After 5 long years of patiently waiting, Minnesota Wild fans finally got their wish and managed to sign Kirill Kaprizov to a 2-year contract. He burned the first year of that 2-year pact and never even had the chance to practice with the team as he wasn’t able to make his way to North America in time before the Wild were eliminated in their play-in series by Vancouver. Fans hope that a player termed by the Hockey News as one of the most talented players not yet in the NHL brings that talent to a club that could really use a boost right now. Let’s be honest, their are more players on the Wild that are closer in age to the point in their lives where they take Metamucil than taking their Flintstone’s vitamins.
Kaprizov not only represents ‘hope’ for a lot of Wild fans, but he also possibly represents that rare late-round gem that has been painfully elusive for this organization. He was selected in the 5th round (135th Overall) in 2015 and team is all but hoping that he dominates the NHL the way he has in the Kontential Hockey League. The Wild have found some role players in the late rounds of the draft like Carson Soucy (5th round, 137th in 2013), Nick Seeler (5th round, 131st in 2011), Tyler Graovac (7th round, 191st in 2011) Darcy Kuemper (6th round, 161st in 2009), Erik Haula (7th Round, 182nd in 2009), Justin Falk (4th round, 110th in 2007), Cal Clutterbuck (3rd round, 72nd in 2006), Clayton Stoner (3rd round, 79th in 2004), Ryan Jones (4th round, 111th in 2004), Anton Khudobin (7th round, 206th in 2004), Stephane Veilleux (3rd round, 93rd in 2002) and Derek Boogaard (7th round, 202nd in 2002) of players that have played at least 50 NHL games. That’s just 12 players in 18 drafts!
I am excluding the NHL draft of 2000 because the team took older European players to supplement what they had received in the NHL Expansion draft that year. Still, the team drafted 103 players in those 18 drafts from the 3rd round or later. That’s about an 11% success rate. And none of those 12 players ever went on to being star players (its still too soon to tell yet with Darcy Kuemper). So I think its safe to say the team is due for a star from one of its late round selections and Kaprizov no doubt represents the best chance that group has had, perhaps ever.
Day 2 of the draft is where the scouts really earn their salary and a late round steal can be like finding an extra 1st round pick and help keep a prospect pool strong so it can continue to be a pipeline of talent for the big club. Jamie Benn, Brad Marchand, Patric Hornqvist, Pekka Rinne and Henrik Lundqvist are all great examples of how those late round picks can end up being franchise leaders for years.
The team currently has 4 picks from the 3rd round and later (4th, 5th, 6th and 7th round picks). So here is a reminder of the team’s needs as I see it.
As I look at the team, this is what I see as the biggest needs organization-wide. I have created a movement tracker for NHL Central Scouting’s 2020 Final Rankings in case you want to see how the league sees this draft class. I consult a variety of different scouting services like the NHL Central Scouting List, International Scouting Service, the Hockey News, HockeyProspect.com, Future Considerations as well as eliteprospects.com for insight into these draft prospects.
1. A speedy Top-6 center with scoring ability – While the Wild have had a few players you could say were Top 6 centers, and none really possessed a combination of speed and scoring. With a possible elite winger coming into the fold with Kirill Kaprizov and the emergence of Kevin Fiala it would be nice to maximize that talent with a young, speedy and skilled top line calibre center that can work with them.
2. A top-4 defenseman with size and physical skills – More and more teams are using smaller more mobile defenseman, but in the playoffs it often is the defender that brings a dose of sandpaper that can prove to be so crucial to winning and losing those tight games. Soon to be unrestricted free agent Carson Soucy was a revelation last year, but it would be nice to have another defenseman with that body type but can play on the team’s top 4 especially as Ryan Suter gets older and the team may be shipping out one of its smaller finesse defenders in search of help up front in its Top 6.
2. A quality starting goaltender prospect – Some believe the Wild may already possess this player with the promising play of Kaapo Kahkonen who had some of the best numbers in terms of shutouts and save percentage in the American Hockey League, or the high quality play of Hunter Jones in major junior. Yet Devan Dubnyk seemingly supplanted this season by Alex Stalock the future of the starting goaltending position seems to be more fluid than it has been in years. So let’s look at the Top 5 available forwards given the team’s needs.
