The Minnesota Wild management team has done a solid job of building up the prospect pool over the last couple of years.
It’s also a good thing because they may be reliant on young talent coming in with the Zach Parise and Ryan Suter buyouts on the books for the next few years.
With Marco Rossi and Matthew Boldy expected to contribute to the NHL roster this season, they will begin to see the fruits of their labor. Boldly was one of the most productive rookies once he arrived in the NHL last season, with 39 points in 47 games. If he had played the full season, he likely would have been a Calder finalist at minimum. In Rossi's case, he tore up the AHL a year after not playing because of COVID, so you can't ask for much more.
Outside of the big two, Adam Beckman is a smart player, and his offensive tools should allow him to jump towards being a point-per-game player at the AHL level after a solid debut last year. Another year of physically maturing will go a long way for Beckman. Marat Khusnutdinov is one of the most interesting prospects in the system, but his KHL contract runs through the 2023-24 season. Once he comes over, he could be an instant impact player at both ends of the ice.
With the additions of Liam Öhgren and Danila Yurov in the first round of this year’s draft, the Wild have a loaded forward core without even mentioning players like Hunter Haight, Vladislav Firstov or Mikey Milne.
The blueline is just as deep. Carson Lambos is a minute muncher who could be a pillar on Minnesota’s backend in a few years. He has all of the tools teams look for from size to skating ability. Calen Addison was acquired via trade and could be a power play quarterback in the future with his passing and offensive creation from the back end. Brock Faber, acquired recently from Los Angeles, is a gifted skater and two-way presence that can do it all. Whether you want him to use his mobility to create offensively or cut off play defensively, Faber can fill the gaps of his defensive partner. Jack Peart, Ryan O’Rourke, and Daemon Hunt are all prospects of value that will help filter into the NHL club as they need talent on the blueline.
In net, Swedish netminder Jesper Wallstedt displays incredible technical ability combined with the play-reading ability every elite goalie needs. His ability to eat the puck up and shut the opposition down is excellent. Hunter Jones has struggled at times in the AHL, but he has a solid track record of success and could be an excellent backup to the stellar Swede.
2022 NHL Draft Class
Round 1 (19 Overall) - Liam Öhgren, L, Djurgardens (SHL)
Round 1 (24 Overall) - Danila Yurov, R, Magnitogorsk Metallurg (KHL)
Round 2 (47 Overall) - Hunter Haight, C, Barrie Colts (OHL)
Round 2 (56 Overall) - Rieger Lorenz, L, Okotoks Oilers (AJHL)
Round 3 (89 Overall) - Michael Milne, L, Winnipeg Ice (WHL)
Round 4 (121 Overall) - Ryan Healey, D, Sioux Falls Stampede (USHL)
Round 5 (153 Overall) - David Spacek, D, Sherbrooke Phoenix (QMJHL)
Round 6 (185 Overall) - Servac Petrovsky, C, Owen Sound Attack (OHL)
Liam Öhgren and Danila Yurov going to the Minnesota Wild in round one was incredible value on two players who both project to be good NHL players. Öhgren is excellent on the forecheck with persistence and pace to his game, making him a versatile player. He looked comfortable at the SHL level in a bottom-six role and dangerous against his peers in a top-six role against junior-aged competition. Yurov was limited in terms of playing time as he spent the year at the KHL level and saw as little as a minute of ice-time in some games but he played a smart game. His play against junior-aged competition was impressive because he could consistently exploit the mistakes presented to him. He makes those around him better by making the right plays at the right time.
Hunter Haight has all the tools to become a decent player, but he wasn’t able to put it together consistently this year after missing a season in the OHL because of COVID. His speed and skill are intriguing and if he can develop a bit more finish and play driving ability, there could be a really good player there. Haight plays with a bit of chaos that he needs to reign in a bit. Rieger Lorenz tore up the AJHL this past season, using the power element in his game to get to the net and some sneaky playmaking skill. He needs to improve his mobility, particularly the technical aspects that will allow him to cut and maneuver in the pro game a bit more effectively but there is a lot to like in his game.
