2022 Minnesota Wild Draft Preview: Forwards


Have a great summer.  It was the repeated message you wrote in school yearbooks as a kid.  NHL fans hope their respective team’s have a great summer in free agency and the Entry Draft which is about a month away.

Some may call it the ‘off-season’ but its really prime time for NHL teams’ scouting departments.  A time where they take all of that analytic data, anecdotes from scouts and coaches and try to select the players that will become the cornerstones of a team’s future.

Perhaps since 2012, the Minnesota Wild prospect pool has never looked as theoretically ‘deep’ on paper with quality players at each of the three major positional groups.  Key phrase being, ‘on paper’ because as we know from that hyped up group of young players that once included ‘Finnish Baby Jesus’ Mikael Granlund, Jason Zucker, Charlie Coyle, Jonas Brodin and Matt Dumba that it allegedly played a role in the fact Ryan Suter and Zach Parise signed with the club.

Suter and Parise thought they were joining an emerging Stanley Cup contender.  Needless to say it didn’t turn out that way, not even close.

Even with the Wild managing to add another top prospect in the Cal Clutterbuck / Nino Niederreiter trade, the once promising crop of youngsters often left you wanting more.  Streaky, inconsistent, whatever adjective you wish to use the Wild could never seem to rely on any of its group of youngsters to carry the team.

By the time Wild General Manager Bill Guerin arrived most of these players had been moved out or were shipped out by Guerin himself.  Since then the team has drafted a super star talent in Kirill Kaprizov and developed solid two-way center Joel Eriksson Ek, power forward Jordan Greenway and skilled winger Matt BoldyConnor Dewar and Brandon Duhaime have been reasonable bottom-6 supporting players.

Don’t forget, the team also parted ways with former 1st round picks Alex Tuch, Luke Kunin and Nick Leddy.  So its not like the team hasn’t been able to find NHL talent in the draft.

Minnesota seems to be at an impasse with scoring winger Kevin Fiala, and even though he’s still one season away from unrestricted free agency it appears unlikely the team will be able to afford to re-sign him this year.  Make no mistake, Wild fans like Fiala a lot, he had the 2nd best season in franchise history this year but they also understand the organization’s self-inflicted cap crunch.

Guerin answered some of that questions when he dealt Fiala to the Los Angeles Kings for the 18th Overall pick in 2022 and acquired the rights to Golden Gophers’ defenseman and Maple Grove, Minnesota-native Brock Faber.

Twin buyouts of Parise and Suter now saddle the team with over $12.7 million in ‘dead money’ and with other smaller short-term deals to players like Tyson Jost, Dmitry Kulikov, Alex Goligoski there simply wasn’t enough cap space to keep him with the club.

Who in the Wild’s prospect pool can help replace the loss of Fiala?  To be honest, I am not sure if the Wild have anyone quite like Kevin Fiala in its current group of young talent.

Marco Rossi had a decent first full season of professional hockey with Iowa, but he plateaued after a strong start.  Coincidentally, that plateau began after the team called up Matt Boldy who ironically was the catalyst for Fiala to get out his own rut at the start of the season.

Rossi demonstrated his deft playmaking ability on the power play, but he lacked the explosiveness in his skating and the motor that made him look so dominant at the junior level.  Was that a side effect of having lost a season of playing and developing due to myocarditis or was he simply overwhelmed physically by playing in a men’s league at 19?  Perhaps a bit of both.

After that, any potential replacement option seems years away.  Barring any trades, the Wild are currently set to draft between #19 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 Shane Wright, Logan Cooley or Juraj Slafkovsky 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.

2022 Central Scouting Final Rankings: Movement Tracker

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 SoucyBrock 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 goaltenderJesper 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.

