2022 Minnesota Wild Draft Preview: Sleepers and Steals

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In the summer of 2021, the Minnesota Wild did something unprecedented, they signed Kirill Kaprizov, who had just 55 games of NHL experience to a 5-year, at $9 million dollars per season.  No player had ever received such an incredible raise after having played so few NHL games.  However, that’s what happens when a 5th round pick (135th overall) in 2015 emerges as the franchise’s first true superstar.  The Hockey News even stated that Kaprizov is the top late-round gem in the last 20 years of the league.

Not too shabby eh?

For the Minnesota Wild Director of Amateur Scouting Judd Brackett and Director of European Scouting Ricard Persson and their crew of NHL scouts Patrick Baum, David Chiarelli, Matt Carle, Chris Hamel, Brian Hunter, Guy Lapointe, Dan LeBlanc, Dan Palango, J.P. Perpich, Ladislav Benysek, Max Kolu and Ivan Nepriaev it is finding quality talent on the 2nd day of the draft.

Draft picks are a commodity but also a chance to find a player that can change the trajectory of a franchise.  The fact the team’s most talented player in franchise history was a former 5th round pick is both impressive and an indictment at the same time.  While it indicates the team was able to find a game changer beyond the first round it also hints that many of those players they picked in the 1st or 2nd rounds didn’t become that game changer the franchise had hoped they would be.

Every pick matters, and you never know what prospect will blossom into a player that helps you win a Stanley Cup.  Florida Panthes’ Patric Hornqvist has played in nearly 900 NHL games and has 263 goals after being drafted last by Nashville in 2005.  Minnesota’s Jacob Middleton has looked pretty good despite being taken last overall in 2014 by the Los Angeles Kings.

For any player drafted, its simply a foot in the door to live the dream they’ve had since they were a kid.  To play in the NHL someday.  What they do with that foot in the door is up to them and a little luck never hurt either.  This article’s focus is looking for other late round gems / steals that might become that next pivotal player for the Wild if they’re fortunate enough to select them.

Of course this is just speculation and some of these players won’t pan out or they won’t meet their expectations but these are players who I think will be available in the later rounds that could be something special.

You never know when a setback might occur as is the case of Minnesota’s 5th round pick (146th Overall) from last summer, Pavel Novak who announced through the organization he could not train due to the advice given to him by his oncologist.  That would suggest the 19-year old right wing has cancer.  We wish him all of the best for his recovery.  Novak, after having a terrific season with the Kelowna Rockets was over a point-per-game last year and was looking like another steal.

Currently, the Minnesota Wild have two selections in the 2nd round, and one pick each in the 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th rounds of the draft.  The team traded away its 7th round pick.

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 3 players each.  I try to take into account the team’s playing style, the players’ skill set 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 SoucyCalen 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.

2022 Minnesota Wild Draft Preview: Forwards

2022 Minnesota Wild Draft Preview: Defenseman

2022 Minnesota Wild Draft Preview: Goaltenders

2022 Minnesota Wild Draft Preview: Sleepers and Steals

C – Owen Beck (Mississauga, OHL)  Port Hope, Ontario

Height: 6’0″  Weight: 190lbs  Shoots: Right

2022 Stats: 68GP  21G 30A = 51pts  14 PIM’s  +17

NHL Central Scouting: #10 (NA)  Hockey News: #47  ISS: #29  Future Considerations: #31

TSN McKenzie: #39  TSN Button: #46  HockeyProspect.com: #37

Athletic Wheeler: #46  Athletic Pronman: #28

Talent Analysis:  A right-shot center who is a decent skater who likes to shoot more than be a playmaker.  His biggest strength is his ability to win face offs where he was the 3rd best in the OHL in that category this season with a rate of around 60%.  Shot is dangerous from in close and at range and at times he demonstrated some great scoring touch off the rush.  The area of question offensively is whether he can diversify his skill set as opposed to being a player who just punches the afterburner and takes a shot as soon as he has an open lane.  That might be a sign of confidence or simply taking what is relatively easy for him at the junior level where his speed stands out more against younger players.  Defensively, he reads the play well and uses his speed to help him on the back check and that adds to his value and versatility where he might be an ideal middle 6 center.  He also finishes his checks consistently and scouts felt he was at his best when he kept his play simple, although they admit it sort of lowers his ceiling a bit which is why he’s not being discussed much as a 1st round pick.

Owen Beck Shifts

Bottom Line:  A fast, right-shot center who is good on his draws should definitely interest the Minnesota Wild a lot.  The fact he likes to shoot and has decent scoring ability should also interest a team who has traditionally struggled to generate offense from its centers.  He probably will be an early 2nd round player at the latest in this draft.  However, wouldn’t he address a lot of issues this team has had for years?  Might be too good to pass up, and possibly the team trades up to take him much the same way they did with Khusnutdinov two years ago.

