A week after the Minnesota Wild concluded their season in a six-game playoff series loss to Saint Louis, team general manager Bill Guerin was on KFAN discussing the team with Dan Barriero. In the spirited exchange, Guerin sounded off on a number of subjects including defending alternate captain Matt Dumba when asked by Barriero if Wild fans should expect to see him traded this summer.
Guerin was emphatic in his defense saying, “Why is it always Dumba, Dumba’s played a lot of minutes for us. Everyone’s got their shortcomings, but he’s done a lot of good things for this organization. A lot people in his health probably wouldn’tve played, all I hear is Matt (Dumba) getting dumped on but everyone wants to ride him out of town because another guy had 3 good months!”
Daggers to Kevin Fiala aside, Guerin’s defense surprised a lot of fans. It would indicate the team does not wish to part ways with Dumba and this is a team that already has 3 defenseman under contract for next season with no movement clauses in team captain Jared Spurgeon, Jonas Brodin and Alex Goligoski. Looking at CapFriendly.com, the Minnesota Wild have 7 defenseman under contract for next season including 22 year old Calen Addison.
Addison had another solid season with the Iowa Wild but there doesn’t appear to be a roster spot open for the talented prospect to move into. “He’s got to kick the door in,” was what Bill Guerin said when asked about Addison’s chances of making the opening night roster. Another player in this mix is restricted free agent Jacob Middleton who looked good after the Wild acquired him via a trade with San Jose. Middleton brought much needed size and physicality to a blueline that is relatively small and more finesse driven.
Minnesota’s trade of Kevin Fiala to the Los Angeles Kings for the 19th Overall pick and the rights to Minnesota Golden Gophers’ defenseman Brock Faber. Faber, who recently announced he was returning to the University of Minnesota for his junior year is a 6’0″ right-shot defenseman who is strong in his own end, with good mobility and isn’t afraid to be physical.
When you look at Minnesota’s prospects, most of their defenseman are similar to many of the defenseman this team has valued. Mobile, two-way defenseman who are capable puck movers and can join in the play offensively. At 5’11”, 172lbs Addison fits that mold. However, after so many 1st round exits is it time to re-evaluate that archetype?
Whether its the Tampa Bay Lightning, Saint Louis Blues, Washington Capitals and any of the last few Stanley Cup champions you don’t see bluelines made up solely of smaller puck moving defensemen. That isn’t to say there isn’t value to players who can defend well but also distribute the puck effectively; of course there is. Truth is, the Wild have plenty of defensemen in its system, prospects and otherwise like that.
Barring any trades, the Wild are currently set to draft 19th and 24th Overall. In trying to project a list of players for you to examine, my list takes into account players who I think could plausibly be available when the Wild would go to make their first selection at 18th.
Spoiler alert, so you won’t see me profiling players like Simon Nemec, David Jiricek or Denton Mateychuk because it is extremely unlikely there is any scenario that would see those players drop to #19 or #24.
Another endless debate is who do the Wild select? Do they address their needs or take the ‘best player available’? I have always found the ‘best player available’ to be a glittering generality. On the surface it sounds logical, but do you just continue mindlessly drafting the ‘best player available’ no matter what your organizational needs are?
So what I have done is to rank the order of needs for the Wild as I perceive it; and then create a listing of players at each position group to create a draft board so to speak with 5 players each. I try to take into account the team’s playing style, the players’ skillset and provide profiles of players that I think would fit.
What are the Minnesota Wild’s needs?
1. Top 6 Center or goal scoring winger with speed – Organizationally, the team hasn’t really had a player that fit the mold of a 1st line center since Pavol Demitra. Prospects Marco Rossi and Marat Khustnutdinov may develop into NHL centers but its far from certain, so the organization should continue to try to add options for that position. If that player isn’t available, another area with little depth is a goal scoring winger. Adam Beckman had a tough adjustment from a scoring standpoint going from the WHL to the AHL.
2. Bigger stay at home defenseman – After so many post-season failures, fans and media are starting to recognize that while Minnesota’s defensive corps is mobile, they’re not very big nor are they physical. Those last two qualities have been problematic and the one way to address it is through the draft where the team hasn’t drafted and developed a large mobile blueliner since Carson Soucy. Brock Faber, Calen Addison, Carson Lambos, Jack Peart, Marshall Warren, Daemon Hunt and Ryan O’Rourke may all be showing promise but all of them are under 6’3″. Now may be a good time to try to develop another big bodied stay at home defender who may have Top 4 ability.
3. Backup goaltender – Jesper Wallstedt appears to be the Minnesota Wild’s #1 goaltender of the future, but is there a back up goalie in the system? Hunter Jones, Dereck Baribeau have had their struggles at the minor league level last season. They would be wise in adding at least another quality goaltending prospect this summer.
