After a one-year hiatus, the NCAA Frozen Four is back with all four regions set to start playing their first games by March 26-27. A number of schools with NHL-caliber players made the cut and are expected to carry their teams as they pursue a national championship. The Minnesota Wild have one notable prospect along with a few potential surprises set to make a big impact on their school’s performance in the tournament.
As of this moment, the Wild possess one of the better prospect pools in the league with a lot of these skaters who currently play in the NCAA being a reason why. Once you get past the obvious choice of Matthew Boldy it became unclear which skaters to write about. However, after thinking about the organizational needs and direction of the franchise there were a couple that stood out over the rest.
Nick Swaney, University of Minnesota-Duluth (RW)
The 23-year-old was selected by the Wild in the seventh round of the 2017 NHL Draft. He’s currently in the midst of the most productive season of his college career with a team-leading 1.07 points per game (PPG) and 0.50 goals per game (GPG), per College Hockey News. The Bulldogs are primarily a low-event team that wins by focusing on possession and quality over quantity in terms of shot selection. This suggests that the defending champs rely on skaters like Swaney to be responsible when picking their spots in order to take high percentage shots.
As a senior, he’s been a part of two championship squads and is looking to help lead his teammates to their third straight Frozen Four victory. This is a ton of pressure on a player like Swaney who is facing down the final games of his collegiate career. Nevertheless, it’s tough to envision the Minnesota native being thrown off by the moment. These tournaments are invaluable experiences and could help translate his game onto the bigger stage. And even though he remains unsigned by the Wild he would make a welcome addition to the organization on a professional level whether that’s in the AHL or NHL.
Matthew Boldy, Boston College (LW)
Matthew Boldy is arguably the most exciting prospect in the Minnesota Wild’s system. After a rough season playing at center as a freshman, the 19-year-old switched to the wing in an attempt to maximize the team’s effectiveness. Boston College has a ton of center depth so switching a talented skater like the Massachusetts kid was a smart move. At left-wing, Boldy led the highest-scoring team in the nation with 1.43 PPG and 0.48 GPG. He’s an extremely talented skater whose superior vision and precise passing seem tailor-made for the NHL.
Despite not getting as many opportunities to showcase his game as other top college prospects, Boldy still forced his way into the player of the year conversation. Even with his small 21-game sample size, the potential Hobey Baker Award winner looks ready to take on tougher competition. At this moment in time, it’s unclear whether general manager Bill Guerin would want to burn a year from his entry-level contract in order to get him on the Minnesota roster this season. But for now, Boldy seems primed to help lift his talented teammates towards a national championship.
Nikita Nesterenko, Boston College (C)
The final Minnesota Wild prospect to keep an eye on during the 2020-21 Frozen Four also played a major role in the Golden Eagles’ regular-season. Nikita Nesterenko was selected as a surprise pick in the sixth round of the 2019 NHL draft. During the first 23 games of his collegiate career, the 19-year-old averaged 0.83 PPG. Essentially, the Brooklyn native has shown the ability to carve out a huge role and become a major facilitator on one of the most talented teams in the NCAA. And with such a limited résumé in terms of tournaments and meaningful junior playoff appearances, having him produce almost instantly once his quality of competition rose is a positive sign for the future.
The freshman center has had an interesting path throughout his early hockey career. The left-handed forward only spent one season playing Junior-A in the BCHL for the Chilliwack Chiefs where he registered a point per game. He initially committed to Brown University but made the switch to Boston College in order to play immediately. He might not be in the same stage of his developmental path as fellow draft selection Boldy, but his sharp improvement year over year is something that’s worth paying attention to. If he continues to progress at this trajectory in the next few years, especially at a top-tier program like BC, Wild fans could see him in the NHL sooner rather than later.
In addition to the Minnesota prospects mentioned previously there a number of skaters also looking to compete for the national championship. These players include BC’s Marshall Warren, Jack McBain, and also St. Cloud State’s Sam Hentges. Anything can happen in a tournament like the Frozen Four but at least the Wild faithful have more than a few worthwhile storylines to track throughout the next coming weeks. Stay tuned for the start of play in all four regions including Fargo, North Dakota, Loveland, Colorado, Bridgeport, Connecticut, and Albany, New York starting March 26-27 on ESPN’s family of networks.
The data and prospect history for this article was provided by College Hockey News and Elite Prospects.
27 years old. Subjective hockey analysis backed with objective reasoning. Currently covering the Minnesota Wild, but my favorite team is the San Jose Sharks. Never went to J school. Check out my personal blog that covers all things NHL FarsideHockey.com