Although it is tough to blame the team for the trading of draft picks, they were at the time a team with legitimate playoff and Stanley Cup hopes from 2013-2018. The trading of several draft picks by the old Chuck Fletcher regime has had it’s negative impacts on the Minnesota Wild, and that can be seen today in the lack of young high end talent in the organization and just the overall depth of prospects, which clearly has been a contributing factor in the situation the team currently finds itself in. An old and aging core, with some youth on the brink of making an impact in the NHL, but aside from KHL superstar Kirill Kaprizov (who is at least another year away) and recent 2019 first round pick Matthew Boldy, the group of young players they have aren’t all that high end in terms of skill.
This isn’t to say that there is absolutely no talent in the system. With a solid 2018 draft aside from the questionable first round selection of Filip Johansson, they got Jack McBain, Alexander Khovanov, and Connor Dewar in the third round. Along with other intriguing prospects in Simon Johansson and Sam Hentges in the later rounds. The latest draft in June seemed like another solid draft from the team, with each pick seemingly emphasizing skill and high talent, both things the Wild desperately need.
Minnesota Wild 2019 Draft Picks
1st round: Matthew Boldy LW (12th overall)
2nd round: Vladislav Firstov LW (42nd overall)
2nd round: Hunter Jones G (59th overall)
3rd round: Adam Beckman LW (75th overall)
5th round: Matvey Guskov C (149th overall)
6th round: Marshall Warren D (166th overall), Nikita Nesterenko C (172nd overall)
7th round: Filip Lindberg G (197th overall)
At the end of the 2018-2019 season, if you looked down the goalie depth chart behind Devan Dubnyk and Alex Stalock, there wasn’t much in the pipeline. Aside from Kaapo Kahkonen, who had a solid rookie year with the Iowa Wild, there wasn’t really any other legitimate goalie prospects in the system, except for Dereck Baribeau who is still a bit of an unknown at this point. The Wild addressed this need even before the draft with the signing of Mat Robson, who spent the past two seasons with the University of Minnesota, appearing in 45 games between the two seasons. Robson and Kahkonen will likely go into the season with the Iowa Wild as a goalie tandem, potentially splitting starts throughout the season.
When it comes to the draft this past year, the Wild drafted two goaltenders. The first, Hunter Jones, whom they selected 59th overall in the second round, played last season for the Peterborough Petes of the Ontario Hockey League, posting 3.31 GAA and a .902 SV% in 57 games played. The second they selected was Finnish goaltender Filip Lindberg (7th round, 197th overall), who played last season with the University of Massachusetts, posting an impressive 1.60 GAA and a .934% SV% in 17 games played.
With the goalie pipeline now filled up, the future in net for the Minnesota Wild looks a lot better than it did a less than a year ago
The Wild did a good job at aiming for skill throughout the draft, starting at 12th overall with the selection of Matthew Boldy, and all the way to defenseman Marshall Warren in the 6th round. While the players selected in the later rounds have more question marks (Beckman, Guskov, etc.), they all are guys with skill that could develop into solid NHL players if everything goes right. This is key for Minnesota, to just keep filling up the cupboards with prospects with good potential, and even if only one or two of these players works out, the team will be just fine 3-5 years from now.
Future Needs: What Should Minnesota Target For Next Year’s Draft?
Although much has been made that the Wild have a logjam up the middle this year (Eric Staal, Luke Kunin, Mikko Koivu, Joel Eriksson Ek, and Victor Rask are all centers), the thing is that either those guys are older veterans who will likely not be with the team anymore by 2-3 years from now, or they are young and unproven players. Kunin and Eriksson Ek are and will be good players in the NHL. It’s just that the offensive upside with those two isn’t great (especially Eriksson Ek), and Kunin will likely be a 50 point player in the league. But those guys don’t seem to fit the mold of a true No. 1 center. So Minnesota will need to find skilled centermen for the future, as they do not seem to have a bonafide No. 1 or top six center in the organization. The next general manager of the Wild and his scouting staff will have to try and identify players who could fit the role in the coming seasons.
With just a quick look at the Wild depth chart, you will notice right away that a majority of the forwards shoot left, with just a couple of them, including Luke Kunin, shooting right. Having a surplus of good players who all shoot left isn’t a bad problem to have, but it makes it difficult to balance out the lineup and give chances to certain players to make the team. The Wild would be doing good to target right shot players at the draft next year, although as the old cliche “best player available” should always apply, and they shouldn’t make a decision based solely on whether a player shoots left or right.
You may be thinking why in the world would the Wild need more defense considering how strong their current top 4 is (Ryan Suter, Matt Dumba, Jared Spurgeon, Jonas Brodin). The reasoning is that with Suter aging, Spurgeon only having one year left on his current contract and Brodin having two years left on his contract, there could suddenly be openings for players to replace them in the next few years, albeit a player like Spurgeon may be resigned and this might ending up being a moot point.
The Wild do have some quality young depth on defense in the system such as Louis Belpedio, Carson Soucy, Brennan Mennell, etc. While those three are solid players, they dont seem to be more than bottom pairing guys in the NHL, especially Soucy, while Belpedio and Mennell are puck movers and could be effective on the power play. But as mentioned above, there is not any room in the top 4 for a guy like that, unless a Spurgeon or Brodin get moved. Even 2018 first round pick Filip Johansson, who should still be a solid NHL player if he can have a good year in the SHL, will likely not be more than a No. 5 or No. 6 defenseman based on what we have seen so far.
In reality, this Wild team could use just about anything in the prospect department, as the cupboards are still relatively dry even though they have put together two seemingly solid drafts the past two years. Although there are a few specific spots that are weaknesses now, or will be weaknesses as players on the NHL roster leave or retire, that will need to be addressed in the draft by the new general manager to insure that the future of the Minnesota Wild is bright.