Hello Wilderness, the NHL Entry Draft is 9 days away. The Wild are looking for the next prospect to take the franchise to the next level. With goal-tending being the biggest area that the Wild need to address, should the Wild draft a goalie in the first round to add more depth in the system?
The Minnesota Wild are proud to select with the 18th pick, from the Boston College Eagles, Thatcher Demko. Thatcher Demko already played an amazing rookie season with the Eagles posting a 2.24 Goals Against Average, and a 91.9 Save Percentage in 24 games played. Thatcher Demko is projected from other analyst as the whole package to be a very good starting goal-tender. He's ranked #1 among North American goalies. He's placed as the best goal-tender prospect in the draft.
Now before you go crazy about drafting a goalie in the first round, let me explain some points. The biggest problem for the Wild is the goal-tending department. Aging goal-tender and former Wild star, Niklas Backstrom, has been facing injuries for a sustainable time and it seems that it'll continue this coming season. Even though he claims to be 100% and fully healthy for training camp, it's no doubt that we'll be hearing again that Backstrom will be out with minor or major injuries that'll again put the Wild into a goal-tending roller coaster.
Then there's Josh Harding. Harding is a very good goalie that has been the backbone for the Wild after Backstrom proved that he can no longer be the starting goal-tender with being injure-prone. Since Harding's been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, there's been moments where Harding's out with injury due to his disease. Harding's last game was against the Islanders. Since then, we haven't seen Harding in game action. For the rest of the season, he was out on IR and was out indefinitely for the rest of the season.
Now Darcy Kuemper. After when Harding went down with injury for the rest of the year, Kuemper has been the Wild's #1 guy between the pipes, who has been the reason for the team's success during parts of the season. Darcy Kuemper had a good year posting up 2.43 Goals Against, and a 91.5 Save Percentage in 26 games played for the Wild. While the young net-minder is looking for a one-way deal, it's still safe to get a UFA with experience to help between the pipes along with Kuemper (Ryan Miller, Jonas Hiller, James Reimer, etc). Reimer's an RFA.
Then there's some goalies in our farm system such as Johan Gustafsson, who isn't NHL ready; Alex Belanger, who was just drafted in last year's draft; and Stephen Michalek, who is a question mark for me for the Wild's future at this moment. So who knows when he'll be ready.
Going back to Thatcher Demko, there's a lot to like about this young kid. At the age of 18, he has already made an impact and scouters love his game. Here's some scouting reports on Demko: Demko is a butterfly-style stopper with the ideal pro size. He makes himself big in net even when he drops down to his knees and has outstanding lower coverage in the butterfly with leg coverage going almost post-to-post. He moves well laterally and out to challenge shooters fluidly. -Eliteprospects.com
He has an ability to move very well laterally and is able to recover pucks. Thatcher is extremely competitive and very coachable. To me, if you have those two things it's very positive for his development. For a bigger kid he's pretty athletic. I think at the beginning of the year he may have lacked just a little bit of confidence knowing he was the youngest college player, and that's only natural. - Mike Ayers via NHL.com
He's so relaxed and poised out there. He has excellent body control and balance when moving throughout the crease and making saves. He has great low net coverage with his extended butterfly and his recovery and lateral ability is excellent. He plays his angles great and his rebound control is excellent. -Jensen via NHL.com
If the Wild were to draft Demko, it would be projected that it would take a few years until he's NHL ready. He's entering his sophomore year at Boston College. He would probably be in the NCAA for two more years, then take a year to play professionally with the Iowa Wild. Then he should be fully prepared to take a role with the Minnesota Wild. Hey he could be ready even before that.
It'll be nice to have another solid goal-tender around Kuemper's size at 6'4'', 192lbs. While Gustafsson's the Iowa Wild's number one net-minder, who still will be getting used to North American style of hockey, Demko can already add solid depth for years to come. Demko has been compared to Kings goal-tender Jonathan Quick, and Coyotes goal-tender Mike Smith. It's both a style and talent comparison.
Now, all we know next season, is that we are going to keep hearing about Harding and Backstrom not being cleared to play due to injury. So it'll be good if we can add a goal-tender that's already NHL built and can be NHL ready in couple of years.
Of course, a lot of fans are craving for a scoring forward in this year's draft; but, this draft is suppose to be the weakest draft in a long time and the prospects are not to expect to make an immediate NHL impact while taking about 3-4 years to fully develop. So why not take the best goalie available in the weakest draft?
There'll be other years where we can take high-end forwards such as the 2015 draft (that is projected to be the deepest draft in a long time). Then the Wild can take quality scoring forwards in later rounds. Detroit has done it.
It won't be the end of the world if the Wild don't draft a forward in the first round. While adding forwards such as Brassart, Mitchell, and now Keranen, the Wild can open some room up for a goalie to be taken in the first round.
And besides, a Kuemper-Demko duo would be awesome to watch; also, it would be a solid duo while contending for the Stanley Cup for years to come as well.
The Minnesota Wild depth chart in goal is pretty chaotic due to injuries and sustainable health concerns. Demko represents good value and a perfect fit at #18, who'll be ready for NHL action in no time.
Here's a highlight video: video.sabres.nhl.com/videocenter/console?id=623211
So what do you think fans?