1. LD – Lian Bichsel (Leksand, SHL) – Wolfwil, Switzerland
Height: 6’5″ Weight: 225lbs Shoots: Left
2022 Stats: 29GP 1G 2A = 3pts 16 PIM’s -6
NHL Central Scouting: #9 (Euro) Hockey News: #22 Future Considerations: #25
TSN McKenzie: #35 TSN Button: #64 ISS: #28 HockeyProspect.com: #17
Athletic Wheeler: #51 Athletic Pronman: #15
Talent Analysis: There are some players who will need time to grow into their ‘man’ body, Bichsel is not one of them as he’s already filled out and uses his size and strength effectively to deny the middle of the ice and the crease area clear of lingering opposing skaters. Swiss-born defenseman moves well for his size and likes to dish out big hits. Playing in Sweden’s top league, even though he’s a youngster his penchant for delivering hits with ferocity made opposing skaters hesitate to attack on his side of the ice. They know they would have to pay a painful physical price to make a play so they don’t try and its not often where you see grown men decide they would rather not get crushed by an 18-year old. Bichsel has good on-ice awareness and reads the play well too making him a natural on the penalty kill. He’s a decent skater and he anticipates the play well so he’s not caught flat-footed very often. Offensively, his game is pretty simple but there is potential for growth here as he has a decent shot. He has shown steady improvement in regards to puck retrieval and puck handling in general in his time in the SHL.
Bottom Line: Bichsel is a smart, mobile solidly-built tall defenseman who plays with snarl and physically punishes opponents. His game appears to be steadily improving in the offensive parts of the game which add to his versatility. Top 4 potential seems rather reasonable and even if the offensive parts of his game never really emerge you still have a terrific physical shut down defender on your hands. There is a fair chance someone will pick him up before #19 or #24, but he’s the type of defender that you win games in the post-season with as he’s a true warrior on the ice.
2. LD – Owen Pickering (Swift Current, WHL) St. Adolphe, Manitoba
Height: 6’5″ Weight: 179lbs Shoots: Left
Stats: 62GP 9G 24A = 33pts 39 PIM’s -29
NHL Central Scouting: #15 (NA) Hockey News: #16 Future Considerations: #32
TSN McKenzie: #36 TSN Button: #13 ISS: #19 HockeyProspect.com: #19
Athletic Wheeler: #53 Athletic Pronman: #24
Talent Analysis: St. Adolphe, Manitoba-native is lanky defender who combines excellent mobility with lots of potential to become a dominant two-way defenseman. Uses his long reach effectively to deny the middle of the ice and to funnel opposing skaters to the perimeter. Puck retrievals are a definite strength of his game as he’ll carve away pucks from opposing skaters and then quickly outlet the puck out of the zone. He uses his leverage effectively to make life miserable for players going into the corners for loose pucks or trying to screen goaltenders. So far, Pickering has not developed a mean streak where he is dishing out hits but he is a pain in the ass to play against because he moves well and doesn’t give opposing skaters much in the way of time and space. Super cool and calm under pressure, he keeps his head up and makes the right play to work the puck out of his own end of the ice. Perhaps it was a byproduct of playing on poor Swift Current team, but Pickering mostly keeps it simple in the offensive zone. He has a decent shot that is heavy and can cause some havoc when it goes on goal, but his offensive part of the game could use some more refinement and assertiveness. His passes are ok, although at times he doesn’t always size up the situation correctly and sends passes that put his teammates in a difficult spot. Yet with proper development could be honed into an effective Top 4 shutdown defender.
Bottom Line: In a strange way he sounds like a taller version of Jonas Brodin. Great mobility, solid in his own zone with limited offensive ability. Like Brodin, Pickering’s contributions are more subtle and he’s almost at his best when you don’t really notice he’s there. I think there is a fair possibility he will be available when the Wild go to make their 1st selection at #19 and / or #24.
