The NHL Draft. The developmental camp. The Traverse City Prospects Tournament. And now, training camp is about to open. There’s a lot to be excited about, especially if you follow the prospect pipeline. And while right now is a great opportunity to see the future of Minnesota Wild hockey in action, many of the prospects that are invited to participate in these preseason events won’t make the squad, and will be sent back to their minor, international or junior league teams.
But what happens then? When will these players get their big chance? And what if the dedicated Wild fan wants to keep track of their progress and development? Where can they turn?
Let’s take a look at the developmental leagues where the Wild prospects will likely spend this season, project when they might make it to the pros, and find out where fans can stream their games.
American Hockey League (AHL)
Teams with Wild Prospects: Iowa Wild
Players: All of them
Season Starts: October 4
Live streaming: watchtheahl.com ($59.99 full package, $39.99 half package)
The “Baby Wild” will see a few players called up to make an appearance, most likely for injury replacements. Players such as Nico Sturm, Kyle Rau, Louie Belpedio and Carson Soucy have already seen time with the big club, so expect to hear their names called first, though Gerald Mayhew earned himself at least a cup of coffee with his play down the stretch and in the postseason. Unlike last year, when Iowa was primed and ready to send up Jordan Greenway, Joel Erikkson Ek and Luke Kunin, there aren’t any solid candidates to earn a long-term roster spot outside of Sturm. Nico Sturm signed as a college free agent towards the end of last season and impressed head coach Bruce Boudreau in the final two games of last year.
Following the Iowa Wild online is fairly easy, as the AHL has a pretty robust streaming service, featuring a full-season package at $59.99 that gets you all of Iowa’s games, or $39.99 packages where you can get either all of the home games, or all of the away games.
Kontinental Hockey League (KHL)
Teams with Wild Prospects: CSKA Moskva
Players: Kirill Kaprizov, Andrei Svetlakov
Season Starts: Already in progress
Live streaming: None (legally)
The largest hockey league outside of the U.S., Russia’s professional hockey league is currently host to CSKA Moskva, who has the promise of a bright future for the Wild in one Kirill Kaprizov. If you’re a Wild fan who consumes any content at all, be it Russo’s columns at The Athletic, any of the local newspapers or here at Hockey Wilderness, you know that we’re all looking forward to 2020, when Kaprizov’s contract in the KHL expires and the Russian superstar will hopefully join the team that drafted him in 2015. Svetlakov, the Wild’s sixth-round pick in 2017, signed a contract this summer that locks him up until 2022. While Minnesota still controls his rights, Svetlakov isn’t the player Kaprizov is, and it’s unlikely the Wild will wait until the then 26-year-old decides to jump the pond.
For those interested in keeping up with Kirill, streaming KHL games in the United States is problematic. The KHL has region-locked many of the sources that offer live streams of their games. If you live in Canada, DAZN (watch.dazn.com) offers KHL games (along with many other sports) for $19.99 a month. DAZN is also available stateside, but for now, the KHL is not included in the U.S. package.
Schools with Wild Prospects: Boston College, UMass (Amherst), St. Cloud State, University of Minnesota-Duluth, Vermont, Connecticut
Players: Matthew Boldy (BC), Jack McBain (BC), Marshall Warren (BC), Sam Hentges (SCSU), Nick Swaney (UMD), Vladislav Firstov (Conn), Bryce Misley (Vermont)
Season Starts: October 4
Live streaming: Varies
If there’s one NCAA team to watch in order to follow Wild prospects, it’s clearly Boston College, where you can check out 2019 first-round pick Matthew Boldy, 2018 third-round pick Jack McBain, and 2019 sixth-round pick Marshall Warren. They’re also the easiest to check out, as Boston College games are streamed via the Watch ESPN app, which is a free download for anyone who has ESPN through their cable, satellite or streaming provider.
As for the rest of the Wild prospects in the college ranks, you’ll need a $28.95 monthly NCHC.TV pass to watch Hentges at St. Cloud State and Swaney at UMD, and a $10.95 monthly pass for UConn’s streaming service for Firstov’s games. Luckily, if you’re super excited to check out 2017 fourth-round selection Bryce Misley’s third year at Vermont, Catamount Hockey games are available free of charge through CatamounTV.
As for how long you’ll have to maintain multiple college hockey subscriptions, NCAA players usually spend at least two seasons in college before advancing to either the AHL or NHL. There are exceptions, but two years is the going rate. Boldy is likely on that path, while McBain and Firstov might need three years or more prior to making the leap.
