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  • The Minnesota Wild's Calder Power Rankings: 2024-25 Season Edition

    Image courtesy of David Gonzales-USA TODAY Sports
    Tony Abbott

    Calder Trophy season ends tonight in the State of Hockey, with Brock Faber and Marco Rossi playing their 82nd and final game. All that's left is the voting, which could see one or both of these fantastic rookies finish as finalists. Between Kirill Kaprizov (2020-21 Calder winner), Matt Boldy (8th in 2021-22 voting despite 46 games), and now this dynamic duo, it's hard to believe there's more talent on the way.

    But there is. Quite a bit of it, all with the potential to make the Minnesota Wild next season. There are so many that it's tough to keep track of whose chances you should follow. The Wild could graduate four first-round picks and two highly-hyped second-round prospects into the NHL next season.

    With so many potential Calder campaigns, how do we sort them out? Going off raw talent? That will be a factor, but opportunity also needs to be considered. If Jared Spurgeon hadn't gotten injured, would that have kept Faber away from the power play, where he's put up the points to be in the Calder conversation? Same with being in a position to succeed, as we saw with Rossi in 2022-23 and this year. Having a good home in the lineup is going to help.

    With these factors in mind, here is Hockey Wilderness' early breakdown of who's (maybe) in and who's (maybe) out of Calder Contention for next year:

    1. Liam Öhgren, Left Wing, No. 19 overall in 2022

    You don't want to get swept away by recency bias, but Öhgren has made as strong a case as anyone can make in three meaningless games to make the team out of camp next season. A goal, an assist, and eight shots through three games indicate he's ready to contribute now. John Hynes seemed prepared to take the training wheels off for Monday's win against the Los Angeles Kings, giving him over 15 minutes of ice time.

    You can't get much of a smaller sample size than 38 minutes, but his early underlying numbers are popping. Shooting at a rate of 11.1 times per hour is the kind of mentality the Wild lack at 5-on-5, and controlling 69.2% of the expected goal share lines up nicely with the kind of play-driving impact he had in the SHL. 

    John Hynes has to be drooling over this performance and considering finding a prominent role for the 20-year-old. On Monday, Hynes told The Athletic's Michael Russo that the next training camp will be a "clean slate" for their underperforming team and that "certain players" will be told to earn their spot.

    Hynes didn't mention names there, but the implication appears that the top-six forward spots will be an open competition. He also had some praise for Öhgren. "First of all, he's jacked," glowed Hynes. "He can skate. Very smart. I see the skill, the two-way game. I can't wait to see these [young] guys in training camp, especially Liam."

    It sure looks like he has the inside track to a prominent role.

    2. Jesper Wallstedt, Goalie, No. 20 overall in 2021

    Name recognition is another factor in Calder voting, and Wallstedt is a player on the radar of every prospect head. He's generally considered the best goaltending prospect in the world and has two full seasons of decent success at the AHL level to back it up.

    Despite giving up seven goals in his NHL debut, Wallstedt has the second-best save percentage on the Wild through three games. His .897 mark is sandwiched between Filip Gustavsson (.899) and Marc-Andre Fleury (.895). That has more to say about the current goalie tandem's inadequacies than it does in favor of Wallstedt, but that has to be noted, nonetheless.

    Opportunity is the biggest uncertainty with Wallstedt because the Wild may extend Fleury next year and run their goalie tandem back. Still, even if Minnesota isn't ready to hand Wallstedt the reins to an NHL timeshare next year, there may be plenty of opportunity for him to shine. An injury or poor performance could allow Wallstedt to seize the job and cement himself in net. The Wild have the defensive structure for a goalie to succeed. Why can't Wallstedt be the answer?

    3. Marat Khusnutdinov, Center, No. 37 overall in 2020

    Khusnutdinov came to North America in March with considerable hype. After all, he had great success with SKA St. Petersburg in 2022-23, scoring 41 points in 63 games as a 20-year-old. But through 15 games, it's clear that Khusnutdinov is undergoing an adjustment period, scoring just one goal and 4 points in his cup of coffee.

