Thanks for joining us for our August 31-in-31 series! Every day this month we will be taking a look at each team and diving into their prospect depth charts, risers and fallers, graduating prospects, and top 20 prospects in the system.
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August 31-in-31: Minnesota Wild
As the fifteenth team, the Minnesota Wild mark the approximate midpoint of DobberProspects’ August 31 in 31 series. The Wild— who have never won a Stanley Cup in their 19 year history— missed the playoffs in 2018-19 after three consecutive first round playoff exits.
The Wild currently find themselves in an extremely tumultuous state. Team owner Craig Leipold fired Paul Fenton after allowing him to conduct the entire offseason up to that time, including the two most crucial events of the summer: free agency and the NHL Entry Draft. When the team announces their next general manager, it will be their third in just two years time.
The now-vacant GM spot aside, it’s been a relatively uneventful summer for the Wild in the transactions department. They signed Mats Zuccarello and Ryan Hartman, as well as a few other minor additions, in free agency. Earlier in the year, they inked Nico Sturm and Mat Robson out of college. Sturm could help the Wild as soon as next season, while Robson is at least a couple years out.
The Wild have some talent in their prospect pool, but don’t have much in the form of immediate help for next season. Nico Sturm played two NHL games last year and possesses a stellar college resume, but it’s unlikely that he’ll be an impactful player this early and could very well require some AHL seasoning first. Joel Eriksson Ek, Jordan Greenway and Luke Kunin will need to take significant steps forward to be anything more than bottom-sixers next year. Louie Belpedio and Brennan Menell could see cups of coffee, but neither appear to be ready for full-time NHL duty yet.
In a years time— the 2020-21 season—the Wild could see a significant influx of new talent. Matthew Boldy is tracking to be ready for full-time NHL action at that point, and most importantly, Kirill Kaprizov— barring a KHL extension— will be eligible to come to North America.
Luke Kunin and Ryan Donato both spent the majority of their seasons at the NHL level, and are expected to graduate into full time NHL duty next season.
The 15th overall pick in 2016, Luke Kunin split time between the NHL and AHL this season. Along with 20 points in 28 AHL contests, Kunin tallied 6 goals and 11 assists in 49 games of NHL time. Next season he’s expected to see a full NHL season in a middle-six role for the Wild.
Donato was traded to the Wild at the deadline to land Charlie Coyle for the Bruins, and spent the remainder of the season up with the Wild at the NHL level. He was excellent in 22 games with the Wild, tallying 16 points. Prior to the trade, Donato split time between the NHL and AHL with the Bruins, with 9 points in 34 NHL contests and and 12 points in 18 games with AHL Providence. The Wild will be hoping that he can maintain his post-deadline play in a top-6 role for them next season— otherwise, he could fall into a bottom-six spot for the team.
In 2018, the Wild used their first and fifth round picks on a pair Swedish defencemen with the surname “Johansson”— Filip and Simon. Both players spent their post-draft seasons in the Allsvenskan, Sweden’s second-tier professional league, and are expected to make the jump up to the top circuit this upcoming year.
In what was one of the more “out-there” selections of the 2018 draft, Minnesota selected Filip Johansson— who was projected to go in the 2nd or 3rd round— with the 24th pick. Johansson spent his entire season in the Allsvenskan last year, tallying just 4 points in 47 games. This season, he’s expected to make the jump into the Swedish Hockey League, where the Wild have to be hoping he’ll take a big step forward offensively. An intelligent, defence-oriented blueliner, Paul Fenton and his crew must have been anticipating significant offensive growth from Johansson, but we’re still waiting on that growth to occur.
Simon was selected in the fifth round— 148th overall. Similar to Filip, Simon Johansson spent his season in the Allsvenskan and will be looking to jump to the SHL next year. He has eight games of Swedish top circuit experience dating back to his draft season and wasn’t out of place, so I don’t expect he’ll have any trouble transitioning into SHL action full time.
Ivan Lodnia and Connor Dewar are both expected to transition from the CHL into AHL play next season, where they should see regular time with the Iowa Wild.
Initially seen as a potential steal when he was taken in the 3rd round in 2017 largely because his promising production and August birthdate, Lodnia’s game hasn’t progressed as much as expected in the two seasons since he was drafted. The skillset that made him such a promising player in 2017 is still there, so don’t count him out yet. His situation coming out of junior isn’t dissimilar to fellow Wild prospect Will Bitten, who enjoyed a solid debut season in the AHL this year. Lodnia could very well do the same.
Drafted as an overager in 2017, Dewar exploded for 81 points in 59 games as a 19-year-old in the WHL. He’s expected to make the jump to the pro ranks for next season, where the talented 5’10” forward could be a surprisingly impactful addition for Iowa.
