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  • Charlie Stramel Just Showed Why He Can't Be Written Off


    Image courtesy of Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
    Tony Abbott

    Charlie Stramel was going to need a fast start to this season to dispel the doubts that came with the Minnesota Wild picking him 21st overall in the 2023 NHL Draft. Stramel came into the draft having only posted five goals and 12 points in 33 games as a freshman at the University of Wisconsin. Those numbers will raise some eyebrows for a first-round pick, and the Wild unwittingly fueled the skepticism when Bill Guerin essentially conceded the team drafted for need.

    "There were a few other players we could have taken," Guerin explained to The Athletic after the draft, "but to fill the need [at center] was pretty important this year."

    Stramel did not have a fast start this season by any means. An early-season injury sidelined him for four games, and he wasn't making an impact when he played. The Rosemount native didn't find his way onto the scoresheet until his ninth game of the season. The injury and subsequent struggles cost Stramel a spot in the Badgers' top-six forwards and a spot for Team USA's World Junior Camp last week. The latter was a particularly significant snub because Stramel made the team in the previous two seasons.

    Stramel has a long way to go to rehabilitate his reputation among the Wild faithful, but stringing together a few weekends like his two-game set against No. 17-ranked Penn State helps. Stramel quadrupled his point total on Friday night. He notched three assists and then scored his second goal of the season. 

    Stramel needed the production, but moreover, he looked noticeable. He got to loose pucks, made smart passes, and funneled himself and the puck toward the net. Stramel looked like the player Minnesota hoped to get when they scooped him up in June.

    The weekend took him from having a single point in 10 games to entering Wisconsin's winter break with five points in 12. Stramel's production is still not impressive in its entirety, but now he gets something optimistic to dwell on while having almost three weeks to shake off the remainder of his injury rust.

    The question is: Will even a second-half surge stop Wild fans from feeling buyer's remorse with Stramel?

    If people were skeptical of Stramel at the draft, these events have sent Wild fans racing to be the first to declare Stramel a bust. It doesn't help that there's a strong candidate to be Stramel's foil in Gabriel Perreault, who the New York Rangers took 23rd overall in 2023. Perreault has a similar background to Stramel; both are American college hockey players.

    Perrault is also a smaller, slower winger, which the Wild presumably sought to avoid in drafting for need. Perreault five goals and 25 points in 17 games with Boston College, intensifying the criticism surrounding the Stramel pick.

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    Is it fair? Probably not, but it is natural, especially with Stramel's start. But as the signs of life he showed this weekend demonstrate, it's way too early to judge the pick. 

    For one, Stramel's injury happened at the worst possible time. Getting hurt near the beginning of the season sets players up poorly. When a player returns in that situation, they're at square one when everyone else has had a chance to ramp their games up. It's an even bigger disadvantage when injury strikes as a new coach comes in, bringing two players who play the same position as you, and you have to find your game on the third and fourth lines.

    Remember that it wasn't long ago when folks were slapping the bust label on Matt Boldy. Boldy, as in "the 30-goal-scorer" Boldy. The guy who has 118 points in 147 games. That guy was supposedly a reach and a bust.

    Boldy scored a goal in his first game for Boston College after the Wild drafted him in 2019, but then disappeared for about the same amount of time as Stramel. Boldy got mired in a 10-game pointless streak, reaching the winter break with a goal and two assists in 15 games. You know what happened next and how silly the people rushing to write him off look now. Why get fooled again?

    It'd make sense for Stramel to be hitting his stride a few games after returning from injury and figuring out a way to be productive in a lower-line role. Even in the best-case scenario, though, Stramel is probably not putting up the kinds of numbers you'll see from Perreault at the college level. That wasn't ever the point, and the Wild have been honest (perhaps too honest) about it from Day 1.

    I'm not trying to take anything away from Perreault, a great prospect having a terrific year. You'd call that a win if Minnesota added him to their coffers of dynamic wing prospects like Danila Yurov, Liam Öhgren, and Hunter Haight.

    But the one thing Perreault isn't is "a center." Fans hate "drafting for need" instead of taking the "best player available," but they also hate going through two decade-long dry spells in producing homegrown centers. If you're going to draft for need somewhere, that's where you want to do it, as Minnesota did in 2015 when they took Joel Eriksson Ek over Brock Boeser.

    It's easy to forget how the Wild faithful initially regretted that pick. The sentiment no longer exists, even as Boeser sits second in the NHL in goals. But there was a time that was very real. The big, two-way Eriksson Ek didn't seem to progress all that much, while Boeser's stock rocketed in the first seasons after Minnesota passed on the scoring winger.