2022 Minnesota Wild Draft Preview: Defenseman

2022 Minnesota Wild Draft Preview: Goaltenders

2022 Minnesota Wild Draft Preview: Sleepers & Steals

2022 Minnesota Wild Draft Preview: Forwards

1. RW / LW – Danila Yurov (Stalye Misney Magnitogorsk, MHL)  Chelyabinsk, Russia

Height: 6’1″  Weight: 179lbs  Shoots: Left

2022 Stats: 23GP  13G 23A = 36pts  8 PIM’s  +22

NHL Central Scouting: #7 (Euro)  Hockey News: #19  Future Considerations: #6

TSN McKenzie: #8  TSN Button: #11  ISS: #9  HockeyProspect.com: #10

Athletic Wheeler: #12  Athletic Pronman: #10

Talent Analysis:  Yurov cut his teeth this last season in the KHL where he struggled to find playing time on a very solid Magnitogorsk team.  In need of more playing time and opportunity, he did reasonably well playing in Russia’s junior circuit, scoring well above a point-per-game pace.  High-end puck skills are matched with an equally impressive high-end hockey mind where he anticipates openings before they emerge and always appears to be one-step ahead of the game.  Calculated was a word scouts used over and over to describe his approach to the game.  He draws power and small bursts of speed with excellent edgework in his skating which he uses effectively in the offensive zone.  However, he doesn’t possess that afterburner that just allows him to fly past opposing skaters, but he moves well overall.  Most glaring weakness is his shot lacks power whether he’s taking a wrist or snap shot or even a slapper.  Yurov has a penchant for trying to use screens to make up for his shot’s lack of velocity.  A natural playmaker, he is a deft passer as well even when moving at top speed where he demonstrates tremendous touch and precision.  As calculated as he is in the offensive zone, he uses that high hockey IQ to anticipate plays in the defensive zone and force turnovers.  At times scouts thought he was a bit too passive and felt he could’ve dominated more than he did.

Danila Yurov Highlights

Bottom Line:  A highly skilled playmaking winger who skates well, and plays a complete 200-foot game.  Whether its fair or not, he might slide in the draft due to the fact he’s Russian and with the current international situation teams might pass even though most lists have him somewhere between the 8-15 range.  Shooting is something that can be improved through technique and practice, but Yurov has oodles of talent in the areas you can’t teach.  Even if he slides in the draft there is a pretty fair chance that some team will take a chance on him before the Wild make their pick at #19 or #24, but this draft has more variation beyond the top 10 than others we’ve seen so its not unrealistic to believe he might still be there when they go make their selection.

2022 Minnesota Wild Draft Preview: Forwards

2. LW – Isaac Howard (USNDT, USHL)  Hudson, Wisconsin

Height: 5’10”  Weight: 181lbs  Shoots: Left

2022 Stats: 27GP  11G 26A = 37pts  32 PIM’s  +18

NHL Central Scouting: #9 (NA)  Hockey News: #24  Future Considerations: #38

TSN McKenzie: #15  TSN Button: #23  ISS: #26  HockeyProspect.com: #20

Athletic Wheeler: #10  Athletic Pronman: #31

Talent Analysis:  Former Shattuck-St. Mary’s star is a dangerous dual-threat winger who was had the 2nd best point production of any player on the U.S. National Development program next to Golden Gophers’ commit Logan Cooley.  Howard is especially dangerous off the rush where he puts himself in a good position to being a passing or shooting option.  Shifty and quick rather than straight-line fast, he can be very elusive in the offensive zone.  Hudson-native uses his speed effectively to transition quickly and at times can be caught cheating a bit hoping for a loose puck to chase.  One-on-one he doesn’t have a wide variety of moves to get by would-be defenders which may be problematic at higher levels.  Also at times on 2-on-1’s he has a tendency to want to attempt a blind spin-a-rama pass that seems unnecessarily ‘cute’.  Minnesota-Duluth commit is one of the best shooters of this draft class, he has an explosive release and excels at one-timers making him a natural shooting option on the power play.  Tends to want to avoid battles in the corners and is not the type of player that looks to engage physically.  Even though he is not a player that looks to deliver hits, he consistently will move into high-traffic areas to make plays.  Defensively, he’s moderately attentive on the back check using a good active sticks to break up passing lanes.

