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Future Watch – Minnesota Wild: Paul the Pool Guy

GM Paul Fenton says ‘build the prospect pool’ is the priority after years of trading picks while trying to win it all.

C / 27th overall

If Paul Fenton didn’t know what he was getting into when he landed his dream job, the Minnesota Wild’s rookie GM learned this winter when the Wild were the only team without a participant in the World Junior Championship. The Wild may have six straight playoff appearance, but they have the oldest team in the NHL and are now paying the price for years of trading draft picks to get to the next competitive level. “Yeah, we’ve got some work to do for prospects,” Fenton said. “There’s no question. I want to build our prospect pool. That’s the name of the game here, build your prospect pool.”

MIN_Trend

1. Kirill Kaprizov (8th overall)
LW, 21, 5-9, 185 – CSKA Moscow (KHL)
57–30–21–51–16
2015 draft, 135th overall
The dynamic scorer won’t leave Russia until at least 2020-21, but Fenton has flown to Moscow to create a relationship with Kaprizov, and owner Craig Leipold wrote Kaprizov a letter that was translated into Russian. “We want him to feel welcome here,” Leipold said. Added Fenton: “We’re already talking how he is gonna fit in. There is no mystery to the contributions he’s going to be able to make. He’s taking English lessons and preparing himself so the transition is that much easier.”
FW18| No. 1 – NHL | 2020-21

2. Louis Belpedio
D, 22, 6-0, 190 – Iowa (AHL)
54–5–13–18–42
2014 draft, 80th overall
The former Miami University defenseman has played a few NHL games and looks to be a player. “He’s got the vision, he’s got the sense,” Fenton said. “He’s got the feel to be an NHL player. It’s one thing to play college, but it’s another to be actively playing against men and learning what it’s like to compete every night. When he gets to that stage, he’ll be a good defenseman for us.” Belpedio plays with snarl defensively, which is what he’ll need as a sub-six-footer. The grit adds to his offense.
FW18| No. 5 – NHL | 2020-21

3. Kaapo Kahkonen
G, 22, 6-2, 215 – Iowa (AHL)
16–10–4, 2.69, .910
2014 draft, 109th overall
Could the Wild have their goalie of the future? He was named to the AHL All-Star Game and is a giant reason for Iowa’s quality season after being thrust into the No. 1 role as a rookie pro. “It carries a lot of weight when you’re able to do that as a goaltender,” Fenton said. The Wild extended Alex Stalock by three years in part to be patient with Kahkonen. “There’s no reason to rush goaltenders,” the GM said. “You’ve got to make sure they’ve got the maturity and mental game to be able to come in here and succeed.”
FW18| nr – NHL | 2021-22

4. Filip Johansson
D, 18, 6-1, 176 – Leksand (Swe.2)
46–1–3–4–28
2018 draft, 24th overall
There are questions with the first pick of the Fenton administration. The Wild were criticized when they went off the board to take him at No. 24, and so far it looks justified. He has been underwhelming and wasn’t invited to Sweden’s WJC evaluation camp. “We need him to add more offense to his game,” Fenton said. “He’s complacent with the way he’s been playing, but our guys are talking about the progress he’s made, and they’re very happy with it.” The Wild may sign him soon and bring him to North America.
FW18| n/a – NHL | 2021-22

5. Connor Dewar
C, 19, 5-10, 175 – Everett (WHL)
54–34–41–75–56
2018 draft, 92nd overall
Dewar went unclaimed in his draft year of 2017 but has been ripping up the WHL since, which grabbed the Wild’s attention in the third round last year. “Our guys come back, and every time they see him they’re just raving about the way he plays,” Fenton said. “He plays the game – it seems to be the new saying in our game – the right way. He contributes both offensively and defensively and the leadership role and the grit role…whatever you need him to do, he does it. We can’t wait to get him into our system.”
FW18| n/a – NHL | 2021-22

6. Jack McBain
C, 19, 6-4, 205 – Boston College (HE)
30–6–7–13–35
2018 draft, 63rd overall
Freshman had mono to start year. Has the ability to be a dominant power forward.

7. Mason Shaw
C, 20, 5-9, 179 – Iowa (AHL)
59–5–22–27–29
2017 draft, 97th overall
Coming off a knee injury that cost him last season, he has been Iowa’s motor.

8. Alex Khovanov
C, 18, 5-11, 196 – Moncton (QMJHL)
58–24–41–65–92
2018 draft, 86th overall
Smart player with scoring potential. Limited to 29 games last year due to Hepatitis A.

9. Dmitry Sokolov
RW, 20, 6-0, 205 – Iowa (AHL)
46–12–12–24–2
2016 draft, 196th overall
Can score goals, but criticisms continue to be fitness, speed and defensive desire.

10. Damien Giroux
C, 18, 5-10, 185 – Saginaw (OHL)
61–27–20–47–22
2018 draft, 155th overall
Hard worker, competitive, smart, can score. He’s a complete 200-foot player.

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