The Minnesota Wild prospects just wrapped up a stellar weekend that saw them earn two wins against the Chicago Blackhawks on home ice and gave us a sneak peek into what we can expect from the future of this organization. And even though it was essentially a meaningless pair of games that can be glanced over as the foreward to the novel that is what the 2021-22 season is going to be in Minnesota, little tidbits of information can be taken from what we witnessed in two honestly entertaining hockey games.
Of course the stars and top prospects were the headlining acts for the weekend, but there has been some surprising outcomes that we can all keep an eye on.
Boldy’s Ready (We Think)
Easily the first thing that comes to mind is the impressive debut of Matt Boldy wearing a Wild jersey. He is one of the older prospects, having been drafted way back in 2019, so he should be looking much better than a bunch of rookies that are bound to go back to their respective junior leagues, but he looked like a total class above. Every possession of the puck, it felt that Boldy was in complete control of the play and knew where everyone was on the ice, making smart passes and being able to protect the puck well enough to keep the play in Minnesota’s favor. It wasn’t even during the plays that came to nothing in the end, he was able to either set up Marco Rossi for goals or score some himself, including a brace during Sunday’s game.
From everything we were able to see through the grainy lens of the YouTube livestream, this dude is ready for the NHL, in our opinion. We certainly don’t call the shots or have any input, but since he was already knocking on the door at the end of last season, fans essentially chanting his name to demand he makes his big-league debut during the postseason, it makes sense that he would be seen as destined to be in the lineup on Oct. 15.
Boldy is already a two-way powerhouse at the levels he’s played at, and now it will only take impressing some people next week for him to get thrown into the middle-six and the Wild to have another dual threat on the wing.
Damien Giroux: A Horse
One of the prospects that certainly has not been talked about through the fan base is Damien Giroux and must have taken that to heart because he seemed like he was shot out of a freakin’ cannon all weekend long. Just one professional season under his belt, Giroux was centering the second line behind Rossi and just appeared comfortable out there, but still with something to prove. His tireless work ethic was on display as he tried to create more scoring chances for the linemates he was given, but nothing came to true fruition.
Nevertheless, considering that he has been able to have slightly above-average offensive production throughout his junior career, he seems destined for a bottom-six role in the future as one of those hard-nosed players that are molded in the same shape as Nico Sturm. If anything, he raised a couple of our eyebrows this weekend.
Marco Rossi, As Expected
We all knew it was coming. Marco Rossi put on a complete performance both matches and really showed why he should be getting a significant look at the Wild’s training camp next week. Even if he didn’t perform exceptionally well, we can still label these games as warm-up and his first true competitive pieces of action since January — but the best thing is he did perform exceptionally well and we don’t need to come up with reasons out of thin air. Rossi is just so damn good and he’s in Minnesota.
I’m never going to get tired of him playing for the Wild; ever.
Even if he might need a dozen or so games in Iowa to spark his professional career before he inevitably makes his NHL debut this season, that is fine. We are a patient fan base (sometimes too patient) and can wait a little bit as we distract ourselves with Boldy, Addison, or any other young star making an impact early on. He’ll be here eventually and we are going to scream so damn loud when he is.
Beckman Up Next
Adam Beckman has always been seen as the next level of prospect for the Wild. He’s not in the same tier as any first-rounder, whether it is Boldy, Rossi, or even Wallstedt and Lambos right now, but he is quickly rising into consideration. Right in that very next level, Beckman has been able to shine with his ability to shoot the damn puck and that was on display this weekend.
He didn’t put any in the back of the net, but he was a true threat when in a stationary position, especially on the man advantage. The problem was keeping up with the other talents, as he was thrust on to the top line on Sunday after an impressive Friday game, alongside Rossi and Boldy and in transition, he seemed just like he needed an extra step to stick with those two. Of course it’s only two games and probably less than 20 minutes of ice time, so everything we might be saying should be taken lightly, but he will certainly need a good full season in Iowa if it was up to us.
The Wild need goals though, so depending on how well he’s adapting to his first full professional season, he might be a candidate for a late-season call-up.
Secondary Goaltender Prospects
The moment Jesper Wallstedt was drafted in July, we were all collectively penciling him as the Wild’s starter for decades (and that’s somewhat warranted) but Minnesota surprisingly has a solid cupboard of prospects in between the pipes.
Hunter Jones started on Friday, Dereck Baribeau started on Sunday, and both made some remarkable stops to earn their victories. This no doubt planted the small seed of hope that the Wild are going to have a goaltending controversy, having too many young netminders that are capable of going to the next level but are stuck in a logjam.
Just look at this save Baribeau made on Sunday.
I am sure that since goaltending is weird and this is just one game for each netminder, that I am certainly going to be wrong, but there are enough bodies with good-enough resumes to venture a bit further. Wallstedt is certainly deserving of the projected top spot, but there are just enough performances from his fellow Wild netminding youngsters that make you perk up a bit. A decision might need to be made, but that’s for a later time.
The Somewhat Shallow Pool
This is certainly a symptom of the top prospects having such a significantly bright spotlight on them, but beyond Boldy, Rossi, Addison, and the other big names, there wasn’t a whole lot of talent put on display. Maybe our individual attentions were heightened whenever we saw those aforementioned names, but beyond them it just seemed like a complete plateau of scoring chances that laid at “sort of.”
Nick Swaney was able to clinch the last game with a nice shootout goal and appeared like another hard-working forward, Daemon Hunt and Ryan O’Rourke brought the physicality (the former more than the latter), and Carson Lambos was clearly needing to warm up a bit after his difficult draft season. But beyond that there weren’t any clear surprises to really get excited about and peak our interest more throughout their individual seasons as they head back to junior.
The Wild have a shallow prospect pool, with the top really hitting and being among the league’s best, but we will need to see how things turn out as the other guys develop. That’s just from two games though and I will most likely be proved wrong.