September 32-in-32: Minnesota Wild

Nate Villa

2022-09-16

Minnesota Wild logo courtesy of 365twincities.com

 

 

Welcome to the September 2022 edition of the DobberProspects 32-in-32 Series. This month, we are diving into the depth of each organization, looking at their recent graduates, risers, fallers and top-20 prospects. 

 

 

The upcoming season will be very interesting for the Minnesota Wild. They have had an eventful off-season where they lost one of their elite forward talents in Kevin Fiala and figured out the goaltending situation at least for the foreseeable future. For a team that is looking to compete now, they unfortunately did not have the cap space to strengthen their roster due to the past buyouts of Parise and Suter. 

Minnesota is hoping that a couple rookies and entry-level players can step up and take a jump in the development to assist the offense and defense of the Wild. This has been demonstrated by the recent pick-ups that Bill Guerin has made by signing UFA Sam Steel and trading away veteran defenseman Dmitry Kulikov to make room for younger players. Overall, the team has a well-balanced offense and great veteran presence on the blueline with a future Hall of Fame goaltender in nets who has shown that he still has the ability to lead a team in the NHL Playoffs. Bill Guerin is navigating the team in the right direction and we can expect the Minnesota Wild to be a playoff team. How far they can go is dependent on the performance of the players on the ice and the coaching staff leading them. 

The projected lineup for the 2022-23 season will remain very similar for the forward group. The top line should remain unchanged with Hartman centering both Kaprizov and Zuccarello. With Hartman having a breakout season in 2021-22, this line will need to keep up the production they had in the previous season to remain competitive. The Wild will hope Boldy is able to fill the shoes of Kevin Fiala on the second line, while top prospect, Marco Rossi, is on the cusp of breaking into the roster after a great rookie season in the AHL. The rest of the forward core is a great mix of veterans that can support young NHLers consisting of Duhaime, Dewar and Jost, the latter of whom is still looking to live up to his original potential when he was drafted by Colorado. 

Kaprizov – Hartman – Zuccarello

Boldy – Eriksson Ek – Foligno

Steel/Greenway (Injured) – Gaudreau – Duhaime

Dewar – Rossi – Jost

 

Due to the strong center depth up front, Rossi may have to start on the bottom six. If he is able to surprise and show he is ready, do not be surprised to see him quickly move into the top six. There will be quite a bit of competition for roles in the bottom six, where the Wild system has many players that can play a role. There are three players who are on the outside looking in, but fans should not be surprised to see them crack the opening night roster. These players are Mason Shaw and Adam Beckman, both of whom played games for the Minnesota Wild during the 2021-22 season, as well as Nicolas Petan, who has just been signed this off-season. It will be interesting to see who is able to make the lineup and who starts off in the press box. The players that are on cusp are not known for their high-offensive ceilings, but more so for their grit and compete. The majority of them are interchangeable and their position in the line-up or depth chart will depend on their pre-season training camp. Greenway will most likely be injured to start the season, so Steel could get a chance to play in a middle-six to see what he can do in a change of scenery. 

When it comes to the defense, there should not be many changes compared to the 2021-22 season. Minnesota was constrained with the type of moves they were able to make this off-season and could not pick up any new additions to the blue line. The top four should be set in stone with smooth-skating and puck-moving defenseman including Spurgeon, Brodin, Middleton and Dumba. The real debate will be with the third pair. The Wild have two long-time veterans signed to contracts in Goligoski and Sustr, both of whom had respectable 2021-22 seasons. On the other hand, the Wild have multiple young-up-and-coming defensemen in the pipeline. Most notably is Calen Addison, who has already played over 20 NHL games in both his regular season and playoff career. He has struggled to cement a full-time roster spot in the NHL, however Minnesota Wild fans believe that this could be the year for him to make a difference in the line-up. The rest of the upcoming young guns on the blue-line may need some more seasoning in their respective leagues. Ryan O’Rourke, Daemon Hunt and Simon Johansson should be penciled in to the AHL club to start the year, but with great performances and a couple injuries to the NHL defenseman, any one of them may be able to play a couple games during the season. 

