Under GM Bill Guerin the Wild have one of the better prospect pools despite the graduation of Rookie of the Year Kirill Kaprizov. Joining Kaprizov on the roster as foundation players under 25-year-old is Kaapo Kahkonen, Joel Eriksson Ek, Kevin Fiala, and Jordan Greenway.
Just two years into his reign as GM, Guerin has had two successful drafts selecting in the top ten in 2020 and having two first-round selections in the 2021 draft. The Wild’s prospect pool is heavy at the top with potential franchise prospects in goal, at center and the wing. The bottom half of the ranking is less impactful but there is potential for NHL players there.
- Marco Rossi, C – Iowa Wild (AHL)
Drafted: 2020 round one, 9th overall by Minnesota Wild
Rossi was a hopeful candidate to enter the NHL straight out of his draft and compete with Kaprizov for the Calder as the NHL top rookie. A life-threatening bout of COVID cost him to miss the entire season. A critical year of his development was lost where he was unable to even workout, let alone play any hockey. Now back to health, the Wild have wisely assigned him to play in the AHL and he is playing very well despite the layoff with a point per game production.
Rossi is an undersized player on paper only, his core and lower body strength are above average. Rossi led the CHL in scoring in his draft year with a whopping 120 points in only 56 games with the Ottawa 67’s. Rossi is a highly skilled playmaker; he excels at reading plays and finding options that others can’t. He cycles and protects the puck well using quick hands and strong lower body to pivot and insulate from forechecking. His vision is equally effective in defending as he anticipates and intercepts plays and passes.
Overall Rossi looks to be one of the best all-time players to come from Austria. He is a complete player and could be the franchise number one center as soon as this season.
- Jesper Wallstedt, G – Lulea HF (SHL)
Drafted: 2021 round one, 20th overall by Minnesota Wild
Goalies often take longer to develop and often are difficult to predict their potential. There are some exceptions like Spencer Knight, and the Wild hope to have found a prospect with a similar trajectory.
Wallstedt is a very advanced goalie for his age, he has strong fundamentals, tracks pucks well, controls rebounds and is always in good position to block pucks. He is an athletic hybrid butterfly style with good skating and edges that allow him to get up and down quickly and make strong and fast lateral pushes to cover a lot of space. He is calm under pressure, can help move the puck with his puck handling abilities as well.
Already in his second full SHL season at 19-years-old, he is posting very impressive numbers with a 1.82 GAA and .923 sv% in 17 games. Look for Wallstedt to come to North America and see some AHL time adjusting to smaller ice and different angles before taking over as the starting goalie in the NHL. Given the potential in Wallstedt and the current depth chart in goal for the Wild, there isn’t much reason to doubt he will be the near future starting goaltender for a decade to come.
- Matt Boldy – Iowa Wild (AHL)
Drafted: 2019 round one, 12th overall by Minnesota Wild
Boldy is a member of one of the greatest classes in USNTDP history as the 2001 class dominated the first round of the 2019 NHL Draft. That group culminated with a 2021 WJC Gold Medal and Boldy played a key role scoring five goals and seven points in seven games. Boldy spent two seasons of development in the NCAA at Boston College, and after a slow freshman start, he finished his career with the Eagles with 20 goals and 57 points in 56 career games. After his sophomore season, he was signed by the Wild and assigned to the AHL where he posted 18 points in the final 14 games.
Boldy is a big winger with a quick and accurate shot. He is a goal scorer and a high-volume shooter, with underrated playmaking vision and ability. One area of opportunity in his game would be his skating as it is average at best at the NHL level. Boldy started in the AHL this season and was off to a strong start with four goals and seven points in as many games before suffering a lower-body injury.
- Carson Lambos, D – Winnipeg Ice (WHL)
Drafted: 2021 round one, 26th overall by Minnesota Wild
The Winnipeg native was the second overall selection in the WHL bantam draft by Kootenay in 2018. The team moved to his hometown for his rookie year the following season and Lambos posted 32 points in 57 games. After a very good rookie year, the pandemic hit, and he found playing time in Finland playing for the JYP U20 roster before the WHL resumed. Lambos played in only two games before an injury shut down his season and a shot at the U18 Tournament with Team Canada.
Despite the disappointing draft year, he was still a first-round pick, and it is starting to look like the Wild got a steal selecting him 26th overall. Back in the WHL with a loaded Winnipeg roster he has five goals and 18 points in 19 games and has been named to the preliminary roster for Team Canada at the WJC.
Lambos has good size and is an above-average skater with a powerful stride. The hallmark of his game is his heavy shot and his offensive style of game. Lambos also shows a solid defensive game with good positional awareness and an active stick. He uses his size well as he looks to play a physical game. If things all break well for Lambos, the Wild may have a future top-pairing defender that can provide offensive support, play big minutes and be effective in any situation.
- Adam Beckman, LW – Iowa Wild (AHL)
Drafted: 2019 round three, 75th overall by Minnesota Wild
Beckman enjoyed a breakout season in his D+1 year with Spokane in the WHL to the tune of 107 points in 63 games. His league-leading goals (48) and points won him the WHL Player of the Year Award. The pandemic offered Beckman the opportunity to preview the AHL and he posted five points in nine games before returning to the WHL. Beckman is now graduated to the pro level. and after a strong preseason, made his NHL debut recording one assist in three games.
