August 32-in-32: Minnesota Wild

Pat Quinn

2023-08-16

Minnesota Wild logo courtesy of 365twincities.com

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Welcome to the August 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.

***

By: Nathan Leblanc

The upcoming season will be intriguing for management, players and fans of the Minnesota Wild. They are coming off a rather uneventful off-season, due to the limited cap space and will be running back the upcoming 2023-24 with essentially the same roster as the prior year. Since they were eliminated in the first-round during the 2023 NHL playoffs, it will be difficult to look at the current roster and believe that they have improved overall as a team. The success of the team moving forward will depend on if the younger players continue to develop both offensively and defensively, while the star players like Kaprizov and Zuccarello are able to maintain their elite scoring pace up front. 

Minnesota has a very well-rounded team overall and has a variety of different role-players that are needed for up and down the line up. The projected roster moving forward consists of players in their primes, as well as veterans and young starlets ready to make the next step. Bill Guerin has done a great job navigating the cap and making sure that new expensive contracts have not been added to the books moving forward. Despite not being able to improve the team much on the free agency market, Guerin will be hoping that the team’s internal pipeline will be able to fill in the gaps of the team over the next couple of seasons. 

The projected lineup for the 2023-24 season will remain very similar for the forward group. The top line should remain unchanged with Hartman centering both Kaprizov and Zuccarello. With the line remaining dominant during the 2022-23 season, this line will need to keep up the production they had in the previous season to remain competitive. The Wild will expect top prospect, Marco Rossi, to carry the center duties on third line after another dominant 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 Foligno, along with Patrick Maroon to help bring a physical edge. 

Kaprizov – Hartman – Zuccarello

Johansson – Eriksson Ek – Boldy

Foligno – Rossi – Gaudreau

Maroon – Dewar – Duhaime 

The center spot is very intriguing for the Wild, as they currently have Hartman and Eriksson Ek penciled in the top six roles. Hartman is a solid player, but the Wild need more offensive output in the number one center role if they want to truly challenge for the cup. Eriksson Ek is the perfect complimentary second line center and if he was moved to the top line, the Wild would need to find another top six center. Enter Marco Rossi, who is one of the top forward prospects not currently playing full time in the NHL. This may be the season that Rossi establishes himself, not only as an NHL player, but as a top six scoring threat. Marcus Johansson had a great 2022-23 season ever since he joined the Wild and is expected to be a top six winger alongside Kaprizov, Zuccarello and Matthew Boldy. The bottom six of the Wild forwards will be where the much-needed debate takes place and there will be several difficult decisions regarding who starts at the NHL level and who will be playing in the AHL to start the season. With Mason Shaw and Sam Steel leaving the team in free agency, a couple spots opened up, but the competition will be fierce mostly among Beckman, Walker, Dewar and Duhaime. 

The defense of the Minnesota Wild should be much easier to project. Despite losing Klingberg and Dumba to free agency, the majority of the defensive roster from the 2022-23 season should remain in place. The top pair of Middleton and Spurgeon will share time with the second pair featuring mainstay Brodin, as well as promising rookie Brock Faber. Faber played his first taste of limited NHL regular season and playoff games, but looked impressive after graduating from the NCAA and is ready for full-time minutes in the NHL. The third pair is expected to be a combination of two veterans, Goligoski and Merrill, as well as youthful offensive player, Calen Addison. Addison had an up and down season during the 2022-23 year where he started strong, even earning playing time on the top powerplay unit, before regressing and eventually being placed in the press box at times. He is still young enough to improve and can even cement himself in a top four role moving forward if he is able to work on his consistency. There is always the outside chance that an even younger defense prospect can steal a spot on the third pair from one of the veterans, such as O’Rourke and Hunt, however it is very likely that they will receive another year of development in the AHL. 

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

Middleton – Spurgeon

Brodin – Faber

Goligoski – Addison

Merrill

The goaltending position for the Minnesota Wild will be similar to the 2022-23 season with a small change. Originally, Marc-Andre Fleury was signed to become the starting goaltender with Filip Gustavsson providing the back-up responsibilities. However, the 2022-23 season showed that Gustavsson took over the starting responsibilities from Fleury, when healthy. After going through a lengthy contract renewal process in the off-season, Gustavsson will be expected to be the lead starter in the goalie tandem for the upcoming 2023-24 season. An important note to make is that the Wild have arguably the best goalie in the world not playing in the NHL, who is currently developing in the AHL. Jesper Wallstedt, who is a former first round pick during the 2021 NHL draft, is getting increasingly close to winning a full-time NHL goalie role. With two established and capable goalies ahead of him, it will be difficult for Wallstedt to get many games, but the likelihood of playing his first games during the 2023-24 season is quite high. While he most likely won’t take over as the starter and play meaningful games, he will look to develop in the AHL and be ready for a meaningful role during the 2024-25 season.  

Gustavsson

Fleury

Wallstedt*

*Comfortably knocking on the door.

