The Minnesota Wild continues to strengthen their prospect pool – one that ranks among the best in the league. The 2021 draft class brought in more young talent to their pipeline too. They’ve already seen Kirill Kaprizov steal the stage and Kaapo Kahkonen display promising signs of his potential.
One would think that a prospect pool would suffer after two key graduates – Kaprizov and Kahkonen – depart to the NHL. Despite losing a star, they’ve arguably drafted a star two seasons in a row. The pipeline remains one of the strongest in the league because of its strong depth and potential.
The following ten prospects are the best in the organization heading into the 2021-22 season, all broken down into three tiers:
Tier 1: The Top Players
|Marco Rossi (C)||Matthew Boldy (LW)||Jesper Wallstedt (G)||Calen Addison (RD)|
The top prospect in the organization is Marco Rossi, and he somehow fell to the Wild in the last year’s draft. The Wild desperately needed a future number one center, and his upside is exactly that. While he was projected to be on the opening night roster this next season, there’s a good chance that will be delayed. He should be in the lineup at some point, but it will depend on his health. Rossi wasn’t on the ice for nearly four months after getting diagnosed with myocarditis.
Rossi has a ton of skill and a high hockey IQ. He’s a complete package with a good release, strong playmaking ability, and very reliable defensive play. He’s also very creative offensively. He may be a smaller player, but you wouldn’t notice it because of his high-end skill and compete level. He can do it all in terms of time on the power play and penalty kill. He notched 185 points in 109 games – a 1.70 point-per-game pace with the Ottawa 67’s of the OHL. Rossi is just a complete player with high-end talent and projects to be a top-line center in the future.
The top winger in the prospect pipeline is Matthew Boldy, an area of need in the next couple drafts, with Adam Beckman being the only other winger in the top 10. While he has played some center, he’s better at wing and it appears the Wild view him as more of a winger too. His value with the puck is evident, but his value without the puck is immense as well. His strong positioning and stick work are just a few of the dynamic winger’s attributes.
Boldy has an efficient two-way game which is very important. He had 31 points in 22 games with Boston College, and he also had a strong performance in the World Juniors, tallying a point-per-game. The 20-year-old winger had a seamless transition to the AHL and really displayed his offensive upside. He finished with 18 points in 14 games with the Iowa Wild. He has clear top-six upside and will be utilized on the power play at the NHL level too.
The Wild were arguably the winners of the first round by trading up to draft Jesper Wallestedt. He will be the goalie of the future for an organization that has lacked high-end goalie prospects since its inception. He’s one of the best goaltending prospects and deserves to be in the same tier as other top prospects Yaroslav Askarov and Spencer Knight. His positioning, composure, and rebound control are all high-end.
Wallstedt posted a 2.40 goals-against average and a .923 save percentage in one of the more difficult leagues, which is very impressive for a teenager. He is projected to be an NHL starter, but he has upside that could get into the elite territory.
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The best defensive prospect in the pipeline is Calen Addison. He was the main piece in the Jason Zucker trade and the Penguins’ best prospect. He may be the first prospect to see time with the Wild next season. He is a smooth skater and has an aggressive play style. He’s an offensive-minded defenseman with clear upside. He has some limitations defensively, but it could improve through his development.
Addison was over a point-per-game in the 2019-20 campaign with the Lethbridge Hurricanes of the WHL. He registered 22 points in 31 games with the Iowa Wild and had three appearances with the Wild this past season. He is projected to be a top-four defenseman and a quarterback on the first power-play unit. Looking ahead to the future, he will be Matt Dumba’s replacement on the second pair.
Tier 2: The Next Best Players
|Marat Khusnutdinov (C)||Adam Beckman (LW)||Carson Lambos (LD)|
Marat Khusnutdinov is one of the best forward prospects the Wild have in their pipeline. The Russian center has a strong compete level and plays a very physical game. He’s very aggressive, which is why he’s so effective away from the puck. Whether it’s blocking pucks or a heavy forechecking game, he’s always bringing value on the ice in all three zones. One of his biggest attributes is his skating, where he’s known as a very speedy center that makes plays happen. He’s not a goal scorer as he’s an effective playmaker that will drive the offense for a team. It’s also beneficial that he’s excellent in the faceoff circle.
There’s a ton to like about his game and there’s a lot of upside. Khusnutdinov tallied 14 points in 10 games in the MHL this past season, but he suffered a shoulder injury in February that sidelined him for the remainder of the year and was given a four-month timetable for his recovery process. The only thing is that he may be more of a long-term commitment in terms of his development. When he makes it to the NHL, he will be a strong complementary piece in the middle-six.