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    Much as it's too early to say Stramel will flop, it's way too early to say Stramel is the second coming of Eriksson Ek. But Stramel has the physical attributes and speed to become an Eriksson Ek-like force, which is a player type Perreault can never be, even at his best. Again, that's no knock on Perreault. But there's a reason why the Wild's choice in 2015 worked out, and history repeating itself is still in play now.

    Besides, even if we want to take the short view on the Wild's strategy of targeting centers, it's looking very good in the early goings. Judd Brackett and his scouts picked Rasmus Kumpulainen 53rd overall, passing on more skilled wingers to grab a big center. Then they took Riley Heidt, a smaller pivot who married positional value with raw skill at 64 overall. 

    It's early, but both picks are playing well. Kumpulainen is putting up a point per game in the OHL in his first season adjusting to North American ice. Heidt is leading the WHL with nearly two points per game. If Brackett, the leader of the scouting staff who uncovered Kumpulainen and was smart enough to scoop up a falling Heidt, says of Stramel's potential, "the sky is the limit," hasn't he earned the benefit of the doubt?

    It's reasonable to have some concerns with Stramel, of course. Stramel's freshman season at Wisconsin was a lost year because of the program's low point, and the start of his sophomore season was looking headed toward another one. You can only string together so many lost seasons before they become lost potential. But just as Boldy did only five years ago, Stramel still has plenty of time to turn things around and enough in his toolkit to justify his selection. We'll get a clearer picture of him in the second half of the season.

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    But the one thing Perreault isn't is "a center." Fans hate "drafting for need" instead of taking the "best player available," but they also hate going through two decade-long dry spells in producing homegrown centers.

    For the past 6 games, Stramel has been skating 4th line wing for the Badgers.

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    I have to give Stramel points for heading to the NCAA underaged. It was far tougher competition, where he could have cruised to a big year in the USHL. 

    I wonder if the only thing holding Stramel back at this point is confidence? If the lights click on like they did for Boldy, we'll have a monster of a player on our hands. 

    Drafting for need is not the best thing to do when rebuilding, but it is a signal that the rebuild is, essentially, over. In previous drafts, Judd picked the best player he felt was available, regardless of position. But, when you're finishing up your rebuild, that's when you have to fill in the missing pieces. For us, that was center. 

    Did we miss the boat on Edstrom? That one might be the one that got away! But, Stramel was locally scouted, and probably scouted much better than other prospects. I also have to wonder if, as Oliver Moore was dropping, if Judd felt like he'd get a shot at him? I feel like he was heavily scouted too. In the back of my mind, I was kind of hoping we'd trade up a few spots like we did for "The Wall" to take Moore. 

    Some of you are Gophers watchers. How is Moore doing? 

    But, Guerin took 3 swings at the position. Odds are 1 works out, but if you're going by my rebuild from the 20s strategy, 2 will need to make it. If all 3 made it, yahtzee!

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    22 minutes ago, MrCheatachu said:

    For the past 6 games, Stramel has been skating 4th line wing for the Badgers.

    True, but doesn't he have the size/speed and ability to play C? I also like that he's right handed which we sorely need. 

    To me it looks like he'll be heading back to WI for his junior year. Then maybe we sign him after that? I really thought he'd break out this year. 

    Does anyone know how Hastings runs his lines? Is he a roll all 4 kind of guy, or does the 4th line get limited minutes? Now, if Stramel was out for several games and needed to reacclimate himself, it makes sense to put him there until he's at full speed. 

    Edited by mnfaninnc
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    I understand the rationale of taking Perreault.  However, there's such a thing is being blindsided by "offense."  Look what the Wild got from Rossi this year.  He improved to the point that a serious glaring weakness during 5on5 scoring is slowly but surely being filled up.  Eriksson Ek is a beast on the PP, and scored 60 points last year on a bargain bin contract.  All while being a Brodin or Faber at center.  No one ever scores on him, and he ends up adding more offense than thought possible years ago.  That makes two centers you've already accounted for five years to a decade (provided Rossi stays as good as he's looked now), even without taking into consideration Yurov or Khusnutdinov coming next year even.  If one of them hits, that's three centers that take care of the offense workload.  That puts even less pressure on Heidt, Kumpulainen, or Stramel to NEED to be that guy anymore.

    But what if they are?  What if you have 3-5 guys who filter down to wing or down to lower lines, because the center issue is taken care of?  Stramel and Kumpulainen have size that you can't teach.  That's something the Wild have been missing, even less if they are not scoring centerman on this level.  If anyone in front of them aren't, but are excellent 3rd/4th line terrors, then that solves a lot of depth issues going forward as the recent signees age out.  This is without even taking into account free agency.  

