Have a wonderful summer. As a child, this was the message you repeated in school yearbooks. NHL fans wish their teams a successful summer in free agency and at the Entry Draft, which is just a month away. Check out the best bookmakers for betting on the NHL.
It’s sometimes called the “off-season”, but it’s the prime time for NHL teams’ Scouting departments. This is where they collect all the analytic data and anecdotes of coaches and scouts to help them select the players that will be the foundation of the team’s future.
The Minnesota Wild prospect pool may have never been as deep on paper since 2012. It has three positions with high-quality players. The key phrase is ‘on paper. We know from the hyped-up group of young players (Finnish Baby Jesus), Mikas Granlund, Jason Zucker and Charlie Coyle that it played a part in Ryan Suter’s and Zach Parise’s signings with the club.
Suter and Parise believed they were joining an emerging Stanley Cup contender. It didn’t work out that way.
The Wild managed to add another top prospect in Cal Clutterbuck/ Nino Niederreiter, but the once-promising crop of young people left you wanting more. The Wild couldn’t seem to rely on its young players to carry it.
Most of the players were either moved out or shipped out by Guerin; The team has since drafted a star talent in Kirill Caprizov. They also developed solid two-way centers Joel Eriksson, forward Jordan Greenway, and a skilled winger Matt Boldy. Connor Dewar and Brandon Duhaime were reasonable bottom-6 support players.
The team parted ways also with Alex Tuch and Luke Kunin, former 1st-round picks. It’s not as though the team hasn’t been able to find NHL talent during the draft.
Minnesota appears to be in an impasse regarding scoring winger Kevin Fiala. Even though he is still one season away from unrestricted, it seems unlikely that the team will be afforded to resign him this year. Fiala was the best Wild player in franchise history. But Wild fans also know the team’s cap crunch.
The team is now saddled with $12.7 million in ‘dead’ money from Parise and Suter, along with smaller deals to players such as Tyson Jost, Dmitry Kulikov, and Alex Goligoski. It would seem that there isn’t enough cap room to keep him at the club.
What Wild prospect can replace the Fiala’s loss? I’m not sure that the Wild has anyone comparable to Kevin Fiala among its current young talent.
Marco Rossi played a solid first season of professional hockey in Iowa, but then he lost momentum. It was coincidental that the plateau started after Matt Boldy was called up by the team, who ironically was the catalyst Fiala used to break out of his rut at the start of the season.
Rossi showed his skill on the power play but lacked the speed and motor that made him dominant at the junior level. Is this a side effect of myocarditis? Or was it simply a result of his inability to play and develop during a season, or was he physically overwhelmed by the men’s league at age 19? Maybe a little bit of both.
Any replacement options seem years away after that. The Wild currently plan to draft 24th overall, barring any trades. My list includes players I believe could be available for Wild’s 24th overall draft.
Spoiler alert: I won’t be profiling players like Shane Wright or Logan Cooley. It is doubtful that such players would drop to #24.
Does another debate continue to be who the Wild choose? Are they addressing their needs or choosing the best player? The ‘best player possible’ has always been a generality to me. It sounds simple enough. But do you continue to draft the “best player available” regardless of your organizational needs? Check out the top new sportsbooks for betting on the NHL.
I ranked the Wild’s needs and created a list of players for each position group. This would allow me to create a draft board with five players each. I consider the team’s playing style and the players’ skill set to create profiles for players I believe would be a good fit.
1. Top 6 Centre or goal-scoring winger – Since Pavol Demitra, the team hasn’t had a center that fits the criteria of a 1st-line center. Although it is possible that Marat Khaustnutdinov and Marco Rossi could become NHL centers, it is far from certain. The organization should keep trying to increase the number of options for this position. A goal-scoring winger is another option if that player isn’t available. Adam Beckman was a difficult adjustment for scoring purposes, moving from the WHL into the AHL.
2. A bigger stay-at-home defenseman After many post-season fails, fans and media have begun to realize that the defensive corps of Minnesota is not mobile. They are also not very large nor physically strong. These two characteristics have proven problematic. The only way to fix it is through the draft. Since Carson Soucy, the team has not drafted or developed a sizeable mobile defenseman. Although Calen Addison and Carson Lambos may be promising, Marshall Warren, Marshall Warren, Daemon Hunt, Ryan O’Rourke, Ryan O’Rourke, Ryan O’Rourke, Ryan O’Rourke, Ryan O’Rourke, and Marshall Warren are all under 6’3″. It may be an excellent moment to look for another large-bodied, home-based defender with Top 4 potential.
3. Backup goaltender Jesper WALLSTUT seems to be the Minnesota Wild’s top goaltender, but is there another goaltender in the system? Hunter Jones and Dereck Baibeau had struggled last season at the minor league level. They should add at least one quality goaltending prospect to their roster this summer.
