The Minnesota Wild are a veteran team with an aging core consisting of Zach Parise, Mikko Koivu, Eric Staal, Mats Zuccarello, and Ryan Suter who are all north of 30, slow and getting slower. The Wild would like to rebuild but the aging core is all under contract for anywhere from one more year until the 2024-25 season.
The Wild do have a number of quality young players on the roster lending some hope for the future with Ryan Donato, Luke Kunin, Joel Eriksson-Ek, Kevin Fiala, Jordan Greenway and Matt Dumba. Coming down the pipe there are some exciting options but not much depth.
1. Kirill Kaprizov, LW/RW – CSKA Moscow (KHL)
Drafted: 135th overall in the 5th round of the 2015 draft by Minnesota
Possibly the best player not in the NHL. Kaprizov has been dominating the KHL offensively and building a trophy collection that include a KHL Championship, Olympic Gold, World Junior Silver and Bronze, and a World Championship Bronze.
There has been some doubt about when or if Kaprizov would cross over to the NHL, but it looks like that may be as soon as the 2020-21 season as his current KHL contract expires after the current season. Recent KHL imports Vadim Shipachoyv and Nikita Gusev have not had the impact their teams had hoped, but at only 22-years-old, Kaprizov has the potential and promise to have an impact the likes of Artemi Panarin. The Wild are counting on it!
2. Alexander Khovanov, C – Moncton Wildcats (QMJHL)
Drafted: 86th overall in the 3rd round of the 2018 draft by Minnesota
The speedy Russian has already enjoyed two strong seasons in the QMJHL with Moncton at a point per game production or better. In his final year of junior eligibility, he has exploded with 37 points in his first 19 games including 16 goals.
Khovanov was dominant for Team Russia in the two games of the Canada Russia series he played in with a very strong audition for a return selection to the Russian World Junior roster. Khovanov will turn pro next season and transition his game in the AHL before he is ready to play in a top-six role with the Wild.
3. Matthew Boldy, LW – Boston College (NCAA)
Drafted: 12th overall in the first round of the 2019 draft by Minnesota
After two very successful seasons with the US National Team, Boldy has returned home to Boston College. His freshman season has not been so successful as the playmaking winger has stumbled out of the gate with only one goal in his first 11 games.
The Wild will be far from panicking as the NCAA is a competitive league and at 18-years-old Boldy has plenty of time to make the adjustments. Originally considered a potential one-and-done NCAA prospect, Boldy may need a little time to develop before turning pro and eventually ending up on the Wild top line.
4. Filip Johansson, D – Leksand (SHL)
Drafted: 24th overall in the first round of the 2018 draft by Minnesota
The Wild may have gone off the board slightly when they selected the Swede defenseman in the first round of the draft, but Johansson had good showings at both the Hlinka and the U-18 in his draft year.
Now playing pro in the SHL as a 19-year-old, he is likely going to represent Sweden again at the World Junior. His contract in the SHL is set to expire after this season and he may come to North America following this season to start the adjustment to the smaller ice.
5. Kaapo Kahkonen, G – Iowa Wild (AHL)
Drafted: 109th overall in the fourth round of the 2014 draft by Minnesota
After three consecutive years of positive development in the Liiga, Kahkonen made the move to North America last year and has since been recalled twice to the NHL but is yet to see game action at the NHL level. With both Devan Dubnyk and Alex Stalock under contract through 2020-21season Kahkonen may need another full season of incubation in the AHL before making the jump to the NHL.
The Finnish netminder backstopped Finland to a Gold Medal at the 2016 World Junior Championship, has looked impressive in the AHL and will get a chance to play at the NHL level before too long.
6. Nico Sturm, C – Iowa Wild (AHL)
Drafted: Signed as a free agent in 2019
The big German pivot was the Captain of Clarkson University in his junior NCAA season. After 103 points in 118 career games was signed as a free agent by the Wild. In his first pro season there was thought he could crack the opening night roster in the NHL but it was not to be. Sturm did have an impressive rookie and training camp where he was named the hardest working player for the Wild.
As a rookie in the AHL, he has seven points in his first 17 games while making a quick and successful adjustment to pro hockey. Look for Sturm to compete for a roster spot next year as he projects as a solid two-way middle-six forward.
7. Connor Dewar, C – Iowa Wild (AHL)
Drafted: 92nd overall in the third round of the 2018 draft by Minnesota
After four seasons of consistent development in junior with Everett, Dewar has made the jump to pro hockey and is in his first season in the AHL with Iowa.
Despite his smaller size, Dewar has not been shy about playing a physical game. The offensive forward is versatile as he can play a variety of forward positions and will likely end up on the wing should he end up in the NHL.
Dewar will need another season or two of consistent development in the AHL before he could compete for a NHL roster spot.
8. Jack McBain, C – Boston College (NCAA)
Drafted: 63rd overall in the third round of the 2018 draft by Minnesota
Drafted out of the OJHL, McBain is now in his sophomore season with the Eagles. After a solid freshman season where he posted 13 points, McBain has elevated his game as a sophomore and has seven points through the first 11 games.
The son of former NHL player Andrew McBain, Jack is likely looking at at least one more season of College hockey before he is ready to turn pro. McBain has good offensive upside, but is projected to be more of a physical two-way middle to bottom pairing player in the NHL.
9. Vladislav Firstov, LW – University of Connecticut (NCAA)
Drafted: 42nd overall in the second round of the 2019 draft by Minnesota
The offensively gifted Russian was drafted out of the USHL as he has already made the move to North America. Now playing as a freshman in the NCAA his offensive prowess has translated with six points in his first 12 games, not bad for a freshman.
Firstov will need to develop several parts of his game, including his defensive game and strength. His speed and skill project well for the NHL. Plenty of upside with this prospect, but he will have a longer incubation period than others on this list.
10. Hunter Jones, G – Peterborough Petes (OHL)
Drafted: 59th overall in the second round of the 2019 draft by Minnesota
The big stopper has been a force for the Petes as a 19-year-old in the OHL. He played a full game for Team OHL in the Canada Russia series in an audition for a roster spot with Canada at the World Junior. Jones is in his third season in the OHL and second as the Petes starting goalie and has established himself as one of the best goalies in the OHL.
Jones is a late September 21st birthday and will take his game to the pro level next year. A little more time may eventually be needed in the ECHL. Getting starts there before there is room for him at the AHL level. He’s likely several years away from competing for an NHL spot, but he is trending in the right direction.