2022 Minnesota Wild Draft Preview: Sleepers and Steals

RW – Gleb Trikozov (Omskie Yastreby, MHL)  Omsk, Russia

Height: 6’1″  Weight: 185lbs  Shoots: Right

2022 Stats: 35GP  23G 22A = 45pts  22 PIM’s  +14

NHL Central Scouting: #15 (Euro)  Hockey News: #82  Future Considerations: #15

TSN McKenzie: #64  TSN Button: #33  HockeyProspect.com: #18

Athletic Wheeler: #65  Athletic Pronman: #51

Talent Analysis:  Some players are blessed to have that gear that allows them to get up to speed within a few steps and Gleb Trikozov is one of those people.  This burst makes Trikozov tough to contain and he has that rare ability where he can seem to just be able to skate away from just about anyone.  He is particularly effective on zone entries as his speed backs off naturally backs off defenders.  He had a strong season in Russia’s junior league, scoring well over a point-per-game pace.  His shot off the rush is ok and is still a work in progress, but he does have a wicked one-timer which makes him ideally suited for the power play.  One of his biggest areas of improvement was in his general assertiveness.  He appeared to realize he needed to do more of the dirty work to retrieve pucks than simply waiting for the play to come to him.  Defensively he is adequate, but his offensive upside and in-season improvement caught a lot of scouts attention.

Gleb Trikozov Shifts

Bottom Line:  Will the Russian factor cause Trikozov to slide farther than he should?  He’s a player who exhibited tremendous improvement this season and is an enticing combination of speed, scoring and high-end skill.  It might seem odd to say this given what this article focuses on (players that might be available later in the draft), but he might even be a great sleeper pick in the 1st round because the potential of a home run is certainly there with his natural gifts and the ones he’s shown promising development with so far.

2022 Minnesota Wild Draft Preview: Sleepers and Steals

LW – Julian Lutz (EHC Munchen, DEL)  Weingarten, Germany

Height: 6’2″  Weight: 190lbs  Shoots: Left

2022 Stats: 14GP  1G 2A = 3pts  8 PIM’s  +4

NHL Central Scouting: #30 (Euro)  Hockey News: #33  Future Considerations: #51

TSN Button: #34  HockeyProspect.com: #26

Athletic Wheeler: #54  Athletic Pronman: #44

Talent Analysis:  A budding power forward who moves very well and provides solid puck support in all three zones, Julian Lutz quickly earns the trust of the coaches he works with.  A back injury cost him a good portion of the season, but when he did play he impressed scouts with his mobility and his work ethic shift-to-shift while play in Germany’s top league.  Lutz is a strong skater, who strides are powerful and his edgework give him an elusiveness few have when time and space may be in short supply.  He uses his frame effectively to protect the puck and exhibits vision and creativity when he’s trying to dangle past would-be defenders.  His shot has good power but scouts would like to see him use it more often.  Weingarten, Germany-native has the ability and versatility to be a middle-six winger with the proper development as the physical and mental maturity are advanced for a player his age.

Julian Lutz Shifts

Bottom Line:  Small sample-size of games may make slide in the draft, but he has a lot of tools the Wild should like.  Great skater, smart, skilled and doesn’t cheat the game.  If he can continue to gain more confidence in his skills the Wild could have a great middle-six winger it can plug and play perhaps sooner rather than later because he’s already shown he can play effectively against grown men.

2022 Minnesota Wild Draft Preview: Sleepers and Steals

LD – Frederic Brunet (Rimouski, QMJHL)  Gatineau, Quebec

Height: 6’2″  Weight: 185lbs  Shoots: Left

2022 Stats: 63GP  12G 34A = 46  16 PIM’s  +1

NHL Central Scouting: #113 (NA)  HockeyProspect.com: #107

Talent Analysis:  He was passed over in last year’s draft, but hopes to hear his name called this summer and there is a good chance that may happen.  The best part of his game is his skating and ability to gather up pucks and efficiently move it out of the defensive zone.  Brunet eludes pressure with an ability to change direction quickly, however after having gained time and space he can sometimes squander it trying to think about what he wants to do with the puck.  Offensively he has a decent shot and is a calm and effective puck distributor.  In his own end, he could try to engage more physically than he currently does.  Adding strength might make him more confident to add more of a physical element to his game.

Bottom Line:  A capable puck-moving two-way 2nd or 3rd pairing defenseman with added strength.  He’s likely a player that might slide to the 3rd round or later in the draft.

2022 Minnesota Wild Draft Preview: Sleepers and Steals

RD – Noah Warren (Gatineau, QMJHL)  St. Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec

Height: 6’5″  Weight: 225lbs  Shoots: Right

2022 Stats: 62GP  5G 19A = 24pts  52 PIM’s  +17

NHL Central Scouting: #33 (NA)  Hockey News: #36  Future Considerations: #68

TSN McKenzie: #59  TSN Button: #37  HockeyProspect.com: #48

Athletic Wheeler: #77  Athletic Pronman: #81

Talent Analysis:  ‘Big Noah’ as he’s called by his teammates is a raw, big-bodied defesneman who likes to be physical in his own end.  Warren moves well with good first few steps as well as excellent lateral agility.  So what’s the catch?  Puck skills is the area where he needs to work on.  Puck retrievals and his ability to carry the puck have been sort of a work in progress but most scouts note they witnessed steady and marked improvement in that part of his game throughout the season.  Offensively he has a powerful shot as one would expect from a player with his size and strength but is probably not going to see any power play time at the NHL level.  Defensively, Warren is very stout using his reach and his strength to deny the middle of the ice and likes to finish his checks with ferocity but some believe he is capable of showing even more snarl than he already does.  An intriguing project defenseman who moves well for a player of his size but it might take a few seasons in the minors for you to realize you have a special talent on your hands.

Noah Warren Highlights

Bottom Line:  Athletic, strong who has shown steady improvement in his draft year.  Probably projects as a 3rd pair stay-at-home defenseman with some versatility to be a stalwart on the penalty kill with proper development.  I don’t think he’ll be available beyond the 2nd round.

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

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