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Top 25 Under 25: Looking at recent graduates

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Two years ago, the Wild’s youth looked very different.

Minnesota Wild v Vancouver Canucks - Game One Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images

With our 2020 Top 25 Under 25 ranking underway, it only makes sense to take a step back and look at where the Minnesota Wild have come so far in just a couple years.

Suffering through the reign of former General Manager Paul Fenton and his myriad of mistakes, the State of Hockey’s franchise has gone through a major transformation. Wanting to go through a rebuild while not digging themselves too deep and becoming the 2014-15 Buffalo Sabres, Minnesota have calmly focused on the future and current GM Bill Guerin has made sure it.

With this ideology in mind, looking at players that have moved beyond past Top 25 Under 25 rankings will either be depressing or nostalgic.

So let’s do that.

Matt Dumba

Easily the most successful graduate, Dumba has grown into a solid top-four defenseman and one that is coveted around the league. Even while the 26-year-old’s name is heavily linked to other teams by those that deal with trade rumors, he is one of the few players that have been previously mentioned in a ranking, to go on and still play in Minnesota beyond the age of 25.

Seven years and over 400 NHL games, playing for the franchise that drafted him seventh-overall, Dumba is no doubt a successful graduate coming out of previous rankings. After holding the top spot in 2018, 2017 and 2015, it was clear that the Regina, Sask. native was highly regarded by our staff throughout his early career.

Standing with your hands on your hips as you watch every shift of Dumba’s last season like a proud parent, it’s nice to see someone come out from this organization and be successful.

Gustav Olofsson

Olofsson is just one of those prospects that you have the highest hopes for, but doesn’t pan out exactly how you imagine. Ranked in the top-10 from 2016 to 2018 and at No. 12 in 2015, the left-handed defender was a constant presence when discussing the future of the Wild blue line ever since he was drafted in the second round of the 2013 NHL Draft.

Even if he did appear in 56 games for the Wild through three seasons, he never averaged more than 14 minutes of ice-time. The 6-foot-3 defenseman earned 11 assists through his time with Minnesota, but he was never promised to be an offensive dynamo.

His time up with the big club was seen as enough to determine that he should be with another organization, leading former GM Paul Fenton to trade the player to the Montreal Canadiens. In return they got young forward William Bitten, a 2018 third-round pick that has played two relatively successful seasons in Iowa for a 22-year-old.

Justin Kloos

Easily one of the best names on the list, the now-26 year old made a brief appearance on our rankings. Holding the No. 21 spot on our 2018 list, Kloos was an undrafted forward that spent four years with the University of Minnesota and captained the Gophers for his last two, leading the team to an NCAA title.

A perfect candidate to sign with his local team, the Lakeville, Minn. native spent two full seasons in Iowa and was able to make his NHL debut against the Vancouver Canucks in Oct. 2017. It would be his only appearance for the Wild, but a good local boy story.

Eventually, the team moved on and traded him to the Anaheim Ducks for winger Pontus Aberg in Jan. 2019. Since then, he’s signed with Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod of the KHL and has six goals and 10 points through 20 games of his 2020-21 season. Not bad for a local.

Mario Lucia

Lucia was consistently ranked in the top-15 of our list during his time in Minnesota, beaming with promise of a physical winger to bolster the Wild’s depth at forward.

A second-round pick of the 2011 NHL Draft, the winger had instant connection with the franchise. A son of Don Lucia, the longtime Gophers head coach, the now-27 year old was a shoe-in for a nice Minnesotan story. Unfortunately, after two years with Iowa and keeping the needle completely still, Lucia was traded to the New Jersey Devils alongside Christoph Bertschy for defenseman Viktor Loov.

He spent the last two seasons playing in Norway and Denmark, so at least he’s broadening his horizons.

Sam Anas

A fresh wound for many Iowa Wild fans, Anas kept his No. 12 spot on our rankings in both 2016 and 2017. A high scorer for Quinnipac University, the undrafted forward spent a total of four years in Iowa lighting it up.

Most recently leading the entire AHL in scoring, the 27-year-old hasn’t made it to the NHL quite yet. But after signing a two-year, two-way deal with the St. Louis Blues, he might get his chance in a depth role.

Steve Michalek

Another former prospect that moved his talents overseas, goaltender Steve Michalek was able to keep his spot in the rankings during his eligibility from 2015 to 2017. The 2011 sixth-round pick spent his North American career bouncing in between the three tiers.

Only called-up to serve as a backup in the NHL, the 27-year-old played 69 games in the AHL and 30 games in the ECHL, providing solid goaltending no matter where he went. He last played in 2018-19 for Red Bull Salzberg in the top Austrian league.

Carson Soucy

Ending this miserable lookback at former under-25 players that instilled hope into Wild fans with a bit of a positive note, Carson Soucy at least plays for the team.

Despite being drafted in the fifth round of the 2013 NHL Draft, Soucy didn’t make the list until he earned the No. 20 spot in 2017. He then improved his position, jumping up 11 spots to the ninth-overall spot the following year. The 26-year-old played his first full season for the Wild last year, scoring seven goals and 14 points through 55 games.

His gig as a depth defenseman with Brad Hunt clearly impressed the front office, as they locked up Soucy to a three-year deal with an AAV of $2.75-million.

Don’t mind us, we’re just enjoying the saucy Soucy highlights.

It’s good to see a positive story after dragging our limp bodies through the mud of average prospects that eventually find themselves out of the organization.