With the Minnesota Wild losing three straight games the past week (despite playing very well for the most part), things aren’t looking all that great for Minnesota this season. So let’s take a look at the prospects to try to gain a glimmer of hope for the future of the team.
Notable European Performers
Kirill Kaprizov (LW/RW), CSKA Moscow (KHL): 2015 fifth-round pick, 135th overall
21 Games Played: 13 goals, 10 assists, 23 points
After missing about a week with a lower body injury, Kaprizov played well in his return to action, including a long empty-net goal for his 13th of the season. He now ranks second in the KHL in goals, and third in points.
59` Кирилл Капризов из своей зоны посылает шайбу в пустые ворота! 0:3 pic.twitter.com/edjEALA669— ХК ЦСКА Москва (@hccska) November 2, 2019
Filip Johansson (D), Leksands IF (SHL): 2018 first-round pick, 24th overall
14 Games Played: 2 goals, 1 assist, 3 points
The controversial 2018 first-round selection got off to a slow start, with zero points through the first 10 games. In the last four games, Johansson has scored two goals and added an assist for three points in his first 14 games played. While Johansson will never be a flashy offensive player, he is very solid in the defensive end, and can skate well along with good passing skills. Expect Johansson to be signed to an entry-level contract at the conclusion of the season unless something in his development goes terribly awry.
Notable Canadian Junior Performers
Alexander Khovanov (C), Moncton Wildcats (QMJHL): 2018 third-round pick, 86th overall
14 Games Played: 12 goals, 18 assists, 30 points
Khovanov has been great this season, especially in the past two to three weeks. In his last eight games played, Khovanov has recorded 22 points. He is also currently eighth in the QMJHL in scoring, and has the third best points per game. A solid center with high-end playmaking skills, he seems to be showing why he was at one point considered a potential first-round pick in the 2018 NHL Draft — and Minnesota picked him in the third round! Having already been signed to an entry-level contract with the Wild, Khovanov will finish the season in the QMJHL, and then make the jump to pro hockey in 2020-21.
End to End rush for @monctonwildcats F Alexander Khovanov tonight in Sydney. The @mnwild prospect now has 6 & 13 in his last 6 games and 1 period. #DefendTheDen #mnwild #QMJHL #LHJMQ pic.twitter.com/T5OWz8MZxf— Denis Leblanc (@DenisL_1981) October 31, 2019
Hunter Jones (G), Peterborough Petes (OHL): 2019 second-round pick, 59th overall
12 Games Played: 2.60 GAA, .916 SV%
Jones has been very solid through his first 12 games for the Petes. He’s one of the best goaltenders in the OHL so far, being named the OHL’s goaltender of the month for October. Although he won’t be in the NHL for at least another two to three years, it would not be surprising if the Wild decided to offer Jones an entry-level contract at the end of this season if he continues his great play.
Adam Beckman (LW), Spokane Chiefs (WHL): 2019 third-round pick, 75th overall
14 Games Played: 5 goals, 17 assists, 22 points
Although Beckman is more usually known for his shot and goal-scoring abilites, he has showed off his playmaking abilites in the first 14 games of the season, and is tied for the most assists in the WHL with 17 overall. Beckman is also tied for fifth in the WHL in scoring, and also leads his team in points.
#AdamBeckman drafted 75th overall last year by the Wild. I was scared to be too high on him last year because of recency bias since he was so good in the playoffs (I had him #43). Looks like last year playoffs was not a fluke. He's already at 20pts in 13 games this year. pic.twitter.com/L6M7giKo4C— Yannick St-Pierre (@DraftDynasty1) October 28, 2019
Ivan Lodnia (RW), Niagara IceDogs (OHL): 2017 third-round pick, 85th overall
6 Games Played: 5 goals, 3 assists, 8 points
After it was decided by the Iowa Wild that there wasn’t enough room for Lodnia on the AHL roster, as well as feeling he wasn’t quite ready, Lodnia was sent back to the OHL’s Niagara IceDogs for his overage season. While the highly thought-of third-round pick has yet to put up flashy point totals in the OHL, he is a hard-working and versatile forward who still has some good offensive skill in him.
Notable NCAA Performers
Sam Hentges (C), St. Cloud State University (NCHC): 2018 seventh-round pick, 210th overall
6 Games Played: 5 goals, 6 assists, 11 points
Hentges has been on an absolute tear to start the season, including eight points in his last four games. A very fast fast skater with good hands and offensive skills, he has been St. Cloud’s best player, and one of the best in college hockey overall. While little was known of him at the time he was drafted because of injury issues, the Minnesota native is looking like a great pick for the Minnesota Wild in the late seventh round. This awesome goal he scored against Princeton on Saturday night demonstrates the kind of player Hentges is developing into:
Vladislav Firstov (LW), University Of Connecticut (Hockey East): 2019 second-round pick, 42nd overall
5 Games Playec: 1 goal, 3 assists, 4 points
Minnesota’s second-round pick in the 2019 NHL Draft, Firstov has had a solid start to his young NCAA career, with four points in his first five games with Connecticut. Firstov is still likely a few years away from reaching the NHL, but he is an intriguing project with skill and upside. Spending a couple more years after this season in college to develop and grow stronger can only do good things for his development.
Notable Minor League Performers
Brennan Menell (D), Iowa WIld (American Hockey League): Undrafted free agent
11 Games Played: 1 goal, 9 assists, 10 points
The offensively talented defenseman has improved every year in the AHL, and has had a great start to the season with 10 points in 11 games. Menell is a very good puck-mover and passer, and is used frequently on the power play for Iowa. While it doesn’t seem like there will be any open spots on the Wild’s blue line very soon, Menell is a guy to keep an eye on because of his offensive skill — something Minnesota severely lacks.
Mat Robson (G), Iowa Wild (American Hockey League): Undrafted free agent
5 Games Played: 2.13 GAA, .936 SV%
Robson was signed by Minnesota as a college free agent after a couple of very good seasons for the University of Minnesota, where he posted a 2.45 GAA and a .927 SV% across 45 games played. He has had a great start to the season, posting a 2.13 GAA and a .936 SV% in five games for Iowa. With the struggles of Devan Dubnyk, and no clear solution in goal right now, Robson could the the “goaltender of the future” for Minnesota if he continues to impress at the pro level.
Kaapo Kahkonen (G), Iowa Wild (American Hockey League): 2014 fourth-round pick, 109th overall
6 Games Played: 2.47 GAA, .915 SV%
After an up-and-down first season in North America, Kahkonen had a very average first four games even though he recorded wins in all four. He has improved his play recently, and has gotten his numbers up to a 2.47 GAA and a .915 SV% while remaining undefeated at 6-0-0 on the season. It seems as if he will continue to split starts with Robson the rest of the season in Iowa, and it will be interesting to see how Kahkonen performs.