The Minnesota Wild enter this year’s draft with two first-round selections (No. 21 & 25) and five picks in the first three rounds. Even in an unprecedented draft where drafting and scouting were more difficult, holding two picks in the first round is a luxury. The top of the draft is slightly softer than average, but drafting is never completely certain, so a player – even in the second half of the first round – could always be better than projected. This draft marks the second time in franchise history where the Wild have two picks in the first round.
They could opt to trade up or even trade one of the picks in a package for a top-six center, but it seems unlikely. Bill Guerin appears to be content in keeping both picks and allowing Judd Brackett, the Director of Amateur of Scouting, to do his magic.
Examining the prospect pipeline is essential in identifying the biggest organizational needs to decide the draft approach. Here are the top prospects in the system with a legitimate chance to have a real role at the NHL level.
|Marco Rossi||C||Top Line|
|Calen Addison||RD||Second Pair|
|Ryan O’ Rourke||LD||Second Pair|
|Marat Khusnutdinov||C||Middle Six|
|Adam Beckmann||LW||Middle Six|
The two glaring areas of need are at right-wing and goaltending because Kahkonen may not develop into a legitimate starter in the future. The Wild were able to bolster their center depth in the system at last year’s draft by picking up Khovanov and Khusnutdinov, who both have middle-six potential. They should avoid taking a left-winger in the first round because they have two in the system (Boldy and Beckman) and graduate Kirill Kaprizov.
Four different rankings will be presented, including The Athletic (Wheeler), Elite Prospects, Dobber Prospects, and The Hockey Writers (Forbes). Here are the key targets the Wild should have on their radar for both their first-round picks:
Matthew Coronato, LW/RW (USHL)
The Athletic (#17), Elite Prospects (#32), Dobber Prospects (#22) & The Hockey Writers (#18)
Most mock drafts have Coronato getting picked before the Wild select at No. 21, so this is probably unlikely. If he falls, this is must grab because of everything he brings to the table. He’s versatile and can play on either wing, which is a huge asset. The 18-year-old is a strong forechecker and has a strong sense of awareness, which helps him get in the right places.
Coronato had 57 goals and 98 points in 59 games with the Chicago Steel of the United States Hockey League (USHL) this past season. Those totals include his strong playoff performance too. His strong play and impressive numbers helped him win the USHL Forward of the Year award. He has all the tools to be an effective top-six winger in the future. There is no doubt that his skill set would be a strong addition to the Wild’s prospect pool.
According to JFreshHockey, Coronato has a 45% chance of becoming a star and an 84% chance of becoming an NHL regular – the fourth and sixth-highest odds among draft-eligible prospects, according to TopDownHockey’s NHLe model. Those are strong chances for a player likely to be taken in the second half of the first round and definitely something to watch out for in the draft.
“He’s got a really good shot, good release, he can shoot the puck a bunch of different ways, and he can one-time a puck… He’s also a good skater with great explosiveness and edge work, and he’s really hard on the puck. If he gets into traffic with possession, he comes out with it. He’s just a really smart player. When we first got him, he was a guy who would beat players one-on-one and he would beat guys down the ice, but he has shown he has the ability to add pieces to his game. He’s more of a playmaker now and has learned to use his teammates more and play at different paces.” – Brock Sheahan, Head Coach of the Chicago Steel
Aatu Raty, C (Liiga)
The Athletic (#16), Elite Prospects (#20), Dobber Prospects (#19) & The Hockey Writers (#19)
After being the early front-runner to be the first overall pick in this year’s draft, he has fallen to the middle of the pack in the first round. Raty’s focal point is his strong skating ability. His powerful wrist shot and quick hands are a few of the elements in his arsenal.
He registered just six points in 35 games last season, a significant fall in production. His slow development raises some concerns too. Sure, his game has fallen a bit, but he’s still got a strong enough skill set to be taken in the second half of the first round. It’s not a guarantee, but he could potentially be available for the Wild. He has the potential to be a middle-six center in the future.
