Cast your mind’s eye back to the Chuck Fletcher era of the Minnesota Wild, where many a pick were traded away for players acquired to get the team over the playoff hump, only to have the season end with yet another early-round flameout. The 2017 NHL Draft was a prime example of Fletcher’s gameplan, as the Wild were without both their first and second round selections, having been jettisoned for Martin Hanzel and Chris Stewart.
So with the team’s first selection in 2017 coming in the third round, the Wild took forward Ivan Lodnia from the Erie Otters of the Ontario Hockey League.
In a draft where the Wild were handcuffed without their first two selections, Lodina must had seemed like the best-case scenario: a second-round level talent with offensive upside and a right-handed shot - all things the Wild desperately needed at the time.
Lodnia debuted at No. 13 in the 2017 edition of the Top 25 Under 25, and moved up to the tenth spot in 2018 after another strong season with the Otters. But in the two seasons since last he graced our lists, Lodnia has had some consistent injury concerns, and that’s why he drops to No. 18 on the 2020 version of the T25U25.
Lodnia has been a point-per-game player in the three OHL seasons after being drafted by the Wild, scoring 166 points (66 goals - 100 assists) in 144 combined games with Erie and the Niagara Ice Dogs. As good as those numbers look at first glance, the could have been even more prolific had Lodnia not missed significant parts of the last two seasons due to injuries.
With the OHL season in flux due to COVID-19, the Wild loaned Lodnia to Dinamo Minsk of the Kontinental Hockey League where he will join fellow Wild prospect Brennen Menell. But unlike some other temporary KHLers, Michael Russo of The Athletic confirmed via tweet that Lodnia will be spending the entire season overseas, even if/when American leagues resume their season. A decision like that almost assuredly means that Lodnia is another season away from joining the Wild, as the US-born forward of Ukranian parents will likely spend at least one full season in Iowa with the Wild’s American Hockey League affiliate.
So far this season, Lodnia has been getting used to the step-up in class of the KHL, earning only four assists in 11 games played. But despite the slow start, Lodnia’s ice time in the KHL playing against veterans will provide invaluable experience once he returns to the Iowa Wild in 2021-22.
Roll the Tape
It should be no surprise that Lodnia was selected by the Wild since he fits the mold of what the team has historically looked for in their draft picks: a 200-foot player who is not afraid to get in to the tough areas, and has the skill to make a play once he has control.
Lodnia’s playmaking skills are the calling cards of his game, using his superior vision and hands to find teammates rushing the net or sniping over the shoulder of goaltenders.
He’s strong on the puck both in both zones, whether defending from a forecheck or taking on a blueliner one-on-one to generate a scoring opportunity. Some scouts find Lodnia tries to push the creativity too far at times, but most respect his ability to fit the puck through holes that other players wouldn’t dare try.
The biggest dings on Lodnia’s game are his speed and consistancy. He may have a decent first step and some nice agility, but the dude’s not fast by any stretch of the imagination. And while the highlight reels will show you plenty of the sweet, skillful plays, prospect evaluators like The Athletic’s Corey Pronman will tell you that Lodnia will wow you one minute, and then seemingly disappear from the ice the next.
And then, there’s Lodnia’s injury history. As is the case with many Wild prospects (most notably fellow 2017 Wild draft pick Mason Shaw), injuries have been a concern for the 21-year-old, as he’s missed significant time over the past two seasons.
The Wild are always looking for complete players who are strong both offensively and defensively, generate chances and have scoring touch, so a player like Lodnia would seem to fit the bill should he continue his development over the next two seasons. The winger also has leadership chops, having been named captain of the IceDogs during the 2019-20 season, and was Niagra’s nominee for the Outstanding Player of the Year as well as the Dan Snyder Humanitarian of the Year award for his work with the community.
A 200-foot player that can be a leader in the locker room and the community? Yeah, sounds like someone that the Wild could use on the roster.
Hopefully a season of KHL experience will help Lodnia acclimate to playing against grown men, preparing him to make the leap to the pros. And should he continue to progress in the KHL and AHL, he could be primed to fill a role in the bottom six for a Wild team that is primed to potentially see a great deal of roster turnover the next two seasons - and is still in need of right-shot scoring from the right wing.