The 12th overall pick of the 2019 NHL Draft, Matthew Boldy will be off to the NCAA next season, where he will represent Boston College. Coming off an exceptional draft year with the USNTDP that saw Boldy put up 81 points over 64 games, the dual-threat winger shouldn’t miss a beat with the Eagles, where he’s expected to slot in beside fellow BC-recruit Alex Newhook on the top line. With an intelligent and well-rounded game, Boldy isn’t expected to need more than a year of NCAA development.
After a promising start to his NHL career with an excellent 2017-18 debut following the conclusion of his NCAA campaign, Donato struggled to live up to expectations as a rookie after his initial nine points in his 12 game introduction to the major leagues. He managed a disappointing 9 points in 34 games with the Bruins before the trade, but appeared to recapture his initial rookie magic after joining the Wild at the deadline.
The 56th overall pick in 2014, Donato is a talented offensive player with clear upside as an attacking threat. He isn’t the flashiest player, but he has quick hands, a threatening shot, and nice instincts. Primarily a scorer, Donato has posted consistently strong shot generation totals throughout his career— averaging 2.4 shots per game with the Wild and once touching 5 shots per game for Harvard in 2016-17. Donato is still a question mark— his play with the Wild is promising, but we can’t ignore how dissimilar his play was prior to the trade. He’ll find himself in an important offensive role to start the season, but it’s no guarantee that he hangs onto it.
After falling all the way to the 7th round in 2016, Sokolov has shown exceptional growth since his draft season. 52 points as a draft-eligible in the OHL became 72 as a D+1, and then Sokolov finished off his OHL career with an outstanding 96 points in 64 games split between Sudbury and Barrie in 2017-18. Sokolov debuted in the AHL last season as a 20-year-old and fit in very well, posting 16 goals and 30 points in 60 games as a rookie.
A gifted scorer with a devastating shot, Sokolov could be an immensely valuable player— as long as the Wild can work through some of the deficiencies in the game. Sokolov’s inconsistency, average top speed, and below-average defensive play can’t be easy to work with as a coach, but the raw scoring ability and production speaks for itself. The Russian is tracking well as a future NHL player, where he’ll likely fit in as a middle-six winger and impactful powerplay option.
A Minnesota native, Menell was signed as a free agent by his hometown team after going undrafted out of the WHL. After a promising season as a 20-year-old AHL rookie in 2017-18 that saw him put up 25 points in 72 games, Menell broke out offensively as a sophomore with 44 points in 70 games.
Fitting the typical “undersized blueliner” archetype, Menell does an exceptional job making plays from the blueline and exiting the defensive zone with possession. He’s a heads-up passer with good vision and makes an excellent outlet pass. His defensive play needs work, but with his kind of ability on the puck, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Menell in limited NHL action as soon as this season, and in a regular role as quickly as 2020-21.
The Wild were banking on Johansson beginning the process of filling out his offensive toolkit this season, but if his four points last year are any indication, he didn’t make any strides in that area. If his offensive play doesn’t improve next year, it will be difficult to imagine a situation where Johansson is ever anything more than a bottom-pairing shutdown option for the Wild.
Originally seen as a potential first-round candidate in 2018, McBain fell to 63rd overall after failing to absolutely tear up the OJHL to a level that made him a better bet than similarity talented players in considerably better leagues than a Canadian Junior A circuit.
McBain went to Boston College for his post-draft season (he went to the OJHL in his draft year to preserve his NCAA eligibility) and wasn’t very impactful as a freshman with 13 points in 35 games. He’ll have Alex Newhook and Matthew Boldy to help him shoulder some of the offensive load next year, but he isn’t trending to anything more than a bottom-sixer at this point.
Joel Eriksson Ek
The 20th overall pick in 2015, Eriksson Ek hasn’t lived up to expectations early in his career. After two fairly unsuccessful seasons at the NHL level, the Swedish forward is trending towards bust status.
Eriksson Ek still has potential— his 9 points in as many AHL games is evidence of that— but he needs to get his career on track soon if he’s going to be anything more than a bottom-six forward for the Wild.
Prospect Depth Chart
Joel Eriksson Ek
Top 20 Fantasy Prospects
- Kirill Kaprizov
- Matthew Boldy
- Ryan Donato
- Alexander Khovanov
- Connor Dewar
- Jordan Greenway
- Luke Kunin
- Dmitri Sokolov
- Joel Eriksson Ek
- Nico Sturm
- Vladislav Firstov
- Brennan Menell
- Louie Belpedio
- Ivan Lodnia
- Kaapo Kähkönen
- Will Bitten
- Mason Shaw
- Jack McBain
- Filip Johansson
- Carson Soucy
- Prospect Ramblings: An Ode to my Fantasy Hockey Godfathers
- PNHLe Organizational Rankings: 31-26
- Prospect Ramblings: Musings on Podkolzin, Denisenko, Stützle, The 2020 Crop, & More (Sept 7)
- PNHLe Organizational Rankings: 25-21
- WHL Report - September
- Liiga Report - September 2019
- Shift Work: Cole Perfetti
- Prospect Deep Dive: Anton Lundell