There has been a somewhat long history of this website ranking the top 25 players under the age of 25. Dating all the way back to eight years ago, in the year 2014 when we barely knew anything about any player, we have been giving our own opinions about who we think should be touted as the future core of this team and what players are consistently doing good for the Wild while still being young.
We are not without our own fault and biases, and surely some players that we have already listed on this year’s version will never see significant professional hockey and we can be heckled for liking the player; but that’s a few years from today. We thought it would be fun to have a little bit of a lookback at past Top 25 Under 25 lists and remember some guys that we thought highly of.
Brett Bulmer, 2014
Bulmer, on the inaugural Top 25 Under 25 list from this website back in 2014, ranked No. 13, astonishingly. This is a now-famous list that housed the names of essentially the entire Wild core for the last few years. Jared Spurgeon, Matt Dumba, Jonas Brodin, Mikael Granlund, and Nino Niederreiter rounded out the top of the ranking, but in came Bulmer. The 2010 second-round pick was lauded as someone determined to make the NHL. And he did!
At the time of writing this list, Bulmer appeared in 15 NHL games split between two seasons, and put up unimpressive AHL numbers, earning 19 points in 43 games during his 2013-14 campaign. Whether it was draft pedigree or people loving just how big and strong he was — a 6-foot-4 winger that weighs over 200 lbs can do things for a fan — he was heralded as a potential big piece.
After more miserable AHL seasons, Bulmer left North America and at 24 years old, went to Finland to play for Ilves. That didn’t even last a season, as he moved to Germany to play ERC Ingolstadt to play seven games in the DEL to wrap-up his 2016-17 season. He made his way back across the Atlantic, playing for the ECHL’s Florida Everblades for a season, but then quickly made his way to Europe once more. Two seasons in the United Kingdom for two different teams, and then a quick appearance in the German second division, Bulmer might have finally found his home. For the last two seasons, Bulmer has played in the third division in Germany and is putting up insane numbers, scoring 89 points in 44 games just last season for the Tilburg Trappers. After never being able to really be the star of the show, it seems like Bulmer has found his place at 30 years old. What a journey.
Christian Folin, 2015
Christian Folin is one player that was highly thought of at one point in the Wild’s system — we had him ranked at No. 14 in 2015 — but has found greener pastures elsewhere in the NHL. After leaving Minnesota, Folin played for the Los Angeles Kings, Montreal Canadiens, and Philadelphia Flyers, but rarely ever made his way to the minor leagues. Always at least a bottom-pair defender or a healthy scratch, the undrafted Swede at least never had to move teams that often.
He’s now back at the team he grew up playing for, Frolunda, and is just hanging out after sprinkling his talents through North America.
Kirill Kaprizov, 2016
Okay, obviously we don’t need to strain our brain too much (or at all) to remember Kirill Kaprizov. But, I thought it would just be funny to have a look back and think that just one year after being drafted in the fifth round, he was ranked 15th on our list. Plus, being primarily described as a former fifth-rounder is hilarious to think about.
Also, just look at this sentence.
Clearly, it’s a little unreasonable to expect Kaprizov to develop into a dominant scorer like Tarasenko or Kuznetsov...
I know it is just hedging your bet at not looking stupid, but it is great that he has surpassed both of those players by a fairly large margin in just his first couple of years.
Gustav Olofsson, 2018
Not too long ago, Gustav Olofsson was ranked in the top-10, at seventh, in our Top 25 Under 25. While that might just be saying more about the Wild’s prospect pool than the player, to think that he was just simply swapped for a nothing AHL center in Will Bitten at a later date, would be exploding minds back in 2018.
He has still hung around on this continent after being a third-round pick from the Wild, and has committed himself to being a defense-first AHL blueliner. He is now with the Seattle Kraken’s AHL team after spending a season in Charlotte.
Dylan Labbé, 2015
Labbé is certainly a Guy To Remember if there ever was one drafted by the Wild. A fourth-rounder from 2013, the St-Georges, Que. native battled his way as an AHL tough guy on the blue line for multiple years before making his way down to the ECHL and earning his single year contracts to rough up the opponents. A similar story, Labbé just couldn’t find a significant role in the ECHL, so he decided to take his talents down another level.
The 6-foot-2 defender found himself in the Ligue Nord-Américaine de Hockey — or as some other people will recognize it as, is the Quebecois goon league. Notorious for carting bodies off the ice and having so much blood spilled that they might as well just paint the ice red at this point, Labbé has now played two seasons there, bookmarked by the pandemic where he did not play hockey. At least he’s close to home now and still playing professionally.
Dmitri Sokolov, 2017
Sokolov is one that stings a little bit more than others. He was heralded as an elite goal scorer by this website and had him ranked at No. 9 in 2017. After the Wild took a flyer on him in the seventh round, Sokolov impressed a lot of people by his point production in the OHL. Finishing his junior career with 58 points in 29 games for the Barrie Colts, he made his way to the AHL to further his development. That is where things stalled.
The flash of the junior player was now just a little glow that you would catch at times. He would score a point just about every other game for the three seasons he spent in the AHL, before eventually going back to his hometown of Omsk and playing in the KHL there. Well, he then got demoted to the VHL (the Russian second division) and put up 47 points in 43 games there. Now, he’s back in the KHL and hoping to at least be productive over there to carve out a career.
It just never really happened over here.
Gustav Bouramman, 2017
Finishing off the nostalgia, we have Gustav Bouramman, a seventh-round pick of the Wild’s in 2015 and just two years later, we had him ranked at No. 17 on our Top 25 Under 25. The Swedish blueliner made his way through the OHL as a foreign player, looking a little decent before turning pro and just stagnated a little bit. He played his first full professional season primarily in the ECHL, and after 23 games in the AHL the next year, he was booted out. I guess there was just nothing to really work with there, even if he was heralded as a smart defenseman.
After skipping through the Swedish second division, Bouramman has found himself in Austria this season, playing for the Graz99ers. Whatever that means. It’s not so much a fall from grace, but someone that was given a little bit of a chance in North America and just didn’t pan out professionally. Too bad.
Wow, those are certainly some names. Hopefully this year’s list is a little bit better and doesn’t have any silly rankings.
Hockey Wilderness 2022 Top 25 Under 25
25. Mason Shaw, C/LW
24. Sam Hentges, C/LW
23. Simon Johansson, D
22. Hunter Haight, C
21. Nikita Nesternenko, C
20. Marshall Warren, D
19. Filip Gustavsson, G
18. Mikey Milne, LW
17. Mitchell Chaffee, RW
16. Pavel Novak, RW
15. Ryan O’Rourke, D
14. Daemon Hunt, D