 *****

Graduates

Marco Rossi, C

Rossi remains one of the top blue-chip prospects in the world but is still getting comfortable with life in the NHL. During the 2022-23 NHL season, Rossi skated in 19 games, posting only one assist. However, he posted 16 goals and 35 assists for 51 points in only 53 games for the Iowa Wild of the AHL. With his high-end playmaking ability, Rossi projects to be a top-line center and can be expected to be a top-nine forward starting in the 2023-24 season for the Minnesota Wild. There will certainly be every opportunity for Rossi to make a move into the top-six of the Wild due to his creativity and offensive potential. If he is able to withstand the rigors of the NHL night in and night out, he can end the season as the first line center surrounded by Kaprizov and Zuccarello. 

Brock Faber, RD

Faber was acquired by the Minnesota Wild in the Kevin Fiala trade that took place last off-season. It seemed like a perfect fit for the Wild, as he was a local Minnesota native and was also the captain of the University of Minnesota NCAA team. He played his final season at the University of Minnesota during the 2022-23 season putting up 27 points in 38 games before taking the decision to become a professional player at the end of the season. He immediately played two games for the Minnesota Wild during the regular season and started all six games for the Wild in the playoffs. Although he has yet to put up a point in the NHL, he has shown himself to be a reliable defenseman that is clearly NHL ready. Faber is expected to make the Wild team out of training camp ahead of the 2023-24 NHL season. He would be a great fit for the second pair with an established defenseman like Jonas Brodin and Faber who can potentially get a look at one of the two power play units. 

Calen Addison, RD

Addison remains one of the most exciting prospects for the Minnesota Wild organization. This past season he put up an incredible 29 points in 62 games for his first full season at the NHL level. Despite putting up a great points-per-game total, he had an up and down season where he started strong on the first powerplay unit, but also saw moments where he was a healthy scratch due to his defensive play. Addison will need to improve his consistency, but at 23 years of age, Addison still has the potential to be a point-scoring top four defenseman in the long-run for the Minnesota Wild. It remains to be seen if Addison will start on the third pair with a veteran such as Goligoski or Merrill or if they decide to try out Addison on the second pair, while giving third pair responsibilities to rookie, Brock Faber. Expect Addison to get every opportunity after signing his new deal this summer and to make an impact in the lineup. 

 *

On the cusp

Adam Beckman, LW

Beckman enjoyed a strong second full season of professional hockey where he managed to play nine games for the Minnesota Wild, while the rest of the season was with the Iowa Wild. He built on his 2021-22 Iowa Wild season point totals by adding 24 goals and 12 assists in 53 games during the 2022-23 season. Although he put up zero points in nine NHL games, Beckman should expect to play more NHL games in the near-future and has the goal scoring ability to become a middle-six winger as early as the 2023-24 season. Beckman is in a tough spot to start the upcoming season, as he will have to battle veterans such as Duhaime, Maroon, Gaudreau and Foligno for a spot on the opening night roster. Although he may start in a bottom-six role, he has the ability to break out and cement himself as a full-time NHLer. 

Samuel Walker, RW

Walker is a local Minnesota native who captained the University of Minnesota during his time in the NCAA. He had a very respectable NCAA career and followed that up with an incredible rookie professional season during the 2022-23 season. He was one of the top players for the Iowa Wild, posting 48 points in 56 games, which led him to get called up for nine NHL games where he posted two points. His strong performance also awarded him a role with the United States national team during the IIHF World Championships. Walker will have the opportunity to win a full-time role with the Minnesota Wild in 2023-24. Even if it doesn’t happen right away, he looks to be a sure-fire NHL player. Similar to Adam Beckman, Walker will need to earn a spot on the opening night line up during the upcoming training camp. Since Walker has just announced himself on the scene, it is likely that he will get another year of development with the Iowa Wild but will most likely be one of the first call-ups. 

*

Graduates (Juniors/Overseas)

Carson Lambos, LD

Although Lambos is one of the top defensive prospects for the Minnesota Wild, he did not have the greatest 2022-23 season as the captain of the dominant Winnipeg Ice of the WHL. He managed 48 points in 61 games which was less points-per-game compared to his 2021-22 season. His playoff production of seven points in 19 games was also less than his 2021-22 numbers of eight points in 15 games. Although he has not regressed, Lambos did not take the next step during the past season. Lambos will now be eligible to play professional hockey at the AHL level and will need a year or two before he is possibly ready to play a full season in the NHL. Lambos will be expected to play for the Iowa Wild and, as a top prospect, will be expected to play significant minutes right away. Since the Iowa Wild has a very young defense core, Lambos will be able to develop in a fun atmosphere that will allow him to shine offensively. 

David Spacek, RD

Spacek remains an intriguing offensive-minded defense prospect for the Wild. In the 2022-23 season, he played his second full season for the Sherbrooke Phoenix of the QMJHL where he established himself as one of the premier offensive defensemen in the league putting up 57 points in 58 games and adding eight points in 14 playoff games. He also played an important role on the Czech national junior team that took silver at the IIHF World Junior Championships. At age 20, Spacek is ready to turn professional and will most certainly start his career for the Iowa Wild in the AHL during the upcoming 2023-24 season. Due to the sheer number of defensemen that will be playing for the Iowa Wild in the upcoming season, it remains to be seen which pair and how many minutes per night that Spacek receives from the get-go. He has an underrated defensive game to go along with his offensive skillset that could translate very well to the AHL game. 

