2015-16 Minnesota Wild Top 10 Prospects
Top 10 Minnesota Wild Prospects

A look at the Minnesota Wild top 10 prospects heading into the 2015-16 season.

The Minnesota Wild are a team that tries to build and develop via the draft. They seldom trade off picks from the first two rounds and have shown patience in bringing prospects up to the NHL. However, only 32% of their current roster is comprised of players drafted by the organization. The majority of the roster is comprised of free agent signings.

There are several young players on the roster who drafted and/or developed by the team and are on the verge of stepping into a larger role. Mikael Granlund, Charlie Coyle and Erik Haula continue to impress up front. Jonas Brodin, Marco Scandella, Matt Dumba and Jared Spurgeon are all 25 and under roster players on the back end providing support for minute muncher Ryan Suter. With several players graduated to the NHL roster, it is time to look towards next generation of prospects.

1. Mike Reilly: Defence – 6′ 2″ / 196 lbs
Drafted: 98th overall in the fourth round of the 2011 draft by the Columbus Blue Jackets
Acquired:  Signed as a free agent in 2015

Like Justin Schultz before him, Reilly completed his college career and remained unsigned by the team that drafted him. After three years he became a free agent and elected to sign in the state where he played college hockey. It is also likely not a coincidence that he signed in Minnesota, a team where his father is a minority share owner. Regardless of the reason, Columbus’ loss is Minnesota’s gain as they added NCAA defence scoring leader in the 22 year old. In his final year, Reilly racked up 42 points, was a top ten finalist for the Hobey Baker Award, and earned a roster spot on team USA at the World Championship. He is NHL ready and could step right into a top four role straight out of training camp.

Scouting Report:

Reilly is an offensive dynamo. He has great vision for passing lanes, a heavy point shot belying his diminutive stature and is a confident stickhandler who shows no qualms about encroaching deep into the offensive zone. While there are justifiable concerns as to his ability to defend at the highest levels, he was used extensively on the PK in college. Hockey Prospectus

2. Alex Tuch: Right Wing – 6’4” / 213 lbs
Drafted: 18th overall in the first round of the 2014 draft by Minnesota

Tuch played last season in the NCAA with Boston College and had an impressive 28 points in 37 games, leading the team in scoring as a freshman. He also had a roster spot on team USA at the WJC, scoring a goal and an assist in five games. Players in college tend to play for several years, but as Tuch is a big, physically mature player already and has good hands and is a powerful skater – he may only play one more year before making the jump to pro.

Scouting Report:

Tuch is a big power winger who skates well with strong balance. He typically is called upon to be the meat and potatoes guy on a skilled line and does so very effectively. Impressive forchecker. Uses his frame to protect the puck and physically supporting his linemates. – Elite Prospects

3. Joel Eriksson Ek: Centre – 6’2” / 180 lbs
Drafted: 20th overall in the first round of the 2015 draft by Minnesota

Eriksson Ek had a great draft year; he started with Farjestad in the Swedish Junior league and scored 21 goals in only 25 games. This performance earned him a call up the senior league, where very few draft eligible players are able to play. He has also been a regular to represent Sweden in international tournaments, including a five goal and six point performance in the WJC. Eriksson Ek has NHL size at 18 and may continue to fill out his tall frame. He already is renowned for his defensive responsibilities and two-way play and has shown an offensive touch. All this projects to a promising NHL career and eventual successor to franchise centre Mikko Koivu.  He still needs some seasoning and perhaps some time adjusting to North America, but he is already signed by the Wild and could be ready in a year or two.

Scouting Report:

A very competitive center who uses his size, skill, and skating to power to the net and create scoring chances. Possesses an elite-level shot, great vision, and slick puckhandling skills; as a result, it’s no surprise that he has a natural knack for scoring big goals. Offensive catalyst, but also defensively responsible. Plays a creative, 200-foot game. All-in-all, an intelligent, scoring center that is productive at both ends of the ice – Elite Prospects

4. Gustav Olofsson: Defence – 6’4” / 191 lbs
Drafted: 46th overall in the second round of the 2013 draft by Minnesota

A shoulder injury that required surgery claimed all but one game of his season in Iowa (AHL). He was recalled be the Wild after he was healthy for the post season, but never got off the black aces. He would have seen NHL time if it were not for the injury and after missing an entire season, he may need some time in the AHL to get his timing and game back.

Scouting Report:

Olofsson is smarter than he is skilled, although he does not lack in the latter. If he does not become gun shy as a result of his injury, we can expect big things, although not big points, from him in the AHL this year. A lot rides on his physical readiness, but his style of game was one which is well suited for a lower pairing in the NHL. – Hockey Prospectus

5. Tyler Graovac: Centre – 6’5” / 200 lbs
Drafted: 191st overall in the seventh round of the 2011 draft by Minnesota

Graovac continues to improve and is shaping up to be a tremendous draft steal from the seventh round for the Wild. Graovac had a breakout season in his final year of junior playing for the Ottawa 67’s and Belleville Bulls. His rookie pro season showed promise as well as he scored 25 points, but was a minus -23. Last year he improved both stats posting 21 goals and 46 points to lead the team in scoring while posting a minus -8. Graovac made his NHL debut as well, playing in three games averaging 9:13 minutes of ice time in a limited role. He is close.