The predicted defense core for the opening night is as follows: 

Brodin – Dumba

Middleton – Spurgeon

Goligoski – Addison

Sustr

 

The goaltending positions for the Minnesota Wild are essentially already set in stone, however with a caveat. Marc-Andre Fleury has been re-signed to a two-year contract and will undoubtedly be the starting goaltender for the upcoming season. Cam Talbot was traded away to the Ottawa Senators in exchange for Filip Gustavsson. Gustavsson will slot in as the back-up goaltender and will look to show well after a rough season in goal for the Senators. He is only 24 years old and has a lot of potential for the future. By playing for a team like Minnesota that has a reliable defense core, he may be able to show what he can do. With these two roles locked up, it is important to note that the Wild have many goaltenders in the pipeline. The most notable is Jesper Wallstedt, who was drafted 20th overall in the 2021 NHL draft. He will be playing his first professional season in North America this season and should be expected to the starter in the AHL. Wallstedt is one of the most highly rated goaltender prospects in the world and no one should be surprised to see him win a couple starts for Minnesota during the season if injuries and/or performances demand him to get in goal. Wallstedt, despite being only 19-years-old, should already be ahead of both McIntyre and Jones on the Minnesota Wild depth chart. McIntyre had a great season for Iowa during the 2021-22 season, but he is a veteran that should remain a strong force at the AHL level. Hunter Jones is a young prospect who has had a rough go in the AHL so far. There is still potential to be an NHL goaltender in the future, but with Wallstedt now in the system, it will be more of an uphill battle. 

Fleury

Gustavsson

Wallstedt*

*Comfortably knocking on the door.

 

Graduates

Matthew Boldy, LW Boldy is coming off an incredible rookie season in the NHL where he was able to put up 39 points in 47 games consisting of 15 goals and 24 assists. Although he only put up one goal in six playoff games, the Wild’s ownership can’t be disappointed with his current trajectory. Standing at 6-foot-2 and 196 pounds, Boldy is a power forward with soft hands and a great shot. He will undoubtedly be a top-six forward in the upcoming 2022-23 season and the Minnesota Wild will need him to help cover the production that was lost from Kevin Fiala. 

Boldy has officially graduated from the AHL level where he went PPG for the Iowa Wild in only 10 games. It will be interesting to see what Boldy can do in a full-length NHL season and fans are curious to see how he will look with fellow top-end prospect, Marco Rossi. These two are expected to be the future leaders of the roster and perhaps this season will have the two of them play alongside one another at one point. 

Calen Addison, RD– Addison is a very intriguing defenseman in the Wild system. Despite being only 22 years old, he has already had a chance to play in both regular season and post-season games at the NHL level. This season will be the last year of his entry-level contract and Addison is hoping to finally become a full-time NHL player ahead of his first RFA off-season. Addison is an offensive defenseman who has projectable skills at the NHL level, but needs to work on his consistency. He is coming off a strong season in the AHL with 34 points in 43 games, but had issues staying in the lineup at the NHL level putting up four points in 15 games. 

Addison will have a great opportunity to crack the bottom pair of the Wild’s lineup this season. He will have to beat out one of the long-time NHL veterans in the third pair of Goligoski and Šustr. Both veterans are coming off decent seasons, especially Goligoski who won himself a contract extension during the off-season. The Wild helped Addison out by trading away Kulikov for future considerations to the Anaheim Ducks to clear cap space and make room for youth. It will be an important season for Addison who needs to cement himself as an NHL player to earn a new contract and to make sure that he doesn’t get surpassed by the upcoming young prospects in the Wild system.

 

On the cusp

Adam Beckman, LW

Beckman is an intriguing prospect in the Minnesota Wild system. He has good size at 6-foot-1 and roughly 170 pounds to go with strong goal-scoring abilities and hockey IQ. The issue is that he plays on the LW position which is a position the Wild have a full cupboard with. Kaprizov, Boldy and Greenway, among others, are LW’s that have guaranteed spots on the roster. Beckman does play with some grit and compete; however, he is a player suited for a top-nine role. 

He had a promising WHL career that led to him getting drafted in the 3rd round in 2019 and so far, he has lived up to the hype of that pick. At the least, he will be a top-six forward for the Iowa Wild during the 2022-23 season, but he has an outside chance to crack the opening night roster. At only 21 years old, he still has a lot of room for growth and if he puts together a strong pre-season and/or start to the AHL season, he should get some more NHL gametime this season. 