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“When he’s engaged and active, he can be an effective forechecker who wins back possession and then makes plays off of the wall to the interior. When he’s playing with confidence with the puck, he’s also got the tools needed to create high-danger attempts for himself” – Scott Wheeler, The Athletic (Wheeler: NHL Draft’s top 100 prospects – Michigan players top the 2021 ranking)
Logan Stankoven, C/W (WHL)
The Athletic (#18), Elite Prospects (#26), Dobber Prospects (#23) & The Hockey Writers (#29)
As time has gone by, size has become less of an issue. Stankoven’s smaller frame isn’t a problem and shouldn’t scare teams from picking him in the middle or latter half of the first round. He’s a goal scorer with a dangerous release, a key attribute for the scrappy winger. He’s able to make big plays and exploit defenders with his tools and being a net-front presence.
Over the past two seasons, Stankoven has scored 36 goals and 58 points in 65 games in the Western Hockey League (WHL) with the Kamloops Blazers. This doesn’t include his strong performance in the World Juniors when he notched eight points in seven games. He is poised to become a top-six winger and has some legitimate offensive upside.
“Don’t get it twisted – Stankoven may be small in stature, but he certainly does not play like it. In Kamloops, he is a dominant play driver with an insane amount of offensive skill to pair with his blazing speed. He possesses an NHL caliber shot but is patient in the offensive zone where he looks for the best possible chance for his team. His work ethic is matched by few, as he is consistently the first forward back in the defensive zone to break up plays” – Jacob Barker, Dobber Prospects
Sebastian Cossa, G (WHL)
The Athletic (#19), Elite Prospects (#22), Dobber Prospects (#24) & The Hockey Writers (#30)
It is often said that goalies should be avoided in the first round, which is smart given that goalies are fluke for the most part. With that said, Cossa has put up impressive numbers and is cementing a strong track record. Both strong positioning and size are on his side.
While playing on a strong team – in a weak division – Cossa put up good numbers. He had a .941 save percentage (SV%) in the 2020-21 season and has a .928 (SV%) over the past two seasons while allowing two goals or less on average. After dominating the WHL in the past two seasons, he’s considered a lock to be a starter in the future.
“I love his selective aggressiveness with his positioning, and how he takes away angles with his size as well as how well he uses his stick to break up a lot of plays. In a sentence, Cossa projects as a quality NHL starting goaltender with the potential to become an upper-echelon goalie” – Corey Pronman, The Athletic
Xavier Bourgault, C (QMJHL)
The Athletic (#21), Elite Prospects (#37), Dobber Prospects (#15) & The Hockey Writers (#15)
If the Wild choose to bolster their center depth in the first round, Bourgault should be near the top of the list. His versatility (able to play at wing, too) and the fact he is one of the older eligible players in the draft make him a very intriguing option. The playmaking center has efficient offensive instincts and has developed a reliable defensive game, which allows him to be a very effective center.
Bourgault has strong numbers, which help his case. Over the past two seasons with the Shawinigan Cataractes of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL), he has recorded 53 goals and 111 points in 92 games. There is no doubt that he would make a great addition to the prospect pool.
“Bourgault is a player who you can rely on to help generate scoring chances and make a difference on the scoresheet, even if he isn’t having his best night. He may not be a difference-making first-line winger, but he should be able to play a top-six role with some very active and attack-focused offensive game that relies on driving the center lane and working off his teammates” – Tony Ferrari, Dobber Prospects
Francesco Pinelli, C (OHL/Alps HL)
The Athletic (#24), Elite Prospects (#16), Dobber Prospects (#26) & The Hockey Writers (#24)
Another center the Wild could target in the first round is Pinelli, who excelled in both the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) and Alps HL. He’s strong with the puck and has a creative offensive game. He is a good skater with good hockey sense too. He is also a serviceable player on the defensive side of things which is an added plus.
