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Top 25 Under 25: Louis Belpedio Falls Back Eight to Land at #22

Welcome to the 3rd Annual Hockey Wilderness Top 25 Under 25. Over the next 5 weeks, we will be bringing you profiles of the Top-25 Minnesota Wild players under the age of 25, as determined by a combination of our personal rankings.

2014 NHL Draft - Portraits Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

The Minnesota Wild has one of the deeper groups of defensemen in the NHL and it extends to their prospects. Several of them are going to feature later on in the Top 25 Under 25, but today we take a look at Louis Belpedio.

The Skokie, IL native was drafted in the third round in 2014. That same year, Belpedio transitioned from the U.S. National Development Program to playing college hockey with the Miami (Ohio) University Redhawks. His freshman year was successful, scoring six goals and 13 assists in 40 games. As a sophomore this last season, he already demonstrated sufficient character to be named an alternate captain for his team. He also kept up his scoring pace with four goals and 13 assists in 34 games, which lead all defensemen on his team. Interestingly, he was also the youngest defensemen on his team. The Redhawks suffered a down year and failed to make the NCAA tournament, but look to rebound this coming year with Belpedio leading his team’s defenseman. He also kept

Belpedio also played for the U.S. U20 team during the World Junior Championships. He again was recognized for his leadership and was named an alternate captain of the team. He scored one goal and one assist in seven games. The team finished with a bronze medal, capping off a successful tournament for Belpedio.

Belpedio can move and shoot the puck. Strong skating and decisive passing typify the offensive side of his game. He is a capable shooter that likes to jump up into the play. He’s also unafraid to deliver a big hit or two, with Hockey’s Future highlighting the "ornery edge to his game."

The biggest knock against Belpedio tends to be his size. At 5’10" and 200 lbs, he is slightly undersized for a typical NHL defenseman. However, fans of the Minnesota Wild are well aware that undersized defensemen can perform at a high level in the NHL. Belpedio’s skating, grit, and awareness appear to be more than sufficient to help him overcome any limitations his size might present. His play at the Wild’s last two prospect camps has demonstrated that Belpedio has a mature game for his age and strong vision that allowed him to handle playing against some of the exciting forward prospects of the Wild.

The most appealing thing about Belpedio might not be his offensive prowess or tenacity, but his leadership and character. In addition to serving as alternate captains for the U.S. U20 team and the Redhawks, he was given the "C" for the U18 team for the 2014 World Junior Championships. A more visceral demonstration of his character occurred during the 2015 NCAA Regional Semifinal game against Providence.

With about a minute left in the game and his team down by a goal, Belpedio made a diving save to prevent an empty net goal and crashed into the boards. It was a tremendous example of Belpedio’s drive.

Like some of the other prospects discussed so far, Belpedio's drop in the rankings says more about the influx of improved talent in the Wild's prospect cupboard. Belpedio will need time to continue to develop the defensive side of his game, but with at least another season with the Redhawks and a long list of blueliner prospects ahead of him in the Wild’s depth chart, he should have plenty of time to grow his game. Smooth skating, offensively-gifted defensemen are a hot commodity in the NHL and the Minnesota Wild should be happy they’ve got Belpedio in the pipeline.