The future is bright for the Minnesota Wild, who are over the past two seasons under the leadership of new GM Bill Guerin has found a way to revamp the prospect pool of the Wild, on top of making the playoff two seasons in a row. Granted that one was purely the play-in round in the Edmonton bubble, and they still chase a playoff series win for the first time in six years.
While Kirill Kaprizov has yet to sign a contract, it seems to be likely and with a deep prospect pool, there is a chance for the Wild to have a legit cup window within the next two to three years. But how good is the prospect pool of the Minnesota Wild? By the use of a prospect pyramid, let’s look into it.
What Is A Prospect Pyramid?
But before we start, let’s quickly go over what a prospect pyramid is. In short, a prospect pyramid is a way to rank an NHL teams’ prospect without the hassle of figuring out who is the ninth-best or tenth-best prospect of the select team. Instead, each player is put into a tier, corresponding to the skill level they are the most likely to reach. If a player is likely or shows signs that he can become a star in the league and one of the top five players in his position in the league, he would go into tier one.
Most teams won’t have a player in tier one as it’s reserved for the elite players in the entire league and not just from the team in question. Tier two is for the great players and so on. It’s also far from a death sentence to be in the lower tiers of the pyramid since a lot of players has made the NHL from tier four or five, so even if a player is in this level, it’s not the end of their time and they are far from certain to fail. The idea of the prospect pyramid was made by Steve Dangle, who has made a bunch on his YouTube channel over the years, and I recommend watching the one below, for a much better explanation of the concept and origin of the idea or read my article on the 2019 prospect pyramid for the Minnesota Wild.
What Is A Prospect?
A very short rundown of what I classify as a prospect since that is a term that can be very subjective in terms of when a player is a prospect and when a player isn’t. For me, there are two criteria’s that a player needs to fulfill in order to be a prospect. The first is that they shouldn’t be older than 24. If a player is 25 without making the NHL fully, the label prospect might not fit that well. They can make the NHL but more so as a late bloomer. For me, that’s not easy to calculate into which prospect a team has in their system so players older aren’t considered prospects anymore in my eyes. This includes Kyle Rau, who could become more of a mainstay for the Wild next season.
The second factor is the games played in the NHL in order to be classified as an NHL player rather than a prospect. For me, it’s either 100 total games in the NHL or more than 45 games in a single season. At that point, they graduated and should be regulars on the team or close to it and are considered graduates. For the Wild, this means that Kaprizov for instance won’t be in this prospect pyramid. With all this taken care of let’s jump into this year’s prospect pyramid for the Minnesota Wild.
Marco Rossi is one of the best prospects in the NHL, who has all the potential to become a superstar in the NHL. Despite his size, he is a strong center who has a vision for the play that rival most other players on top of an NHL-caliber shot. He is special and he seems destined to be the center for Kevin Fiala and Kaprizov in the future for the Minnesota Wild. He could easily have made the roster last season but due to a very severe case of Covid-19 which sidelined him for the entire last season, a few worries about his development have been raised. However, he has been back on the ice since April, and during the recent Olympic qualifying round he was back in action and looked stronger than ever. While he didn’t dominate, he showed a good amount of his talent and it’s a possibility we will see him play in the NHL this upcoming season.
Jesper Wallstedt, Matthew Boldy, Calen Addison
Having a player in tier one is a great sign for the prospect pyramid. Most teams haven’t got that and even less so have three other guys in the tier below. Especially when all three play in different positions. Jesper Wallstedt was the most reason top pick from the Wild and has the potential to become one of the best goalies of the next generation with Yaroslav Askarov and Spencer Knight. He has been dubbed the best goaltending prospect from Sweden since Henrik Lundqvist and with Luleå, he was one of the best backups in the SHL last year. Now he is looking to become the starter at just 18 years of age, and with his calm style and superb positioning he is a complete goalie in a lot of ways and a potential steal at 20th overall, who I was contemplating and easily could have put into tier one.
The next player is Matthew Boldy, who really found his grove in the NCAA and later AHL last season. He was a star and with great size, work rate, high skill, and a two-way game he dominated wherever he went last year. While he lacks a bit of speed, he more than makes up with his talent and ability in almost every other facet of the game. He made his name known at the juniors where he was a massive part of Team USA’s success and he hasn’t stopped since. He is probably the prospect with the best chance of making the Wild full time this season.
