The Graduating Prospect Class of 2012

Regular season is just about winding down and playoffs are on the horizon. For some, there isn't any playoffs and now comes golf season (...I hate golf...).

Last season, the prospects that found a place in the professional level consist of Kris Foucault, Justin Fontaine, Darcy Kuemper, Chay Genoway, and Kyle Medvec.

Not many flashy names but the 2012 is different. It is filled with names of prospects that are looking to become fulltime professonal hockey players.


Mikael Granlund

Center / HIFK

5-10

180

Feb 26 1992


Destination Projection: Minnesota Wild

Our personal Jesus. We are just awaiting his arrival to save the Wild franchise. Okay, that may have been a slight overstatement but Granlund has been the Wild's only offensive bluechip prospect since Marian Gaborik.

He has dominated for Finland in all international tournaments, has dominated in every single level of play in Finland, so there is little doubt he can dominate in North America. There is still a bit a doubt, but its as low as it could possible get for any international prospect looking to make his mark in North America.

He's a craft playmaker with elite vision and a solid all-round game, not afraid to give or take hits, and solid enough to take punishment. While not a speedster, he's got good skating in terms of balance and is just a great character.

When he comes over, which is 99% likely, I project him to be bouncing around the Wild pro roster looking for chemistry. Because he's a playmaker but without the speed, I can see him playing alongside Dany Heatley who has a great shot but lacks speed as well. He could also find place next to Cal Clutterbuck, who has a deadly and deceptive wrister. But I have a strong feeling Heatley should be his man.


Brett Bulmer

Left Wing / Kelown Rockets

6-3

193

Apr 26 1992


Destination Projection: Minnesota Wild/Houston Aeros

What a year for Bulmer, and he still has the playoffs to show more!

Since being drafted, he has grown around one inch as well as 20-30 pounds. And no one expected Bulmer to stick with the Wild for nine games, let alone play like a pro.

However, he still displayed flaws normal for an 19-year old rookie, and as a result was sent back down to the juniors to the Kelowna Rockets. How did he take it? Well, he was one of the last cuts for WJC's Team Canada and was named the Rockets MVP of the season.

Bulmer's biggest flaw is his inconsistency. When he's on his game, he is physical, agitating, dangerous offensively and just a dominant WHL player. But that is only when he is on his game.

Being sent down was probably very good for Bulmer, giving him top minutes in all-situations so that he could develop consistency in his game. However, it is still a problem. Therefore, Houston would most likely be his destination, he's already there to end the season.


Johan Larsson

Center / Brynas

5-10

200

Jul 25 1992


Destination Projection: Houston Aeros

One of Sweden's top youngster, he captained his country to the gold medal during this years WJC. He was also named a top 3 Swedish player. Lets not forget that he leads junior scoring in the Swedish Elite League by a fair margin with 36 points in 49 games (2012 1st round potential pick Pontus Aberg at second with only 15 points in 47 games)

IMO, that tells me he is one of the top Swedish youngsters not in the NHL. Not bad value for a late 2nd round pick, wouldn't you say?

He plays a reliable two-way game that should translate smoothly in the North American game. With that said, he'll have to battle Mikael Granlund (#1 Wild prospect), Brett Bulmer (9 NHL games under his belt) and Jason Zucker (will have 6 games under his belt), for a regular spot on the Wild roster so he'll most likely find a place in Houston on a top six role.


Jason Zucker

Left Wing / Minnesota Wild

5-11

174

Jan 16 1992


Destination Projection: Minnesota Wild/Houston Aeros

Originally, I slated Jason Zucker to be an Aero to start the 2012-13 season, but after watching him for three games, that could very well change.

As a rookie, Zucker has not looked out of place. Obviously, he has made mistakes because he is a youngster and still trying to adjust to the NHL speed, but he displays a high energy and speedy game that works well on a bottom six role.

All that we know is that his time in college is done and his professional career has now started. I know I cannot wait.