    Fifteen games is still a very small sample, and it doesn't have to have any bearing on how he performs next season. It's great that he's been able to adjust to the NHL and live in North America. He can come into training camp, impress Hynes with his speed, and claim a significant role for Minnesota. But for now, first impressions matter in that he's behind the hitting-the-ground-running Öhgren in line for a top-six role until further notice.

    4. Danila Yurov, Center, No. 24 overall in 2022

    Yurov would rank higher on this power ranking based on raw talent alone. Counting playoffs, he's scored 27 goals and 58 points for Metallurg Magnitogorsk, helping them to the KHL's Gagarin Cup Final. That's brilliant scoring at a high, competitive level of hockey. It's not hard to see Yurov as a dead-ringer for Kaprizov when he was 20.

    The question is his contract status in the KHL and whether he would be able to claim a spot in training camp. Minnesota doesn't seem to be in a huge hurry to import Yurov from Russia and may let him develop in the KHL another season. If Yurov doesn't ink a contract for next year, goes to training camp with the Wild, looks NHL-ready, and Hynes sees him in a top-six role, Yurov could be able to move up these power rankings. But that's four "ifs," which downgrades him.

    5. Riley Heidt, Center, No. 64 overall in 2023

    Heidt went from being at the tail end of the second round in last year's draft to being on the map for a roster spot next year. His numbers for the Prince George Cougars were insane, with 37 goals and 117 points through 66 games. His 1.77 points per game during his Draft-plus-1 season were more than Leon Draisaitl (1.66 in 2014-15), Dylan Cozens (1.67 in 2019-20), and Dallas Stars rookie sensation Logan Stankoven (1.76 in 2021-22).

    He's earned a look in training camp next fall. Still, the trends with how Minnesota handles young players are against Heidt making the team. They will surely wonder if a 19-year-old, 5-foot-11 player is ready to handle the grind and defensive responsibilities that come with the gig of an NHL center. Joel Eriksson Ek and Rossi seem to have the inside track when it comes to center spots, with Khusnutdinov and potentially Yurov being in that mix.

    Unless the Wild don't want to risk Heidt stagnating because he is too good for the WHL, the smart money is that he won't exceed the nine NHL games he could play without burning an Entry-Level Contract year.

    6. Carson Lambos, Defense, No. 26 overall in 2021

    If we're sorting these players into tiers, Öhgren and Wallstedt seem to be in Tier 1, with Khusnutdinov, Yurov, and Heidt occupying Tier 2. We're now in Tier 3, which might solely include Lambos. His rough rookie season in the AHL (13 points in 66 games) probably means he'll be in Iowa for next season. However, Lambos has the most upside among all potential rookies who would be considered for Tier 3.

    Remember, Minnesota gave the smooth-skating defenseman a long look in training camp two years ago, so they clearly like his skill set. Pending free agent Alex Goligoski isn't expected to return, and Daemon Hunt didn't impress in his limited time in the NHL -- a big summer from the 6-foot-1, 196 lbs. Lambos could turn heads and leap to the top of the list for injury call-ups. If he can get in with Faber or Jared Spurgeon somehow, Lambos has a shot at looking very good next season.

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    For some reason, my gut tells me Yurov's intentions are to come over. I'm thinking he's the kind of player that will put up the numbers necessary for the Calder. 

    One thing I really liked about Ogie and Dino (our new pets) are the symmetry they showed together on a line. I think you could put Hartman or Foligno on the other wing and it would be a productive line. Or, you could go with an all rookie line!

    Lambos, I believe regardless of how much he bulks up is a year away. I didn't think that Hunt had a bad look while he was here. He got ole'd a couple of times, but overall, I liked his game and felt like they just should have retired Goligoski (whose I don't care attitude was evident) and put in Hunt. Chisholm is ahead of Hunt, specifically offensively, but Hunt can play and is more of a shutdown type of defender.

    With Fleury's signing, I believe that puts The Wall up for the '25-26 Calder top tier. I'm not even considering Heidt here, he's dynamic, but needs to bulk up for the NHL.

    I'm not like the others in being disappointed with our D prospects in Iowa. The only disappointment in their development I have is the lack of emphasizing their need to strengthen. Perhaps Heinzy can get this point across in training camp for those who refused this summer? Perhaps Heinzy can get his point across in a team meeting with the prospects included at the end of they year as to what he expects, and follow it up with personal strength/weight goals for each player? Perhaps Guerin can confirm the goals then? Maybe even everyone goes to Ogie's house to train?

