The Minnesota Wild entered the draft with needs at every position on the depth chart. With picks in each of the seven rounds, general manager Paul Fenton could take the best player available approach and attempt to find value in each round. By acquiring another pick in the second round, he increased the chances that at least three of them will eventually contribute to the Wild in the future. When the dust settled, Fenton ended up checking all the boxes, with five forwards, two goaltenders, and a defenseman.
Matthew Boldy, LW – Round 1, Pick 12
After some surprises at the top of the draft, the Wild had a choice to make. Would they choose forward Matthew Boldy or goaltender Spencer Knight? After the trades of Markus Granlund and Charlie Coyle, they were in need of an injection of skill into the pipeline. They also needed an heir apparent to starter Devan Dubnyk. In the end, the potential of Boldy was too difficult to ignore.
Projected to go in the top 10 by many experts including THW’s own Josh Bell, Boldy dropped into the lap of the Wild. Boasting enviable skills of skating, vision, and hands, he will most certainly be a top-line fixture in the National Hockey League. He will at least be a Swiss army knife, capable of adapting to any situation presented to him. This unique attribute is probably why Fenton drafted him.
“Matthew is a power forward with scoring ability along with good hockey sense and playmaking skills, He is heavy on pucks down low and has played center in the past.”Wild GM Paul Fenton
Despite not playing on the top line with Jack Hughes, Boldy put up impressive numbers for the US National Under-18 Team, posting 81 points (33 goals, 48 assists) in 64 games. He also had an impressive showing at the 2019 Under-18 World Junior Championship where he had 12 points (three goals, nine assists) in seven games.
Committed to Boston College for the 2019-20 season, Boldy will continue to hone his skills against tougher competition, and be ready to step into the Wild lineup almost immediately after college.
Vladislav Firstov, LW – Round 2, Pick 42
For the first pick in the second round, the Wild went with more offense in the slippery Vladislav Firstov. His name may be Russian but his play screams North America. He displays a tireless work ethic and is a solid player in all three zones. He also has an NHL-ready shot which is very accurate.
The two things Firstov has to work on are his size and speed. According to scouts, he doesn’t have breakaway speed and he still has to grow into his frame. At 178 pounds, he gets overpowered on the boards too often, and with the way he plays, he needs to be able to win battles in the trenches.
Firstov spent this past season playing for the Waterloo Blackhawks of the United States Hockey League. He posted 58 points (26 goals, 32 assists) in 62 games. He is committed to the University of Connecticut for the 2019-20 season. Wild fans will have to wait to see his skills displayed, as he will probably play at least three years there before transitioning to the American Hockey League.
Hunter Jones, G – Round 2, Pick 59
With the second-round pick acquired from the Hurricanes, Fenton addressed another positional need in drafting 6-foot-4 goaltender Hunter Jones. He was the third goaltender taken in the second round and fourth overall in the first two rounds. Possessing the size and athleticism required of the position, Jones was not expecting to be picked by the Wild in the second round despite interviewing with them earlier in the week.
Jones had a successful 2018-19 season with the Peterborough Petes of the Ontario Hockey League posting a 3.30 goals-against-average (GAA) and a .902 save percentage (SV%). In the playoffs, he and his team did not fair well dropping their first-round series 4-1 to the Oshawa Generals. Jones finished the playoffs with a 4.66 GAA and .862 SV%. He will most likely need another season in the OHL before jumping to the American Hockey League and finally to the Wild. He has the makings of a starter in the NHL, but like with all goaltenders, development is key. If done properly, the Wild may have the heir apparent to Dubnyk.
Adam Beckman, LW – Round 3, Pick 75
For their fourth selection, the Wild dipped into the Western Hockey League and grabbed another left winger in Adam Beckman. Coming virtually out of nowhere, Beckman opened the eyes of scouts this past year playing for the Spokane Chiefs. He always had the skill, but never the size to compete at the highest level. That all changed when he started growing into his 6-foot-1 frame. His size finally caught up with his skill. The result was a sensational 2018-19 rookie season where he put up 62 points (32 goals, 30 assists) in 68 games. Only Braydon Tracey had more points than him with 81. And Tracey ended up being a first-round pick of the Anaheim Ducks.
