As much as the media latched onto the additions of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, and rightfully so to a degree it is pretty hard to argue that the Wild would've been able to make it as far as it did if not for the 19-year old rookie defenseman Jonas Brodin calm and steady play. Suter struggled a bit early, and when Brodin arrived he was able to settle into being the Wild's workhorse and the rookie didn't look out of place at all. Brodin's sublime game, of having a great active stick to poke pucks away and then quickly gather them up to make that good first pass out of the zone became so routine you found yourself mesmerized by how simple it appeared to be. Opponents, especially in the playoffs began to recognize Brodin's importance to the team and started to try apply phyisical pressure to his slight frame but the rookie hung in there and took the hits and kept on rolling along. The hitting did cause him to have some difficulties but he still was able to show maturity well beyond his years. Unfortunately for Brodin, his strong play did not get as much recognition as it should have from NHL writers who did not make him a Top 3 choice for the Calder Trophy as the league's top rookie. Yet if there is any relief for Brodin was that he recieved recognition from the Hockey News in their June 2013 'Best of the Best' issue they said he would've been the runner up for the Teemu Selanne Award as the league's best rookie. Still 2nd place, but at least recognized for his strong play and his importance to the team. Brodin, by far is the best defenseman the team has ever drafted which seems remarkable considering he's played in one, albeit shortened NHL season.
Busts anyone? A.J. Thelen & Tyler Cuma
Brodin still has his career ahead of him, but the fact I can say that and not get totally laughed out of the room (or be nominated for KFAN's preposterous statement contest) is both a testament to his skill and potential but also an indictment on the defenseman that the team has drafted over the years. A.J. Thelen was the first defenseman the Wild ever spent a 1st round pick on and we all know how that turned out? BUST. Brodin didn't exactly have a huge and impressive field of Wild draftees to beat. He had to shine above the likes of Nick Schultz, Lubomir Sekeras, Erik Reitz, Justin Falk, Clayton Stoner, Tyler Cuma, and Marco Scandella. The fact this organization has been around 13 years and I have just 7 names listed here for Brodin to compete against speaks volumes. The jury is still out on Mathew Dumba, Minnesota's 1st round pick from a year ago. The Wild have to do better at drafting and developing defenseman so they do not have to lean so heavily on free agency which we have seen over the years can be rather expensive and in a salary cap world it can really put some significant limitations on a franchise. This is the first of 3 articles I'm going to compose to talk about the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. So what players do I think Wild fans should keep an eye on as they think about who we may select?
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For all of these articles I thought a long time about what I felt the team's organizational strengths and weaknesses were. Especially after limping into the playoffs with one of the best collections of talent in franchise history the examination wasn't easy. I really found myself conflicted over what I felt the Wild needed the most. I have my own personal preference, but I understand the team may think otherwise. So the biggest needs from an organization perspective for the Wild are the following 3 things.
1. The team needs a physical (i.e. mean) stay at home defenseman to make it more difficult for opposing teams in our zone and give our blueline a much needed edge to its game.
2. The team needs speedy forwards with decent finishing ability. I have been saying that for years, but in my opinion the team has still not addressed this problem and hopefully after this year's experience they will feel they cannot ignore it any longer.
3. The team needs another quality goaltending prospect to keep their pool of good young goaltending prospects deep. The team traded away Matt Hackett, but still has Darcy Kuemper and Johan Gustafsson but could use another quality puckstopper.
The Wild's present picks in this year's draft.
So this article will look at the defenseman that will be available when the Wild go to make their first selection (at least to this point) at #46 in the 2nd round of the draft. If I am the Minnesota Wild, keeping in mind what intangibles the current group of prospects is lacking this is who would be on my draft board and they are players that could very well be available when the Wild go make their selection.
I have looked at numerous websites and scouting publications to put together a Top 5 list of players that I think would fit the Wild's needs the best. So using information I have gathered from International Scouting Services, NHL Central Scouting, the Hockey News, and Hockey Prospect.com I hope to provide you a quality analysis. Let's begin.
