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  • Wilderness Walk: Conference Finals!

    Image courtesy of © Bruce Fedyck-USA TODAY Sports
    Thomas Williams

    Your daily dose of Wild news, along with other interesting stories from around the NHL.

    That's Wild

    • What happens to Ryan Hartman next year? Will he still have the top center spot on the Minnesota Wild or if the team gets that top center during the summer, or if Marco Rossi is handed that position, where does he end up? [Hockey Wilderness]
    • Dallas Stars to the Wild: 'I bet you think about me' [BMTS]

    Off the trail...

    • The Wild aren't playing, obviously, but the conference finals is starting on Thursday night between four very good hockey teams. The Carolina Hurricanes are facing the Florida Panthers -- a battle between the consistent and the underdogs. And then it is the Dallas Stars and the Vegas Golden Knights in what should be an interesting positional matchup.
    • The Conn Smythe is one of the weirder trophies awarded in hockey, given the player has to have some longevity and dominance through four rounds. So, let's check in on the trophy race. [ESPN]

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    Let's Go Canes!!!!

    I saw my first rumor of Calen Addison to the Detroit Red Wings. Got to say that I love that idea, especially if we can figure out a way to capture #17 in the draft!

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    Jack Peart-


    January 2023 – Peart is a local Minnesota native who is currently playing his sophomore season for St. Cloud State University. In his rookie season, he put up 17 points in 32 games, however this season (2022-23 season), Peart has nearly matched that total in only 18 games played. Peart is an offensive puck-moving defenseman who projects as a potential second-pairing defenseman at the NHL level. His playmaking and vision allow him to put up assists, however, the Wild are ideally looking for Peart to improve his shooting to get more offense with his goalscoring. Expect Peart to stay in the NCAA for now before seasoning in the AHL. Nathan Leblanc

    It's not a great scouting report, but gives a little summary of where Peart was in January. I'd have to say that Peart played well in the NCAA tournament games I watched him in. He does skate really well and makes good plays out of his zone. 

    Consistently, in his scouting report they mention needing to fill out. I don't know that he has completely done this yet, but I expect him to have a real good year at SCSU. He was neck and neck with Faber offensively this year.

    So, with adding strength, he also needs to work on his shot. According to Peart, he models his game after Duncan Keith. I think his offensive game models more after Ryan Suter, and his defensive game isn't as strong as Suter, but his positioning is like Suter's, his skating may be a little better. He has not shown to be very physical, I cannot speak of his ability to clear the front of the net, or keep guys from walking him. 

    All told, he is likely the last of the defenders to make it to Iowa in this wave. I think he'll look similar to Lambos, maybe a little smaller. So, that likely puts Peart about 3 seasons away from the N. He projects as a top 4 defender who has a strong 2-way game.

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    I tried to find some up to date information on Petrovsky, Yurov, and Ohgren, but was unable to find it. A lot of the prospect report stuff is with players in NA, but even with Petrovsky, it just wasn't there. 

    The encouraging thing about Ohgren was his season against men was greatly improved, but, he also went down a league. Yurov's was better too, but his lack of playing time was just bad. Coming down the stretch, he was averaging >5 minutes/game. Same thing happened in the playoffs.

    Of course, Ohgren moved up to the SHL, and Yurov signed on for another year in the K. I think they will both improve, but more importantly their bodies will be far stronger. '24 should be when they arrive, and I wouldn't be surprised if they are here on the big club. 

    Lambos may also be ready to partner with Faber at that point, and I'd have to believe that O'Rourke and Hunt will be as ready as they can be for '24. We might even see all of them after the TDL next season. 

    For 6 seasons of GoT, all we heard was "Winter is Coming." It finally did come. For 5 seasons we've heard the kids are coming, it's just about here. It seems like they'll be coming all at once like a flood, and, we've got expiring contracts set in place at just the right time.

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    Wow! To my chagrin, Jarvis and Tkachuk were two of the biggest players in the game. Both having big playoffs and BOTH passed over by Brackett in the draft. 