1. RW / LW – Danila Yurov (Stalye Misney Magnitogorsk, MHL) Chelyabinsk, Russia
Height: 6’1” Weight: 179lbs Shoots: Left
2022 Stats: 23GP 13G 23A = 36pts 8 PIM’s +22
NHL Central Scouting – #7 (Euro). Hockey News – #19 Future Considerations : #6
TSN McKenzie: #8 TSN Button: #11 ISS: #9 HockeyProspect.com: #10
Athletic Wheeler – #12 Athletic Pronman – #10
Talent Analysis Yurov started his career in the KHL, where he could not find time with a solid Magnitogorsk hockey team. He was in dire need of more time and opportunities. However, he played well in Russia’s junior circuit scoring well over a point per game pace. He has high-end puck skills matched by a similarly impressive high-end hockey mind. He anticipates openings before they appear and appears always to be one step ahead of the game. Calculated was a term that scouts used to describe his approach. He can draw power, small bursts and speed with great edgework in his skating. This he uses in the offensive zone. He doesn’t have the afterburner to be able to glide past other skaters, but he does move well. His shot is weak, whether a snapshot or a wrist shot. Yurov is known for using screens to compensate for his shot’s low velocity. He is a natural playmaker and a skilled passer, even at high speed. His precision and touch are unmatched. He is as calculated in the offensive zone as he is, but he also uses his high hockey intelligence to anticipate plays in defense and force turnovers. Sometimes, scouts felt that he was too passive and could have dominated more.
Summary A skilled playmaking winger who can skate well and plays a full 200-foot game. Although shooting is something you can improve with practice and technique, Yurov has plenty of talent in areas that are impossible to teach. He might slip in the draft, regardless of whether it’s fair. His Russian heritage means that teams may pass him despite most lists placing him between the 8-15 range. There is a good chance that another team will select him, even if he falls in the draft. However, this draft has more variety than other drafts, so it’s not unreasonable to think he could still be available when the Wild pick their #24.
2. LW – Isaac Howard (USNDT, USHL) Hudson, Wisconsin
Height: 5’10” Weight: 181lbs Shoots: Left
2022 Stats: 27GP 11G 26A = 37pts 32 PIM’s +18
NHL Central Scouting – #9 (NA). Hockey News : #24 Future Considerations : #38
TSN McKenzie: #15 TSN Button: #23 ISS: #26 HockeyProspect.com: #20
Athletic Wheeler #10 Athletic Pronman #31
Talent Analysis: A former Shattuck-St. Mary’s star is a dangerous dual-threat winger and was the 2nd highest point producer of any player in the U.S. National Development program. He was next to Golden Gophers’ commit, Logan Cooley. Howard excels in rushes, where he positions himself as a shooting or passing option. He is quick and agile, but not straight-line fast. This makes him very difficult to find in the offensive zone. Hudson, a Hudson-native, uses his speed to quickly transition and can sometimes be caught cheating to try to get a puck. He doesn’t have many moves to pass would-be defenders one-on-one, which can be problematic at higher levels. He may also try to do a blind spin-arama pass, which seems unnecessarily cute. He is a Minnesota-Duluth committed and one of the most skilled shooters in this draft class. His explosive release and ability to make one-timers make him an excellent option for power-play shooting. He tends to avoid physical engagement and avoids fighting in the corners. He isn’t a player who looks for hits but will still move in high-traffic areas to make plays. He is defensively alert and uses an excellent active stick to break up passing lanes.
Summary: Howard, an offence-generating winger, still needs to work on the other aspects of his game (i.e. Howard is a defensive committee. He is capable of scoring, is a decent passer, and is quite fearless in the scoring areas. It is worth adding a skilled scorer, even though he may not have the same skills as other players. That’s the question teams will need to answer if they draft him. Although scouts are split on whether he will be a top 6- or middle-6 winger, almost all of them agree that he can score at the NHL level. His game reminds me of fellow Wisconsin native Cole Caufield.
3. C / LW – Marco Kasper (Rogle Bk, SHL) Innsbruck, Austria
Height: 6’1” Weight: 187lbs Shoots: Left
Stats: 46GP 7G 4A = 11pts 17 PIM’s -10
NHL Central Scouting – #5 (Euro). Hockey News – #15 Future Considerations : #18
TSN McKenzie: #17 TSN Button: #27 ISS: #12 HockeyProspect.com: #7
Athletic Wheeler – #24 Athletic Pronman – #9
Talent Analysis – This versatile forward can play at the center or wing. Kasper, like fellow Austrian prospect Marco Rossi is praised for his mental and physical maturity for a player of his age. Innsbruck’s native played the whole season in Sweden’s top league. He impressed scouts with his poise and how much his play improved after Rogle was in the playoffs. He is a fast player and will push the pace when he has the puck. He moves well and has solid skates and good edges. But what sets him apart from other prospects is his unwavering motor. He forechecks with the same speed and effort as when he’s backchecking. He simply never stops working and fighting for pucks. He is a great corner player and won’t hesitate to block shots or give a big hit. He is a skilled puck handler and shows great calmness and intelligence in 1-on-1 situations. This allows him to spot the situation and make the right move to escape a defender. There is much to love about his motor and 200-foot game mentality, but you will soon see the limitations of his game. His offensive zone work is very basic. He isn’t able to pass well and has a good sense of where his teammates are. Kasper is a good shot, but his wrist shot and snap are not as fast as one would expect from someone as mature as him. However, he has demonstrated that he can be a good slapshot. Some scouts have begun to wonder if his offensive potential could translate at the NHL level. He is not afraid to use his above-average frame to screen goaltenders and look for redirections from the front. He is a solid player who gives teams lots to like. You might have the best drafter in the league if he can add offence.