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    59 minutes ago, mnfaninnc said:

    The only disappointment in their development I have is the lack of emphasizing their need to strengthen.

    Rossi is seemingly the only one to take Guerin and Evason's advice, sacrificed a lot, has had his hard work pay dividends and said he was looking forward to doing it again this offseason to grow his game even more, yet he's the one you want to get rid of. What a season for the rookie, played all 82 games goes to the corners, gets in the middle, pushes back, plays where he's asked to play, doesn't complain.

    This is the guy you want to keep because he wants it and he's shown it. It's hard to get through to a lot of the younger generation. Beckman, Walker, Lambos, O'Rourke and even Boldy seem to have better things to do. Getting rid of Rossi would be a yuge mistake, but I guess I can easily see BG doing just that.

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    1 hour ago, mnfaninnc said:

    Or, you could go with an all rookie line

    I’m hoping for “The Kids Rock” line. I like the idea of younger players developing chemistry moving forward. Give them time to sort things out and find roles that work. I’m in the camp that believes HCJH is talented enough to put players in positions to succeed. I hope GMBG’s focus is on getting the best players and letting John do his thing.

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    6 hours ago, Willy the poor boy said:

    Rossi is seemingly the only one to take Guerin and Evason's advice, sacrificed a lot, has had his hard work pay dividends and said he was looking forward to doing it again this offseason to grow his game even more, yet he's the one you want to get rid of.

    I think you've misunderstood my position on trading Rossi. I am willing to trade him if it makes the team better, but I'm not interested in trading him to trade him. IMO, Jiricek would be one of those players. 

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    35 minutes ago, mnfaninnc said:

    I think you've misunderstood my position on trading Rossi. I am willing to trade him if it makes the team better, but I'm not interested in trading him to trade him. IMO, Jiricek would be one of those players. 

    No I haven't misunderstood. My point is 90-95% of your posts are mentioning how someone needs to bulk up. To date I don't believe anyone has with the exception of Rossi. It's just ironic he's the guy that you want to trade.

    I just don't know who you're going to get back that's as sure of a thing as Rossi in any trade. Jiricek sure ain't it in my opinion. He may or may not work out. If it's about needing a change of scenery trade Lambos or Beckman because you can say the same thing about them. Rossi doesn't need a change of scenery. He's damn near a guarantee to succeed as you're going to get. He's done what's asked of him and is going to do it all over again this summer to improve even more. 

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    13 hours ago, Willy the poor boy said:

    Jiricek sure ain't it in my opinion.

    This is where our opinions differ. It's not on Rossi, I'd prefer to keep him. I would definitely target Jiricek as a pickup, but compensation does not need to be Rossi. If they are dealing with a disgruntled player, perhaps someone else would work?

    And, you're right about Rossi, he is the only one that has heard this message and acted on it. I guess what I'm considering is this: #1 RHS pair > #2C. I do see Jiricek like that, that guy who can dominate offensively from the blue line. 

    I'm not worried about Rossi being a short center for not being a #1, to me, Ek is a #1, and Rossi might get there in 3-4 years. But, right now he's a low level #2. Of course, Jiricek isn't a #1 pair either yet. I liked what I saw in the WJCs, and also thought that Spacek was pretty close to him in performance. Jiricek's just got that uncoachable size I'd want in a 1st pair defender. 

    Now, what if we had both? I'd be extremely satisfied.

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    Also, Willy, in my trade of this, I was suggesting we swap 1st rounders with CBJ pending the draft lottery. If we were drafting 4th in CBJ's spot, I would be targeting Cayden Lindstrom, the center from Medicine Hat. 

    Lindstrom got hurt (hand surgery) after 32 games, so there hasn't been much updating with him lately. I would think Lindstrom for Rossi would be at least a draw, and could help us more. 

    What would be in it for CBJ? The get rid of a disgruntled player and get a center who is 3 years more developed than Lindstrom. Could Lindstrom make the jump next season? I think there's a possibility, but given the way Guerin likes to marinate his players, probably unlikely. But, it would be NHL or jrs. not AHL. 

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