August 31-in-31: Minnesota Wild

by couching on August 14, 2017


 

Season Summary/Expectations

 

The Minnesota Wild had their most successful regular season in their brief existence last year finishing with 49 wins and 106 points to finish 2nd in the Central Division. As the trade deadline approached, expectations continued to grow, and the Wild because significant buyers, offloading multiple draft picks to land pending UFA Martin Hanzal and gritty forward Ryan White. Pre-Hanzal, Minnesota was the best team in the West, but they struggled down the stretch with a record of 13-13-2. The playoffs are what really matter however, and unfortunately Minnesota was dispatched almost single-handedly by St. Louis goaltender Jake Allen. Minnesota expended quite a few assets for Hanzal, and it didn’t pay off. Luckily, Minnesota could afford to move some assets as their prospect cupboard is far from bare, but to say the stretch run and the playoffs were at least a disappointment would be accurate. The Wild will be expected to contend once again, and with some young talent likely making the jump to the NHL full time, it’s entirely possible to see them at the top of their division come the 2018 Playoffs.

 

Offseason Changes

 

The addition of the Vegas Golden Knights meant the Wild were in a tough spot with such a deep defense core. With a names like Matt Dumba, Eric Staal, and Marco Scandella left unprotected, Minnesota acted prudently to make a deal with Vegas selling two-way forward Erik Haula with top power winger prospect Alex Tuch and receiving a third round pick to be used in 2018. As free agency approached, Minnesota managed to offload a major contract by moving Jason Pominville with rising defenseman Marco Scandella to Buffalo to save likely well over two million dollars a year in Tyler Ennis and power winger Marcus Foligno. Adding younger names like Joel Eriksson Ek, and possibly Luke Kunin will help offset the loss of offense up front as well as increasing efficiency against the cap.

 

In free agency, Minnesota again acted prudently without overspending by adding veteran Kyle Quincey on a one-year, $1.25 million deal, adding decent depth options in Kyle Rau, Cal O’Reilly, and Landon Ferraro, and adding a potential home run reclamation project in defenseman Ryan Murray. Add to this the remarkably efficient RFA signings of Mikael Granlund and Nino Niederreiter totalling $11 million a year, and the team seems relatively well suited to at least flirt with contention for the coming years.

 

With very few high picks in the draft, the Wild swung for the fences taking potential high-scoring steals in Ivan Lodnia, Mason Shaw, and Andrei Svetlakov. Bryce Misley, Jacob

Golden and Nick Swaney rounded out Minnesota’s draft.

 

Updated Top 10 Fantasy Prospects

 

  1. Joel Eriksson Ek – Borderline lock for full time NHL play. Remarkable all around offensive ability just waiting to break out.

 

  1. Luke Kunin – Possible Minnesota center, but likely will spend some time in the AHL. Excellent offensive tools.

 

  1. Mike Reilly – An older prospect, but had a very solid season in Iowa and may beat out Ryan Murphy for a full time spot if he has a good camp.

 

  1. Ivan Lodnia – A longer term outlook, Lodnia was excellent in a relatively limited role on a stacked Erie team. Likely to be relied upon more, his point total should vastly increase as his skill, speed, and scoring touch will be front and on another strong team.

 

  1. Kirill Kaprizov – Total wild card as he just signed a three year extension in Moscow, which will take him past his expiry of Minnesota’s rights. While he may come over at any time due to the lack of a KHL/NHL transfer agreement, it seems unlikely with a free UFA market possible in the future. If you want to hold onto him, he could absolutely be a huge add if he ever does come over. The upside is there, but the ability to reap the benefits won’t be for a while.

 

  1. Andrei Svetlakov – One of the oldest players taken in the draft, the 21 year old is already a relatively prolific scorer on a powerful CSKA Moscow team. He will be joined by Kaprizov, and it’s possible he makes the jump as soon as next year if he continues to progress. He’s an interesting name to watch this year, and could become a solid player, which is really all you can ask for out of a 6th round pick.

 

  1. Dmitri Sokolov – OHL scoring machine who made a short appearance with Iowa last year. If he can continue to improve and round out his game, he could be a huge pickup for a 7th round pick.

 

  1. Mason Shaw – A diminutive centre, Shaw will need to shore up his defensive game and gain some strength and willingness to get a little dirty if he is to take the next step in his career. The offense is there though, and if he works out, he could be a great pickup in deep leagues.

 

  1. Jordan GreenwayThe massive winger had a fantastic World Junior and finished his year playing in the World Championships for the USA. While his raw offensive upside may not be as high as other names on this list, he is a pure, ruthless physical force on the ice with NHL size, and should be a reliable piece of the Wild's core for years once his NCAA career is complete.

 

  1. Louis Belpedio – Entering his final season, Belpedio will hope to be one of the better offensive defenders in the NCAA as his remarkable near point-per-game season was hampered by injuries. His defensive game needs work, but he has consistently improved throughout his career, and should he choose to sign with Minnesota after this year, he will hopefully be among the better pro defense prospects in their system.

 

Organizational Strengths

 

  • Excellent forward core of Parise, Granlund, Niederreiter, Coyle, Zucker, Eriksson Ek, Kunin and pending UFA Kunin

  • One of the best top-four defense groups in the NHL

  • Dubnyk can be relied upon and is signed to a very solid contract

  • Forward prospect cupboard is solid with a ton of upside

 

Organizational Weaknesses

 

  • Depth up front is questionable, full of potential AHL-tweeners

  • Goaltending past Dubnyk is a giant question mark

  • Defense and goaltending pipeline needs development

 

Prospect Depth Chart

 

Centre

 

  1. Joel Eriksson Ek

  2. Luke Kunin

  3. Justin Kloos

  4. Andrei Svetlakov

  5. Christoph Bertschy

  6. Mason Shaw

  7. Sam Anas

  8. Bryce Misley

  9. Chase Lang

  10. Avery Peterson

  11. Pavel Jenys

 

Wingers

 

  1. Kirill Kaprizov

  2. Dmitry Sokolov

  3. Jordan Greenway

  4. Mario Lucia

  5. Jack Walker

  6. Ivan Lodnia

  7. Kurtis Gabriel

  8. Dante Salituro

  9. Brandon Duhaime

  10. Zack Mitchell

Defensemen

  1. Mike Reilly

  2. Louis Belpedio

  3. Gustav Bouramman

  4. Hunter Warner

  5. Carson Soucy

  6. Pontus SJalin

  7. Jack Sadek

  8. Braydyn Chizen

  9. Jacob Golden

  10. Nick Boka

  11. Dylan Labbe

  12. Nick Seeler

  13. Zach Palmquist

 

Goaltenders

  1. Kaapo Kahkonen

  2. Ales Stezka

  3. Steve Michalek

  4. Adam Vay

 

***

Will Scouch

@Scouching