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Thoughts from Minnesota Wild Prospect Scrimmage: Day 1

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2018 NHL Draft - Rounds 2-7 Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Yesterday, the Wild hosted its first Prospect Development Camp Scrimmage (the second is on Sunday, July 15). Before we get to the takeaways, a word of caution:

Players may look stellar in a development scrimmage merely because they’re playing prospects. Gerry Fitzgerald, for instance, looked stellar as he circled the offensive zone with the puck, playing keep away from the rest of the team. Fitzgerald is 25 and was the oldest player on the ice.

With that: some notes!

Mason Shaw had moments of looking very dangerous. He drove to the net and came close to scoring several times. Shaw is a 5’9” left shot from Alberta who was drafted in 2017. He played just one game in Iowa last season, but will likely start there this year.

Matt Robson played in goal. The Gopher had a .933 Sv% and 2.11 GAA over 14 games last season for the University of Minnesota. Robson was very vocal with his team, communicating assertively with his defenseman. He had good reflexes, but was not terribly calm, which showed in both his play and his team’s play. Robson’s side consistently looked frantic while trying to exist their defensive zone.

Kaapo Kahkonen was scored on several times throughout the game. He did get a pad on a hard shot from the point, but the puck bounced off the pad and into the net. Despite the goals, Kahkonen was calm and collected, and his team regularly transitioned smoother out of the defensive zone and was calmer handling the puck.

Filip Johansson scored in the scrimmage off a nice shot from the right circle. Unfortunately, he was not particularly noticeable throughout the game. On the one hand that could be a good thing; defenseman being noticeable often means they’re making a mistake. On the other, as the Wild’s first round draft pick, one might expect Johansson to stand out.

Louie Belpedio was the player who scored on Kahkonen off the pads. Similar to Johansson, other than the goal, Belpedio was unremarkable. This is perhaps less disturbing for Belpedio than Johansson for a few reasons. Firstly, Belpedio was not a first round pick. Secondly, Belpedio is not a particularly offensive forward; he scored only 11 goals in 47 games played (37 in the NCHC and 10 in the AHL). Louie should start in the AHL next season.

Nick Swaney, a Burnsville native, had several moments of danger created for his team. The 2017 draftee played for the Duluth Bulldogs last season, scoring 6 goals and 16 assists in 35 games. He may be a player to watch to see if he could develop into a serviceable third- or fourth- liner.

In terms of team play, it’s tough to draw any conclusions. These teams were thrown together with minimal practice and several players who were invited to fill out rosters. Overall, the Green team played much better than White (though White won after a goal in 3v3 overtime and a better shootout). Green passed the puck better, played better defensively, and was faster transitioning in all phases of the game.

Perhaps the biggest takeaway was how little any one player stuck out throughout the scrimmage. In past years, you saw players like Luke Kunin, Alex Tuch, or even Chase Lang make a name for themselves. Dmitri Sokolov was in the game today and, outside of a flashy move in the shootout, was invisible.

The fact that no one stuck out is concerning; yes Johansson is a defenseman and yes he was just drafted.... but I went into the scrimmage hoping to be impressed and was not. This is certainly not a nail in the coffin, but consider me ‘waiting to be impressed’ when it comes to the Wild’s 2018 first round draft pick.

Several Hockey Wilderness community members will be at the X on Sunday for the second scrimmage- come on out and join us!