The key takeaway from the recent developments in the Minnesota Wild system: Help is on the way.
The Minnesota Wild is angling to put a cork in all the heartache and disappointment that they’ve been mired in and start fresh with offensive savant Bruce Boudreau serving as bench boss. They seem to be more invested in the ‘salvation lies within’ philosophy and it shows with how they’re making more of an effort to build through the draft than they have previously. GM Chuck Fletcher and the other powers that be in the organization have come to grips with what they can expect out of the incumbent talent and are no longer running away with their imagination. Having done so, the team has a better understanding of what they need and have made efforts to resolve their on-ice shortcomings. One key way the Wild have managed to accomplish this is by keeping a better ear to the ground for what NCAA rosters (among others) and the like have to offer at the next level. To illustrate this point, consider the depth chart below featuring players in the Minnesota pipeline that are currently either unsigned or still on their entry level contract.
Depth Chart (includes drafted but unsigned prospects):
The majority of the aforementioned players are of the ‘work in progress’ variety. Eriksson Ek, Tuch, Reilly and Kunin are all ones to draft sooner than later in upcoming prospect drafts. The remainder are two years (if not more) away from making noise at the NHL level so they should be lower on your prospect shopping lists for the time being. If you are in the market for some nice value picks in the later rounds to fill out the roster, definitely consider Sam Anas, Jordan Greenway, Kirill Kaprizov, Louis Belpedio and Stephen Michalek.
For the time being though, Eriksson Ek, Tuch and Kunin are all that deserve the must draft seal of approval. Each with a little bit of a different skillset to offer but all are a cut above the rest at this stage in their development. Kunin is the odd man out of the three as not only is he the youngest but also he’s slated to be headed to the NCAA this fall.
On the Rise
Kiril Kaprizov has left Wild management throwing their hands up in praise while leaving other NHL teams’ management kicking themselves after a magical season in the KHL that he parlayed in to an all star game appearance.
Sam Anas is still something of a wild card (no pun intended) but his deft vision and puck handling are apparent. He’ll look to play a key role on a resurging Iowa Wild squad for a full campaign this year.
Gustav Bouramman didn’t crumble under the new role with the Greyhounds per se, however he still didn’t thrive with the increased powerplay time allotted either. Should his decision making improve, particularly under duress, would do wonders for his chances at the professional level
Chase Lang seems to be overwhelmed when attending recent prospect camps and fades into the background easily. He can’t stay gun shy for long if he wants serious consideration for play at the next level.
Joel Eriksson-Ek – He’ll be a big part of the attack for team Sweden this year at the World Juniors if not the biggest. That is, if he doesn’t make the big club out of training camp.
Alex Tuch – He’s got nothing less to prove at Boston College, and is a strong threat to make the big club. Reporting to Iowa for duty wouldn’t be the worst thing for him.
Luke Kunin – Needs to build his body before he can make the jump, the NCAA is a great place to do just that.
Mike Reilly – He’s an offensive sparkplug that the Wild could really use on the blueline, however he needs to show he can handle big minutes against the bigger scoring threats in the league.
Jordan Greenway – Has the makings of a Tom Wilson like fantasy presence, will look to make more of a splash on the offensive end of the rink this upcoming year at BU.
Gustav Olofsson – Not fleet of foot, making it tough for him to accumulate much staying power in the big leagues until he can up his foot speed.
Kirill Kaprizov – He’ll most likely remain in the KHL, and try to build off of a flying start to his pro career.
Louis Belpedio – This little engine that could can be going places but needs to show he has the stamina to operate at the high levels he’s capable of.
Tyler Graovac – Struggled to recover after his abdominal injury and being send down and called up throughout the season. He projects to be a top-six forward for Iowa on opening night.
Stephen Michalek- Made a promising tenure out of last year, even had some cups of coffee with the big club but hasn’t played for them as yet. Has shown in spurts he can handle considerable workloads and still put up respectable percentages.
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