The season is barreling towards the playoffs. With the trade deadline past, the Minnesota Wild will have to rely on call ups from the Iowa Wild for depth and any missing pieces for the second season. Except that there’s one other possible avenue for the team to explore: their college prospects. The Wild can either sign a college player (who has finished his college career) to either an amateur tryout and let them get some experience in the AHL or they could sign them to an entry-level contract which would allow the player to join the big club in Minnesota in time for the final run to the playoffs. The Wild did the former with Luke Kunin last season. Should the Wild consider doing the latter with Jordan Greenway or Louis Belpedio?
In short, no.
As exciting as a player like Greenway is, he isn’t at the NHL level yet and rushing him in is not going to help get him there. He already has more size and strength than 90% of the league at least, and his skating is good enough that he probably wouldn’t be lost on the ice. Playing for Team USA at the Olympics against the best in the world (that weren’t in the NHL) was not only a great experience, but showed that there’s a lot of potential with Greenway. It also showed that he’s going to need some time to acclimate to the speed of the NHL game. If Greenway was taking inopportune penalties against the competition in South Korea, you can bet he would do the same and more in the NHL. Throwing him into the deep end is unlikely to unlock his massive potential. Letting him adjust to the professional game by degrees seems like the best way to nurture his talent.
Another factor in this equation is that if the Wild need a shot in the arm, there’s another player waiting in the wings and he’s already with the Iowa Wild: Sam Anas. Obviously Anas doesn’t offer the imposing size that Greenway does, but Anas has acclimated to the professional game and has been scoring at a pace that suggests a stint with the NHL could be in order should the Minnesota Wild need to call up a forward. Improving on last season’s output of 12 goals and 16 assists, Anas has proven to be a threat as both a shooter and a distributor this season. He’s scored 20 goals already and 24 assists to go with them. As an added bonus, he shoots right. His presence in the roster would help provide some handedness balance. While Greenway will almost certainly prove to have the bigger lasting impact with the Wild, Anas is poised to provide an impact right now without threatening his or Greenway’s development.
As for Belpedio, after several years of prioritizing forwards in the draft, a well-rounded collegiate defenseman on the cusp of joining the professional ranks is also tantalizing. Belpedio has scored nine goals and 19 assists in 34 games so far this season with the Miami RedHawks. That’s a pretty good rate for a defenseman, especially on a team that has struggled as much as Miami. He might not be the blue chip prospect that Greenway is, but Belpedio could become a solid addition to the Wild’s blueliner corps. For a team that just traded away one of its young defenseman, his value has increased.
Of course, he isn’t the only defenseman prospect whose value increased. Nick Seeler has capitalized on the opportunity created by the departure of Mike Reilly and has seemingly cemented his place with the NHL club. With Nate Prosser and Gustav Oloffson also available for the third line or injury replacement, the immediate need for Belpedio is (thankfully) nonexistent.
To be sure, if the Wild decide to call up either Greenway or Belpedio, I wouldn’t hate it. Greenway, in particular, could surprise and slot into the rooster smoothly. It wouldn’t be the likeliest outcome, but certainly not one that would stun the world. Whenever he and Belpedio join the roster, it’ll be an exciting day. There’s just some reasons to think that it would best to put off that particular excitement to another day.