In the National Football League, as much hype that surrounds the 1st round of the draft in many ways teams win or lose by the depth they add beyond it. While I think to a lesser extent this is true in National Hockey League, usually the better teams often make their selections from the 2nd round to the 7th round matter and get quality depth that will help keep their organization well stocked with talent. The Tampa Bay Lightning, Nashville Predators and Pittsburgh Penguins are good examples of this.
The Minnesota Wild certainly need to re-stock the cupboard. Even Wild General Manager Paul Fenton has conceded this basic fact. The team’s prospect pool could use depth at every major position group and with 8 picks at their disposal, who do they pick? (I will post and update as the Wild make their selections.)
2nd Round (42nd Overall) ~ LW – Vladislav Firstov (Waterloo, USHL) – Yaroslavl, Russia
Height: 6’0″ Weight: 180lbs Shoots: Left
NHL Central Scouting: 23rd ISS: #44 Hockey News: #51 Athletic: #59
Hockey Prospect.com: #83 Future Considerations: #64
2018-19 Stats: 62GP 26G 32A = 58pts 24 PIM’s +11
Talent Analysis: He was one of the top rookie scorers in the USHL this season, and has show steady improvement throughout the year. He’s strong on his skates and with the puck on his stick and has a terrific shot. He doesn’t have blazing speed but he’s quick and shifty. While the talent is there, he still plays like he did in Russia where his motor and work ethic on the ice was a bit hit or miss almost like he’s still trying to figure out what to do. This can be best seen in the physical parts of the game where at times he’ll engage and throw his body around and at others he seems disconnected and doesn’t want anything to do with contact. He doesn’t mind skating into high traffic areas and is a dual threat to beat you with a shot or distribute the puck. Considering his lack of size, the fact he is an average skater makes him a bit more of risk. Yet he has a longer development route since he’s going to play for the University of Connecticut next fall.
“Solidly built and skilled, Firstov is a hard-working power forward who has an impressive hockey IQ.” Future Considerations 2019
“There were some spirited and physical games I saw that he wanted nothing to do with until he got on the Power Play, and then he would get engaged in the game again. Big red flag for me.” – NHL Scout, March, 2019
“Some players you pay to score goals and anything else you get from them is a bonus, right now that’s the type of player Firstov seems to be. Having said that, it was his first year in North America, I’m willing to cut him some slack on some of the stuff away from the puck right now.” – HockeyProspect.com Scout, Dusten Braaksma
“He excels with the puck and that team (Waterloo) goes as he goes.” ~ NHL Scout
Bottom Line: Another left winger with skill and scoring ability but also has concerns over his skating. While its good he’ll have time to develop playing college hockey, it seems a bit risky for an early 2nd round pick. Is it simply a matter of figuring out the North American game or adding strength to address the lack of high end speed? Maybe, and if he can improve those parts of his game the Wild may have a decent player. In my opinion, kind of a classic boom / bust type of selection.
2nd Round (59th Overall) ~ G – Hunter Jones (Peterborough, OHL) ~ Brantford, Ontario
Height: 6’4″ Weight: 197lbs Catches: Left
NHL Central Scouting: #3 ISS: N/A Hockey News: #81 Athletic: N/A
HockeyProspect.com: #4 Future Considerations: #146
2018-19 Stats: 57GP (28-24-2-2) 3.31GAA .902%SP 3SO
Talent Analysis: He is another prototypical big, goaltending prospect who has the size to deny the net and yet moves well in his crease. Peterborough was one of the OHL’s worst teams, so he saw a lot of rubber this season. He transitions well from post-to-post as well as from a standing position to being down on his pads. His glove hand is great and he resembles a vacuum cleaner in the way he keeps those pucks when he flashes out his arm. Jones is precise on his angles and when he’s dialed in he absorbs pucks and gives shooters very little to shoot at. He’s a battler and doesn’t give up on pucks, even when his team would be trailing by a few goals. Unfortunately, when he gets tired the fundamentals start to fall apart (like his rebound control) and pucks start to find the back of the net. He also has a tendency to stay deeper in his crease and this doesn’t always take full advantage of his size. He will need to take more steps to improve his conditioning and stamina so those errors created by fatigue do not continue to haunt him but he still has a lot of the tools any team would want.
Quotes from Scouts:
“He is generally technically sound, rarely dropping too early into his butterfly, using his large frame to play deeper in his crease.” McKeen’s Hockey 2019
“I love the tools and the kid’s presence on the ice, but when he’s off his game, he lacks the resources at this time to re-find it” – HockeyProspect.com Scout, Brad Allen
Bottom Line: With improved conditioning he has the potential to be a possible starting goalie or at the very least a competent NHL back up goaltender in the future. But he has the size and other physical tools you look for in a prototypical NHL goaltender and the Wild obviously like him a lot since they traded away their 3rd and 4th round selection to acquire him.
