Is that a pop culture reference as the headline? Again? Oh yes. You can't get anything past me, Hollywood.
There has been a lot, maybe even too much talk about the great prospect pool of the Minnesota Wild. The once practically talent-empty pool has been steadily growing in terms of potential players ever since Chuck Fletcher took over the reigns as the GM.
Now, what can we expect from the "kids" that are already pretty much in the team, and the ones that are so-so as of right now? I'm only going to single out three individuals, fire away on the comments section if you feel like giving your valued opinions on a player that doesn't appear on this article.
First, let's talk about a guy that's a lock for the team to start the season; Charlie Coyle.
Coyle is a fantastic prospect in terms of his potential upside. A winger that has the theoretical ability to play in the center position, has decent enough wheels for a guy his size and that enables him to really use his size to his advantage. Doesn't have the best hands around, but Coyle has that ability to "somehow" play the puck in tight spaces, especially around the corners with a player right on him. That's a skill that will only get better once he fills out his frame and gets even more comfortable with the physicality of NHL hockey.
Now, about those expectations. Realistically? Somewhere around 20 to 25 points, limited minutes on the PP and a solid season for a 2nd year power forward prospect. Coyle is the kind of player that people have too high expectations, too soon. He will probably be 60-point forward at least during one or two seasons as an NHLer, but that's not happening until he gets 1st unit PP time. And that ain't happening in a long-ish while.
Basically what I'm trying to say here is; Coyle might end up having a "boring" season, which will be absolutely fantastic for him. A solid contribution from 2nd/3rd line wing, gets to train and battle with top-end talent in practice in Koivu, Parise and Pominville. These are huge things for a young player, especially if they have the right mindset towards the whole process.
And Coyle seems like the kind of guy that has exactly the right mindset for that process.
Now, the next two guys are interesting ones. A forward and a defenseman. One has already ELECTRIF-wait, no, not gonna do any WWE-references here. The two other guys are Jason Zucker and Matt Dumba. Make your own gosh darn introductions in your heads.
Dumba is an awesome prospect. This kid could be the most entertaining D-man the Wild has ever had, and will ever have. The flaws are there, we all know them. He's not a Swedish Hockey Zeus like Jonas Brodin, so there are issues with his D-zone play and his decisions without the puck when his team has control of it. A bit too aggressive at times when going for a huge hit (but damn, guys and gals, when he connects...wow), and he should probably use his shot a bit more. A classic case of a defenseman that has the ability to be great, but thinks a bit too much when he shouldn't, while running around aimlessly when he should slow down and just read the flow of the game.
What can we expect? A season with the Red Deer Rebels (he's played 4 seasons there, but is still 19 so he can't be sent to Iowa. Correct me if I'm wrong), or a flashy rookie season with the Wild? I'm telling you, a Ballard-Dumba pairing has the potential to be just flat out awesome. Or a huge liability 50% of the time, but I feel like being way too optimistic about this one.
Realistically? 3rd pairing with the Wild, will get chances on the 2nd PP unit, scoring somewhere around 15 points in 65+ games. He didn't have a great season last year, true, but once the Rebels made changes to their coaching staff, Dumba found a new gear and actually played really well for long stretches. At least, he deserves a fair chance to make the team from camp. And I think he'll take advantage of that chance.
Then, it's time to make you hate me and regret that you ever read this crappy article past that part about Dumba's huge hits. Because Zucker isn't going to do a whole lot this season if you ask me.
The problem with Zucker is, that once you really take a long look at his game and go through some video, he's a predictable player. And yes, a player can develop his game, especially if he's a young guy like Zucker. But he doesn't have the tools to do much else than what he's shown so far. He can do those things better, but he'll still be the guy with dazzling speed, a decent shot and hands that don't can't keep up with the feet when he's trying to make a move on a D-man.
And the problem is, that the stick handling isn't great when he slows down a bit. He doesn''t have a huge repertoire of dekes he can pull off, he doesn't see the ice well and when he does, the ability to make passes to other players through any kind of traffic is mediocre. He'll still stick with the team more probably than not, but even if I'd want to, I just can't see him scoring more than 10 goals next season.
And that's good for Zucker, it really is. Some fans just seem to think that he's already something more than a decent depth-winger, which he isn't. He shoots a lot, and that's a positive comparing to most forwards on the Wild, but that alone doesn't get you much. With the speed, though, he'll still be able to take a few D-men by surprise.
To summarize; Let's dial it down. Maybe I should do that with Dumba, who knows. Just calling it like I see it.