Summary: A hardworking forward who is relentless, doesn’t cheat, and gives everything he has every shift. Is he able to provide enough offensive upside to be a top-six player on your team? Kasper’s offensive questions will cause him to slip in the draft. Kasper’s mature game, which he has shown to be effective at the professional level in Sweden, will undoubtedly make them appreciate his maturity. There is a good chance he will be chosen before Minnesota picks at number 22.
4. C – Jiri Kulich (Karlovy Vary, Czechia Superleague) Kadan, Czechia
Height: 5’11” Weight: 179lbs Shoots: Left
2022 Stats: 49GP 9G 5A = 14pts 4 PIM’s +7
NHL Central Scouting : #13 (Euro). Hockey News : #31 Future Considerations : #22
TSN McKenzie: #40 TSN Button: #14 ISS: #15 HockeyProspect.com: #21
Athletic Wheeler #22 Athletic Pronman #17
Talent Analysis – Czechia is making a comeback as an essential source of NHL talent. Kulich is a goal-scoring center who does not cheat the defensive side. Kulich is a speedy skater and has significantly improved his skating technique. His confidence in his game also improved. Although his shot has improved, he sometimes takes low-percentage shots and doesn’t look for other options. Kadan-native is a native of Kadan. He plays a high-risk, high-reward game that might remind Wild fans of Kevin Fiala. His brilliant plays can be matched by his foolish decisions that lead to dangerous turnovers. He’s a good passer but more of a shoot-first player. He’s intelligent and can read the play well, but he plays defensively. He can skate well and can keep up with all players. Kulich’s game is better as a winger or center. Kulich is not afraid to venture into corners to fight for pucks or use his body to make plays. He is a very versatile player.
Summary A forward capable of scoring goals and who can play solidly defensively. He projects more as a winger rather than a center, but he is at least Top 6 or Top 9 in his ability. If he is available at #24, he has the speed, work ethic, and an offensive game that is steadily improving. He might be available sooner than expected, given that he has already played in Czechia’s top league.
5. C / RW – Brad Lambert (Pelicans, Sm-Liiga) Lahti, Finland
Height: 6’0″ Weight: 183lbs Shoots are:
2022 Stats (JYP & Pelicans: 49GP 4G6A = 10pts 43 PI’s -16
NHL Central Scouting – #10 (Euro). Hockey News – #21 Future Considerations _8
TSN McKenzie: #11 TSN Button: #35 ISS: #10 HockeyProspect.com: #29
Athletic Wheeler #8 Athletic Pronman #14
Talent Analysis – An elite skater who can move with his stick like poetry. It’s not easy for some players to make it look effortless, like the late Guy Lafleur. But the big question is, are these just appearances? He is a dazzler with his speed and athleticism, something that very few draft prospects can match. He uses this to the greatest extent on his entries into the zone where it’s possible to make plays at maximum speed. These flashes of brilliance are rare, but they do happen. Lambert often decides ahead of the play, even before it has happened. In other words, he takes a guess and then makes a play with his puck. Lambert’s speed and skating make creating space and time in the offensive zone easy. It’s almost like he doesn’t know he has this advantage. He is NHL-caliber in speed and releases velocity, but he does not always choose the best locations to shoot the puck. This makes him somewhat predictable. He isn’t afraid to take on defensive responsibilities. His speed can put pressure on opposing defences. Brad Lambert has a lot to offer. But can his athleticism and natural talents be developed and cultivated with the right coaches?
Summary: Amazing raw talent and athleticism. However, he still needs to learn the subtleties of the game. Lambert is the draft’s best pure skater. He can make the same plays as elite players, but can Lambert find more consistency? You can see his natural talents and must decide if you believe he can put them all together. This makes him more dangerous, but it could also be why he falls further down than he was projected to. It’s rare to find a right-shot center with extraordinary capabilities. Wouldn’t it be fascinating to see him center a line alongside Kirill Karizov? Will we take the risk that he could be another teaser if he drops below number 24?
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