Isaac Howard Highlights

Bottom Line:  Howard is an offense-generating winger who still has to round out the other parts of his game (i.e. defensive commitment).  He can score, he is a reasonable passer and is relatively fearless in the scoring areas of the ice.  Is it worth it to add a gifted scorer even if he may not be as well rounded as other players, that’s the question teams will be forced to confront if they draft him.  Scouts seem to be mixed in their projection as either a top 6 or middle 6 winger; but almost all agree that they feel he can be a scorer at the NHL level.  His game reminds me a lot of fellow Wisconsin-native Cole Caufield.

2022 Minnesota Wild Draft Preview: Forwards

3. C / LW – Marco Kasper (Rogle Bk, SHL)  Innsbruck, Austria

Height: 6’1″  Weight: 187lbs  Shoots: Left

Stats: 46GP  7G 4A = 11pts  17 PIM’s  -10

NHL Central Scouting: #5 (Euro)  Hockey News: #15  Future Considerations: #18

TSN McKenzie: #17  TSN Button: #27  ISS: #12  HockeyProspect.com: #7

Athletic Wheeler: #24  Athletic Pronman: #9

Talent Analysis:  Stone cold competitor is a great way to describe this versatile forward who can play on the wing or at center.  Like fellow Austrian and Wild prospect Marco Rossi, Kasper gets rave reviews for his physical and mental maturity for a player his age.  Innsbruck-native played the entire season in Sweden’s top league and impressed scouts with his poise and how his level of play improved when Rogle was in the playoffs.  He likes to push the pace of play when he has the puck and doesn’t shy away from the high-traffic areas of the ice.  Moves well with good edges and strength on his skates, what separates him from most other prospects is his relentless motor.  Forechecks with the same speed and effort as he does when he’s backchecking, he simply doesn’t stop working and battling for pucks.  He battles in the corners, he doesn’t hesitate to block shots or to dish out a big hit.  An adept puckhandler, he shows terrific calm and cleverness in 1-on-1 situations, that allow him to recognize the situation and use the correct kind of move to elude a defender.  With a great motor and 200-foot game mentality there is a lot to like but this is where you start to see the limitations in his game.  His work in the offensive zone is rather simplistic; while he has the ability to make a nice pass he isn’t the kind of player that has next-level sense to find a teammate who may not have looked open to begin with only to find him with the perfect feed.  Kasper has an ok shot, but his snap and wrist shot lacks the velocity one would expect from a player who is as physically mature as he is.  He has shown he does possess a cannon of a slap shot though.  This has caused some scouts to question where his offensive upside may project at the NHL level.  However, he does not mind using his above average frame to screen goaltenders or look for redirections from in front.  A solid player which gives teams a lot to like and if he can add more offense you may have one of the most complete players in this entire draft.

Marco Kasper Highlights

Bottom Line:  A relentless, hard working forward who doesn’t cheat and gives you everything he has each shift.  The question mark is does he have enough offensive upside to play in a top 6 role on your team?  Will those offensive questions cause Kasper to slide in the draft will no doubt appreciate his mature game he’s already demonstrated to be effective at the professional level in Sweden?  If those question marks are not glaring enough there is a very good chance he will be selected before Minnesota goes to make its pick at #19 or #24.

