The esteemed Hockey Wilderness Top 25 Under 25 is back and we’re going to be going over every single young(ish) player with a fine-toothed comb. Determining their rank over other young(ish) players might be a large task to have in the middle of this active offseason for our favorite hockey club, but it’s something we just have to do.
Of course every NHL team has loads of talent that is under the age of 25, but not all of them can be the place in the top-25. Here are some Minnesota players that weren’t necessarily close to the ranking, but will have a chance in future years.
C Bryce Misley
The 21-year-old center got his first taste of professional hockey this season, appearing in nine games for the Iowa Wild after wrapping up his four years at the University of Vermont. He’s not a high-scoring centerman, topping at 10 points during his collegiate career, but he did at least show some flash of ability netting three points during those first nine in the AHL.
Drafted in the fourth round of the 2017 NHL Draft, Misley will continue his stay in the minors, just one step away from the big leagues, after signing an AHL contract with Iowa last month. A forward that is destined to be a farm hand has a large hill to climb, but it has certainly been done before and he has time on his side.
D Fedor Gordeev
The towering 6-foot-7 defender has played over 250 games in the OHL for three different teams and, similarly to Misley, got his first little taste of the AHL this season, being able to appear in seven matches.
Gordeev won’t wow you away with his offensive production, but he is just a very big dude that is an option in his later years. Still at the age of 22 and some room to grow in his game, he is signed to an NHL contract with the Wild, so there is always that door that is slightly ajar for him to walk through and into a very physical bottom-pairing role. He just didn’t cut it for our staff to think of him as a top-25 player, especially with the other defensemen available.
RW Nick Swaney
The veteran of the bunch, the almost-24-year-old Swaney is From Here, being native to Lakeville, Minn. A seventh-round draft pick in 2017, he attended the University of Minnesota-Duluth and — this is now just a trend — was able to play his first professional hockey games after his season ended.
A more talented player that was just on the cusp of some lists, he finished his final year in the NCAA at a point-per-game, scoring 28 in the same amount of matches, and earned a goal and an assist in the six AHL games he appeared in.
He does have an NHL contract, so the Wild at least believe in him that much, and it helps that he’s a hometown kid.
G Déreck Baribeau
“One of the goalies,” aptly describes Baribeau and his contribution as a Wild prospect. The 22-year-old undrafted netminder has bounced between the ECHL and AHL for his two years as a professional and actually put up decent results in the shortened AHL season — a 2.54 goas against average and a .914 save percentage.
With Jesper Wallstedt and Hunter Jones being more the esteemed goaltenders, could we really fathom having three of those goalie weirdos in the final list? Well maybe, but we didn’t.
C Josh Pillar
Even though Pillar was an overager when he got selected in the 2021 NHL Draft, he still hasn’t reached that platitude of being considered one of the key Wild prospects at the age of 19. He is certainly a center to look out for, putting up 29 points in 22 games for the WHL’s Kamloops Blazers during their shortened season, but someone that shouldn’t be necessarily considered a phenom or an established player.
Maybe that changes down the line as he enters the professional game in 2022-23, but it’s still a long road out and he can get there one day.
RW Mitchell Chaffee
At 23 years old, Chaffee was able to finish his NCAA career in 2020 and start a fresh, new professional outlook with the Iowa Wild in their weird and wacky season. He was able to impress, putting up 17 points in 28 games for his first taste of the AHL in the middle of a pandemic.
Signed as an undrafted free agent in March 2020, Chaffee has the possibility of turning into a Very Good AHL forward this season and getting a good look next year, but it’s just too early to tell. Maybe he’ll even make his NHL debut this season if injuries are concerning, who knows? The potential is there but it’s just not enough for us to really set him on the same list as some established young players.
D Nate Benoit
Literally the latest NHL draft pick by the Wild, Benoit is a late-bloomer — according to Judd Brackett at least — that has spent time playing U18 AAA and will be suiting up for the Tri-City Storm of the USHL next season. He’s a young defenseman, but no where near the same level of projectability and potential that others have in the Minnesota prospect pool.
Benoit is a fun project to keep an eye on, but is going to be stored away for a couple years.