    If Brackett is a guru, then consider me Miles Davis.


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    Speaking of the draft priorities, it seems like there were some themes that came up as I read through the scouting reports of what we have.

    Mostly in the 1st and 2nd rounds, Brackett appears to put a premium on 2 skills: skating and hockey IQ. These 2 things came up constantly in the scouting reports. 1 interesting missing item was compete level. 

    So, things like size/speed splits, shot or stickhandling, aggression, and even position do not have as much meaning as skating and hockey IQ. Straight line speed is not skating, it's fluidity, edge work, and for defensemen seamless transition from skating forwards to backwards. He wants smart players too, not so much hard workers, but those who work smart. 

    I'm not saying the other skills aren't important in Brackett's eyes, but those 2 points seem to take a prospect to the top of the list. I suppose the obvious question is: What do other franchises value as the highest traits in their prospects? 

    In the Brackett drafts, I think he was given a Guerin mandate that they needed to build from the back out. The past 3 drafts have included a lot of defenders. Last season we went after forwards, as centers just didn't fall to us. I think this year there will be a focus on centers and we've got to hope that the chips fall correctly. 

    So, if you're reading up on the scouting reports of centers in this draft, pay attention to skating and hockey IQ ratings. If those are praised, that player is likely pretty high on Brackett's list.

    A 3rd trait that showed up, especially among forwards, was 200' game, with defenders it was 2-way defenders. This one also showed up often. 

    Personally, I'm hopeful that Brackett will take into consideration size. Some of his undersized guys compete just fine in jr. but have no shot in the N. You just can't have a team of waterbugs be successful in the N. 

    Scouting reports also said that the new defender isn't 6'6" anymore, it's these 5'11"/6' players who can move the puck. Those guys are generally 175 in jrs. I don't know how he projects the filling out stage, but we've got to have those guys right at 200 to be effective in their own end. After this, think 1"=5 lbs of strength. This is general, but a good guide to follow, and it's a range of +/- 5 lbs.

    Some don't think this is a big deal and there are plenty of success stories with smaller defensemen. I disagree with that. Most undersized defenders do not make it. Spurgeon is an exception to the rule. Dumba and Addison both struggle against larger forwards, especially Addison who gets tossed around like Raggity Ann. This is a major reason why our PK is unsuccessful. We've got to have people movers. 

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    I've reviewed what we do have as best as I could. I've still got the same perspective: We've got a lot of nice prospects, but our main hole is centers in the system. We've got a lot of guys who can play center, but many will get kicked out to wing eventually. The conclusion I've had over the past 3 postseason series losses is that we are lacking down the middle. Our goalies can keep up, but it's this middle part of the ice that = our downfall.

    So, the first prospect I am rooting for us taking is Oliver Moore. He checks one of Brackett's boxes: skating. He's fast and good on edges. Here is his scouting report from Dobber in April:


    April 2023 – We probably spent more time debating Moore vs. Will Smith than we spent on the entire second round in our latest scouts’ roundtable, and ended up opting for the alluring profile of the NTDP’s second-line center on a 4-3 vote. Moore is speed incarnate. Tremendous edgework, power and agility make him fly across the ice at a blinding pace. If that was his only asset, however, he would be much lower on our list; for a while, we saw a lot of moments that made us doubt whether Moore’s brain could keep up with his feet and intensity. But as the season went on, the center became much more adept at using changes of pace to both keep his head in the game and throw opponents off. While he does a lot of great things with the puck, Moore’s off-puck intensity combined with that high-end speed is what makes him so unique. He is constantly flooring the pedal, making sure that opposing defenders feel suffocated and have very little time to make a decision. There aren’t many prospects like Moore who don’t claw their way to the NHL, and with the defensive responsibility and finishing ability that he displays, a top-six role seems realistic. Hadi Kalakeche

    When it comes to prospects, this should be one of the most scouted prospects from our staff, mainly because he's in our own backyard. You can coach and train strength, speed you can't. He can work on skill and is headed to Motzko's program. Now we just have to figure out a way to get high enough to go get him. 

