It was about time to do a prospect rankings with the season about to start. The Wild roster is set and players are sent back to their respective teams, it is time to figure out which prospects are key for Minnesota.
Some are expected to be where they are, some are not.
But I will tell you this, the prospect pool continues to look super talented. It is just embarrassing looking at the riches we have. Names like Johan Gustafsson and Adam Gilmour did not make the list but both have potential to be core players in the near future.
So without further ado:
#1 Jonas Brodin – D Minnesota Wild (NHL)
Strengths - An extremely smooth skater with limitless poise and confidence. He makes smart and safe plays and has a nifty stick that can separate the puck from opponents. He makes good outlet passes and is very creative with his defensive plays to relieve pressure from forechecks.
Weaknesses - He struggles when the game requires physicality but he somehow manages to avoid many of these situations. He doesn't have high-end offensive creativity which raises questions on his offensive upside.
2013-14 Outlook - He has secured his spot as the Wild's #2 defenseman for the next several years but has had very little time on specialty teams. Hopefully, he'll get more chances on the powerplay and penalty kill this year to raise his already impressive play into a whole other level.
#2 Charile Coyle - RW Minnesota Wild (NHL)
Strengths - He is very consistent and very strong on the puck and along the boards. He is able to play any position and in any situation making him an extremely valuable player. He is strong on his skates and hard to knock off the puck. He keeps it simple and makes an excellent complimentary player to any line.
Weaknesses - He doesn't have high end skills or physicality which limits his ability to create plays on his own.
2013-14 Outlook -With Jason Pominville starting his first full season with the Wild, will that push Coyle out of the first line? No matter since his versatility will find him a spot on any of the lines. He could be considered a permanent Wild player at this point.
#3 Mikael Granlund - C/LW Houston Aeros (AHL)
Strengths - Granlund is a strong player with good agility and balance. He has great playmaking abilities and vision. He is very poised and confident with the puck and is able to slow down the game and wait for passing lanes to open up. Although mainly a playmaker, he isn't afraid to battle for the puck and shoot to score. Once in the zone, he is hard to remove off the puck with his stick skills and poise.
Weaknesses - He slows down during zone entries which makes his lack of speed and size easy to take advantage of. When he stops moving, he is easy to neutralize.
2013-14 Outlook - With the lack of a true #2 centerman, Granlund might have another chance to prove he has the stuff to be the Wild's second centerman. But if he is to improve from last year, he will need to keep his feet moving so he is harder to defend against.
#4 Nino Niederreiter - RW/LW Bridgeport Sound Tigers (AHL)
Strengths - A strong player that is hard to knock off the puck and that has strong balance and skating. He can play in many situations due to his strength and ability to play the grinding game. He is very similar to Charlie Coyle but with better scoring potential.
Weaknesses - His development the past three years look similar to the way the Wild developed James Sheppard and Colton Gillies; rushed into the NHL and now playing for lost time.
2013-14 Outlook - With three young forwards (read above) fighting for a spot, Niederreiter will need to quickly impress the Wild staff during training camp to quickly introduce himself and he has.
#5 Jason Zucker - LW Minnesota Wild (NHL)
Strengths - He has explosive acceleration and very good top speed. He plays a very high-energy game and will shoot from just about anywhere. He compliments that with a deceptive and accurate shot. He gives any line a splash of energy and intensity that is hard to match.
Weaknesses - He is not very big or strong so he needs to rely on his skating speed. He plays a very simple game due to his lack of offensive creativity or dynamic stickhandling skills.
2013-14 Outlook - Zucker was a key part to the Wild's second line but with Matt Cullen and Devon Setoguchi both gone, Zucker will have to develop chemistry with some other player. In the last few weeks, he has been outplayed by the rest of his Wild youngster class so he'll see time in Iowa.
#6 Mathew Dumba - D Red Deer Rebels (WHL)
Strengths -A potential game-changer with elite potential in highlight reel departments: skating, scoring, hitting. He has impressive strength and great skating which he uses to make big hits. He can run the powerplay and possesses a strong slapshot.
Weaknesses - He had a disappointing season as he was struggling to play a more pro-friendly style. He needs to round off his game and improve his defensive zone play.
2013-14 Outlook - Dumba has the potential to be a game changer in so many departments but will need to simply his game in order to become an NHL player. Surprisingly, he has made it on the opening night roster but will have to show he can play past the 9 game benchmark for entry-level contracts. I will predict that he will head back to the WHL where he will again tryout for Team Canada.
#7 Darcy Kuemper - G Houston Aeros (AHL)
Strengths - A large frame goalie that covers alot of the net with decent agility and movement. His puck tracking skills are very good and has a quick glove hand. He plays aggressively enough to utilize his size to the fullest but smart enough to not take himself out of position.
Weaknesses - He looked overwhelmed at times at the NHL level and needs to cut down any extra movements as his long limbs cause more openings in his net coverage.
2013-14 Outlook - Kuemper quickly stole Matt Hackett's seat as the team's number one goaltender and looked good in his first few stints at the NHL level. Although he seemed a bit shaky at times, it is to be expected since he is only a young kid. With Harding still playing under MS, Kuemper will get the chance to prove he can be a backup goaltender this season if Harding has to go rest.
#8 Mario Lucia - C University of Notre Dame (WCHA)
Strengths - An all-round offensive forward that can skate, shoot, pass and grind. In addition, he has a large frame to build off on and is starting to look like an offensive talent for Notre Dame.
Weaknesses - He will need to continue filling out his frame as he lacks alot of muscle and weight.
2013-14 Outlook - After being injured for a good portion of last season, Lucia looks to rebound as the go-to-guy for offense for his school. Given that he lacks alot of muscle, the Wild will take their sweet time with the kid and let him slowly develop a nice all-round offensive game.
#9 Zach Phillips - C Iowa Wild (AHL)
Strengths - An offensively gifted forward with slick hands and good vision. While primarily a playmaker, he also has the ability to score.
Weaknesses - His skating continues to improve but still needs alot of work. He lacks explosive acceleration and can cause him to be behind plays at times.
2013-14 Outlook - Phillips did not have the best rookie year with the Houston Aeros but with one year of professional play under his belt and with guys like Mikael Granlund and Justin Fontaine now looking for regular spots on the Wild roster, Phillips will have the chance to show he can be a key player.
#10 Gustav Olofsson - D Colorado College (NCAA)
Strengths - A two-way defenseman with impressive mobility and a good frame to work with. He plays a solid game positionally and makes very little mistakes both offensively and defensively.
Weaknesses - A jack of all trades but master of none type of player; his upside is limited.
2013-14 Outlook - Olofsson will look to make the big jump from juniors to college and try to find a regular place on the defense for Colorado. He will need to keep adding more muscle and prove he can play a mistake-free game against better opponents.