3rd Round (75th Overall) ~ C – Adam Beckman (Spokane, WHL) ~ Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
Height: 6’1″ Weight: 168lbs Shoots: Left
NHL Central Scouting: #34 ISS: #36 Hockey News: #74 Athletic: #90
HockeyProspect.com: #63 Future Considerations: #68
2018-19 Stats: 68GP 32G 30A = 62pts 16 PIM’s +19
Talent Analysis: A skilled offensively-gifted forward who doesn’t have a lot of flash and dash, but he plays a very cerebral and calculated game and knows where he needs to be on the ice to have an impact. His decent hockey IQ has him in the right place at the right time and he has great hands and doesn’t need much time to bury the puck. Beckman is an excellent stickhandler and has knack for finding passing and shooting lanes. At times he will get involved physically and at others he seems to try to keep his nose from getting dirty. He is decent on the forecheck and while he probably will not be a big checker he applies pressure and forces turnovers with his positioning. Defensively he is adequate but he seems to be more engaged in the offensive zone than in his own end. He also needs to add more strength, but he has some terrific offensive skills to build upon.
Quotes from Scouts:
“Pretty good skill. I like him in the late 2nd or later.” – NHL Scout, May 2019
“Liked him early but have questions with his work ethic…compete. I don’t think we’ll be drafting him where we have him.” – NHL Scout, May 2019
Bottom Line: An interesting project forward who has good offensive instincts and if he can improve his skating and adding some strength he might turn into a real gem. He was used more as a supporting player this season in Spokane and next year he’ll be the go-to offensive workhorse so it will be intriguing to see if he can take that next step forward to his game. The skillset and build kind of reminds me of David Perron, just without the agitating element.
5th Round (149th Overall) ~ C – Matvei Guskov (London, OHL) ~ Nizhnekamsk, Russia
Height: 6’1″ Weight: 172lbs Shoots: Left
NHL Central Scouting: #65 ISS: N/A Hockey News: #53 Athletic: N/A
HockeyProspect.com: #76 Future Considerations: #75
2018-19 Stats: 59GP 12G 18A = 30pts 24 PIM’s +12
Talent Analysis: A highly touted Russian when he first arrived, he struggled to find his way in what is normally a strong London squad. He moves well but isn’t tremendously fast. He can undress defenders in 1-on-1 situations with a deke and keeps defenders off balance with a variety of moves. His hockey sense is ok, but its mostly on a simple level meaning if he has a clear lane to shoot he takes the opportunity to do so. But he doesn’t think the game to set up plays or open up lanes to pass by the way he plays. Guskov ended up getting somewhat buried in the Knights’ lineup. He has serviceable defensive skills and angles opposing players away from the middle of the ice and solid in regards to his positioning. Consistency is an issue as he can exhibit flashes of brilliance but those moments appear to be few and far between making him a bit of a teaser.
Quotes from Scouts:
“No interest. This is a London Knight we won’t be drafting.” – NHL Scout, January 2019
“I’thought he improved a lot by the time the season ended. He went from no draft to possibly a 5th or 6th rounder.” – NHL Scout, April 2019
“I liked him a lot more in April than I did in October. I kept thinking the light switch was going to go on, it did a little bit, but not enough for me to push him up too high. I’d draft him though and it won’t shock me if the light switch goes on next year and he posts some real numbers.” – HockeyProspect.com Scout, Mark Edwards, May 2019
“He’s just ok for me. He was highly touted coming in. I understand he was adjusting to North American hockey and the culture over here and we make allowances for that, but he’s been a bit disappointing. He’s a skilled guy and understand the game but he needs to be more involved and engaged.” ~ NHL Scout
“Skilled center, plays a 200-foot game, highly intelligent, high-end skills and physical tools, good character and work ethic, complete.” ISS Hockey 2017
Bottom Line: He’s another project forward who is playing for a quality program in London. The only caveat is if he wants to have opportunities with the Knights, which would help his development he has to earn it by exhibiting more assertiveness and engagement in his game. If he can put it together you might have a bottom-6 forward who has some skill to his game. Yet if he doesn’t find it next year he could quickly fade to obscurity as well.
6th Round (166th Overall) ~ D, Marshall Warren (USNDT, USHL) ~ Laurel Hollow, NY
Height: 5’11” Weight: 168lbs Shoots: Left
NHL Central Scouting: #61 ISS: #35 Hockey News: N/A Athletic: N/A
HockeyProspect.com: #99 Future Considerations: #109
2018-19 Stats: 26GP 4G 9A = 13pts 10 PIM’s +29
Talent Analysis: He is a smallish two-way defenseman who has good speed and works hard at either end of the ice. The Boston College-commit likes to jump in and join the rush where he likes to pull the trigger when given the opportunity. He excels in board battles and while he still needs to add strength to do the same thing at the next level but seems to want to play bigger than his size. Warren has a lot of poise with the puck and even when pressured he makes the smart and safe play with the puck in his own end. His points don’t stand out, but a big part of that was the fact he didn’t get a lot of chances on special teams which will probably be different once he goes to college. He isn’t blessed with a cannon of a shot. His gap control could be better and he needs pay more attention to detail in his own zone. At times there seems to be a little bit of hesitation on when to engage physically and that is something he’ll need to figure out if he’s going to have an NHL future but he’s an intriguing prospect.