Scouting Report:

Graovac has incredible size and a plus shot, but his skating prowess, or lack thereof, will keep him from being more than a fourth liner. That said, a solid fourth liner is more than was previously expected out of him. – Hockey Prospectus

6. Mario Lucia: Left Wing – 6’3” / 195 lbs
Drafted:  60th overall in the second round of the 2011 draft by Minnesota

Like Tuch, Lucia is a big bodied winger who is developing his game at the college level. Lucia has spent the past three seasons with Notre Dame and has had back-to-back 31 point seasons. He will return for his senior year as an Alternate Captain before he turns pro. His size will ease the pro transition, but he should still see some adjustment time in the AHL before he gets a look in the NHL.

Scouting Report:

Lucia is a speedy winger with some good size, He has been ahead of the competition at every level of his young career and continues to be one of his team’s leading scorers at Notre Dame. His size and strength allow him to dominate at the college level and he has a strong desire to score goals. The other areas of his game are not as developed but should improve when he makes the step up to pro hockey and faces players with similar physical tools. – Hockeys Future

7. Zack Mitchell: Right Wing – 6’0” / 185 lbs
Acquired:  Signed as an undrafted free agent in 2014

Mitchell played his entire junior career with the Guelph Storm in the OHL. He went undrafted and returned for his over age season and helped lead the Storm to a Memorial Cup, where he scored five points in four games. He established his offensive game with an impressive 83 points in 67 games and carried that momentum into his first year as a pro with Iowa in the AHL with 35 points in 76 games to lead the team in rookie scoring. Mitchell is already 22 years old, and not under sized. Having flown under the radar for most of his junior career, this late bloomer is trending up fast and could see his NHL debut sometime this season.

Scouting Report:

He is a tremendously hard worker and plays a complete offensive and defensive game. He’s not the biggest or fastest on the ice, but he is a smart player who has the ability to finish. Scouting reports tell of Mitchell’s high end stickhandling and above average skating ability.  A lot of his goals come from just getting to the scoring areas and making the most of opportunities.  In fact, his style of play is very comparable to that of Zach Parise, especially on the power play.  Furthermore he can play in any situation and is a reliable penalty killer. – Dan Larson, SB Nation

8. Louie Belpedio: Defence – 5’11” / 193 lbs
Drafted:  80th overall in the third round of the 2014 draft by Minnesota

Belpedio is an undersized offensive defenceman who has been slowly climbing up the prospect rankings with his impressive play. He will be a sophomore in Miami after making the NCHC All-Rookie team in his freshman year. Belpedio previously played two season for USA hockey and as such is an early favorite to play a key role in the WJC with USA. A strong tournament and sophomore season would see a bigger jump further up the prospect rankings.

Scouting Report:

smart, mobile defender keeps his mistakes to a minimum .. solid-on-ice awareness and smart decisions enable him to play a two-way game despite his lack of size and physical capabilities .. keep his gaps tight and maintains positioning .. no lack of confidence in his recovery skills .. smart, accurate first pass, is not averse to joining the rush .. expected to play regularly in this year’s WJC given his previous accomplishments with US hockey and strong summer camp .. thick, sturdy build helps him deal with larger opponents .. good compete level .. height will be a deterrent, but has enough smarts and skills to crack the NHL in time. – McKeens Hockey

9. Jordan Greenway:  Left Wing – 6’5” / 222 lbs
Drafted: 50th overall in the second round of the 2015 draft by Minnesota

Greenway was an early first round draft projection, even on some lists top ten, before falling throughout the season and eventually being selected in the second round. He has boom or bust potential – as the next super power forward like Milan Lucic, or the next Tyler Biggs. He uses his massive frame well to win battles in the corners, in front of the net, and to protect the puck. It remains to be seen if he will be as effective against men in the pro and advanced levels. Greenway will play for Boston University this season.

Scouting Report:

A big power winger who can put the puck in the net…moves well for a big guy, with good feet and decent speed…very hard to handle when he has the puck, as he protects the puck with his strength and reach… makes quick feeds to generate scoring chances…possesses a heavy shot and is lethal when he sets up in shooting position off the face-off dot…has the ability to score in many different ways…strong around the net and quick to put home feeds in front…has a very good physical game and is tough to compete with along the boards and down low…helps out defensively by getting back quickly…takes away lanes and pokes pucks loose…battles bouts of inconsistent play – Future Considerations

10. Pavel Jenys:  Centre – 6’3”  / 203 lbs
Drafted: 199th overall in the seventh round of the 2014 draft by Minnesota

The Wild may have found another seventh round gem in Jenys. The big Czech scored an impressive 45 points in 63 games for the Sudbury Wolves in the OHL last year. His profile would have been significantly higher had he played on a better team, as the Wolves were the doormats of the OHL with only 12 wins last season. While still only 19, he could likely make the jump to pro this year and play in Iowa where he could quickly show up on the prospect radar.

Scouting Report:

Jenys has great size and willingness to use it in corner battles as well as in front of the oppositions cage. Has a good shot that is both hard and accurate. Lacks touch on his passes and can over handle the puck. Does not always bring the same high level of effort each game. – Future Considerations

Recent Roster Graduates: Jason Zucker, Christian Folin, Matt Dumba

Players under 25 years old and with less than 25 career NHL games played qualify as a prospect for purpose of this list.

Written by Peter Harling, who can be found on twitter @pharling

Catch up on any Top 10 Team Prospect list that you may have missed.

Mike Reilly

Alex Tuch

Joel Eriksson Ek

Gustav Olofsson

Tyler Graovac

Mario Lucia

Zack Mitchell

Louie Belpedio

Jordan Greenway

Pavel Jenys