3. A top-4 defenseman with size and physical skills – More and more teams are using smaller more mobile defenseman, but in the playoffs it often is the defender that brings a dose of sandpaper that can prove to be so crucial to winning and losing those tight games. Soon to be unrestricted free agent Carson Soucy was a revelation last year, but it would be nice to have another defenseman with that body type but can play on the team’s top 4 especially as Ryan Suter gets older and the team may be shipping out one of its smaller finesse defenders in search of help up front in its Top 6.
Here are 5 players whom I think could be great late round steals for the Wild.
LW – Emil Heineman (Leksand Jr., Swe. Jr.) Leksand, Sweden
Height: 6’1″ Weight: 185lbs Shoots: Left
Central Scouting: #26 (Euro) Hockey News: TSN McKenzie: #69
Future Considerations: #95 HockeyProspect.com: #33
Talent Analysis: Heineman is a winger who combines speed with a tenacious, competitive approach that has him outworking opponents for the puck at either end of the ice. His first few steps get him up to speed quicky and he uses it well to elude defenders or get himself out of trouble when he’s along the wall. The Leksand-native uses his body position well to shield the puck from opposing skaters and is a decent passer and has good instincts in he offensive zone. While he has good playmaking skills he is a capable finisher too. Heineman goes into the middle of the ice and is willing to take a hit to make a play. He also plays with the same hustle on the forecheck as he does on the backcheck. He uses his speed effectively to deny time and space and force turnovers with a good active stick. Yet its not all just flying around the rink at top speed, as Heineman can back off defenders and then slow the game down as he lookings for passing and shooting lanes and choosing the best option available to him. Like many players his age, he still has to fill out his lanky frame but he has a lot potential to be an effective middle-6 winger.
Bottom Line: He is a smart, lanky winger who has good speed and is a dogged competitor at both ends of the ice. Heineman gives you versatility to be effective on either the power play or the penalty kill but also plays with the tenacity that would make him a solid option on a checking line. He will probably be gone by the 3rd round, but if the Wild can add a pick he could be a great diamond in the rough.
D – Joni Jurmo (Jokerit Jr., Fin. Jr) Espoo, Finland
Height: 6’3″ Weight: 198lbs Shoots: Left
Central Scouting: #20 (Euro) Hockey News: # TSN McKenzie: #60
Future Considerations: #53 HockeyProspect.com: #53
Talent Analysis: A rugged defenseman who has good size and excellent straight-line speed Jurmo is athletically-gifted two-way defenseman who had a decent season in Finland’s top junior circuit. Yet there are parts to his game that need significant improvement. His lateral quickness and backward skating are still a work in progress. Jurmo has excellent speed and at times he will take the initiative and lead a rush up the ice. At times he can struggle under pressure in his own end and his decision-making at times can be a bit slower than it needs to be. He has a reasonable shot that he does put on net consistently and likes to be set up for one-timers on the power play. The Espoo-native could add more strength to his frame but he has a lot of intangibles that make him an intriguing project player. He will get tested in the Sm-Liiga next year when he joins JYP.
Bottom Line: A classic boom / bust type player who has some intangibles (size, speed and offensive ability) that are enticing but also some parts of his game that will need to be improved if he is to have a shot at the next level. His skillset will no doubt make most teams wait until later in the draft to select him but he might reward the team that gives him a chance.
C – Marat Khusnutdinov (SKA St. Petersburg Jr., Rus. Jr.) Moskva, Russia
Height: 5’11” Weight: 176lbs Shoots: Left
Central Scouting: #12 (Euro) Hockey News: # TSN McKenzie: #35
Future Considerations: 34 HockeyProspect.com: #39
Talent Analysis: He is a high energy forward that has excellent speed and works hard at both ends of the ice. He uses his speed effectively to deny time and space but also to create space for himself in offensive situations as his first few steps are explosive. Khusnutdinov is an excellent stickhandler and likes to dangle by defenders 1-on-1 and he uses his body well to protect the puck. Even though he’s not a big player, he lowers his body to make him difficult to knock off the puck and can weather checks surprisingly well. He does a nice job of using his speed to back off defenders and either ripping a quick shot on goal or a well-executed drop pass. The Russian is defensively responsible and uses a good active stick to cause turnovers. He will need to continue to work to improve his shot, as at times it can lack snap and velocity which puts his offensive upside into question. Khusnutdinov won nearly 60% of his draws but has other good on-ice instincts that will make him versatile enough to earn a spot on a team’s middle 6 if he can be more consistent from game to game.