According to THW’s own Ryan Pike, Beckman has strong instincts in the offensive zone and is a strong finisher around the net. He will need to continue to grow into his frame to withstand the rigors of NHL hockey as well as develop his defensive game. The positive thing for the Wild is that he has the offensive instincts, which is something you cannot teach.
Matvey Guskov, C – Round 5, Pick 149
After sitting out the fourth round, the Wild decided to finally add depth to the center position with the selection of Russian Matvey Guskov. The pick was just the second time in the last ten years that Fenton has chosen a Russian in the draft. Guskov played last season for the NHL factory London Knights of the OHL. He had a decent season posting 30 points (12 goals, 18 assists) in 59 games.
Like Firstov, he does not play a typical Russian game. Guskov is a strong forechecker who loves the physical side of the game. He also has good acceleration, which allows him to enter the zone with speed and pressure the defense. Unfortunately for the Wild, he does not possess the same offensive skills as Firstov. The primary difference is, he does not have an NHL-ready shot, as most of his goals come from rebounds and tips around the net. He also has questionable hockey IQ in the offensive zone. In order to make it to the highest level, Guskov will have to grow into his frame (6-foot-1, 171 pounds) and work on his overall skills. If he can do that, he will probably make it in the NHL as a strong fourth-line center capable of occasionally providing offense.
Marshall Warren, D – Round 6, Pick 166
It took until the sixth round, but the Wild finally selected a defenseman in Marshall Warren. Potentially a sleeper pick, Warren is an undersized defenseman (5-foot-11, 168 pounds) with excellent speed and acceleration. He also is quick to transition the puck and has good playmaking skills. Projected to go in the mid-second to the fourth round by THW’s own Greg Boysen, the Wild may have got a steal in the sixth round. He most likely fell because of his size, not his overall skill set, as he is a very good two-way defenseman with great offensive instincts.
Last season, he played for the US Under-18 Team posting 13 points (4 goals, 9 assists) in 26 games. He also played for Team USA at the 2019 Under-18 World Junior Championship where he posted three assists. Committed to Boston College next season, he will continue to develop and hopefully join the likes of Torey Krug and Troy Stecher as undersized defensemen to come out of the college ranks and into the NHL.
Nikita Nesterenko, C – Round 6, Pick 172
The Wild added another centerman to the pipeline in the form of American Nikita Nesterenko. Committed to Brown University 2020-21, he will be joining the Chilliwack Chiefs of the British Columbia Hockey League (BCHL) next season. Chiefs associate coach/assistant general manager Brad Rihela described him as a “Dynamic forward with great speed and good size who creates offense.” Wild fans will have to be patient with Nesterenko as he likely will play a season in the BCHL, then three or four years at Brown University before potentially joining the Wild roster. By that time, he should be well developed and poised to make an impact either at the AHL or NHL level.
Filip Lindberg, G – Round 7, Pick 197
Fenton decided to once again add depth to the goaltending position with the selection of Filip Lindberg from the University of Massachusetts of the Hockey East Conference. Nearly going undrafted for the second year in a row, he played 17 games in 2018-19, posting a 1.66 GAA and a .934 SV%. He also won gold at the 2019 Under-20 World Junior Championship where he was a backup. Lindberg will play a couple more years in college before turning pro in the AHL or more likely the ECHL.
Fenton Checks The Boxes
The Wild came into the 2019 Draft needing depth at all positions. Kirill Kaprizov and Jordan Greenway are ready to make an impact on the Wild roster. When you look past them, there is not much scoring to be found.
So Fenton needed to add offense to the pipeline. He did that with the selection of creative forwards Boldy, Firstov and Beckman. He also needed to find a potential heir to Dubnyk, he did that with the selection of Jones. He also added a dynamic defenseman in Warren. Granted, he did not add elite depth down the middle, but Boldy will probably end up playing there in the future because of his versatility.
Ultimately, Fenton left this draft with all the boxes checked. Now the focus shifts to the current roster, which needs an injection of offense that will not come from this draft class anytime soon.