Quotes from Scouts:
“I probably like him more than some other guys, he has some skill and works hard. He can skate and was good on the PK too.” – NHL Scout, May 2019
“Whichever team drafts him needs to have patience. I think he’s a 3-4 year college player but I like this player more than some others on our staff. I think he fits into today’s game well. He has some sandpaper to his game which you need as an undersized defenseman.” HockeyProspect.com Scout, Dusten Braaksma, March 2019
“He has excellent puck skills for a defender, with both control and protection ability. He is calm with the puck and moves it smartly.” McKeen’s Hockey 2019
Bottom Line: A long-term project that if he turns out you could have a mobile two-way defenseman. He is a very raw prospect at this point, but hopefully with more refinement at the college level he’ll be a player that can help add organizational depth.
6th Round (172nd Overall) ~ C – Nikita Nesterenko (Lawrenceville, USHS-Prep) ~ Brooklyn, NY
Height: 6’0″ Weight: 157lbs Shoots: Left
NHL Central Scouting: #121 ISS: N/A Hockey News: N/A Athletic: N/A
HockeyProspect.com: N/A Future Considerations: N/A
2018-19 Stats: 31GP 30G 29A = 59pts
Talent Analysis: He is a smallish center who put up good points in the United States Prep League. He is committed to playing college hockey at Brown University, but not until the 2020-21 season. Nesterenko likes to be involved offensively and loves to lie in wait for the puck, but its when he doesn’t have the puck he seems to lack focus or a want to be involved defensively. That would indicate his game needs to mature but he’ll need to do that plus still exhibit his offensive acumen with Chilliwack next season. Nesterenko also needs to add some strength to his lanky frame.
Bottom Line: He’s another long-shot project forward. It’s almost not worth speculating on what he can become until we see what he does in the BCHL next season. But he’s a project that may not bear fruit until 4-5 years from now.
7th Round (197th Overall) ~ G – Filip Lindberg (UMass, H-East) ~ Espoo, Finland
Height: 6’0″ Weight: 187lbs Catches: Left
NHL Central Scouting: N/A ISS: N/A Hockey News: N/A Athletic: N/A
HockeyProspect.com: N/A Future Considerations: N/A
2018-19 Stats: 17GP (11-4-0) 1.60GAA .934%SP 4SO
Talent Analysis: The Finnish-born goalie had an impressive freshman season for the Minutemen and is a 1999-birth year player. He is undersized by NHL standards, but he makes up for it with terrific athleticism and precision on his angles. Lindberg is economic in his movement and squares up to shooters quickly and demonstrated good recovery to able to be in position to stop 2nd and 3rd chances. His glove is good and he does a nice job of knocking down pucks and not giving up dangerous rebounds. He backed up Matt Murray last year and it will be interesting to see if he can supplant him or will they continue to share starts 70/30 in favor of Murray. But he was a part of Finland’s to World Championship U-20 team.
Bottom Line: A bit more seasoned-prospect when you consider he already has one college season under his belt. He is certainly has to be solid on the details of his game to make up for the fact he isn’t the classic big NHL goaltender body. He’s a project goaltender who you will likely be patient with for 3-4 years before you really see if you have someone that can compete for a job with the big club someday.
Overall this is mostly a group of project players which is a bit surprising for a team who felt it needed to re-stock the cupboard. There are lots of players here who at a minimum have 3-4 years (or longer) of development before they may have a shot to contribute in Iowa or Minnesota. Also, skating issues was a recurring theme which really makes me wonder if the team places too low of a priority in that area.
Afterall, we’re the same team that felt it wanted to be ‘younger and faster.’ Ok, so why draft players who have skating concerns if being faster is an issue for this organization? I realize there is more to the game than just speed, but in my experience you don’t just go from being an average skater to being a great one with a few power skating sessions. At this point, you either have speed or you don’t. From a draft rankings standpoint it seemed as though the Wild avoided the off the board selections more than previous years, but not anyone that really excites me. We did draft two goaltenders which means we want some competition within that portion of the prospect pool which is a positive. The players seem to have skill but there were no right-shot players taken either.
I am not sure if this was coincidental or intentional, but the concentration of Russian-born or Russian-heritage players taken in this group seems to indicate the team is trying to indirectly communicate to Kirill Kaprizov that he won’t be the only Russian in the organization. The team has drafted and signed Fedor Gordeev, Alexander Khovanov and Dmitry Sokolov and today they added 3 more players with that connection which makes you think they hope he feels a bit more at ‘home’ by the time he can make his way over after his KHL contract expires after next season.
What do you think of the Minnesota Wild’s ‘Day 2’ selections? Which of these players excites or interests you the most? Please tell us on Twitter @CreaseAndAssist of in the comment section below!