Let’s face it, in a traditional NHL draft year the 1st round is all about the glitz and glamour of walking up on the stage, receiving a team hat and team jersey to shake hands with management, ownership and scouts that helped make the selection happen. Day 2 of the draft, rarely is as glamorous. Players that show up for the draft do get dressed up, but the big walk up to the stage is often skipped and substituted for a trip down to the draft floor towards their new team’s table to shake hands and meet the club’s brass.
While it is not nearly as photogenic of a moment, to the player, their family and friends the most important thing is the wait is over and they’ve realized their dream of being selected by an NHL team. Day two of the draft is where the team’s scouting staff digs deep into its collective knowledge as they select players that will hopefully help provide a pipeline of talent for the future.
The Detroit Red Wings became one of the dominant teams of the mid-1990’s to the late 2000’s through their ability to find top quality talent late in the draft. The 1989 Draft alone gave them cornerstones like Hall of Famers Niklas Lidstrom (3rd round, 53rd overall), Sergei Federov (4th round, 74th overall), and 11th round steal Vladimir Konstantinov (221st Overall). This draft alone made Hakan Andersson became a scouting legend for the Red Wings. But the late round gems didn’t stop there as they club selected Pavel Datsyuk (6th round, 191st Overall) in 1998 and Henrik Zetterberg (7th round, 210th Overall). These players collectively made Detroit a perennial Cup contender for over a decade.
Perhaps it should be no surprise that Red Wings legend Steve Yzerman (and Hall of Famer) would show much of the same magic as General Manager of the Tampa Bay Lightning who (along with former Wild winger Stacy Roest as their Assistant GM and Director of Player Development) helped turned that organization into a drafting machine. Just look at their team that has won back-to-back Stanley Cups and its full of players the team drafted beyond the 1st round. Anthony Cirelli (3rd round, 72nd Overall) in 2015, Brayden Point (3rd round, 79th Overall) in 2014, Nikita Kucherov (58th Overall) and Ondrej Palat (208th Overall) in 2011. Like the Red Wings players listed above, these players were not just complimentary pieces supporting a collection of players drafted in the 1st round, in many ways they were the ones that carried their respective teams to the Stanley Cup. It should be noted that the Lightning had many of these players cut their teeth in the American Hockey League’s Syracuse Crunch first.
Minnesota Wild Director of Amateur Scouting, Judd Brackett received almost universal praise from fans for how he handled his first draft with the club. Many are hopeful his savvy eye for talent will help turn Minnesota into a cup contender. After the buyouts of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, I think its safe to say Wild GM Bill Guerin will be leaning heavily on Brackett to establish a pipeline of talent that will give the team an economical pipeline of talent that will push the team towards the league’s elite teams contending for a Stanley Cup.
So after what many considered an excellent first draft in 2020, what will Brackett & company do for an encore? The team has a 2nd round pick, one 3rd round pick and a selection of the next four rounds of the draft. The team dealt one of its 3rd round picks to move up two spots so they could select goaltender Jesper Wallstedt. Here is who the team drafted and an analysis (with stats from @eliteprospects) of their game as well as what the scouts say about these players and video where possible by Devil in the Details YouTube channel who generously recorded shift-by-shift videos of NHL potential draftees.
2nd Round (54th Overall)
LD – Jack Peart (Fargo, USHL) ~ Grand Rapids, Minnesota
Height: 5’11” Weight: 181lbs Shoots: Left
Central Scouting: #27 Hockey News: #63 ISS: #39
TSN – McKenzie: #39 HockeyProspect.com: #44
Future Considerations: #34 The Athletic – Wheeler: #37
Talent Analysis: The 2021 Mr. Hockey Award winner split time between playing at Grand Rapids High School and the USHL with the Fargo Force. He is a mobile defenseman who is a Swiss army knife of a player who can do just about everything fairly well. His most elite asset is his hockey IQ, where he reads the game extremely well and plays with patience and poise with the puck. Scouts noted in the moments he made a mistake he demonstrated that he would learn that lesson and not make the same mistake again throughout the course of a game. The St. Cloud State-commit will likely play a prominent role with the Huskies next year as a freshman. He is adept at chasing down pucks and then quickly transitioning to the attack with an accurate, crisp outlet pass. Even when he’s under duress, he remains calm and decisive as he quickly turns to look up the ice to make that first, accurate outlet pass to allow his team go on the attack. While not a big player, he does a decent job at disrupting passing and shooting lanes. He isn’t afraid to get his nose dirty in puck battles along the boards and doesn’t back down even when challenged by bigger players. Yet at times he can get caught reaching with his stick and lacks the explosiveness to recover when he commits like that. Some of that may be helped by adding strength though. Peart does a decent job at getting shots through traffic and while it may not be a cannon his release is fairly quick which allows him to catch goaltenders by surprise. He probably shines a bit more in the offensive zone than the defensive zone and his comfort-level, on-ice awareness makes him a natural power play quarterback.
