Here at 10K Rinks, we cannot stop talking about the Minnesota Wild’s elite prospect pool. Despite missing the postseason only once over the last ten seasons, Minnesota has quietly assembled one of the best prospect pipelines in the NHL.
In February, The Athletic's Scott Wheeler ranked the Wild’s prospect pool third in the NHL. That was before the Wild added Liam Öhgren, Danila Yurov, and Brock Faber earlier this summer. In his post-draft prospect pool rankings, Hockey Prospecting’s Byron Bader ranked Minnesota's prospect pool as the best in the NHL.
We saw this top-ranked pool at last month’s development camp, but that was only for two practices and a scrimmage with no full-ice game action. Fortunately for Wild fans, nearly a dozen Wild prospects are headed for the postponed 2022 World Junior Championships, and they will drop the puck next week in Edmonton.
Let’s look at the Wild prospects competing in the upcoming World Junior Championships.
Canada (Ryan O’Rourke, Daemon Hunt, Carson Lambos)
The Wild are well-represented on Team Canada's blueline. Carson Lambos, who we discussed briefly last week, is expected to play an integral role for the Canadians. He’ll likely play some sort of Top-4 role alongside Olen Zellweger or Lukas Cormier. Daemon Hunt and Ryan O'Rourke are in the mix for the final three spots. But don’t be surprised if one ends up primarily in the press box on an always-loaded Canada team.
Beginning next Wednesday, Canada will face Latvia, Slovakia, Czechia, and Finland in the group stage. They should comfortably advance to the knockout stage, where they’ll be one of the tournament favorites.
United States (Jack Peart, Brock Faber)
Faber headlines an incredibly talented United States team hoping to win its second consecutive World Junior Championship, and he already has plenty of international experience under his belt. In 2021, Faber was part of the Gold Medal-winning Team USA and was on the roster when the tournament was postponed last December. Faber also represented the U.S. at the 2022 Winter Olympics, adding to an already impressive international resume. It's a big part of the reason Team USA announced him as Captain. Faber brings experience, talent, and leadership to a United States team with their sights firmly set on gold.
St. Cloud State’s Jack Peart was a late addition to the U.S. roster last winter. The Americans have a stacked blueline, so consistent minutes could be quite difficult to come by for Peart. Nonetheless, it should be a valuable experience for the Minnesota native.
The United States will face Sweden, Germany, Austria, and Switzerland in the group stage.
Sweden (Jesper Wallstedt, Liam Öhgren)
We got a brief look at Jesper Wallstedt before last year's tournament got postponed. The Iowa Wild-bound goaltender wasted no time showcasing what makes him such a high-rated talent. There’s a good chance he’s the best goaltender in the tournament, and Wild fans will hope for a massive tournament from him.
Öhgren, the 19th overall pick in last month's NHL Draft, would have joined Wallstedt on the Tre Kronor roster. He was slated to replace William Eklund, who elected to skip the tournament to prepare for the San Jose Sharks season. Öhgren, an intelligent winger with loads of offensive upside, is now out with a non-COVID illness. Hopefully, he can recover in time to carve out a role for himself in Team Sweden's Top-9.
Sweden opens with Switzerland before facing off against the United States, Germany, and Austria.
Czechia (David Spacek)
Minnesota’s fifth-round pick in the 2022 Draft, Spacek, is a physical defenseman with a heavy shot from the blue line. He isn’t exceptional in any particular facet, but Spacek is a solid player in all three zones.
He may not have a clear path to the NHL like Faber, Lambos, and O’Rourke, but he’s only 19 with plenty of development still to come. Could the 2022 World Juniors be his breakout tournament?
Additionally, Pavel Novak would likely have joined Spacek on this Czechia roster if not for his ongoing battle with cancer.
Slovakia (Servac Petrovsky)
Petrovsky, the Wild’s final pick in the 2022 Draft, will join a Slovakian roster without Juraj Slafkovsky and Simon Nemec, whose NHL clubs have requested they not attend next week's tournament.
Petrovsky doesn’t quite have the ceiling that some of the other Wild prospects do, but he’s still a name to keep an eye on. Without Slafkovsky, he’ll have to carry his fair share of the offensive load for the Slovakians.
That’s NINE(!) prospects Minnesota will send to the World Junior Championships next week. Nine is impressive enough, even more so considering that Novak was unavailable, and Danila Yurov and Marat Khusnutdinov would also make the Russian team if they were allowed to compete.
Quite the contrast from even a few years ago, where the Wild would have five prospects max at the annual showcase of hockey’s future. And this year, the future of hockey is well-represented by the Minnesota Wild.
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