The 31-in-31 Summer Series is an annual event here at DobberProspects! Every day in November we will be bringing you a complete breakdown of a team’s draft and insights into their off-season movements thus far. Following this up, the December 31-in-31 Series will dive into every team’s prospect depth charts with fantasy insights and implications for the upcoming seasons. Check back often, because we plan on filling your hockey withdrawal needs until the season begins!
Minnesota was eliminated in four games by the Vancouver Canucks in the qualifying round of the NHL restart, meaning that their 2019-20 season technically went down as a playoff miss, despite their participation in Edmonton’s bubble. Wild general manager, Bill Guerin, clearly appears to be taking the team in a new direction, moving out a pair of steadfast veterans at the center position in Mikko Koivu and Eric Staal. Eventually, young talent like the newly drafted Marco Rossi will be leaned on to fill that void down the middle. For now, the upcoming season looks like it may be a “retool” year of sorts, with the Wild seeking to determine what kind of immediate impact they’ll receive from potential stars Rossi and Russian Kirill Kaprizov, who finally signed with the team in September after several years in the KHL.
Mikko Koivu departs the Wild after fifteen seasons with the club, signing with the Columbus Blue Jackets in free agency. The Wild also moved away from a pair of once-promising young forwards this offseason, sending Ryan Donato to San Jose for a 2021 third-rounder, and two days later, trading Luke Kunin and a 2020 draft pick to Nashville for Nick Bonino and the 37th and 70th picks at the draft. Bonino joins Nick Bjugstad, acquired from Pittsburgh in September, as veteran adds that should shore up the Wild’s depth at center. The Wild will hope Bonino and Bjustad can help shore up the gap left by Eric Staal, who was traded to Buffalo for former 58-point scorer Marcus Johannson, who has struggled to match his former offensive numbers over the last few years.
In net, the Wild traded Devin Dubnyk to the Sharks and will look to their free-agent signing, Cam Talbot, to deliver strong results as his replacement.
9th-overall pick, Marco Rossi, appears to be tagged as Minnesota’s potential number-one center down the road and should have an opportunity to compete for a significant role for the Wild straight out of the gate. With Mikko Koivu and Eric Staal out of the picture, the Wild lack clear top-six options down the middle going into next season. Rossi will be at training camp and could strive to earn an immediate skill role.
The most exciting news of the offseason, however, has to have been the long-awaited signing of Russian winger, Kirill Kaprizov. Kaprizov, 23, has been one of the best wingers in the KHL for several years now and is coming off a career-best season that saw him atop the point-per-game mark for the first time. He’s seen as a potential NHL star and could be the Wild’s offensive leader as soon as next season. The Russian should be met with an immediate top-six role.
Next season could be the last for Louie Belpedio, Minnesota’s third-round-pick in 2014, to establish himself as an NHL-level rearguard for the club. Carson Soucy leapfrogged him in the depth chart last year and was rewarded with a three-year contract this offseason. Belpedio received a one-year, two-way extension and will look to compete with veterans, Brad Hunt and Greg Pateryn for third-pairing minutes.
From a fantasy perspective, look for Kirill Kaprizov to become an immediate contributor for the Wild. Marco Rossi could do the same – the indication is that the 9th overall will be given a fighting chance to not only make the team but earn a skill role out of the gate. Trade acquisition Marcus Johansson could also contend for one of the team’s top-six center roles; if the Swede can earn minutes next to a winger like Kaprizov or Kevin Fiala, he could see a rebound towards his level of play with Washington a few years back.
Round One, 9th Overall – Marco Rossi, LHC