Jump to content
Hockey Wilderness
  • How Will the Wild's New Prospects Fit In With the Existing Group?

    Image courtesy of © Christopher Hanewinc-USA TODAY Sports
    Luke Sims

    It's extremely hard to judge picks immediately after a draft, and it may take years for a player to realize their full potential. So, now that it’s been a few weeks since the 2023 NHL Draft, it’s time to do some judgin’. 

    The Minnesota Wild entered June with one of the best prospect groups in the league, with a shot to add more high-end talent in Nashville. With three picks in first in the first two rounds, the Wild were able to enhance their already well-established ensemble. So, how do Minnesota’s new prospects mix in with their existing group? 

    As we said, the Wild’s prospect pool was already pretty stacked. They had:

    • Two small two-way centermen who can skate: Marco Rossi and Marat Khusnutdinov
    • Big wingers who are strong on the puck: Danila Yurov and Liam Öhgren
    • Capable two-way defenseman: Brock Faber, Carson Lambos, and Daemon Hunt
    • Puck-moving defensemen: Jack Peart and David Spacek
    • An elite goaltending prospects: Jesper Wallstedt
    • A couple of projected top-nine forwards who are close to NHL-ready: Adam Beckman and Sammy Walker

    The cupboards weren't just stocked, they were overflowing to the point where you could barely close them. However, the Wild are missing a top-end defensive prospect and a big, skilled center prospect. But that’s about it. The group has depth and skill; many teams would be thrilled to have Minnesota’s prospect pool. So instead of doubling-down on what they already had, they added what they thought they needed.

    The Wild made a total of six selections in this year’s draft. That included a pair of second-rounders, but no third or fourth-round selections because they used those picks to trade for gritty players Oskar Sundqvist and Nic Deslauriers. The Wild got size, centers, and some centers with size.

    Minnesota targeted positions and traits with this draft. They admitted that they may have passed on more skilled players that ranked higher on their draft board to get the type of player they wanted. “Need trumps a little more than the skill value,” said the Wild’s director of amateur scouting, Judd Brackett. 

    While Brackett says that the plan was to target centers, he followed that statement up with a remark saying that they are all very different players. So let's take a look at this incoming class and see how they fit into the Wild's long-term future.

    Charlie Stramel

    Starting with the first selection of the night, the Wild took Stramel out of Wisconsin with their first-round pick. Stramel was seen by many as a reach at 21. Stramel even said in an interview that he heard “proud to select…from Wisconsin” on draft night, his mother asked, “Who from Wisconsin is being drafted?” It says a little about where he thought he would go in the draft.

    Guerin said Stramel was Minnesota's target all along. As to the question of why they'd reach for him at 21 instead of auctioning off the pick and moving back, keep in mind that it was challenging to trade back in this draft. There was almost no movement on draft day. Besides, the Wild felt they could afford to reach a little bit on a player they loved and thought they needed. To their point, a player with Stramel’s tools and traits is rarely available. Certainly not to Minnesota. No one in the Wild's system had his combination of size and skill. 

    Rasmus Kumpulainen

    Next they took Kumpulainen, another 6’3”, 200-pound center, in the second round. Kumpulainen does not play a heavy game as often as Stramel, but he is still physically engaged. He’s more similar to Joel Eriksson Ek, another prototype that the Wild didn’t really have in the system, and with Eriksson Ek seemingly cementing himself in Minnesota's top-six, there's a need for someone to take that spot.

    Riley Heidt

    Heidt plays similarly to Marat Khusnutdinov but with a little more offense and a little less defense. Heidt is almost a purely offensive player. The Wild already had small scoring centers, but Heidt falling to the end of the second round was such good value that they couldn't pass it up again. Every team can stand to add more scoring, and Heidt certainly brings that to the prospect pool. While he may not stick out as the type of player that’s new to the system, he adds a needed top-end offensive potential that every team craves. 

    Aaron Pionk

    The Wild took Pionk in the fifth round, an overeager who switched from forward to defense only very recently. It's a unique resume. His skill on the back end and his progressing defensive game are encouraging. He doesn’t add anything super unique to Minnesota’s prospect pool, but he’s an excellent bet for a fifth-round pick. 

    Kalem Parker and Jimmy Clark

    The following two picks are guys who just play hockey. Nice guys, try hard, and love the game, if you will. They're both young players that the Wild liked. Nothing is crazy unique about their games, but they add some solid depth to the Wild prospect pool. 

    Minnesota could not add a top-end defensive prospect, but that’s easier said than done. They chose to bolster their center depth instead of defense, and that’s fine. They only had six picks and decided to attack one position group heavily.

    The Wild had a goal with this draft. They wanted to add players to the prospect pool they did not already have. More specifically, they wanted to add big, two-way, skilled centers. They accomplished this goal with their first two picks. The luxury of having such a deep group of young players in the system is you can get picky, and the Wild earned that luxury.

    All stats and data via Elite Prospects.

    Think you could write a story like this? Hockey Wilderness wants you to develop your voice, find an audience, and we'll pay you to do it. Just fill out this form.

    • Like 3

    User Feedback

    Recommended Comments

    Featured Comments

    This year's draft class was light on top-rated defensemen but next year's is, allegedly, chock full of 'em! Smart of them to pass on using the top picks for defense in a year where its a weak class. 

    Just as smart of them to grab the big C with size when he was available instead of risking the likely chance he wouldn't have been there at #53. 

    • Like 3
    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    I like that we got to be picky with picks. When you have an empty cupboard is when you can't afford to be picky, you just take the best guy on the board. They did a good job filling a void. 

    However, they didn't get the 1 big defender nor the #1C. Maybe that is by design. 

    Of course, these guys are rarely available, but if you are banking on the C or big dynamic D, would it be better to take one that needs developing or to take one that is already there? This season will probably be the last season of the placeholders. I think the transition will start, perhaps on a part-time basis with several players sharing 1 spot. '24, a huge transition should happen as we could, potentially, replace 4 players at $13m with minimum/elc players. That would leave open about $10m + the cap going up. Could we add then? Maybe.

    Then, in '25, the handcuffs come off and we gain $15m in cap space + another cap increase. Most definitely, this is when we add. We will need to take care of a few players and resign Kaprizov, but this is where you find the big D and the #1C. Could we, at that time afford, say, a Pettersson who is done with Vancouver? Or, perhaps another player who needs a change of scenery or is being wasted like Brent Burns was? 

    Is next year, or '25 a big free agent year? Could a Draisaitl, perhaps, decide another location is better for him? Maybe someone like a Seth Jones is available? One thing is for sure, we will have money to add!

    Hopefully at that time we'll still have a solid tandem in Goose2 (who at that time will just be Goose) and The Wall. If we can fill out most of the underlying talent with our current prospects and fill in the stars with free agent/trade money, we should be serious contenders. And, playing with Boldy/Kaprizov should be a desirable location to want to come to.

    • Like 4
    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    Join the conversation

    You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
    Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

    Add a comment...

    ×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

      Only 75 emoji are allowed.

    ×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

    ×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

    ×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...