    Moore is projected as #13 on Sportsnet's rankings. Theoretically, that would mean that gaining AZ's 12th should land him. I would project him as a great center for Kaprizov, his speed will work well with Kaprizov's skills. He and Ek as centers do different things that each other don't have. 

    Let's address his "undersized" status that is reported on him. Dobber lists him now at 5'11" 188. He's put on at least 12 lbs. this past season. He needs to lift and I could see him adding another 12 lbs. easily in strength. 5'11" 200 lbs. isn't undersized, he is just short. He shouldn't get knocked off of pucks at that size, and should have some leverage advantages, especially on his edges. We're looking at a 2 to 3 year delivery window.

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    My 2nd candidate shows up on Sportsnet's board at #15, though others have him listed in the 20-30 range. Nate Danielson is 6'1" 185 right now. Here's his Dobber observations: 


    April 2023 – Danielson has continued to prove himself to be one of the surest bets in this draft, while also showing that there is still a lot of room for him to add tools to his game. Great in transition and incredibly reliable in his own zone, the centre has also displayed the occasional flash of brilliance in the offensive end, whether that’s a pinpoint cross-ice pass or a last-minute angle change on a wrist shot. They remain only flashes and are far from consistent elements of his game, but he’s exploring, and that’s important. The knock on Danielson is that he defaults to safe plays, and is very rarely one for risks. This might be exactly what a contender is looking for, but it will likely limit him from becoming a top-of-the-lineup player. Nonetheless, the value of such a surefire bet to make the NHL has its value in the late teens to mid-twenties. Hadi Kalakeche

    Who else does this sound like? Ek?

    In the Hockey Writers' profile, Danielson ticks all of Brackett's boxes, so I assume he'll be high on his list: Skating, hockey IQ, 200' game. 

    Now, we've got Boldy and Kaprizov as true offensive stars. We've got Ohgren, Yurov, Beckman as upcoming wings. Do we really need centers who are dynamic offensive skillmeisters, or do we need centers who can skate, decently distribute, and let the wings do the dynamic work? It seems to me that Danielson is a guy that would fit in with our projected roster better than most, and likely produce better.

    As for his offense, he played for Red Deer. Masters did too, until this year and his offensive breakout was amazing. Red Deer was not a real good team. Danielson is said to be more of a playmaker than a shooter, and he's also a RHS center. He didn't have shooters around him which tells me that his assist total was a bit underproductive due to lack of finish. 

    To me, figuring out how to get Moore + Danielson would go a long way in shoring up our deficiencies down the middle. We'd likely have to move up to get it done on the Danielson pick too. I also think Danielson is closer than Moore to delivery date, probably in the 1-2 year window.  He's a little older for this draft class, but still in 1st year eligibility. 

    So, what would we have to give up to move into AZ's 12 and maybe even Pittsburgh's 14? I'd say a couple picks here could solve a lot of problems!

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    Here's the last center I'm excited about: Calem Ritchie. He's a 6'2" 187 RHS center. He checks boxes on Brackett's list, he's intelligent and a 200' player. The thing I liked best about him was that wings will love playing with him. He's got adequate skating, not high end. His offensive stats were not great this season, but he also played through injury late in the year. 

