While arguably the best players in the 2015 draft are forwards, there are also some solid defenseman, particularly in the second round range. The best of these defensemen balance the offensive side of the game with solid play in their own zone. Draft eligible defensemen Noah Juulsen, Mitchell Vande Sompel, Parker Wotherspoon, Ryan Pilon, and Guillaume Brisebois have skills that could interest the Wild.
Team: Everett (WHL)
Midterm NHL CSS Rank: 38
The Everett Silvertips' defenseman is one of my favorite players for the upcoming draft because of his smooth skating. It's a joy to watch him because of the way he moves, and he's willing to skate puck up the ice himself if a pass isn't there. He would fit in with the Wild's active style. Juulsen is an all-around good player, more than competent in both the offensive and defensive zones. Like pretty much all highly ranked defensemen, he is good at making the first pass out of the zone and good at shifting the play from defense to offense. With 7 goals and 42 assists, he's the 10th highest scoring defenseman in the WHL. The only 2015 draft eligible WHL defensemen who have produced more than him are Ivan Provorov and Ryan Pilon of the Brandon Wheat Kings.
Juulsen is willing to hit as well as take a hit if it's the best play. This clip starts with him building up speed when he gets hammered by 2015 draft eligible forward Nick Merkley, drawing a penalty, and finishes with a goal assisted by Juulsen on that ensuing power play.
Mitchell Vande Sompel
Team: Oshawa (OHL)
Midterm NHL CSS Rank: 33
Vande Sompel is smart and fast. He'd be a top ten pick if he was four inches taller. But since he's only 5'10", the team who drafts him is going to get a heck of a steal. While he is short, he has significant muscle and is listed as being as heavy as players several inches taller than he is. He uses every bit of his frame to be elusive and maneuverable. Beyond his skating, he's a great passer and has great vision--particularly in the offensive zone.
These three assists demonstrate how he combines his great passes with skating to tally points for his team. Additionally, the third play shows that he doesn't need to be big to be strong, when a player several inches taller than him fails to hit him off the puck.
Team: Tri-Cities (WHL)
Midterm NHL CSS Rank: 45
I've been particularly impressed with how he responds to matchups against difficult opponents. He gets more difficult matchups than his more offensively focused (and higher NHL CSS ranked) teammate, Brandon Carlo. Even though Wotherspoon is less offensively focused than Carlo, Wotherspoon has produced at .545 points per game pace, higher than Carlo's .404 pace. Wotherspoon has a calmness to his game that makes him really effective at defending against the best forwards in the WHL's US Division. While not stunningly fast, he has enough speed to keep up with the play and keep himself positionally sound. He is not among the most physical, but he is smart enough that he doesn't need to play overly mean game to defend deftly. Although he isn't known for being overly physical, he did a have a fight last month against Wild prospect Chase Lang.
Team: Brandon (WHL)
Midterm NHL CSS Rank: 31
Shoots: Left (plays right side)
Pilon has spent his season playing right side defense paired with almost certain first rounder, Ivan Provorov. While scouts may spend a lot more time talking about his defense partner, Ryan Pilon is a great player in his own right. Pilon has good offensive instincts and is willing to jump in on the play, which makes him an essential member of one of the most dangerous defense pairs in the WHL. He also is regular about shooting to create rebounds, which creates a lot of scoring opportunities for his teammates. Pilon also has the puck a lot and he's good at keeping possession and moving the play.
In an October game versus Kamloops, Pilon tallied 3 assists by shooting whenever he had an opening and by shooting hard enough to create rebounds on which his teammates capitalized. Pilon is wearing 6 in white on this fast moving video.
Midterm NHL CSS Rank: 30
McKeen's Hockey writer Scott Wheeler describes Brisebois as "low risk," and that's a perfect description for this physical defenseman with size. He's not exciting offensively. But he's solid. Brisebois is most likely to be found along the boards or in front of his own net playing physically. He's also a seventeen years old captain of his junior team, which says a lot about his leadership abilities. His 3 goals and 20 assists have him ranked 42nd of all defensemen in the QMJHL, which is much lower than one would ideally like a probable early second rounder to perform. However, he plays for the worst team in the QMJHL. Acadie-Bathurst has only 15 wins this season. Brisebois plays in every situation, and it's certain that the Titans would have a lot worse record if they did not have his steady play.
While I hope the Wild take a forward with their first round pick, one of these guys, if available would make a good second round pick. Even though the Wild have had a tough time keeping defensemen healthy this year, within their prospect pipeline, defense is the position where they have the most depth, so it isn't crucial that the Wild add a defenseman just to take one. But if the right guy is still on the board when it's their turn to select, I could see the Wild picking one of these defensemen.