It is July. The draft is over. Free agency is (all but) over. The trade market has cooled as executives look to get away to the cabin (or “cottage” as they say in the Great White North). The first pre-season game isn’t until September 17. What could possibly be going on in the hockey world?
Development Camps baby. They’re an opportunity to see the future; an opportunity to hope. Yes, the Wild’s current roster has skill, age, and salary issues, but we can watch talented youngsters play hockey in the middle of summer and imagine better times.
The Wild are holding their development camp July 10-15. There will be two scrimmages open to the public, the first on Thursday July 12th at 2:30 p.m. and the second on Sunday July 15th at 5 p.m. Each scrimmage will feature two, 30-minute running time halves. Gate 1 will open to the public 30 minutes prior to the start of each scrimmage.
The scrimmages will both take place the Xcel Energy Center in Saint Paul.
The full development camp roster is available here, but below are some of the players to watch:
Filip Johansson, D: The first draft pick of the Paul Fenton regime will be in Saint Paul, giving Wild fans their first opportunity to see what the Wild’s front office found so appealing so as to pass on players projected to go higher (cough Dominik Bokk cough). He is a right hand shot D who, according to Corey Pronman of the Athletic “[has] got decent size and plays hard. He skates fine, won’t blow by guys but can get up the ice, and stay with checks. Johansson moves the puck reasonably well, with his IQ being his best trait.” His IQ has been constantly touted by Fenton and others and been used to justify the pick. The scrimmages will be a good chance for Wild fans to judge the player themselves instead of unreasonably calling for Fenton to be fired over the pick like some people did after a beer or two (or three) on draft night (stares in mirror).
Dmitry Sokolov, RW: Sokolov, taken by the Wild in the 7th round of the 2016 draft, has been a goal scoring monster in the OHL. In 2017, he split time between the Sudbury Wolves and the Barrie Colts posting 20 goals, 18 assists in 35 games with the former, and 30 goals and 28 assists with the latter. Those numbers have had Wild fans drooling, but there have been lingering concerns over his defensive ability and fitness. It is no sure thing that Sokolov’s talents will translate to the NHL game, and development camp will be a good opportunity to see if he can keep up and put in the effort.
Louis Belpedio, D: Belpedio is the Wild’s best defensive prospect at this point (sorry Gustav Olofsson). He is a right shot defenseman many Wild fans have penciled in on the Wild’s blue line of the future. After spending 4 years at the University of Miami (Ohio), Belpedio joined the Iowa Wild for 10 games and even made the NHL roster for one game (putting up 2 assists). Belpedio is in the model of the modern NHL defenseman: a smooth skating defenseman with offensive upside. At 5’11” and 193 lbs., it is unfair to call him undersized, but he’s no Dustin Byfuglien out there. At 22, expect Belpedio to be one of the most mature, well rounded players on the ice.
Kaapo Kahkohnen, G: Much was made of the Wild’s lack of organizational depth at the goaltender position prior to the draft and free agency. With the signing of Andrew Hammond, some of those concerns have been alleviated, but Kaapo Kahkonen remains the Wild’s best hope for a homegrown successor to Devan Dubnyk. Kahkonen, a 2016 4th round draft pick of the Wild, is coming over to North America for the first time this year, and is slotted to share the net with Hammond in Iowa. The 6 foot, 21 year old Finnish goaltender has been playing in the Finnish Elite League, posting a .920 Sv% and 2.2 GAA in 56 games played. As Dane Mizutani of the Pioneer Press points out, Kahkonen led the Elite League in games played (56), minutes (3,275) and shutouts (6). He also won a gold medal with the Finnish national team at the 2016 World Junior Championship. Adjusting to the AHL and the North American game more generally won’t be easy, but Kahkonen is coming in with some pedigree and a reasonably bright future.
Other Players to Watch: Tyler Sheehy (University of Minnesota, 25 points in 36 games), Ivan Lodnia (Erie Otters, 59 points in 62 games), Jack McBain (Center, 2018 draft pick), and Brennan Mennell (Iowa Wild).