    His compete level is very high, and we need players like that. Here's his Dobber Observations: 


    April 2023 – This hasn’t been the offensive breakout season many expected of Calum Ritchie this year as he finished the season with 59 points in 59 OHL games. Despite the underwhelming (by his standards) season from a production standpoint, Ritchie is still a big C prospect who skates quite well, with a lot of tools that grade out above average. He is an effective distributor of the puck who makes slick passes to hit his teammates in stride. He also boasts good speed to carry the puck up the ice and successfully enter the offensive zone. He’s tenacious on the forecheck and will challenge opponents with his combination of size, speed and compete level. Ritchie missed time with a shoulder injury late in the season but was able to play in the playoffs. He was not at 100% when returning to the lineup as he was not taking faceoffs and was avoiding contact. Still, Ritchie performed well against the 1st place Ottawa 67s in the first round of the playoffs putting up 6 points in 5 games, despite the injury. Ritchie is a player who has fallen down draft boards this season, however, he could very well ascend if he can regain his form in the U18 World Championships. Jordan Harris

    He should definitely be around when we pick at 21, I haven't seen anything putting him in the top 20. I think he offers a lot of value. I also read he is strong in the faceoff circle, I wonder when that might come in handy?

    They say he peaks out as a 2nd line center, but if wings love to play with him, it seems like on a structured team like ours, he could potentially be a top line candidate. In Oshawa, he didn't have great wings, so playing with some better wings would probably help his offensive numbers. 

    It also mentions his selflessness, but he has the skills to take it. This seems like a coachable trait where he can be instructed to take it. Early on, though, he probably won't. I'd say he is more in that 2-3 year delivery window as he seems to be a step below Moore and Danielson.

    What magic can Guerin do to put us in position to take advantage of this draft? Hopefully he can shed some cap while doing it!

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    During the regular season, the Tkachuk trade looked like a lose-lose for Calgary and Florida. Neither team could gain any traction, Calgary missing the playoffs in 9th place, and Florida scratching and clawing to an 8th place finish, mainly because Buffalo Buffaloed!

    But in these playoffs, Matthew Tkachuk looks like the Conn Smythe candidate for Florida. We don't have anyone close to what Tkachuk brings to the table. The Tkachuks are known for their hard contract negotiations but they leave all that effort on the ice. 

    In Matthew's draft, Brackett could have had him. I have no idea why he passed over him. This week, he and Guerin should be having this same conversation, why? 

    But, there is another Tkachuk in the league who is just as feisty. He's on a longterm deal in Ottawa. Ottawa is just about being bought by someone, we should know who it is pretty quick. Brady Tkachuk is their captain, and, quite honestly, Brady is frustrated with losing. His cap hit is a shade over $8.2m. We can't afford him now, nor next year, but if he were to become available, you'd have to go after him, and trim where you needed to trim. 

    Ottawa has some stars, or at least players paid like stars. Stutzle, Chabot, Norris, and Tkachuk all sit at around $8m. That's $32m for 4 players. Chycrun and Sanderson will need new deals before '25 swallowing up more cap. Could the Wild sneak in and trade for Brady at the '25 draft? At that time, Brady would be a week away from an NMC. Our heavy lifting is over, and while Tkachuk is a wing, he's exactly the type of player this roster needs! 

    There is another possibility, could the Wild do this in '24? Zuccarello and Foligno fall off the books after this season. Would a Jared Spurgeon be willing to go to Ottawa? Ottawa still needs a goalie too, and will likely have to pay for one. 

    What about '23? I'd say even more of a longshot, but Ottawa has traded away its top 3 picks in this draft. Only way I can see this getting done is if Spurgeon is willing to go there, or maybe Zuccarello? It would take a lot of capital to bring in Brady, but we probably would never regret it. 

    We know this, Kaprizov completely cares about winning. Brady is the same way and maybe even more so. Could you imagine what a Boldy-Ek-Tkachuk line would look like? Or maybe Boldy is one of the guys going the other way? Ek-Tkachuk on a line would not be one I'd like to play against. 

    Following this 1 step further, Boldy in Ottawa playing with Stutzle sounds like a pretty intriguing duo also. If the Sens can resign Debrincat, a Boldy-Stutzle-Debrincat line really sounds like it would click. I'd rather keep Boldy here, but if that's what it takes to land Brady, I think we would have to do it! 

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    Interesting ideas.I doubt they happen but who knows? Another place to look is maybe Arizona. It seems that Keller and Schmaltz are both looking to escape. They are wingers but every team could use more good ones.

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