What the Scouts said:
“He skates with a heightened activity rate through his feet, and uses crossovers to cut laterally and quickly close space while defending in transition. He keeps his feet stable through the neutral zone once he’s established a gap with the closing opponent. Peart shoulder-checks for options as he collects the puck, layers deception onto his first touch, and sprints right past the first forechecker with ease.” ~ Eliteprospects.com
“He’s got an elite IQ for the game, he’s so good at retrieving pucks and breaking pucks out, is excellent. If you look at guys like Ramus Sandin that overperform, that’s this kid. He’s super smart, really good skill, not big, a good skater but not dynamic. If you told me I could have one USHL’er, I’d take him.” ~ NHL Scout
“I have watched Jack play a lot of hockey the last few years and all he has done is continue to improve year to year. What might have been a weakness the previous year he managed to turn into a strength. I think his hockey sense is underrated. The split season between Fargo (USHL) and MNHS
really helped. I thought he was Fargo’s best player in the playoffs.” – HockeyProspect.com Scout, Dusten Braaksma
“I’ve always liked him. He’s a 2nd rounder for me.” – NHL Scout
“He’s a two-way blueliner with high hockey IQ, great vision and an effective shot.” ~ Future Considerations
Hockey News Comparable: Rasmus Sandin
Bottom Line: He’s more of a 2nd or 3rd pairing defenseman with offensive upside but with a responsible defensive game too. When you watch video of him, you’ll notice he’s always very conscious of his positioning on the ice. He consistently provides good puck support and his poise under pressure is very evident. Even if he mishandles a puck, he never seems frazzled and often still manages to get the puck to a teammate instead of turning it over. He processes the game quickly and seems to already know the right moments to join the rush, pinch to try to help his team hold the offensive zone or to stay back defensively. I think he’ll spend at least the next two seasons with the Huskies, and showed terrific poise at the USHL level and it will be interesting to see how he handles playing in the always tough NCHC.
My Take: A pretty safe selection who kind of fits with what the Wild like to draft, mobile, smart defenseman who can contribute at both ends of the ice. The team passed on Evan Nause and Stanislav Svozil who both had a bit more size, but hopefully he works out better than the last Mr. Hockey Award winner we took from Grand Rapids (Avery Peterson, 6th Round, 2013).
3rd Round (86th Overall)
C – Caeden Bankier (Kamloops, WHL) ~ Surrey, British Columbia
Height: 6’2″ Weight: 190lbs Shoots: Left
Central Scouting: #102 Hockey News: N/A ISS: N/A
TSN – McKenzie: N/A HockeyProspect.com: #84
Future Considerations: #154 The Athletic – Wheeler: N/A
Talent Analysis: Despite a drastically shortened season due to the pandemic, Bankier made the most of it as a nearly point-per-game player. He is a decent puck distributing center who can tease you with skilled plays one shift and then sort of disappearing for long stretches. He has good hands, and plays most comfortably off the rush where he can use his length to change the angle and open up passing or lanes to shoot the puck. He doesn’t mind camping out near the crease and battling for pucks. The Surrey, British Columbia-native doesn’t mind working the puck into the middle of the ice or taking a hit to make a play. He seems to thrive in battles along the boards for pucks. Bankier can change the pace quickly to give him a step to unleash a heavy shot which seems to cause chaos even if it doesn’t find the back of the net. However at times he can be guilty of having tunnel vision and not noticing open teammates. His passing can sometimes lack pace which leads to some frustrating turnovers. While once he gets moving he can play with effective pace, but its getting up to speed that really needs some work. His first few steps are rather slow, and this makes it a bit problematic at times where he doesn’t have the ability to skate out of trouble when he’s caught flatfooted. It just takes too long for him to get up to speed. On his draws, he seems to try to tie up his opponent more often than just trying to win the faceoff itself. Defensively, his effort is adequate when he’s chasing after a puck carrier that’s nearby but his focus seems to wane a bit the farther he’s away from the puck. His skills are a bit raw, and while he combines size with good hands and initial instincts he still has to refine his game if he is to have a chance to be successful at the next level.