Milne is an overage player who was incredibly productive in the WHL this past year. He plays with a ton of energy and works hard to get pucks back in his own end. Milne did a great job of attacking play at the offensive end this season was an important development in his game. The WIld did a good job of finding value in the later rounds with skilled defender Ryan Healey in round four who looks primed for a breakout if his team can generate more offense. David Spacek was highly productive in the QMJHL and could be an intriguing long-term development project. Servac Petrovsky is a high-end complimentary player who is at his best when he can ride shotgun to a line driver, wading through traffic off the puck and striking when he finds pockets of space in the offensive zone.
The Wild’s biggest strength is that they have a high-end prospect at every position, with left-wing, center, and right-shot defense having a couple of names that would be the best prospect at their given position on many teams across the NHL. Selecting Öhgren and Yurov in round one gave them two high-end wingers, one for each wing to add to their prospect pool. Beckman has been a scoring machine since being drafted with a solid AHL debut season last year. Rossi is one of hockey’s best prospects, regardless of position.
Lambos is a two-way blueliner with a full toolbox on the blueline. Brock Faber is an unreal skater and quietly becoming one of hockey’s top defensive prospects. Calen Addison has some unreal offensive ability as a strong skater and creative playmaker from the blueline. Wallstedt is hockey’s premier goalie prospect, putting up a .918 save percentage in the SHL last year. He'll join the Iowa Wild this year and his stay in the AHL may not be all that long.
Will all of these players work out to be NHL difference makers? Probably not, but each of them should be solid NHLers who can help the Wild build a true contender. The next few years will be a good time to be a Minnesota Wild fan.
The Wild have a strong pool of prospects with high-end talent at nearly every position from all three forward positions, both sides of the blueline, and in net. The depth is quite solid across the board, but if there is any position that could use another player or two to match the rest, it would be the right wing. Drafting Russian right winger Danila Yurov helps boost that area of the prospect pool but behind him, the talent drops off quite a bit. Josh Pillar is a very good skater and has produced at a respectable rate at the WHL level but he often leaves you wanting more. Pavel Novak is a good player but has stepped away from hockey after announcing that he has been diagnosed with an oncological disease and has begun to undergo treatments for it. Hopefully, Novak can return to full health, live a long life, and get his hockey dream back on track.
Next Man Up: C Marco Rossi
After having nearly all of 2020-21 wiped out due to COVID and the life-threatening complications he suffered from it, Rossi was a star at the AHL level last season. His 53 points in 63 games came after playing all of five games the year prior. His offensive skill came to the forefront as the year went on and his reliable defensive game allowed him to stay in games when his offense was finding its way. He got a taste of NHL action last year with a two-game stint but the budding Austrian star should be able to make an impact at the top level this season.
Rossi can play up and down the lineup thanks to his highly intelligent game processing and commitment to both ends of the ice. Although undersized for the center position, his understanding of the game and his ability to create offensive chances in space for his teammates should warrant him staying in the middle. He is deceptively strong and has some of the craftiest board play of any prospect in hockey, allowing him to play bigger than he is. If he can carry his manipulative offensive game to the NHL level this year, he could very well be a sneaky Calder candidate.
Prospect Depth Chart Notables
LW: Liam Öhgren, Adam Beckman, Rieger Lorenz, Vladislav Firstov
C: Marco Rossi, Marat Khusnutdinov, Hunter Haight, Caden Bankier
RW: Danila Yurov, Pavel Novak, Josh Pillar, Mikey Mline
LD: Carson Lambos, Jack Peart, Marshall Warren, Daemon Hunt, Ryan O’Rourke
RD: Calen Addison, Brock Faber, Simon Johansson
G: Jesper Wallstedt, Hunter Jones
For a deeper dive into the prospect pool with player rankings, check out the Yearbook and Future Watch editions of the Hockey News print edition!