Diamonds in the rough, hidden gem, sleeper, dark horse, glitter in the dust are all euphemisms for finding something valuable in something that at first glance seemed unremarkable. I will admit I made that last euphemism up just now, but you get my point. This is all about finding that player other teams missed and adding depth to your organization. Some teams seem to have a knack for finding those kinds of players (Tampa Bay, Nashville) while others seem to miss more often than not.
The Minnesota Wild have at least one selection in rounds (42nd, 73rd, 99th, 149th, 166th, 172nd and 197th) two through seven (two in the 6th round) which has been a while since it was last able to say just that. The team must start refilling its prospect pool which is mostly devoid of blue chip talent and while last year’s selections that they signed like Conor Dewar (3rd round, 92nd Overall) and Alexander Khovanov (3rd round, 86th Overall) and to a lesser extent unsigned draftees Damien Giroux (5th round, 155th Overall) and Shawn Boudrias (6th round, 179th Overall) have shown promise they still need more players to fill out areas within the organization. It was a big reason why they went out and signed hulking blueliner Fedor Gordeev, they need to do a better job of drafting players to have a pipeline of talent. Yet for any of these players its still too early to tell if one or any of them will have an impact for the Minnesota Wild someday.
The one blue chip talent the Wild have drafted recently is Kirill Kaprizov (5th round, 135th Overall in 2015) and while fans and the organization patiently await (and hope) for his arrival after next season when his KHL contract is set to expire he’s another reminder of what talent can be had beyond the 1st round. Call me greedy, but its a big reason why I can get a bit worked up if I feel we threw away even late round picks because each one represents an opportunity to draft that coveted ‘diamond in the rough’ and while its rare, good organizations make those late round selections matter. Its about time the Wild make those picks matter.
So what are the Minnesota Wild’s most pressing draft needs as I see them?
1. Fast, scoring wingers and / or a top 6 center prospect – The Minnesota Wild are pretty old down the middle as Mikko Koivu and Eric Staal are 35+, and its time the team start to develop some replacements to anchor their top two lines. So far the team seems to have resisted the chance to give Joel Eriksson Ek or Luke Kunin that opportunity. A few right handed shots on the wing and at center would also be a good idea.
2. Two-way defenseman to fit in the Top 4 – Ryan Suter came back to start the 2018-19 season, but it took him a long time before he seemed to be somewhere near 100% and the pectoral injury to Matthew Dumba put the season into a freefall. The Wild didn’t have any NHL-ready prospects to fill in so it would be wise to re-stock the cupboard in this area.
3. An heir apparent for the starting goaltender role – Devan Dubnyk had a slightly sub-par season, but there is some question whether he’s good enough to lead the team back to the playoffs. Kaapo Kahkonen had a great start splitting time at Minnesota’s AHL affiliate in Iowa, but he struggled in the 2nd half of the season. It wouldn’t hurt if he had some competition and while the team signed college free agent Mat Robson they are still fairly light with goalie prospects.
So to change it up since my first 3 draft-focused articles had the 1st round pick in mind these are all picks for the later round. I am going to give you a player for each position (3 forwards, 2 defenseman and a Goaltender) of players who feel will be ‘sleeper’ picks for the later rounds of the 2019 NHL Entry Draft.
RW – Albin Grewe (Djugarden Jr., Swe. Jr.) ~ Marsta, Sweden
Height: 6’0″ Weight: 187lbs Shoots: Left
NHL Central Scouting: #13 Euro ISS: #47 Hockey News: #43 Athletic: #40
HockeyProspect.com: #88 Future Considerations: #40
2018-19 Stats: 25GP 13G 21A = 34pts 102 PIM’s
Talent Analysis: Grewe is a two-way forward who plays with a physical edge to his game. He spent most of the season with Djugarden’s Junior team, but did get some time with the big club as well. He plays a hard charging game in the mold of Cal Clutterbuck but has some offensive ability to go with it. Grewe likes to dish out the hits and is an absolute terror on the forecheck where he uses his speed to fly into the corners. Yet his love for physical contact often ends up with him spending time in the penalty box and that is something he will need to clean up a bit. But he’s not just a wrecking ball on skates. The Marsta-native has a decent shot which he can unleash quickly and he can also exhibit the ability to execute some terrific passes. However, there is a bit of dogged simplicity to his game. Instead of deking or pulling off some kind of dangle around defenders 1-on-1, he’ll just try to motor his way past or through defenders. That works out occasionally, but other times he ends up being rubbed off the puck and needs to use his teammates more. Defensively he is kind of unpredictable. At times he will help out by dishing out a big hit or at others he’ll get caught cherry picking so he’ll need to work on being more committed defensively. He’s projected to be a 2nd to 3rd line forward and his skillset fits that fairly well.
