When it was announced that Jared Spurgeon ranked #3 on our list behind Mikael Granlund and Nino Niederreiter, Spurgeon got a lot of defense in the comments section from people who thought Spurgeon needed to be #2, or even #1.
This was my doing. When Ger and I did our initial rankings, I had the Top-3 order that we ended up sticking with. Ger went Spurgeon, Nino, Granlund. They were essentially tied for first, but that's not good list-building practices.
Here was my argument at the time: "What put Spurgeon at #3, for me, was that I think Nino and Granlund have Star potential, whereas I think the best Spurgeon can be is (ONLY) high-end. It would be hard for me to give up a Jared Spurgeon in a trade, but if I could bring in a player with Granlund or Niederreiter’s upside/production combination, I’m making that trade. If Granlund and Nino didn’t do well last season/playoffs, Spurgeon’s production beats Granino’s potential. But now, it doesn’t."
After reading Ger's Spurgeon write-up, I feel more conflicted than ever on this topic. To me, it's a wash. If Spurgeon is #2 over Nino to you, then I can't muster a clear and convincing argument that he's not. If you want to say Spurgeon is #1, I'd disagree, but our arguments would likely be equally valid. It mostly comes down to whether you value production or upside. I'm just a bit more of an upside guy.
But I could easily be wrong.
ESPN Ranks Brodin 23rd... in the NHL
During this feature, Corey Pronman took over for Neil Greenberg in compiling ESPN's Top 25 Under 25 for the entire NHL. The Minnesota Wild had only one representative on the list- and it wasn't a player that ranked in our Top-3 for the Minnesota Wild. Jonas Brodin ranked 23rd in the league's Top 25 Under 25. Pronman's explanation:
Brodin has logged a ton of minutes, among the most for an under-20 defenseman since the 2005 lockout. He's a great skater, with an equally good, if not better, hockey brain. Brodin always finds a way to get involved in the play in a good way, with a non-flashy yet highly-effective style. His skating and instincts should allow him to go beyond being a merely tough-minutes defenseman, and help him produce more offense down the line.
Is Hockey Wilderness underrating Brodin? It's entirely possible. He did have a bad season last year, but what he accomplished at Age-19 was incredible, teaming up with Suter to log heavy minutes in all situations, which is something that maybe got underrated in the making of this list. More weight, perhaps, was given to Brodin's last season, where he struggled to a significant degree before recovering in the playoffs.
If we did this list before the season, there's little doubt that Brodin would have been at least #2, if not #1. Did ESPN miss something that Hockey Wilderness saw? Or is Corey Pronman wisely staying the course on a player who was amazing as a 19-year-old defenseman? Where would you have put Brodin?
The New Guys
The Wild have three Under-25 players in the Top 25 that made the team out of camp that weren't NHL-regulars last season. What should we expect from these players?
He's going to see more sheltered minutes, and he's going to be able to work the Power Play, and the main focus for him will be to use his offensive strengths as much as possible. It would be nice to see him partnered up with a Jared Spurgeon or Ryan Suter for stretches, but my money is on him playing with Jonas Brodin, which would be pretty fun to see.- Tony Abbott, Hockey Wilderness
Dumba is a very toolsy defenseman with high-end, if not elite skating ability. His agility, edge work, and four-way movement are all great, and he can be a nuisance to catch in open ice. He can make a ton of plays with the puck, is very dangerous off the rush, and his shot is also plus. He's hard-working and physical, but his decisions and defensive reads still need work.- Corey Pronman, Hockey Prospectus
Zucker [has] explosive speed and [has a] tendency to actually shoot- both of which makes him more interesting to watch than many of the two-way players that the Wild tend to value. Zucker's speed is his biggest strength.
Zucker will be an NHL-regular for some team. If the Wild can't find a role for him, another NHL team would be willing to pay for his speed and explosiveness. Putting Zucker on a defense-focused third-line would not be putting him in a position to suceed, but if the third-line was utilized as an additional scoring line, I would love to see him there.- Tiffany MacAnnay, Hockey Wilderness
He's very smart and efficient, strong in puck retrieval, and especially getting the puck up the ice when he's carrying on the rush. He was very good positionally and the quality of his skating made up for the occasional mistake. He does a lot of things hard: shooting in particular, but also hitting (when he gets the opportunity).
Again, he's like 23 so he's not exactly a young prospect at this point. I don't know how much developing he has left in him. But if you're a solid enough player to maybe make the Wild out of camp at 23, that's not so bad. I'm curious to see how he'll do as a first-year pro, but he won't be out of his depth.- Ryan Lambert, as interviewed by Hockey Wilderness
5 Potential Risers for Next Year
1. Mathew Dumba- If Dumba can put together a strong season where he displays the superstar potential he has, then we could be seeing him jump in the rankings over Brodin, Nino, and possibly even Granlund. If so, party hard.
2. Alex Tuch- The power forward just played his first NCAA game, where he scored 2 goals for Boston College (both on assists from Wild prospect Adam Gilmour). A promising start to the first-rounder's career. If he can dominate the NCAA, he'll shoot up from his #10 ranking.
3. Louie Belpedio- The Wild loved Belpedio upon drafting him in the third round last season. He's a smart, mobile, two-way defender who has leadership qualities. Not only will he be patrolling the blueline for the University of Miami-OH, expect to see him on the USA World Junior Teams soon.
4. Tyler Graovac- After the rankings were made and the Graovac article debuted, we heard something very interesting from Corey Pronman: Graovac's skating has noticeably improved. Graovac has been defying expectations since being drafted in the 7th round in 2011, and adding speed only improves the chances that the 6'4" center will only continue doing so.
5. Adam Gilmour- Remember that game where Tuch got 2 goals? Gilmour assisted on both of them, and then a third goal. Gilmour is getting an awesome opportunity to work in a prime role beside an elite talent in Tuch, as well as a sure-fire Top-3 pick in Noah Hanefin.
3 Potential New-Comers
1. Reid Duke- Duke showed off speed and a nose for the net in the Wild's various camps. He was recently traded from the worst team in the WHL, so we'll see if the Lethbridge Hurricanes were holding him back, and if he has more upside than his 6th-round selection would suggest.
2. Pavel Jenyš- Future Considerations had Jenyš ranked 125th, and ISS ranked him 107th among skaters. He's a big forward who has skills, a good shot, and can be physical. His biggest knock is work ethic, particularly on defense. If he can solve these problems next year in the OHL's Sudbury (he has one goal in one game already), the 7th-rounder could make the Top 25 as soon as next year.
3. Kurtis Gabriel- The big winger has been a point of contention since he was drafted in 2012's third-round. Is Gabriel a mere pugilist, or can he actually play? Gabriel will be getting Top-6 minutes in Iowa next season, so we're going to see if he's the next Brett Bulmer/Raphael Bussieres, or the next Derek Boogaard. If it's the former, Gabriel will make the list next year.
Next Season's Ineligibles
Jared Spurgeon, Marco Scandella, Darcy Kuemper, Michael Keränen, and Jordan Schroeder will all turn 25 by the time next year's list arrives. Those players made up 5 of Minnesota's Top-16 Under 25 list, and 3 of their Top-10. This list could be shaken up big time next season.
And, of course, if you missed the Top 25 Under 25, you can catch up on it here.