2022 Minnesota Wild Draft Preview: Forwards

4. C – Jiri Kulich (Karlovy Vary, Czechia Superleague)  Kadan, Czechia

Height: 5’11”  Weight: 179lbs  Shoots: Left

2022 Stats: 49GP  9G 5A = 14pts  4 PIM’s  +7

NHL Central Scouting: #13 (Euro)  Hockey News: #31  Future Considerations: #22

TSN McKenzie: #40  TSN Button: #14  ISS: #15  HockeyProspect.com: #21

Athletic Wheeler: #22  Athletic Pronman: #17

Talent Analysis:  Czechia is starting to make a comeback as a major source of NHL talent and Kulich is goal-scoring center who doesn’t cheat the defensive side of the game.  Kulich possesses explosive speed and show significant improvement in his skating mechanics, and as his skating improved so did his overall confidence in his game.  His shot also improved but at times he is guilty of forcing low-percentage shots instead of looking for another option.  Kadan-native plays a high-risk, high-reward game which might remind some Wild fans of Kevin Fiala in how he can make dazzling plays but also make foolish decisions which become dangerous turnovers.  Passing is adequate, but he’s more of a shoot-first player anyways.  Defensively he’s smart and reads the play very well.  His skating allows him to stay with most players and he uses his angles effectively to take away time and space.  There is some question whether Kulich’s game projects better as a center or as winger.  He isn’t afraid to go into the corners and get his nose dirty battling for pucks or using the body to make a play.  A very well-rounded player.

Jiri Kulich Highlights

Bottom Line:  A goal-scoring forward who plays solid defensively.  I think he probably projects more as a winger than as a center but he has Top 6 or at the very least Top 9 ability.  He has speed, works hard at both ends and a steadily improving offensive game that make him an intriguing option if he’s available at #19 or #24.  The fact he’s already had one season playing in Czechia’s top league might mean he may be ready sooner rather than later.

2022 Minnesota Wild Draft Preview: Forwards

5. C / RW – Brad Lambert (Pelicans, Sm-Liiga)  Lahti, Finland

Height: 6’0″  Weight: 183lbs  Shoots: Right

2022 Stats (JYP & Pelicans): 49GP  4G 6A = 10pts  43 PIM’s  -16

NHL Central Scouting: #10 (Euro)  Hockey News: #21  Future Considerations: #8

TSN McKenzie: #11  TSN Button: #35  ISS: #10  HockeyProspect.com: #29

Athletic Wheeler: #8  Athletic Pronman: #14

Talent Analysis:  An elite skating forward who is poetry in motion with the puck on his stick.  Some players just make it look smooth and effortless, like the late Guy Lafleur but the big question is it all just appearances for Lambert?  He can dazzle with his speed and athleticism that few prospects in this draft can come even close to, which he uses to his greatest effect on entries into the zone where he can make plays at full speed.  These flashes of brilliance happen, but perhaps the operative word is flashes as in they are not the norm.  Too often Lambert decides ahead of time before the play has materialized as to what he’s going to do, so in other words he kind of takes a guess and makes a play with the puck.  Lambert’s skating and terrific quickness create time and space for himself in the offensive zone but its almost as though he’s not aware that he has this natural advantage.  Shot is NHL calibre in terms of the velocity and quickness of the release, but he doesn’t always change up the locations he chooses when he shoots the puck making him a bit predictable in this area.  He doesn’t ignore his defensive responsibilities and can use his speed to put a lot of pressure on opposing defenses.  There is a lot of raw talent to Brad Lambert’s game, can that athleticism and natural gifts be honed and blossom with the right coaches and linemates?

Brad Lambert Highlights

Bottom Line:  Tremendous raw talent and athleticism, but still needing to learn some of the more subtle nuances of the game.  Lambert is arguably the best pure skater in this draft and can make the kind of plays elite players can make, but can he find more consistency?  He is a divisive player where you see all of the natural gifts and simply have to decide whether you think he can learn how to put it all together or not.  That makes him more risky, but that also might be a reason why he slides farther down then where some lists have him projected to go.  He’s a rare right-shot center with great wheels, wouldn’t it be intriguing to see him center a line with Kirill Kaprizov on it?  If he drops to #19 or #24, will we be willing to take that risk that he might be another teaser?

What forward prospect intrigues you the most?  Tell us on Twitter at @CreaseAndAssist!

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