Team Green - The Blueline
When trying to put together just over forty profiles prior to camp starting, I tried getting information from scouts and coaches alike. As you might have guessed, some teams are willing to give up information, some don’t respond at all, and others only speak French (thanks Google translate).
Team Green has a few intriguing prospects available at camp this year, though the most notable being Gustav Bouramman, a 7th round pick by the Wild back in 2015. He is eligible to play for the Iowa Wild this season as a 20-year-old.
The battery of defenseman includes a good mix of CHL and NCAA players, and there are some just trying to extend the chase for the dream a year longer. Low and behold team Green’s roster:
Gustav Bouramman #38 (2015 - 7th round)
Contract Status: 2nd year of four-year ELC
Last Team: Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (OHL)
The Minnesota Wild decided to keep from giving Bouramman professional money by letting him wait out his age limit in the CHL and now it’s time to find out if this 7th rounder is ready for professional reps.
With a fellow Gustav leaving Iowa (for now) on a one-way deal up north, the coveted “best defensive prospect” is up for grabs. Coach Derek Lalonde is already high on Carson Soucy, who broke into the professional ranks with Iowa for three games at the end of the 2016-17 season.
Looking at his offensive numbers, the Stockholm-native took a bit of a dip in his third season in the Soo; numbers lower than his rookie season in the O. Is this cause for concern? Not necessarily.
A lot of junior hockey is predicated upon point success, something that is weighed heavily in today’s development of NHL talent. When I asked Lalonde how Iowa looked to build on their best offensive season ever, he said the strength will come from the blueline. What I’m most interested in watching is his defensive play.
Team White is led by Jordan Greenway, an offensive big man that is said to already be an NHL talent. There is also former Gopher Justin Kloos and the 7th-rounder from 2016, Dmitry Sokolov; both of whom played professional minutes in Iowa before the end of last season (Bouramman played against Sokolov seven times in the O last year). Not saying that White has the same firepower as Green, but when seeing how Bouramman interacts with professionally matured talent, it might help ease the minds of those see a lack of defensive prospects already in the AHL (Palmquist and Seeler will not be attending).
Nicholas Boka #55 (2015 - 6th round)
Nationality: American (Commerce, MI)
Contract Status: Rights retained (NCAA - ineligible for contract)
Last Team: University of Michigan (Big Ten)
One of two guys that played for Red Berenson with claims on them from the Minnesota Wild. The other was Nolan De Jong, drafted by Fletcher and Co. in the 7th round of the 2013 draft. It was a pretty rough year for the Wolverines who finished 13-19-3 in the already “weak” Big Ten conference coming off of a 25-win season the year before.
On the offensive side of the puck, Boka dropped off (if you can say that) in terms of point production. Among Michigan blueliners, the Michigan-native was 6th in points behind two guys not claimed by NHL teams. The only category where Boka was a “top performer” was drawing penalty minutes with his 54 being enough for 6th in the Big Ten. Gopher and camp attendee Leon Bristedt was 7th with 51.
The State of Michigan had a lackluster showing at the collegiate level with the Big Ten as both Michigan and MSU finished with negative goal differentials (the only two teams in the conference to do so); Michigan’s being a -19. The upside for Boka is that there are two more years to earn a college degree and hopefully build on his defensive game before coming around to playing professional hockey.
Jacob Golden #61 (2017 - 5th round)
Contract Status: Rights retained, no ELC signed
Last Team: London Knights (OHL)
Golden is another draft pick that is going to benefit greatly from this camp. He’s been exceeding expectations ever since the London Knights drafted him out of Upper Canada College in 2016 after initially planning on pursuing NCAA options; one of the handful of picks traded for Victor Mete.
With 38 games under his belt in the O, the offensive side of the puck shows a lot to be improved upon: just two assists. It could make one wonder if he should have gone and played in the NCAA instead of joining the Knights as a player with two more eligible years in the OHL. He still remains unsigned at this point, but now he has less time for the Wild to keep an eye on him than if he had decided to play in the NCAA instead.
The “pay-for-play” thing that the NCAA is caught up on prohibits “amateur” athletes from playing in a professional league, the minor junior system in Canada being considered as such. If you’re a Wild fan, you’re hoping at least to see him take a few open shots at camp to provide proof that there are some goals in that stick that Minnesota decided to take a chance on, especially in a middle-to-late round.