Ontario Hockey League (OHL)
Teams with Wild Prospects: London Knights, Saginaw Spirit, Peterbourough Petes
Players: Matvey Guskov (London), Damien Giroux (Saginaw), Hunter Jones (Peterbourough)
Season Starts: September 19
Live streaming: OHLLive.com, with a caveat…
One of three leagues that make up Canadian major junior hockey, the OHL boasts the most drafted players when compared to the other two leagues — the QMJHL and the WHL (more on them later). The Wild have three players currently in the Ontario Hockey League, and even more with OHL pedigree, such as Ivan Lodnia and Fedor Gordeev, who will likely make the jump to Iowa this year (unless they make the Wild out of training camp, which is unlikely). Guskov (2019 fifth round), Giroux (2018 fifth round) and Jones (2019 second round) have at least one more season of OHL play in their future before making their way to the Iowa Wild. From there, Jones has the most likely track as a goaltender, since both Devan Dubnyk and Alex Stalock’s contracts will be up by 2022. Guskov will spend his second season with the London Knights, and with continued improvement might make it to Iowa by 2020. Giroux has spent three years already in the OHL and has improved every year; however, a roster spot in Des Moines might be the ceiling for the diminutive center.
The OHL did have a streaming service, OHL Live, as of last season, but their streaming partner Neulion (which also powered the WHL and QMJHL) was bought out by Endeavor Sports, and considering their site hasn’t been updated with only eight days before their regular season starts, it’s unclear whether or not their games will be available for streaming for 2019-20.
Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL)
Teams with Wild Prospects: Cape Breton, Moncton, Bai-Comeau
Players: Alexander Khovanov (Moncton), Shawn Boudrias (Cape Breton), Dereck Baribeau (Bai-Comeau)
Season Starts: September 19
Live streaming: qmjhl.neulion.com (maybe)
The second of the three CHL leagues, the QMJHL is known for its high-flying offense, so take any prospect numbers with a grain of salt — 70 points in Quebec’s major juniors might not translate to a similar number in the pros. That being said, Khovanov will be a player worth keeping an eye on in the years to come. The Wild’s third-round pick in 2018 put up a 74-point season last year, though his season ended early due to a benign tumor found in his left leg, a condition that required offseason surgery and prevented his appearance at the Traverse City prospect tournament. He’ll spend another year at Moncton, and will likely make the move up to Iowa by 2020. Boudrias and Baribeau were both invited to Traverse City and will also take part in training camp, but neither is expected to last past the first round of cuts.
Like the OHL, the QMJHL’s streaming site (which reportedly wasn’t great to begin with) is in limbo with Neulion’s acquisition.
Western Hockey League (WHL)
Teams with Wild Prospects: Spokane
Player: Adam Beckman
Season Starts: September 20
Live streaming: WHLLive.com (possibly)
The last of the Canadian Hockey Leagues, the WHL, has but one Wild prospect: 2019 third-round selection Adam Beckman of the Spokane Chiefs. Beckman scored 62 points in 68 regular season games last year in the WHL, and added another 12 in the playoffs. Despite taking part in Traverse City and being invited to this year’s training camp, Beckman is still a few years away at best and will likely spend another year or two in the WHL before moving up to Iowa.
Like the prior two leagues, WHL Live is in limbo with Neulion’s acquisition.
Swedish Hockey League (SHL)
Teams with Wild Prospects: Djugardens IF, Leksands IF
Players: Filip Johansson (Leksands), Simon Johansson (Djugardens)
Season Starts: September 14
Live streaming: None, though game highlights are available through SHL.SE
The two Johanssons (no relation) both play in the Swedish Hockey League, are both defensemen, and were both selected in the 2018 draft, with Filip the Wild’s first-round pick, and Simon selected in the fifth round. But where Filip has notably not lived up to his high selection, Simon has actually shown some value, playing well at the U20 level for the Swedish national team. Neither player is slated for NHL duty any time soon, and will continue to develop overseas for the next couple years before potentially making their AHL debut.
Swedish Hockey League streaming is not available in the U.S., but if you can make it around their website with Google Translate, you’ll find a pretty robust video section with game highlights and goal replays.
British Columbia Hockey League (BCHL)
Teams with Wild Prospects: Chilliwack Chiefs
Player: Nikita Nesterenko
Season Starts: In progress
Live Streaming: HockeyTV.com
The Wild’s sixth-round selection in the 2019 draft is slated to play for one season with the Chilliwack Chiefs of the BCHL before starting his freshman year at Brown University in 2020. If you want to catch him with the Chiefs, it’s actually pretty easy to do through hockeytv.com. At $29.99 a month, you can get access to dozens of obscure junior hockey leagues (including the BCHL), Shattuck St. Mary’s high school hockey games, as well as one AHL game a week. There’s also a free option where you’ll get whatever featured junior games they offer. Yes, it’s a lot of hoops to jump through to scout a sixth-rounder who likely will have a hard time making it to Iowa, but someone out there might be interested nonetheless.
Lastly, and you didn’t hear it from me…
Of course, on the shadier parts of the interwebs, there are sites where you can stream games for free. Sites that are legally dubious, unreliably scheduled, questionable quality and potentially malware-infected. But they’re there. And they have KHL games, among others. Your mileage may vary. Me, I’ll just stick with the highlight tweets from the KHL’s Twitter account, and bide my time until 2020.