Bottom Line: A hard charging, physical winger with some scoring ability that is well suited to playing on a team’s 2nd or 3rd line where he could add some jam. The Wild have certainly lacked players with that kind of game and its about time they develop a player like that. If they can get Grewe to relax his game a tad and help teach him to use his teammates more he could be a great pick in the 2nd or 3rd round.
C- John Beecher (USNDT, USHL) ~ Elmira, NY
Height: 6’3″ Weight: 209lbs Shoots: Left
NHL Central Scouting: #49 ISS: #52 Hockey News: #35 Athletic: #98
HockeyProspect.com: #45 Future Considerations: #33
2018-19 Stats: 27GP 6G 14A = 20pts 64 PIM’s
Talent Analysis: The big center is an excellent skater who can really fly and was used in more of a bottom-6 role with Team USA. He uses his body effectively both to protect the puck and also to dish out hits, although some scouts felt he could be more physical than he is. The Michigan-commit is not overly refined in the skills (shooting and passing) which is why he played on the lower lines and was used as a penalty killer. That being said, he did a decent job in that role and a big part of his success was his ability to win faceoffs. He is one of the best at faceoffs of players in this draft. Offensively his shot is ok and his passing ability isn’t anything to envy but it will be interesting to see how he progresses at the college level. Will he continue to be used as a role player or will he have the chance to play on the Wolverines’ top 6?
Bottom Line: A projected bottom-6 center who has size, great mobility and is excellent on his draws. While the skills are certainly a work in progress, if he can develop them then you could really have a steal on your hands or at least have a pretty decent 4th line center. Not bad return for a guy who you’ll take in the 2nd or 3rd round.
RW – Aaron Huglen (Roseau, USHS) ~ Roseau, Minnesota
Height: 5’11” Weight: 166lbs Shoots: Right
NHL Central Scouting: #90 ISS: N/A Hockey News: #59 Athletic: N/A
HockeyProspect.com: #62 Future Considerations: N/A
2018-19 Stats: 24GP 17G 35A = 52pts 33 PIM’s
Talent Analysis: Huglen played his season with Roseau as well as spending some time in the USHL with the Fargo Force and did reasonably well in both places. He is a highly skilled forward who has great speed and offensive instincts. Huglen is the kind of player who seems to think the game two-steps ahead of the opposition and realize what opportunities will be available in the offensive zone before they actually materialize. This makes Huglen a natural on the power play but his creativity is equally impressive at even strength. He’s not blessed with a big body, and like most players will need to add strength to be effective at the next level. The Minnesota-commit was used as a checking-line forward with Fargo and did an adequate job in that role and also played both center and on the wing which means there is a versatility element to his game and provides a bit more of a safety factor to any team that drafts him.
Bottom Line: A skilled forward with great speed who has experience playing center or on the wing who has excellent hockey sense. Being a college-bound player will give him time and opportunity to add strength. If he can continue to improve offensively you might have a 2nd or 3rd line winger who could be used on the power play and the penalty kill. Likely will be available in the 3rd or 4th round. Did I mention he’s a right shot too?