The skill that will carry Beckman to the NHL is his shooting ability. He has a deceptive shot, threads the needle shooting through defenders’ feet. Beckman can shoot off either foot in stride, he scores from distance and in close. His skating needs some development, but his overall progression can not be understated as he continues to play well at every level. Beckman is arguably the Wilds’s fastest-rising prospect with a ceiling of a top-six winger that could be a power-play specialist.
- Jack Peart, D – St. Cloud State University (NCAA)
Drafted: 2021 round two, 54th overall by Minnesota Wild
Peart split his draft season between USHS and the USHL. He dominated at Grand Rapids High with 35 points in 18 games winning the Mr. Hockey Award as Best Minnesota High School Player. His production carried over to higher competition in the USHL with 15 points in 24 games with Fargo Force and another seven points in nine playoff games. His D+1 year sees him as a freshman in the NCAA where at 18-years-old he continues to impress with ten points in 12 games playing big minutes with the Huskies.
Peart may not have a particular skill set that stands out as elite in his game, but his overall effectiveness is undeniable. He provides a subtle blend of sound play offensively and defensively and always seems to make the right play or be in the right position. Peart is a smart player that will log big minutes and provide offensive support and transition nicely in the NHL as a middle pairing defender.
- Calen Addison, D – Iowa Wild (AHL)
Drafted: 2018 round two, 53rd overall by Pittsburgh Penguins
A savvy acquisition by Guerin in the Jason Zucker trade to Pittsburgh. Addison is an offensive defenseman close to being NHL ready. Addison had a stellar junior career capped by pacing as a point-per-game player in his final season in the WHL. He played a key role for Canada at the 2020 WJC with nine points in seven games to help win the Gold. As a rookie in the AHL last year he was impressive posting 22 points and earning an NHL recall playing in three games. Addison continues to develop at the AHL level and has been recalled to the NHL again and scored his first career NHL goal.
A little undersized, he compensates with his speed to recover pucks, close gaps, and create time and space for himself. Despite his size, he protects the puck well and is not hesitant to play a physical game. His best offensive skill is his vision and playmaking, and he projects as the future power-play quarterback for the Wild. His shot could be more dangerous, and his defensive game is still under construction.
- Alexander Khovanov, C – Iowa Wild (AHL)
Drafted: 2018 round three, 86th overall by Minnesota Wild
The Russian tank is a highly skilled and very aggressive player. He has been a prolific offensive producer at the junior level in the QMJHL as a point-per-game player or better each of his three seasons in Moncton, highlighted by a final 99 points in 51 games season. Khovanov was a factor for Russia at the 2020 WJC with eight points in seven games helping Russia to the Silver Medal.
During the pandemic, he returned to Russia and in 30 VHL games had 24 points and 50 PIM’s. However, his offensive production is yet to translate to the pro level. He played seven KHL games last year and was held pointless. Back in North America, he started the season in the ECHL and after eight games had six points to earn a call-up to the AHL. He has one point through five games with the Wild as he continues to cut his teeth at the pro level.
Khovanov owns a highly skilled set of hands, his puck control is excellent, and he makes plays and has vision at the NHL level. He is also an accomplished goal scorer and plays a gritty, nasty style of game. His skating is below average and there are also some character questions. Khovanov is a bit of a wild card player, if he can put it all together, he could be an impactful top-six player with grit and offense. Or he may be a bust.
- Ryan O’Rourke, D – Soo Greyhounds (OHL)
Drafted: 2020 round two, 39th overall by Minnesota Wild
Drafted as a defensive defenseman, O’Rourke has since been developing his offensive game. His D+1 season saw his point production jump from 22 points to 37 points in eight fewer games. The OHL shutdown offered him the opportunity to play in the AHL last year against men as an 18-year-old and he acquitted himself well. His offensive production was subtle with one goal and seven points in 33 games, but he played well and gained valuable experience. O’Rourke returned to the OHL for his final season where he can continue to develop his offensive game, he has done just that and has 19 points through 21 games and is poised to play a key role for Canada at the WJC in Edmonton.
O’Rourke still projects as a defense-first player in the NHL that can log big minutes, provide leadership and stability on the backend, and provide some offensive support.
- Marat Khusnutdinov, C/LW – SKA St. Petersburg (KHL)
Drafted: 2020 round two, 37th overall by Minnesota Wild
The Russian speedster is a bit of a wild card. He is playing good minutes as a 19-year-old in the KHL, which is impressive but not producing much offensively. His 11 points in 29 games is a far cry from his production in the MHL which was 38 points in 44 games. Khusnutdinov also produced well for Russia as an 18-year-old at the 2021 WJC posting five points in seven games.
His calling cards are his speed and his motor. He is all over the ice both offensively and defensively. At 5-11 and 176 pounds, he will need to fill out to play on smaller ice in North America. While he has shown flashes of offensive upside, his speed and defensive attention will at least earn him a look at the NHL as a penalty-killing specialist with potential for more.