Zucker does need to add some muscle to his game, but that can be taken care of with a good workout schedule over the summer. Houston could help refine his offensive game but seeing that his niche is his speedy and energetic game, he could be seeing regular time with the Wild sooner than later.


Johan Gustafsson

Goaltender / Lulea

6-2

203

Feb 28 1992


Destination Projection: Lulea HF

The Wild organization has always been deep with goaltending talent. When Gustafsson, who is 4th in save percentage and 2nd in GAA in the entire Swedish Elite League, is your 2nd/3rd best goaltending prospect,that is a great sign.

If I understand correctly, Gustafsson needs to be qualified in order for his rights to be retained by the Wild. As a result, he'll be under contract with the team. But where will he end up?

Right now, there is a logjam in Houston with Matt Hackett and Darcy Kuemper sharing minutes. Most likely, Gustafsson will stay in SEL to play top minutes against top players in Sweden as opposed to sharing time in Houston with Hackett as the Wild backup (assuming Harding is not re-signed).


Sean Lorenz

Defense / Houston Aeros

6-1

192

Mar 10 1990


Destination Projection: Houston Aeros

Last year was Lorenz's best season with Notre Dame, being named the teams top defenseman and CCHA's top defensive defenseman. In addition, he scored an impressive 3.80 GPA in his 2011 spring semester, an impressive feat for any student.

To summarize, Lorenz is a prospect full of character, a guy you would love in the locker room. He is currently nominated to win the Lowe's Senior CLASS Award, an award that goes to an outstanding senior NCAA Division I Student-Athlete across ten different sports.

He was signed by the Wild following the end of his Notre Dame hockey career. He'll have time to develop his steady defensive game in Houston. For an example, Clayton Stoner spent 4-5 seasons with the Aeros before stapling his place with the Wild.


Jonas Brodin

Defense / Farjestad

6-1

170

Jul 12 1993


Destination Projection: Farjestad

Although his stats may not show it, Brodin has made strides improving his game. If it was even possible, it seems Brodin has become even more reliable and more steady for the Farjestad team of the Swedish Elite League. It isn't easy become a core defenseman for a professional team as an 19 year old.

But that is what happened and his play as a key defenseman for the Swedish U-20 team showed it. While not physical, he won majority of his battles with his stick play or by simply angling the opponent off. He moves the puck very swiftly and he seems to be using his wristshot more often.

Already signed to a contract, Brodin does have a chance to impress the Wild brass with his reliable defensive game and high level poise and confidence.

However, if the Wild want Brodin to develop into a top pairing defenseman, he'll need time play as such, and Farjestad will probably the best environment to do just that.


Charlie Coyle

Center / Saint John Sea Dogs

6-2

207

Mar 2 1992


Destination Projection: Houston Aeros

If I can tell correctly, Charlie Coyle is still eligible to play for the Saint John Sea Dogs next season as well as an overager.

But honestly, is that really the best place for him?

He already possesses an NHL-ready body, plays a solid two-way game, and has good skating. Is he ready for the NHL? Probably not. But a season or two playing in a top six role with the Houston Aeros will be great for his development.

He is a forward with a solid overall package of everything, much like a more offensively talented Kyle Brodziak, who could develop into a very good 2nd line center that plays in all situations. Houston will be great for him.

Conclusion

This is one hell of a graduating class!

The only prospect on this list that may not graduate is Jonas Brodin and Johan Gustafsson, who both may stick in the Swedish Elite League for top minutes.

The rest will most likely done a Wild or Aero sweater next year. That is 5 of the top 8 prospects (Hackett is #5 and he is already in the pros). It's as if our years of first round busts have decided to show up in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft. Think about, our picks go Mikael Granlund, Charlie Coyle, Brett Bulmer, Johan Larsson, Jason Zucker and Johan Gustafsson. Just unbelievable. Thats nearly the entire Wild draft class.

There isn't much else left to say. Just look and be amazed.

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