RD – Kaedan Korczak (Kelowna, WHL) ~ Yorkton, Saskatchewan
Height: 6’3″ Weight: 192lbs Shoots: Right
NHL Central Scouting: #32 ISS: #26 Hockey News: #46 Athletic: #64
HockeyProspect.com: #65 Future Considerations: #41
2018-19 Stats: 68GP 4G 29A = 33pts 64 PIM’s
Talent Analysis: Korczak is a no-nonsense mostly stay-at-home defender with above average size for a team that has been a factory for NHL defenseman the last decade or so in the Kelowna Rockets. He plays strong in and around the crease in his own zone and uses his body effectively along the boards and to separate opposing skaters from the puck. When defending against the rush he does a nice job of funneling opposing skaters towards the boards and denying them the middle of the ice. There is certainly a level of ornery-ness to his game near the paint as likes to knock guys down if they get too close. Blessed with reasonable mobility he can carry the puck up the ice and normally keeps his game simple when he has the puck. When he does decide to shoot it, the right shot defenseman has good velocity and he gets it on goal but he’s not likely going to be a big offensive producer at the next level. A steady, safe middle round pick.
Bottom Line: A stay-at-home, right shot-defenseman with size who has a bit of sandpaper to his game who will fit well in a team’s bottom-4. His mobility and simple game should endear him to coaches and the Wild could certainly use a player with his physical tools.
LD – Danil Misyul (Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, MHL) ~ Minsk, Belarus
Height: 6’3″ Weight: 176lbs Shoots: Left
NHL Central Scouting: #8 Euro ISS: #47 Hockey News: N/A Athletic: N/A
HockeyProspect.com: #42 Future Considerations: #90
2018-19 Stats: 46GP 4G 6A = 10pts 71 PIM’s
Talent Analysis: A big, rangy defenseman who has developing two-way game, Misyul used to be a forward before he converted to defense about 4 years ago. He has a fluid skating stride and can get up to full speed very quickly. Misyul shows plenty of ferocity in battles near the crease and stays locked onto his defensive zone responsibilities. He has the skill to carry the puck or make the precise outlet pass. Offensively his game is still very much a work in progress. He has a good slap shot, but he needs to work on the subtle nuances that will make him more effective in the offensive zone. However, he still has a lot of the raw skills to develop into an excellent two-way defenseman which makes him an intriguing prospect. He certainly could stand to add more strength which will only help him be even better.
Bottom Line: An excellent skating two-way defenseman with size and lots of raw potential. In some ways his potential reminds me that of Colton Parayko in how he flew under the radar and suddenly the size, skill was realized to become a rock solid Top-4 defenseman who can not only be used in a shut down role but also chip in offensively. He will probably be gone by the end of the 3rd round.
G – Colten Ellis (Rimouski, QMJHL) ~ River Denys, Nova Scotia
Height: 6’0″ Weight: 189lbs Catches: Left
NHL Central Scouting: #8 ISS: N/A Hockey News: N/A Athletic: #99
Hockey Prospect.com: NR Future Considerations: #88
2018-19 Stats: 46GP (27-15-2) 2.47GAA .910%SP 3SO
Talent Analysis: He is an undersized but supremely athletic goaltender who was among the league leaders in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League in save percentage and goals against average. Despite being smaller, he does a decent job of tracking the puck even with traffic near his crease which was often throughout the last two seasons. He stays patient and doesn’t commit too early which makes him difficult to beat. Ellis has decent rebound control and gets a lot of credit from scouts and coaches for his competitiveness and work ethic. Post-to-post movement is smooth and his athleticism stands out. He’s a capable puckhandler as well. Ellis stays calm under pressure and on the occasions he does give up a bad goal he doesn’t implode mentally like some do. He’s a solid all around goaltender who probably wouldn’t be looked at as a potential NHL starter but he’s shown even in his junior career that he continues to do his job as he’s twice supplanted starters to the team’s he’s played for in Rimouski and Cape Breton respectively.
Bottom Line: An undersized goaltender who makes up for his lack of size with a calm demeanor and a terrific work ethic. A great depth option for a team that would likely make him available later in the draft.
So what potential draftees interest you? Who do you feel the Wild should be taking a flyer on in the later rounds? Let us know on Twitter @CreaseAndAssist or in the comment section below!