1. Gage Ausmus, LD (U.S. Under-18 Team, USHL) Height: 6'1" Weight: 211lbs Shoots: Left
ISS rank: 58th The Hockey News rank: 98th NHL Central Scouting (NA) rank: 148th
2012-13 Stats: 66GP 2G 12A = 14pts 56 PIM's +17
Talent Analysis: The East Grand Forks-native solidly built, physical shut down defenseman that may remind some of Tim Gleason or Adam Foote. He skates well enough to stay with just about any forwards but then has the strength to overpower those forwards, get the puck and move it out of harm's way. He is lauded by scouts for his excellent awareness and attention to detail in the defensive zone and his ability to clear space in and around the crease. He does not have a lot of offensive tools, but he does have a decent shot although he did not get much of a chance to show it off with the U.S. National Development Team as they used more offensively gifted defenseman in those roles. He has committed to play at the University of North Dakota for next season where his talents will fit in well.
2. Andrei Mironov, LD (Moscow, KHL) Height: 6'2" Weight: 178lbs Shoots: Left
ISS rank: 72nd The Hockey News' rank: N/A NHL Central Scouting (European) rank: 17th
2012-13 Stats: 40GP 0G 5A = 5pts 26 PIM's +3
Talent Analysis: Mironov is a mean and feisty stay-at-home defenseman who loves dishing out hits and his physical game forces opponents to be on the lookout when he's on the ice. He skates well and denies time and space effectively before finishing his check. Mironov is also the kind of player who will deliver the big hit but isn't afraid to answer the other team's challenge when it comes to dropping the gloves either. He is not a cheap player, but his aggressive physical edge makes him a natural agitator. Mironov also keeps a good active stick to disrupt passing and shooting lanes.
3. Anthony Florentino, RD (South Kent School, USHS-CT) Height: 6'1" Weight: 227lbs Shoots:
ISS rank: 77th The Hockey News' rank: N/A NHL Central Scouting's (NA) rank: 75th
2012-13 Stats: 58GP 20G 30A = 50pts
Talent Analysis: This could be the sleeper pick of the entire draft, for whoever selects him let alone the Minnesota Wild. He already has an NHL-ready frame and plays a strong and physical two-way game. The Providence-commit is mobile and doesn't mind handling the puck in the offensive zone either. The Hockey News caught up with Florentino as the profiled the South Kent Selects program which is trying to be the eastern version of Shattuck-St.Mary's in this article here. He loves to make life miserable for opponents and he can make them feel that way at both ends of the rink. His coach was quoted as saying, "He hits like a truck" which sounds awfully nice to me and should to the Wild as well.
4. Kayle Doetzel, RD (Red Deer, WHL) Height: 6'3" Weight: 190lbs Shoots: Right
ISS rank: 60th The Hockey News: N/A NHL Central Scouting (NA) rank: 90th
2012-13 Stats: 49GP 0G 6A = 6pts 20 PIM's -4
Talent Analysis: Keep it simple is Doetzel's game and what makes him a very steady stay-at-home defenseman. Doetzel has decent mobility and controls the gap very effectively. He has the knack on when to step up to attack a puck carrier to disrupt the rush and battles well along the boards. He may not be a big hitter but he consistently puts a body on opposing forwards and seals them off from the puck rather effectively. Doetzel does a nice job of clearing the area around the crease but you wouldn't qualify him as a nasty player. He's might be the kind of player you can select in the 3rd or 4th round. He's not flashy, but he gets the job done.
5. Jonathan Ismael-Diaby, LD (Victoriaville, QMJHL) Height: 6'5" Weight: 223lbs Shoots: Left
ISS rank: 98th The Hockey News' rank: 50th NHL Central Scouting's (NA) rank: 37th
2012-13 Stats: 67GP 4G 22A = 26pts 117 PIM's +12
Talent Analysis: This is a big bodied, athletic stay-at-home defenseman who continues to round out the rest of his game. He moves well for a player of his size and finishes his checks well. He uses his big body to block shots and does a nice job at getting into shooting lanes. He is very much a raw talent, yet since becoming a major junior player he's come a long way but he's a player with major potential. Yet there is a lot to like about his game and where it could eventually be. Its all a matter of what trajectory you think he has, but he could be a very intriguing project-type of player. He might be worth taking a chance on because he could be a force on the blueline for many years to come.