The Wild’s other top winger in the pool is Adam Beckman. He’s a late bloomer with an exceptional skill set. He’s got a dangerous release, which makes him very dangerous from the slot and circles. Combine his tantalizing shot with his playmaking ability, and there’s no surprise why he is such an effective offensive winger. He didn’t win the WHL Player of the Year in 2020 by accident. He’s also solid when it comes to puck protection, in part to his good positioning. There are concerns surrounding his skating, but his other tools should make up for it.
Beckman had an exceptional season in 2019-20, scoring 48 goals and 107 points in just 63 games. Last season, he had five points in nine games with the Iowa Wild and 27 points in 21 games with the Spokane Chiefs in the WHL. He has all the tools to become a middle-six winger with power-play usage, but his ceiling could potentially be even higher depending on his development track moving forward.
After drafting Wallstedt, the Wild used their second first-round pick to draft Carson Lambos. The smooth-skating defenseman is a strong skater that helps him fend off pressure against opposing players. He’s a solid two-way player who has the tools to make an impact offensively while being a reliable defensive player with his physical style.
It was a tough year for prospects in the Wild’s system. I already touched on both Rossi’s health complications and then Khusnutdinov’s shoulder injury. To add to that, Lambos suffered a season-ending leg injury that likely contributed to his falling in the draft. The defensemen tallied 32 points in 57 games with the Winnipeg Ice of the WHL in the 2019-20 season. He likely will become a second-pair guy.
Tier 3: Rounding Out the Top 10
|Alexander Khovanov (C)||Ryan O’ Rourke (LD)||Jack Peart (LD)|
The dropoff between tier two and three is very minimal, which is why I wasn’t as hesitant to have Alexander Khovanov at number seven. The Wild have a ton of depth in their pipeline that there really isn’t a huge difference between prospects in the last two tiers. Before this past season – that decreased his value – Khovanov would have been a whole lot higher.
After beginning the season scoreless in seven games with the Ak Bars Kazan of the KHL, he was demoted to the team below it. With the Bars Kazan of the VHL, he posted 24 points in 30 games, recouping some value. Just a year ago, he notched 32 goals and 99 points in Moncton Wildcats of the QMJHL. However, due to the demotion and behavioral problems, I was hesitant to have him higher where his value likely lies.
If everything falls correctly and his development goes smoothly, there is no doubt he has top-six upside with power-play usage. When he’s at the top of his game, he’s a dangerous offensive center with high-end talent. He’s got a lethal release and strong playmaking ability. Khovanov is also above-average in the faceoff circle too. There are certainly some concerns about his game, which makes him the biggest question mark in the prospect pool.
It’s very funny how thin the Wild’s depth chart looked two years ago regarding defensive prospects. They now have arguably four defensemen that are projected to be second-pairing guys. It speaks to the depth of this pipeline. There’s a lot of potential seen in Ryan O’ Rourke. He’s got good instincts and seems to be in the right position often. He’s not going to be much of an offensive player but has a decent release.
Jack Peart won the Mr. Hockey award this past season, and he is a very exciting defensive prospect. He is a very responsible defensive player and can play difficult minutes. He also has a high hockey IQ, which is one of his better attributes. As explained in depth in my article on the Wild’s draft class (linked above tier 1), Peart excels in transition. It’s an area he provides a ton of value in that often escapes the scoresheet.
Peart was over two points per game with Grand Rapids high school and excelled with the Fargo Force in the United States Hockey League (USHL). Whether it’s scouts, coaches, or people that know him, they all view him as a future top-four defenseman. If he develops into that, it would be another good value pick.
The Wild have really well-positioned themselves for the future with their four higher-end prospects along with the six others who are projected to become at least middle-six forwards and top-four defensemen. After re-filling the cupboard with defensive prospects, they should focus on drafting forwards in the next draft.
If this prospect pipeline weren’t as strong as it is, this organization would be in trouble. After buying out franchise cornerstones Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, the organization will need to bring in young talent on entry-level deals to easier maneuver around the cap-strapped years ahead.
All Data Via Eliteprospects
Aaron Heckmann is a journalism & broadcasting student. He covers the Wild for The Hockey Writers & Zone Coverage’s 10krinks. His data-driven articles are focused on solving problems, telling stories, and discovering unique storylines. Find him on Twitter @aaron_heckmann.