The last part of the second tier is Calen Addison. A great part of the Jason Zucker trade, he has quickly made his name know in Minnesota and Iowa, as a talent to look out for. He is an incredible offensive defenseman, who after dominating in the WHL, came to the AHL and did pretty much the same there. With 22 points in 33 games as a defenseman, it’s no wonder the Wild had him called up for three regular seasons games and eventually three playoff games last year. This year he has an opening with Ryan Suter and Carson Soucy leaving, but he will need to earn his spot on the third pair.
Marat Khusnutdinov, Adam Beckman, Alexander Khovanov, Carson Lambos, Ryan O’Rourke
Tier three and the strength of the Wild’s prospect pool still shows its quality with a few players who have a ton of skill and high ceilings in terms of their potential, but there are still a few unanswered questions remaining before they can go into the higher tiers. One of these is Marat Khusnutdinov, who has started this season in the KHL on fire for SKA St. Petersburg. With three points in two games and overall phenomenal play, both at the start of the KHL season and pre-season the young Russian speedster has gained the attention of most over the past few weeks. He was having a decent season last year before a shoulder injury sidelined him for a few months. With lightning speed and skill with the puck, he has the ability to blitz past defenders and on top of that, he plays a great two-way game.
The other two forwards in tier three are Adam Beckman and Alexander Khovanov. Both are top six potential NHLers, who still have yet to prove it on the professional level. In the juniors, they both crushed it. Beckman posted 107 points in the WHL two seasons ago and has a lethal shot, but never really got going in Iowa during the start of the season. He did find his mojo after going back to the WHL tho at the end of the season. This is the same for Khovanov, who went to Russia and the KHL, but never quite got established in the lineup, so he played most of the season in the VHL where he was producing at a decent level. Both need to step it up this season and if they do, they can become players to watch in the coming years for the Wild.
Tier three also includes the two defenders Carson Lambos and Ryan O’Rourke, who both had challenging seasons due to Covid but also have the ability to become a pair of good defenders for the Wild. Especially Lambos had a rough season where he went to Finland due to the pandemic but never really found his footing in Liiga but found good success in the under 20 system of JYP. Both have to show what they can do in a full season, where they both are looking to impress.
Jack Peart, Connor Dewar, Damien Giroux, Daemon Hunt, Filip Johansson, Marshall Warren, Jack McBain, Pavel Novak Vladislav Firstov, Nick Swaney
Before I start going over the players in tier four, I must stretch that this by no means makes a player a bust or bad player. This is filled with players who have a legit shot at making the league and have shown a lot of promise but need to step it up a notch in the coming season or seasons to make it further than a handful of games. For instance, Connor Dewar, who dominated the WHL two years ago and has been okay in the AHL and could be a player similar to Nico Sturm who makes the team as a later bloomer. However, he needs to continue his hard work and take his chances when given.
Another interesting name is Jack Peart who is a Minnesota-born and raised player who will be getting his chance in the NCAA in Minnesota. He needs to show he can perform at this level this season. The same goes for the former first-round pick Filip Johansson, who many saw as a bust a few seasons ago, but he has found some footing and will be playing in the SHL for Frolunda, with hopefully more minutes. He needs to continue to grow and get better each year if he wants a chance to play in the NHL.
The rest are players who have time to showcase their skill set for the most part, but where we are yet to see them either live up to the hype, or where they are going to a higher level of play in the next few years which will be a sink or swim moment for them.
Mason Shaw, Caeden Bankier, Hunter Jones, Ivan Lodnia, Mitchell Chaffee, Kyle Masters, Sam Hentges, Nikita Nesterenko, Brandon Duhaime, Josh Pillar, Matvei Guskov, Déreck Baribeau
I’m not going to spend a ton of time with the fifth tier. These are the players who have one last chance to prove themselves or whose ceiling probably at best is a fourth or bottom six forward. Two of the players that have one last chance to prove themselves in the AHL are Mason Shaw and Hunter Jones. Both showed a ton of potential in the juniors but neither really has been able to transfer it to the AHL. In Shaw’s case, his momentum was ruined by injuries and he never quite looked the same after that. For Jones, it’s paramount that he steps up in a big way this season after the Wild drafted Wallstedt and since they already have Kaapo Kahkonen.
Another part of the tier five are the players who might have a legit shot at the NHL, even this upcoming season, but won’t be playing top-line minutes or even close to it. Such a player is Brandon Duhaime who might actually be in contention for the Wild roster this season, after strong seasons in the AHL, but he would be limited to a depth forward or bottom six player at best.
So… with that all done. Here is the 2020-2021 prospect pyramid for the Minnesota Wild
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