There’s hardly a more inexact science than the grading of a draft class, especially in the NHL. At least in the NBA or NFL, the players will see time on or near or a playing surface with other professional players in the near future. Most NHL players won’t see significant time with their new teams for two to three years.
But we love it. We love the instant gratification. We love the rapid feedback. We love to say, “last season may not have gone the way we wanted, but at least we did better than our rival in something.”
Boldy has the potential to be a top line winger in the NHL. He will also be a key asset on the power play. There is time for Boldy to continue to add muscle to his frame and become a modern power forward. Firstov has an excellent shooting arsenal. His wrist shot and snapshot both feature lightning-quick releases. He has the ability to change the angle on his release point which makes things difficult for goaltenders. Jones is an aggressive goalie who comes well out of his net in order to cut down angles and give a shooter even less open space to look at.
A sniper at the WHL level, Beckman put up 32 goals for Spokane last season. He has a hard and accurate wrist shot with an excellent release. He also has a very good one-timer. Guskov is a hard-nosed player who plays a gritty game. He loves to get in on the forecheck and create havoc for opposing defencemen. He is a good stick handler and protects the puck well and set up a teammate. Warren handles the puck very well. This allows him to skate the puck out of dangerous areas in his own end, as well as to lead the rush through the neutral zone.
It’s safe to say that sophomore GM Paul Fenton’s haul from the weekend in Vancouver made up for the odd decisions he and his staff made last June in Dallas, beginning with the selection of elite 200-foot winger Matthew Boldy, and continuing with finesse flanker Vladislav Firstov. Both have incredible hands and playmaking proclivity while making life easy for their centers. Goalie Hunter Jones (59th) was a man on an island most nights for Peterborough and has the potential to be a brick wall when he doesn’t see as many second and third-chance attempts. Minnesota’s ensuing choices were all picks with not only excellent value, were also ranked well above their eventual draft slot. Skilled winger Adam Beckman (75th) is incredibly smooth and impressive with the puck in between the circles, and two-way center Matey Guskov (149th) maximized his time as a depth center on London’s powerhouse by creating chances out of nothing and wearing down the opposition in the puck-possession game.
One of the draft’s biggest early-round snubs was NTDP puck mover Marshall Warren (166th), an aggressive blue liner who loves to join the rush and snipe attempts from the high slot. I also liked their addition of Brooklyn-born finesse forward Nikita Nesterenko (172nd) who is a long-term project but his wheels and hands help overcome issues with balance and decision making. Minnesota wrapped up the weekend with smallish goalie Filip Lindberg (197th), a double-overage Finnish import who starred for UMass-Amherst this past season.
Favorite prospects: The Minnesota Wild drafted Matthew Boldy in the first round. This is probably a hot take, but it wouldn’t surprise me if Boldy winds up having a better NHL career than Cole Caufield. His two-way game and scoring prowess should give the Wild a guy they can rebuild around.
Least favorite prospects: I didn’t like them drafting two goaltenders. In a vacuum, Hunter Jones was fine in the second round and Filip Lindberg probably should have been drafted before the seventh round. But together, I don’t like it.
Overall: The Wild quietly had a pretty darn good draft. Fifth-round pick Marshall Warren is a guy to keep an eye on – he should have been picked in the third round.
Boldy has the makings of being the complete package between his goal scoring, playmaking, size, and speed, but the 18-year-old forward isn’t NHL ready yet. Part of the issue is that he’s just not consistent. He needs more seasoning and he’ll get it. He’s going to head to Boston College for the 2019-20 campaign. If all goes well, he’ll spend a season or two in the NCAA before turning pro.
Minnesota took Vladislav Firstov with the 42nd overall pick. He’s nothing remarkable, but he’s a decent skater, can play physically, though he could stand to improve in that regard, and sometimes shows high-end skill. He could be good in a few years.
I love Matthew Boldy at 12th-overall. I think he could be a top line forward in the NHL due to his elite skill and hockey sense. There was no Day 2 pick by Minnesota I hated, but none that I loved either. Vladislav Firstov, Hunter Jones, Adam Beckman, Matvei Guskov and Marshall Warren are all fine prospects. I think they all have chances to be NHL players. I know some scouts who think Firstov and Jones will definitely play, but I’m not as confident. The Wild system was thin coming into the weekend, and I thought they helped move themselves in the right direction.
Boldy is going to be a really strong player for the Wild a few years down the road. He can make the plays in small areas and has an excellent, heavy, accurate shot. Skill was a big-time theme of Minnesota’s draft. Vladislav Firstov, Adam Beckman, Matvey Guskov and Marshall Warren all bring some solid puck skills to the table. Firstov is creative and finds ways to slip through defenses and get off his shot with a quick release.
The Wild did draft two goalies, which I thought was a little interesting. I wasn’t particularly high on second-rounder Hunter Jones. Filip Lindberg, who backstopped UMass to the NCAA national championship game this season, was their last pick and could be a really good one down the line. Overall, the Wild built up a prospect pool that needed some new blood.
The Wild went after one of the more versatile players in the first round. Most young players with Boldy’s talent are not advanced on defense, but he plays an excellent defensive game. He can handle the puck in tight areas, and he has advanced offensive skills.
*Silverman’s grade is for the entire draft class, though he only reviewed the best selection for each team
Minnesota Wild: The quote below tells you all you need to know.
Fenton on #mnwild draft: "The thing I liked is when guys came up to our table and they were way taller than me. We’ve had some smaller prospects, good hockey players, but every time somebody came up and they were much taller, you got a smile on a lot of our faces."— Michael Russo (@RussoHockey) June 22, 2019
So, dropping the highest and lowest, the consensus is that the Minnesota Wild graded out at a solid B. Personally, I agree with that rating. I am still convinced that Cole Caufield will be an great-to-elite scorer in the NHL, and the Wild still desperately need players that will put the puck in the net, but Boldy should pan out to be a fine player as well. General Manager Paul Fenton did what he had to do: restock the cupboard, while avoiding the big mistake that would have caused fan confidence to dip even further after his midseason moves in 2018-19.
The other thing I learned: at 5-foot-11, I’ll never have a chance of playing for the Wild. Not while Fenton is calling the shots.
How would you grade the Minnesota Wild’s 2019 Draft class?
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