*****

Risers

Caeden Bankier, C

Bankier had an explosive 2022-23 season for the Kamloops Blazers where he led his team deep in their WHL playoff run posting 18 points in 14 playoff games. He added 85 points in only 57 games in the regular season. This increase in scoring led the Wild to sign him to an ELC and expectations are high for Bankier, who also played seven games for Canada at the IIHF World Junior Championships. Bankier has the ability to become an effective NHL middle-six scorer but will need a couple more years of development in the minors in order to improve his defensive zone coverage and decision making in the offensive zone. Bankier will be playing his next season in the professional ranks and based on his recent production and performances, he will get some action at the AHL level. Bankier is the type of prospect that can truly put-up great stats from his first season and if he is able to perform, will get a chance in the NHL within the next couple seasons. 

Kyle Masters, RD

Masters was one of the most surprising players in the WHL during the 2022-23 season. He put up 65 points in 66 games during the regular season compared to his 2021-22 season where he put up only 14 points in 65 games. He essentially exploded offensively and showed scouts that he has incredible offensive upside. Masters has signed an ELC with Minnesota and is expected to turn professional next season. It will be interesting if Masters is able to build on his progression this season, as it seemingly came out of nowhere. Masters will be competing against the likes of Lambos and Spacek for playing time as first-year professionals for the Iowa Wild. Each of the three defensemen have shown phenomenal offensive abilities at the CHL level. It remains to be seen how Masters is deployed, but they will give him every opportunity to cement himself as a mainstay after the incredible season that he just demonstrated. 

******

Fallers

Rieger Lorenz, LW

Lorenz was a second-round draft pick for Minnesota in the 2022 NHL Draft and his first season after being drafted definitely did not go as well as planned. The power winger played for the University of Denver in the NCAA and managed to put up only nine points in 37 games as a rookie. Although he still has potential to become an NHL player, all eyes will be on what he can do in his second season in the NCAA during the 2023-24 season. There is still a lot of potential with Lorenz, as power wingers are a hot commodity in the NHL these days. Worries about his offensive potential can be eliminated if he is able to take a step forward in the NCAA this upcoming season. As of right now, his stock has declined compared to where he was drafted, but a strong season can set himself up with an ELC in the next couple of years. 

Vladislav Firstov, LW

Firstov remains an intriguing prospect for the Minnesota Wild. After one game in the AHL for the Iowa Wild during the 2022-23 season, Firstov was loaned back to Russia to play for the Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod of the KHL. Firstov had a very respectable first season in the KHL posting 11 goals and 15 assists in 47 games and also adding four points in 10 playoff games. Despite having a disappointing spell for the Iowa Wild in the nine career games that he has played with them for, Minnesota retains his NHL rights and there is still potential for Firstov to become a middle-six point-scoring winger in the NHL. The intrigue will depend on whether Firstov will remain a KHL-based player or will take the chance to come back to North America moving forward in the near-future. Despite putting up a relatively impressive season in the KHL, he remains in the fallers list due to the added risk of staying in Russia for the foreseeable future. Although he still projects as a middle-six winger in the NHL, Minnesota will be wary of the way things panned out in his limited time for Iowa and may not be able to have much control over his development if he decides to stay in Russia for another season of his career. 

 *****

Organizational Depth Chart

A combination of NHL readiness and upside

Left Wing Center Right Wing
Adam Beckman Marco Rossi Samuel Walker
Liam Ohgren Marat Khusnutdinov Danila Yurov
Michael Milne Nicolas Petan Pavel Novak
Rieger Lorenz Charlie Stramel Maxim Cajkovic
Vladislav Firstov Riley Heidt Nick Swaney
James Clark Caeden Bankier Jacob Lucchini
Hunter Haight
Servac Petrovsky
Rasmus Kumpulainen
Sam Hentges
Matvei Guskov
Vinni Lettieri
Steven Fogarty

*

Left Defense Right Defense
Carson Lambos Kyle Masters
Jack Peart David Spacek
Daemon Hunt Simon Johansson
Ryan O’Rourke Ryan Healey
Dakota Mermis Kalem Parker
Marshall Warren
Nate Benoit
Aaron Pionk

*

Goalies
Jesper Wallstedt
Hunter Jones
Zane McIntyre

*******

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. Jesper Wallstedt
  2. Marco Rossi 
  3. Liam Ohgren
  4. Danila Yurov
  5. Brock Faber
  6. Carson Lambos
  7. Marat Khusnutdinov
  8. Jack Peart
  9. Adam Beckman
  10. Kyle Masters
  11. Charlie Stramel
  12. Riley Heidt
  13. David Spacek 
  14. Caedan Bankier
  15. Rieger Lorenz 
  16. Daemon Hunt
  17. Ryan O’Rourke
  18. Hunter Haight 
  19. Servac Petrovsky 
  20. Rasmus Kumpulainen 

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Thanks for reading. 

Nate Villa (@natevilladobber)

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