 

Marco Rossi, C

Marco Rossi is an incredible prospect that has had a rough go of things during the past couple seasons. Injuries and getting hit with COVID-19 had limited Rossi’s gametime during the 2020-21 season, but he rebounded nicely during the 2021-22 season with the Iowa Wild in the AHL. Rossi was able to put up 18 goals and 35 assists for a total of 53 points in only 63 AHL games. His performance was so well received that he even got called up to the big club for two NHL games. 

After having a taste of experience in the NHL, it is believed that Rossi is now ready to start his full-time NHL career with Minnesota. Despite being a bit undersized at 5-foot-9, especially for the center position, Rossi has great translatable skills with great skating, hands and dynamic offensive ability. Due to the depth that the Wild have in their forward core, it will be tough for Rossi to crack the top-six, but if he lives up to his potential, he could end up in the top-six before the end of the season. The Wild will have the flexibility to have him start in the AHL, but with Kevin Fiala no longer on the squad, there aren’t many players that can replace that production. It just so happens that Rossi, despite being a rookie, may be the player that has the best chance to do it.

 

Graduates (overseas)

Jesper Wallstedt, G

Wallstedt will be playing his first season in North America this upcoming season. The original first round draft pick will be starting his career with the Iowa Wild after coming off an incredible couple of seasons for Luleå HF of the SHL. During the 2021-22 season, he posted .918 save percentage in 22 regular season games and also recently led the Sweden U-20 junior national team to a bronze medal at the 2022 World Junior Championships. 

Wallstedt has incredible size at 6-foot-3 and is seen as one of the greatest goaltending prospects in the world right now. His ceiling is a future star number one goaltender; however, he still needs a couple years of development before he reaches that point. By the time Marc-Andre Fleury’s contract is up in two years, the Wild hope that Wallstedt will be ready to go after a couple years of seasoning in the AHL as a starter and NHL as a back-up goaltender. 

 

Simon Johansson, RD

Like Wallstedt, Johansson will be making the move to North America for the first time after playing in Europe for the past couple seasons. Johansson is an original fifth round draft pick for the Wild in 2018 and has grown to become quite the prospect over the past couple seasons. He is coming off a great season playing for Ilves in Liiga posting eight goals and 24 assists for 32 points in 58 games during the regular season. He added seven points in 10 playoff games and played heavy minutes in the top four as a young 23-year-old. 

Johansson recently signed a two-year entry level contract with the Wild and seems poised to begin his North America career with the Iowa Wild. As a right-handed defenseman, there is a clear opening for Johansson to one-day become an NHL defenseman, but he must first show that he is capable at the AHL level. Although there is no guarantee that Johansson will be able to one day be a full-time NHLer, he remains a quality prospect and has provided great value as a fifth-round pick.  

 

 

Risers

Carson Lambos, LD

Carson Lambos is one of the brightest prospects in the Minnesota Wild system at the moment. The smooth-skating, offensive defenseman is coming off an incredible season with the Winnipeg Ice of the WHL. He put up 10 goals and 37 assists for 47 points in only 51 WHL games, while also posting a plus-42. He helped the Ice go on a great playoff run contributing eight assists in 15 playoff games. Despite not playing much hockey during the 2020-21 season due to the COVID-19 lockouts, he has demonstrated that he was an incredible pick at 26th overall at the 2021 NHL draft. 

Lambos still needs a bit of work before he is ready for full-time NHL duties, but the potential is sky high. It is expected that Lambos will go back for another year to the Winnipeg Ice before turning pro during the 2023-24 season. Lambos’ stock has dropped a bit recently due to poor performances at the most recent World Juniors championships that led to limited ice-time as Canada won the gold medal. Lambos was expected to lead the defense for Canada and ended up becoming a healthy scratch. His ceiling remains high, but it shows that Lambos is not ready for the professional game and shouldn’t be rushed with his development. 

 

Sam Hentges, C

Hentges is an interesting center prospect who has recently signed his two-year entry level deal with the Minnesota Wild after finishing his final year for St. Cloud of the NCAA. Despite being a 7th round pick during the 2018 NHL draft, Hentges has continued to develop leading to earning his first professional level contract. He had a great season putting up 12 goals and 10 assists in only 20 NCAA games and even had a chance to play in two Olympic games for the United States where he added a goal. 

Hentges will most likely be reporting to the Iowa Wild to start his professional career and despite posting good numbers in the NCAA, he hasn’t played many games over the past couple of years. Hentges is one of the most intriguing prospects in the sense that it is hard to gauge what his ceiling could be in the NHL. Whether he becomes a depth player or a middle-six scorer remains to be seen, but his trajectory continues to go up and that has earned him a shot at becoming a professional player for the Minnesota Wild system. 