What the Scouts said:
“He’s a skilled playmaker, pre-scanning for options then quickly passing to a teammate in scoring position. Even off retrievals or when forced to the backhand, he usually makes a positive play.” ~ Eliteprospects.com
“Haven’t seen him, don’t know him.” – NHL Scout
“When Bankier is dialed in and plays with aggression and pace, he’s made some unbelievable plays at the junior level. At other times he’s a non-factor at even-strength.” – HockeyProspect.com Scout, Duncan Field
“Difficult player to evaluate. One game you think he has what it takes to make it, the next you don’t, the consistency will be the key and learning how to draw in defenseman by applying East-West skating patterns at a higher rate than he currently does.” – HockeyProspect.com Scout, Brad Allen
Bottom Line: He is a project center who may turn into a bottom 6 center with some development. Bankier has size, good hands and a willingness to go into the tough areas of the ice. However his lack of first few step quickness must improve if he’s to have a chance to be a viable NHL prospect.
My Take: With other finishers like Dylan Duke, Jackson Blake or an energy forward like James Malatesta or a a shutdown forward like Victor Stjernborg or quality defenseman like Jack Bar still available this pick confuses me a bit. I just don’t see the upside here. Watching video of him, I just saw too many plays where he was a step or two too slow to being where he needed to be. Until he improves his skating, I am having a hard time envisioning him as a future NHL’er.
4th Round (118th Overall)
RD – Kyle Masters (Red Deer, WHL) ~ Edmonton, Alberta
Height: 6’1″ Weight: 174lbs Shoots: Right
Central Scouting: #93 Hockey News: N/A ISS: N/A
TSN – McKenzie: N/A HockeyProspect.com: #64
Future Considerations: #98 The Athletic – Wheeler: N/A
Talent Analysis: He is a calculated, puck moving defenseman who likes to help support the attack. His skating style is best described as shifty rather than just flat out fast, but he has great edges which he can use to elude pressure and start to transition the puck. Masters likes to tight rope near the blueline with the puck with his body in good position to either shoot or pass. While he seems to want to be active in the offensive zone, he certainly doesn’t ignore his own end of the ice. The Edmonton-native doesn’t shy away from the corners to battle for pucks and shows some snarl in his game when clearing out the area near his own crease. At times he can almost be nonchalant with the puck and that can lead to him being caught carrying the puck when he should be making a pass. Defensively, while he’s good position-wise in his own zone, he struggles with his reads when defending against the rush. He also has a tendency to give opposing forwards a bit too much time and space to operate. However he likes to play physically but looks for the big hit instead of just taking away space and sealing them off the puck. His shot is not going to scare anyone, but he does distribute the puck well but plays a high-risk, high-reward kind of game who could be a serviceable NHL defenseman with some development.
What the Scouts said:
“He’s a play-planner, moving the puck, not to the most obvious target, but the one that creates the most favorable situation up the rink. He activates into the rush by filling space on the weak side, as the trailer, or becoming a forward — in every situation, he sprints past his man, establishing body positioning if necessary, and adjusts his route and speed to become a passing option.” ~ Eliteprospects.com
“One of the highest pace defenders in this draft class. It helps him tilt the ice in his team’s favor even if his in-zone skills are especially dynamic. The sheer number of outnumbered situations he helps generate are an asset.” HP Scout, Duncan Field
“The game is all about speed and transitional play, while finding players that still bring a competitive advantage, that’s’ the definition of Kyle Masters” – HP Scout, Brad Allen
“He’s a high-risk, high-reward prospect who flashes potential on
the offensive side of the puck.” ~ Future Considerations
Bottom Line: He’s a shifty puck moving defenseman who plays the game fast and has a physical side to his defensive game. He does not possess a big shot, but is better in a puck distributing role. He’s at his best gathering up a loose puck and then making a quick outlet pass. His skating style and high-risk style makes his game seem rather flashy for a player who doesn’t put up a lot of points. Masters is a project defenseman who could be nice mobile puck mover on a team’s 3rd pairing with the right development.
My Take: I can see how he helps the transition game with his pace of play and his ability to make that accurate first pass out of the zone to set up the attack. However, that was the only thing that really stood out to me. His defensive game when you consider that players like Bar and Malatesta or Josh Robidas were still available when the Wild made this selection. In the video, he almost looks more comfortable playing as a forward on the power play than he does playing on defense. While he moves well and makes a decent first pass, is that enough to think he has a chance to be an NHL’er someday? The Minnesota Wild apparently think so, only time will tell if that was a smart pick.
4th Round (127th Overall) – From Montreal in exchange for the team’s 5th round (150th) and 7th round (214th) selections.