    The Wild have potential options they didn't have even a couple years ago.  That is a frighteningly good problem to have.  Imagine having three Eriksson Eks down the middle instead of just one...

    Edited by Citizen Strife
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    1 hour ago, mnfaninnc said:

    Some of you are Gophers watchers. How is Moore doing?

    Moore's speed is outstanding and obvious from the get go. That said, he is a freshman and as such he leaves you wanting to see more. I certainly would not put him as a comp for Cooley. He has a lot of growing to do to become a more complete player. His speed gets him the chances but finishing is something he can improve on. I really think Stramel could have a better career. His size is a game changer between the two.

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    19 minutes ago, Citizen Strife said:

    I understand the rationale of taking Perreault.  However, there's such a thing is being blindsided by "offense."  Look what the Wild got from Rossi this year.  He improved to the point that a serious glaring weakness during 5on5 scoring is slowly but surely being filled up.  Eriksson Ek is a beast on the PP, and scored 60 points last year on a bargain bin contract.  All while being a Brodin or Faber at center.  No one ever scores on him, and he ends up adding more offense than thought possible years ago.  That makes two centers you've already accounted for five years to a decade (provided Rossi stays as good as he's looked now), even without taking into consideration Yurov or Khusnutdinov coming next year even.  If one of them hits, that's three centers that take care of the offense workload.  That puts even less pressure on Heidt, Kumpulainen, or Stramel to NEED to be that guy anymore.

    But what if they are?  What if you have 3-5 guys who filter down to wing or down to lower lines, because the center issue is taken care of?  Stramel and Kumpulainen have size that you can't teach.  That's something the Wild have been missing, even less if they are not scoring centerman on this level.  If anyone in front of them aren't, but are excellent 3rd/4th line terrors, then that solves a lot of depth issues going forward as the recent signees age out.  This is without even taking into account free agency.  

    The Wild have potential options they didn't have even a couple years ago.  That is a frighteningly good problem to have.  Imagine having three Eriksson Eks down the middle instead of just one...

    This exactly what I think….you have enough undersized prospects but filling that role and depth of center is the most important piece. Big strong fast right handed centers are a luxury taking a shot at one to fill the need is not a bad idea especially with our prospect pool depth. Give the kid some time he’s 19 and was injured….nothing he does this year indicates boom or bust he was always going to need time to develop.

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    I really don't understand calling anyone a bust at 18, 19, or even 20.  The players are mostly still just kids at that point, and some just have a longer developmental curve.  Yes, some have the tools and just never put everything together, but when players are that young, they still have a bit of time to do that.

    After being hurt and finding his place in a new system, I'm more concerned with how he finishes the season rather than how he starts it.  Let's give it some time and see some progression before labeling him a bust because he doesn't look like a young Joe Thornton.  Time will tell what he ends up being.  Maybe he's never THAT good, but he won't be a bust just because he isn't.  And it's certainly too soon to say he's a bust now.

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    Watch CS play. Get as close as possible. IMO he’s going to play a lot of NHL games and be a great addition to any team. He’s most likely not going to be primarily a scorer. He has the potential to be a strong physical presence and brings a whole lot of intensity to boot. 

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    2 hours ago, MrCheatachu said:

    For the past 6 games, Stramel has been skating 4th line wing for the Badgers.

    This Badger squad is full of Hasting's transfer's from MN State + Hasting's recruits who followed him from MN state.  That reality and Stramboli's injury have me taking a wait-and-see approach 

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    I just mentioned this a day or so ago about the Wild needing heaviness with speed. If Stramel is as athletic as the combine showed and he finishes maturing physically that's exactly the type of player you want with attributes that aren't coached or taught.

    The Wild will be a team that has size, speed, skill, goaltending when the penalties end it seems. Hopefully the prospects do the things on their end to be NHL players in that time frame. 

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    Speaking of size, I read a recent Sportsnet article about the 2024 draft, and several of the top d-men in the class are 6'2/6'3, and there's even a dude at 6'7...

    Good god I want.  Have we had a giant on the team since Boogaard?

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    5 minutes ago, Citizen Strife said:

    Speaking of size, I read a recent Sportsnet article about the 2024 draft, and several of the top d-men in the class are 6'2/6'3, and there's even a dude at 6'7...

    Good god I want.  Have we had a giant on the team since Boogaard?

    Be sweet wouldn't it. Get us our own version of Zadorov or Ekholm.

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    We actually had both John Scott, and Boogard  6-7 255ish +-     .   I dont think those 2 ever fought each other after they left MN  and were on different teams  , even though played in different conferences  so they wouldnt have met on the ice much .  

