Welcome to this year’s Top 25 Under 25 series. If you’re unfamiliar, we’re going player-by-player in a ranking of the top 25 Minnesota Wild players that are under the age of 25. It’s fairly simple. Enjoy!
We’re not going to unveil who is at No. 23 of our 2022 Top 25 Under 25 list today, but instead, let’s just look over some names of players that were eligible to be on the list, but just missed the cut. There a lot of names to go through — and frankly, good on the Wild for having so many young players in their system — so let’s just get through this in rapid fire.
C Caedan Bankier
Bankier, a 19-year-old center out of the WHL’s Kamloops Blazers and the Wild’s third-round pick last year, carried that draft hype into being on last year’s list, but after a mediocre 60-point season out of him after his selection, has dropped out of the race.
It might be other, younger, players getting that potential hype, but also, some players are just easier to project and like than Bankier. If he turns pro eventually and puts up some Mason Shaw-like numbers, maybe then he can make it on.
C Damien Giroux
The 22-year-old forward enjoyed his second full season with the Iowa Wild, but if we were to rank the young players on that team — among Shaw, Mitchell Chaffee, Adam Beckman, etc. — Giroux would most likely be at the bottom. He had seven points in 48 games. Do we need to explain it?
D David Spacek
The Czech defender was drafted as an overager, so he has a little bit of an advantage over his fellow 2022 draftees in terms of projectability and seeing where his path can lead him. But considering how easy it is to produce as a blueliner in the QMJHL and just not seeing a whole lot of him, Spacek just isn’t up there with the other Wild defensemen quite yet.
G Hunter Jones
Jones was always seen as a potential goaltender to make the NHL eventually, or even just be good enough to stick around, but after posting an .878 save percentage in the ECHL and an .884 save percentage in the AHL last year, maybe he should just be used as some minor-league fodder. He will most likely stick with the Heartlanders, as AHL Iowa gets treated to having Jesper Wallstedt and veteran Zane McIntyre as their tandem.
C Josh Pillar
The 2021 fourth-rounder is a good skater, has decent mobility on the ice, but just hasn’t produced enough for us to consider him among the other talented forward prospects that the Wild have. He recently moved to the Saskatoon Blades, so maybe that can help him in what will be his final year of junior hockey.
D Kyle Masters
Personally, I was a giant Kyle Masters fan after learning more about him and watching some tape after the Wild selected him in the fourth round last year. A wonderful skater that looks taller than his 6-foot listing, and he had a point every other game on a terrible Red Deer Rebels team during his draft year. Unfortunately, that production rate did not continue, as he got just 14 points in 65 games for the still-terrible team. Maybe a change can help, but right now it doesn’t look promising.
C Matvei Guskov
Guskov had the mystery about him and that is what made him intriguing as a Wild prospect, after being selected in the fifth round in 2019. But since then, he barely produced in the OHL, and then when he went back to Russia, he can barely hang in the KHL. Now, he is just 21 years old and might regularly play for CSKA Moskow this season, so he might be someone that Minnesota can try to bring over eventually — especially if his scoring goes up — but right now it’s just a lost cause.
D Nate Benoit
Benoit was an interesting pick in the sixth round last year, but is a very long-term project. He is still going to be playing for the USHL’s Omaha Lancers next season and will finally up his competition when he goes to the University of North Dakota at 20 years of age in 2023-24. Again, maybe this is a guy that in a few years can turn pro and use his solid skating to be a mobile blueliner, but not right now.
RW Nick Swaney
This guy is a little bit tougher to not rank than some others. Swaney was able to earn 38 points in 62 games as a middle-six forward in the AHL this season in his first full year of professional hockey. Not too bad. He is a little bit older than the others, at an elderly 24 years old, and might not have that potential we all like to see when looking at these lists, but Swaney can certainly have a Dewar-esque jump into the NHL if he has the chance to next season.
LW Rieger Lorenz
Lorenz can certainly skyrocket up this list. The 2022 second-rounder is heading to the University of Denver as a freshman next season, after producing well enough in the AJHL. He has that straight-ahead speed that so many Wild fans love and appears to be able to score on a whim. He’s a decent prospect and might have the opportunity for the Pioneers to make some noise. He’s just not there yet.
D Ryan Healey
Healey is another 2022 pick that is easy to fall in love with. The defenseman out of the USHL’s Sioux Falls Stampede has excellent vision and skating ability, and was heralded by some scouts as a potential late-round pick that could have high up-side. Anyways, he’s still going to be playing in the USHL next season and will make the collegiate jump to attend Harvard University in 2023-24. Potential there.
C Servac Petrovsky
If we did our rankings after the World Juniors, then Petrovsky would have probably made it, honestly. He is extremely young — still 17 years old — and has buckets of runway for us to imagine what his development could look like. But he looks like a head-down-and-get-to-work center that plays bigger than he is and can be that extra bit of offensive force on a line. Just a player that is so easy to like.
LW Vladislav Firstov
Firstov is a really tricky one. He has almost been a mainstay on this list since being draft in the second round in 2019, but has just slowly slipped out of the mind of Minnesota prospect-watchers. He produced decently enough for the University of Connecticut and made his pro debut for the AHL Wild last season, playing in eight games and earning two assists. Not the best, but if he took this offseason seriously, and considering that there will be some graduates off of that Iowa team, he can have an opportunity to grow into a fully-fledged professional hockey player in several months. There are just other prospects we like more at this time.
It was a tough ranking this year with some unknowns and so many damn high-end prospects for the Wild. Not the worst thing in the world to miss the Top 25 Under 25 list of a team that has the best prospect pool in the entire NHL.