forecheck ... Hockey East Honorable Mention Team (2010) ... Hockey East All-Rookie Team (2009) ... Hockey East All-Academic Team (2009) ... UMass Hockey's Rookie of the Year (2009) ... defensive play is still raw ... needs to add more strength
Speaking of Houston, the Aeros will try to win Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals in the AHL after dropping a 3-0 game lead over the Hamilton Bulldogs. Center Casey Wellman provides secondary scoring for the team alongside Chad Rau and Robbie Earl.
However, they need to start performing, with Wellman scoring only 2 points and a minus 5 throughout the Hamilton series.
Still, the Wild would love to have some cheap, offensive talent, and they must have loved seeing Wellman putting on 16lbs to fill out his frame. Wellman has the speed and offensive skills to have a chance to make the Wild roster through training camp.
#27 / Center / Houston Aeros
Jul 24, 1989
|2010 - Houston Aeros
Great conditioning ... impressive hockey sense ... possessing above average speed ... very versatile, able to play center or wing ... very hard-working ... underrated offensive skills ... plays a responsible two-way game ... first player in Kelowna Rocket history to lead the team in scoring as a seventeen year old ... won the Rocket's top scorer award (2007), most improved award (2007), scholastic player of the year award (2007), and the unsung hero award (2009) ... needs to work on consistency ... questions about his offensive upside
Another Wild hopeful in Houston is Cody Almond. Called up for eight games with the Wild, he played a solid game on the bottom two lines. He plays a hard game, going on the forecheck, checking opposing forwards and driving to the net.
Before, it was hard to tell what type of player Almond would develop into, but at this point, it is safe to say he is progressing into a solid bottom six forward.
The Wild, handcuffed with large salaries from their pro players, will look towards cheaper alternatives for the third and fourth lines, presenting Almond and Wellman a chance to stick during next season’s training camp.
Center / Bakersfield Condors
Nov 24 1989
|2010 - Bakersfield Condors||32||17||13||30||9||39|
The signing of Joel Broda earlier on the season is a promising feeling. It is great to see the Wild finally trying to capitalize on free-agent prospect signings, where it seem they have struck gold with Jared Sprugeon. However, with Broda, things are still developing. Broda could not stick with the Aeros, but has made the most of his time in the ECHL, being named onto the ECHL All-Star Team.
Broda is signed to a three-year entry level deal with the Wild, so he will have time to develop.
Center / Omaha Lancers
Aug 30, 1991
|2010 - Omaha Lancers
possesses good vision ... decent offensive abilities ... pass first mentality ... strong work ethic ... tied for the USHL Scholar-Athlete Award ... lacks strength ... needs to improve defensive play ... needs to become more physical ... can improve his stride and his quick start.
Last but not least, the Wild’s last pick in the 2009 draft Anthony Hamburg is trying to find some playing time. After starting the season with Colgate University and only playing 7 games, Hamburg left to join the Omaha Lancers where amassed 20 points in 31 games.
Leaving Colgate University was probably a smart move on his part as we all know what sitting on the bench the whole season can do (Sheppard).
Talent-wise, the Wild are quite good in the center position.Two of their top prospects, Granlund and Wellman, are both making great strides and can potentially give the Wild some offensive boost in the near future. Behind them is Almond, he is progressing into a solid bottom six center.
However, there isn't much depth to be found. Granlund will be in Finland next season and Wellman and Almond are anything but sure things. Relying purely on Granlund for the future of the Wild's centermen is worrisome.
With six picks in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, don't be surprised to find the Wild drafting a center in the late rounds in order to create some depth within the organization.
So. What do you think?