Pinelli scored 18 goals and 41 points in 59 games with the Kitchener Rangers of the OHL. He has the potential to be a top-six center if everything works out. It would definitely be a good addition to add the prospect depth at the center position.
“A jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none kind of player, Pinelli is a versatile center who succeeded no matter where he played, including a 13-game sample in Slovenia with Jesenice in the Alps Hockey League. Kitchener will continue to lean on Pinelli for his smart and effective 200-foot play and scoring abilities from close ranges” – Steve Kournianos, The Draft Analyst
Isak Rosen, LW/RW (J20/SHL)
The Athletic (#25), Elite Prospects (#24), Dobber Prospects (#16) & The Hockey Writers (#31)
If the Wild want a winger in the first round, Rosen is your guy. He’s a talented possession player – an asset the Wild have lacked in past years. His dangerous shot and smooth skating make him an intriguing player in the draft, especially if they want a winger.
Rosen had 31 points in 35 points in the J20 SuperElit in 2019-20. His point totals in this past season aren’t great, but he was able to record seven goals and nine points in the World Juniors. He has a lot of skill, but there are some concerns about whether it can translate to the NHL level, so there will need to be some patience with the winger.
“Rosen is very creative with his one-on-one play, showing the ability to beat defenders clean with consistency. Rosen has impressive speed and is able to make a lot of his skilled plays through defenders and to teammates while on the move. His game has a lot of pace to it, which should translate to higher levels” – Corey Pronman, The Athletic
Matthew Samoskevich, C/RW (USHL)
The Athletic (#27), Elite Prospects (#19), Dobber Prospects (#39) & The Hockey Writers (#36)
Samoskevich is an intriguing option for the Wild because he can play at center or right-wing – both positions are an area of need in the prospect pipeline. He is a very gifted winger who is strong with the puck and can make big plays offensively as a playmaker or shooter.
He has excelled in the past two seasons with the Chicago Steel of the USHL. He registered 34 points in 47 games in 2019-20 and 37 points in 36 games in 2020-21. Various data projects have him having strong offensive underlying numbers with some shortcomings defensively. He should become a very strong supporting piece for a team that needs a skilled winger – like the Wild.
“His ability with the puck and the speed with which he’s able to execute both rank among the very best in the draft” – Scott Wheeler, The Athletic
Nikita Chibrikov, C/W (MHL/VHL/KHL)
The Athletic (#28), Elite Prospects (#39), Dobber Prospects (#17) & The Hockey Writers (#20)
Finally, the last player on the list for draft targets is Chibrikov. Like many, he can play both center and wing. He is an offensive-minded forward with a strong skillset. Despite his small stature, he doesn’t shy away from utilizing his body, especially with his forechecking style. He can take control of games with his offensive ability.
There’s no doubt that a strong showing at the World Juniors elevated his stock going into the draft. He tallied 4 goals and 13 points in just 7 games and had an impressive performance. Before that, he had 19 points in 47 games in the three Russian leagues (MHL/VHL/KHL).
“Chibrikov is a smooth-skating, offense-first winger with the ability to control games with the puck on his stick. Chibrikov can obliterate defenses with not just his skating speed but his lightning quick turns and pure agility. Despite his smaller frame, he engages physically with opposing skaters and holds his own. Chibrikov is an aggressive forechecker, but leaves some to be desired in the defensive zone, most notably with his positioning.” – Dylan Griffing, Dobber Prospects
Honorable Mentions: Zachary Bolduc, Simon Robertsson & Samu Salminen
The Wild have many strong options in the draft to bolster their already arguably top-10 prospect pool. They should avoid trading up and simply just utilize both picks to help continue building for the future. It’s a great chance for the brass to add two strong prospects after adding a second first-round pick in the Jason Zucker trade.
Aaron Heckmann covers the Wild for The Hockey Writers & Zone Coverage. His data-driven articles are focused on solving problems, telling stories, and discovering unique storylines. Find him on Twitter @aaron_heckmann.