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    7 hours ago, MrCheatachu said:

    For the past 6 games, Stramel has been skating 4th line wing for the Badgers.

    Exactly, the reach was for a big center..Something he's not doing for his college team... Extremely bad 1st round  pick... Can't squeeze this one by...way to much talent still on the board when this pick happened..would have been there a couple rounds later at least. 

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    No matter how you slice it (and people are trying to to in numerous ways), it’s still a bad pick.

    There was all sorts of talent left on the board in a historically deep draft.  You can’t take a guy you’re already penciling into a checking line role on draft day.  The mental gymnastics I’m seeing to rationalize that is off the charts.

    I don’t dislike the player, just where he was selected.  He may end up being a good player, and better than some of the other guys available there.  But, it’s a low-odds move.  It’s going all-in with a bad hand hoping to get lucky.  That’s not a sustainable strategy.  Winning a pot with 5-2 off suit doesn’t mean it was the right decision to make the bet.

    Thats the point of the argument defenders of this pick are overlooking (and in most cases, intentionally).  No serious person actually believes he’s a bust at this point.  You can’t know that.  But, it’s more than fair to call it a reach.  And you’re really digging yourself into the quicksand when your main argument is “it’s wasn’t a bad pick, because he’s not considered a bust yet.” For a player taken 21st overall in that draft class, the conversation right now should be so much different.

    And, no, Judd Brackett doesn’t deserve the benefit of the doubt on anything.  This team stinks.  He’s produced nothing material yet that’s led to on-ice success at the NHL level.  He’s earned something when his players have developed, are in the NHL here, and the team is winning hockey games because of those players.  Not because he took a flawed player in the early 3rd round who’s off to a good start in the OHL, or a kid in Russia we think will be good but doesn’t get the ice time to know for sure.

    The defenders argue we have to wait and see….that goes both ways for all of these guys he’s taken.  But, we’ve already anointed him and developed this attitude that “if Judd wanted to take him, he must be great.”

    Edited by Beast
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    16 hours ago, Stillwaitingforacuprun said:

    would have been there a couple rounds later at least.

    Pretty certain he would have been drafted in the top 50 if the Wild didn't take him in the 1st, and if not, the Wild had two 2nd round picks where they likely would have selected him. He wasn't going to be available in the 3rd.

    He may end up 3rd and 4th line NHLer, but should be playable if he develops a bit in the next few years. Most did think he was drafted a tad early. Certainly possible that no other team would have selected him in the 1st.

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    4 hours ago, Beast said:

    And, no, Judd Brackett doesn’t deserve the benefit of the doubt on anything.  This team stinks.  He’s produced nothing material yet that’s led to on-ice success at the NHL level.  He’s earned something when his players have developed, are in the NHL here, and the team is winning hockey games because of those players.  Not because he took a flawed player in the early 3rd round who’s off to a good start in the OHL, or a kid in Russia we think will be good but doesn’t get the ice time to know for sure.

    I would say this conversation has to happen about Judd about 7 years after his hiring. If you're drafting in the 20s, it's a pretty safe bet that your prospect won't be ready before he's 22. 7 years gives us 3 drafts to appraise his results. We've got 2 guys playing with this 1st draft (Rossi, Hunt). Next year I'd expect to see The Wall and Lambos at least. If Ohgren, Dino and Yurov come over and make the team, that would be a huge bonanza!

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    38 minutes ago, Imyourhuckleberry said:

    Pretty certain he would have been drafted in the top 50 if the Wild didn't take him in the 1st, and if not, the Wild had two 2nd round picks where they likely would have selected him. He wasn't going to be available in the 3rd.

    He may end up 3rd and 4th line NHLer, but should be playable if he develops a bit in the next few years. Most did think he was drafted a tad early. Certainly possible that no other team would have selected him in the 1st.

    Sometimes it's about the player you want. Perhaps they were real high on the guy but didn't think he'd be available later? There were rumors that NYR was also looking to select him in round 1. Maybe that was their target after Moore fell off the board?

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    In my opinion, Stramel was a 2nd round talent, so the Wild likely could have taken a better player in round one. The Wild had two 2nd round picks, so they likely could have gotten him in round 2.

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    Stramel was a giant reach and everyone said so. Guerin drafting for need is one thing, his drafting his prototype is another. He's hell bent on these big physical guys and the nhl has evolved beyond that. Guerin is just the next mike zimmer, did some great things when he got here but unwillinging to play prospects and unwillinging to get with the times... gets you a NEW job. For all you guerin leg humpers, we need a a new gm. Or maybe owner too.

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