C / RW – Josh Pillar (Kamloops, WHL) ~ Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
Height: 6’0″ Weight: 174lbs Shoots: Right
Central Scouting: #166 Hockey News: N/A ISS: N/A
TSN – McKenzie: N/A HockeyProspect.com: N/A
Future Considerations: #183 The Athletic – Wheeler: N/A
Talent Analysis: A player that was passed over in last year’s draft, Pillar was a forward whose game and skating was very raw that likely scared teams off. However, Pillar has put the work in and looked like a vastly improved player this season as his skating mechanics are much more efficient although mostly in a north / south straight line kind of way. His skating is still very much a work in progress. He does a good job at finding space in the offensive zone to get lost and has the hands to either set up teammates or bury the puck himself. Stickhandling-wise he’s best served keeping it simple, and its another area of his game where he could use more development. Effort-wise works equally hard at both ends of the ice. He likes to work on the forecheck and make life miserable for opponents and forces turnovers with his dogged tenacity. He also seems to have reasonable finishing ability and can score from range with an accurate wrister he likes to go top corner with.
What the Scouts said:
“The foundation of Kamloops Blazers forward Josh Pillar’s game is skating. He identifies opportunities to further his speed advantage by baiting the defender with changes of pace and hesitations, then accelerating once they reach. He’s turned into a direct checker who forces poor decisions, supports the play, and occasionally gets involved physically.” ~ Eliteprospects.com
Bottom Line: He’s a scrappy, hard-working forward who is still refining his skating technique but makes up for his lack of refinement with his sheer effort. He has some offensive skill to his game, but he’s at his best when used as a forechecker. Despite the need for improvement, he was quietly productive for the Blazers this season.
My Take: I guess I’m not sure why the Wild felt it was necessary to move up to select him. His offensive upside isn’t so great that I think a lot of teams were waiting to pounce on him. Also, considering he was taken one selection behind a true finisher in Dylan Duke (by the Tampa Bay Lightning) I hope we’re not mentioning that factoid for years to come. Another scrappy forward Robidas was still available as well as Robert Orr who is another pesky player with some offensive skill in his own right were on the board when we made this selection at the end of the 4th round. While his effort makes him a classic underdog player, who wills himself opportunities it seems odd to trade up for a player with those kinds of flaws to his game.
6th Round (182nd Overall)
LD – Nate Benoit (Mount St. Charles, USHS-RI) ~ Bow, New Hampshire
Height: 6’1″ Weight: 181lbs Shoots: Left
Central Scouting: #179 Hockey News: N/A ISS: N/A
TSN – McKenzie: N/A HockeyProspect.com: N/A
Future Considerations: N/A The Athletic – Wheeler: N/A
Talent Analysis: He’s a mobile defenseman who plays a two-way game and is an intriguing combination of mobility and physicality. Even though he hails from the East Coast, it was this combination of size, mobility and two-way game which is why he is a commit to the University of North Dakota. He likes to jump up into the play and isn’t afraid to sneak down low to be that extra attacker near the crease. He plays the game with a lot of confidence and with an attitude that will make for an agitating presence on the ice. He had a big year for Mount-St. Charles prep school, but only got into a few games with the Tri-City Storm. He can change directions well at high speed and its something he’s worked on. Benoit is a natural puck mover. While his on-ice decision making has also improved, he will probably still have a period of adjustment when he plays for the Tri-City Storm next fall.
What the Scouts said:
“He can absolutely rip the puck. His release is outstanding. I’m excited for the staff there to see him shoot the puck in practice, because he rips it like a pro. He passes like a pro. He’s defending so much better. His stick presence, angling and gap control have all improved dramatically from last year.” ~ Matt Plante Mount-St. Charles Head Coach
Bottom Line: A long-term project player somewhat in the mold of what Nikita Nesterenko was back in 2109 where he has to finish a season of Jr. A hockey before he takes his game to the college level. North Dakota has a good reputation for developing defenseman as does Tri-City so it will be interesting to see how that path goes. You probably won’t have an idea of just what you have until 2-3 years down the road.
My Take: I think he’s an intriguing project defenseman. He’s average sized, mobile likes to play a physical brand of hockey and can chip in at both ends of the ice. In a way his game kind of reminds me of Ian Cole and obviously he will need to be replaced in a few years and Benoit sounds like a player who can bring a lot of same elements to the club if his development goes as planned.
My overall thoughts on the Wild’s draft was they certainly took steps to try to add to their depth at defense, finding some more grit up front and most importantly managed to acquire their future #1 goaltender. To get Jesper Wallstedt where they did was not expected and the team took steps to make sure they got the player they felt was crucial for this club long-term. Carson Lambos and Peart should be solid defensive prospects. The rest of the players they drafted provided some much-needed sandpaper to a prospect pool that doesn’t have many players who play with an element of snarl to their game. I do think the team left players on the draft board that could’ve given them more skill or scoring and still had some physicality to their game. I know this year had to have been one of the most challenging years to assess a draft class with leagues delaying their start or just not playing at all. I’d give Judd Brackett and the Wild scouting staff a solid “A-” for this group of selections. Not too shabby.
What did you think of the Minnesota Wild’s selections? Tell us what you think @CreaseAndAssist!