Bottom Line: A fast, hard-working center who plays a solid two-way game. He can dangle and has a lot of great tools any team would like, but he will need to improve his shot to make him NHL ready. Still, an intriguing player who will probably be selected somewhere in the first half of the 2nd round.
D – Wyatt Kaiser (Andover, USHS-MN) Ham Lake, Minnesota
Height: 5’11” Weight: 170lbs Shoots: Left
Central Scouting: #37 Hockey News: # TSN McKenzie: #81
Future Considerations: #202 HockeyProspect.com: #61
Talent Analysis: The Minnesota-Duluth commit was one of state’s most highly touted high school players and was a rock for the Huskies all season long. Kaiser has good on-ice instincts and moves well which allows him to be an effective contributor at both ends of the rink. He has good gap control and his skating ability allows him to stay with most players. He seals off opposing skaters effectively and then moves the puck with a crisp first pass out of his own zone. Kaiser likes to use the wrist shot from the point and is a calming presence along the blueline. While adding more strength will certainly help him at the next level, he will have that opportunity to build on that by developing the next few years in one of the top college hockey programs in the nation.
Bottom Line: Kaiser is a smart, efficient two-way defenseman who can do a lot of things really well. He is the kind of prospect who will need 3-4 years to develop, but he is in a great place to do that with UMD. I think he has the potential to be a top 4 defender someday with the proper development, who gives you a well rounded defenseman who can do a little bit of everything.
RW – Roby Jarventie (Koovee, Fin. Div.2) Tampere, Finland
Height: 6’2″ Weight: 185lbs Shoots: Left
Central Scouting: #18 (Euro) Hockey News: # TSN McKenzie: #52
Future Considerations: #65 HockeyProspect.com: #74
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Talent Analysis: Jarventie is a big, fast winger with scoring ability that makes him stand out for any team he plays for. He has more straight-line speed than being quick. With the puck he can be slippery; using quick turns to elude defenders but he needs to improve his lateral quickness. This might be improved by adding more muscle to his lanky frame. Jarventie has an excellent release and his shots have great velocity and can be highly accurate and he was one of the better goal scorers in Finland’s 2nd tier league. Defensively, he is mostly disengaged and is a bit half-hazard on the backcheck. He is definitely a player that can be guilty of being a bit of a cherry picker instead of getting involved in battles for pucks along the wall or in the corners. At times he can try to get involved physically, but most of the time it results in him taking foolish penalties. If he was more well-rounded, he’d probably be in the conversation as a 1st round pick. But because he’s as one-dimensional he is more of a boom / bust type of selection.
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Bottom Line: He is a classic swing for the fences player available later in the draft who has speed, puck skills and scoring ability that make him enticing, but has lots of areas that need to be figured out in order for him to have an NHL future. If he can buy in, and takes the steps to round out the other parts of his game you might have a steal on your hands. Or he can simply be a taller, faster version of Dmitry Sokolov.
G – Calle Clang (Rogle Jr., Swe. Jr.) Olofstrom, Sweden
Height: 6’2″ Weight: 176lbs Catches: Left
Central Scouting: #4 (Euro) Hockey News: # TSN McKenzie: Hon. Mention
Future Considerations: #179 HockeyProspect.com: NR
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Talent Analysis: Clang is the type of goaltender you might hear before you notice him between the pipes as he loves to communicate when he’s manning the crease. He has prototypical size and is an athletic goaltender who has superb post-to-post movement. Clang is more of an instinctual player in his reads at times he guesses right but at others he can look foolish. Like a lot of goalies his age, he needs to stay on his skates a bit longer before he decides to drop to his pads as that leaves the top part of the net more open. His glove is reasonable, but he mostly keeps it near his waist which makes him vulnerable for top shelf shots. He likes to play the puck and doesn’t mind attempting a long pass to help get the breakout going. Yet the athleticism, size and his competitiveness make him a nice project goalie.
Bottom Line: Maybe its just me, but his game sounds eerily similar to that of Alex Stalock as goaltender who is athletic, a battler between the pipes but can be inconsistent in his positioning. He probably projects more to be a future NHL backup than a starter, if he can refine the rough edges to his game.
So what possible late round selections intrigue you? Let us know on Twitter @CreaseAndAssist or in the comment section below!