Guys looking earning College degrees
Adam Plant #30
Contract Status: Undrafted (NCAA - ineligible for contract)
Last Team: University of Denver
Plant is going into his final season with the Pioneers, fresh off of their NCAA title over UMD this past year. This might lead to some animosity at camp against former Bulldog Carson Soucy (Avery Peterson will be a teammate on Green). Maybe the blood hasn’t stopped boiling and we’re in for some intense defensive play all around. Once again “competition breeds success”.
On that championship team, Plant had to fight for minutes with the top spot of the six man pyramid going to team captain and 2013 fifth-round pick of the Colorado Avalanche, Will Butcher, whose 37 points (G:7/A:30) were enough for third best on the team.
The Penticton, BC-native finished four points behind freshman Michael Davies, but ahead in the points column of 2016 6th rounder for the Chicago Blackhawks, Blake Hillman as the third best offensive-defenseman of the regular season under Jim Montgomery. In the Frozen Four tournament, he was still third best, though only the second player in the top seven scorers to not already have an NHL team stake a claim.
He still has a year left to play in Denver and a title to protect before he needs worry about the professional game, so this camp is all about the opportunity to have his name come up in conversation amongst NHL scouts. The big knock against him would be size. There are plenty of players under 6-foot, but there aren’t many players in the NHL that are listed under 165 lbs. Even though there isn’t a huge need for physicality, the Wild did just add a guy who is 6’4”/205 that is expected to compete for NHL reps this season who can also score.
Jake Linhart #54
Nationality: American (Brookfield, WI)
Contract Status: Undrafted (NCAA - ineligible for contract)
Last Team: University of Wisconsin (Big Ten)
Wisconsin-native Jake Linhart skips the border to attend camp for the Wild following a career year in points with the University of Wisconsin last season. If you’re a big “connect the dots” kind of fan, he also played under Iowa’s head coach, Derek Lalonde, and alongside Gustav Olofsson with the Green Bay Gamblers of the USHL in 2012-13; he was also a teammate of Luke Kunin for the last to seasons in Madison. Since joining the Badgers in 2014, he’s done nothing but improve offensively.
He’s another guy that is trying to generate some free agent whispers for himself when his senior season comes to a close. If you’re looking for some accolades, he was on the Big Ten’s second All-Star team (for what that’s worth). Other than that, he’s an average sized defender with a left-handed shot.
Minors North of the Border
Kevin Davis #51
Contract Status: Undrafted (2015)
Last Team: Everett Silvertips (WHL)
Kevin Davis is a guy who has reached his age limit in the WHL after turning 20 this past March. 20-year-olds are permitted to play on junior rosters (as Bouramman had), but in the WHL, a team is only able to carry three players of that age on their roster. As of the end of last season, the Everett Silvertips have seven players on their roster that will be 20 at the start of next season. The saving grace for Davis was that he is the most productive offensively than any of the other ones.
He scored 29 more points than the next closest defenseman and 12 more points than the next best skater with his 59 total points (G:9/A:50) on a team that finished atop the U.S. division. Those 50 assists were best on the team.
You can always be weary of the older guys picking on the younger ones, especially when the league has players that are 15 (high school freshman) compared to players like Davis at 19 (college sophomore). However, the WHL is one of the stronger Canadian leagues, so it never hurts to take a flyer.
The Land of the Rising Sun
Yusuke Kon #50
Contract Status: Free Agent
Last Team: U20 Japan WJC D2A (fourth tier in Junior Championships)
Like in the breakdown of prospect hometowns and leagues, Yusuke Kon is enigmatic. He’s played for Team Japan and has moved up their junior ranks as a defenseman. He’s played at the collegiate level in Japan, though his last recorded season on both Elite Prospects and the Japanese Ice Hockey Federation list Kon as not having played for a club team since 2015.
The upside lies in how he skates with the North American guys. Hockey is still a growing sport and what better way than have the opportunity to train and compete with players from some of the best junior leagues and colleges in the world? Not saying he’s the dark horse to raise eyebrows, but he’s definitely a storyline worth looking at as Richard Park has been coaching in Asia while continuing as the Wild’s Development staff here in North America.
As for the overall corps, Bouramman is the guy that will be monitored the closest. He has already signed an ELC with the Wild and I expect him to make it a battle for the top four in Des Moines with guys like Nick Seeler and Carson Soucy. The latter will be the top stalwart for Team White.