 

 

Fallers

Caeden Bankier, C

Banker is the first of two WHL centers to appear on the Minnesota Wild’s Fallers list. Even though he appears on this list doesn’t mean that he is a bad player, but rather he didn’t perform as well as expected during the 2021-22 season. He still posted 21 goals and 39 assists for 60 points in 68 games, however it was a downgrade from the 23 points in 22 games he put up for the Kamloops Blazers during the 2020-21 shortened WHL season. He added 11 points in 17 games as the Kamloops Blazers went on a long post-season run, but he wasn’t able to assert his dominance as a 19-year-old player in the league at that point. 

There is still a lot to like about Bankier moving forward and he is still eligible to play another year with the Kamloops Blazers in the WHL to show what he can do. He is not currently signed to a professional contract with the Wild and they are hoping that he can show enough this year to earn a professional contract. He has good size at 6-foot-2 and great playmaking abilities that should help him at the next level, but he has to first demonstrate he can do it against his peers in the WHL at a consistent level. 

 

Josh Pillar, C

Pillar is in a very similar situation to Caeden Bankier who was discussed above. Like Bankier, Pillar is also a center and is coming off a disappointing season in the WHL. He actually started the season as Bankier’s teammate in Kamloops where he put up decent totals of 31 points in 29 games before he was traded to the Saskatoon Blazers where he ended the season poorly putting up six points in 17 regular season games followed by four points in 5 playoff games. Pillar’s strength is his strong skating and he also had good physicality and compete. These are skills that are very translatable at the NHL level, however he will need to work on other aspects of his game. 

Like Bankier, Pillar will be entering his final season of WHL eligibility and doesn’t have a current professional contract. He will need to prove himself and the expectation is that he will be able to put up a significant number of points, as he will be among the oldest players in the league. As a fourth-round pick in the 2021 draft, Pillar has shown some good upside, however last season was a regression over the 2020-21 season and he needs to show the same abilities that he did during the 2020-21 season that helped him get drafted. This will be crucial if he wants to earn a contract with the Minnesota Wild organization one day. 

 

 

Organizational Depth Chart

(Combination of NHL readiness and upside).

Left Wing Center Right Wing
Adam Beckman

Brandon Baddock

Vladislav Firstov

Liam Ohgren

Rieger Lorenz

Michael Milne

Marco Rossi

Nicolas Petan

Mason Shaw

Steven Fogarty

Joseph Cramarossa

Damien Giroux

Sam Hentges

Samuel Walker

Marat Khusnutdinov

Hunter Haight

Caeden Bankier

Josh Pillar

Servac Petrovsky

Nikita Nesterenko

Matvei Guskov

Andrei Svetlakov

Mitchell Chaffee

Nick Swaney

Paval Novak

Danila Yurov

 

Left Defense Right Defense
Dakota Mermis

Joe Hicketts

Carson Lambos

Ryan O’Rourke

Daemon Hunt

Jack Peart

Marshall Warren

Nate Benoit

Calen Addison

Andrej Sustr

Simon Johansson

Brock Faber

Kyle Masters

Ryan Healey

David Spacek

 

Goalies
Zane McIntyre

Hunter Jones

Jesper Wallstedt

 

 

Top 20 Fantasy Prospects

This section is intended to paint a picture of the Minnesota Wild prospects whose current trajectory projects them making the most positive fantasy impact at the time that they reach the NHL. Arrival date and NHL certainty have been taken into consideration. However, a player’s potential upside is the most important factor in determining this list. 

  1. Matthew Boldy
  2. Marco Rossi 
  3. Jesper Wallstedt
  4. Liam Ohgren
  5. Danila Yurov
  6. Carson Lambos
  7. Calen Addison
  8. Marat Khusnutdinov
  9. Brock Faber
  10. Connor Dewar
  11. Jack Peart
  12. Adam Beckman
  13. Ryan O’Rourke
  14. Sam Hentges
  15. Daemon Hunt
  16. Marshall Warren
  17. Pavel Novak 
  18. Nikita Nesterenko 
  19. Vladislav Firstov
  20. Caeden Bankier

 

 

Thanks for reading. 

Nate Villa (@natevilladobber)

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