3. RD – Maveric Lamoureux (Drummondville, QMJHL) Hawkesbury, Ontario
Height: 6’7″ Weight: 220lbs Shoots: Right
2022 Stats: 54GP 4G 20A = 24pts 69 PIM’s -30
NHL Central Scouting: #20 (NA) Hockey News: #30 Future Considerations: #48
TSN McKenzie: #28 TSN Button: #68 ISS: # HockeyProspect.com: #55
Athletic Wheeler: #85 Athletic Pronman: #43
Talent Analysis: When I talked about Lian Bichsel we talked about how he already had his man body. Scary thing about Lamoureaux is that even though he’s already 6’7″ he still has a ways to go to fill out his frame yet and he’s already 220lbs. Hawkesbury, Ontario-native likes to dish out hits but has shown some durability issues as he continues to add strength. He moves reasonably well for a player of his size and that will only improve as he gets stronger, and he uses his reach effectively to force opposing skaters to the perimeter. Agility is good, and he recovers quickly. Yet his game is still very raw and there are certainly areas for improvement. One of those areas where he must improve is in his puck retrievals and making that first pass out of the zone. At times when he is under pressure his passes lack accuracy or he takes too much time trying to decide on where he wants to pass the puck which leads to turnovers. Offensively his game is simple, but he has shown a little bit of dangle and variety to his game. Probably will not see much time on the power play at the NHL level, but he’s not clueless in the offensive zone either. He has shown the ability to buy time near the point as well as being a reasonable puck distributor. Projects as a possible 2nd but more likely 3rd pair defenseman if he can refine his game.
Bottom Line: A big, mobile defenseman who likes to hit and still has to add strength to his 6’7 frame. He probably isn’t a 1st round pick, but he probably won’t make it past the 2nd round either. He’s an intriguing right-shot project defenseman who could give you someone really special if you can round out the rough areas of his game. Minnesota has never really had that big of a blueliner regularly patrolling its blueline since Andy Sutton or John Scott, and Lamoureaux appears to be more mobile than either of them.
4. RD – Sam Rinzel (Chaska, USHS-MN) Chanhassen, Minnesota
Height: 6’3″ Weight: 181lbs Shoots: Right
Stats: 27GP 9G 29A = 38pts 22 PIM’s
NHL Central Scouting: #19 (NA) Hockey News: #42 Future Considerations: N/A
TSN McKenzie: #47 TSN Button: #38 ISS: N/A
Athletic Wheeler: #52 Athletic Pronman: #50 HockeyProspect.com: #32
Talent Analysis: Split time between Chaska High School and the Waterloo Blackhawks of the USHL this season. Big, skilled and mobile scouts are intrigued by the right-shot defenseman’s potential. With the puck he can be elusive and can get up to speed quickly where he looks comfortable joining the rush. He has a decent shot, and likes to assert himself in the play. Golden Gophers-commit has the ability to back off the forecheck with his ability to change directions and his relative unpredictability with the puck. Defensively, he can get caught puck watching at times and will need to improve his overall awareness of where scoring threats are on the ice and then move to put himself in position to take those threats away. Some scouts also felt he could be more assertive physically given his size and athleticism. That is probably the biggest question mark to Rinzel’s game is whether through more experience at a higher level can he learn to process the game and anticipate what must be done given the situation at hand. If he can do that, he has the physical tools and ability to be a Top 4 defenseman at the NHL level.
Bottom Line: A big, mobile right-shot defenseman with lots of raw ability, but needs more experience to hone the mind to match his physical gifts. It is rare to see a Minnesota High School player move up from the mid-term rankings as Rinzel has done because NHL scouts often get caught up in the argument that they dominated against weaker competition. However Rinzel improved his standing and showed improvement in his time in the USHL as well. He’s more of a long-term project defenseman which is why I’d probably only look to acquire him with Minnesota’s 2nd round pick rather than their 1st round selection.
5. RD – Tristan Luneau (Gatineau, QMJHL) Trois-Rivieres, Quebec
Height: 6’2″ Weight: 190lbs Shoots: Right
2022 Stats: 63GP 12G 31A = 43pts 20 PIM’s +9
NHL Central Scouting: #24 (NA) Hockey News: #38 Future Considerations: #34
TSN McKenzie: #21 TSN Button: #30 ISS: N/A HockeyProspect.com: #52
Athletic Wheeler: #31 Athletic Pronman: #37
Talent Analysis: An all situations two-way right-shot defenseman who moves well and good puck skills. What differentiates Luneau compared to other defenseman is his excellent situational awareness and poise with the puck. He has the ability to dangle near the blueline to open up shooting lanes. Another strength of Luneau’s game is how efficiently he retrieves pucks and makes the first pass out of the zone. His shot is ok, but not great which will probably keep him off the top power play of most NHL teams yet he’s a capable puck distributor. Luneau is an average skater and while he looks smooth in motion he doesn’t have that first step burst you see from some of the other top-rated defenseman available in this draft. Some of that may be remedied by adding strength. He is a well-rounded defenseman who isn’t flashy but with some added strength might be a solid 2nd or 3rd pairing NHL defenseman.
Bottom Line: Another player who is probably better suited to taking in the 2nd round rather than the 1st, he’s got to add strength to give him better 3-step quickness. His poise, puck skills and well-rounded game make him a player you want to invest the time and energy to hone into the best player he can be.
What defense prospect intrigues you the most? Tell us on Twitter at @CreaseAndAssist!