The Wild are a veteran-laden team built around players such as Eric Staal, Mikko Koivu, Zach Parise, and Ryan Suter who are all north of 30-years-old.
They have another tier of roster players in their prime in Jason Zucker, Charlie Coyle, Mikael Granlund, and Jared Spurgeon that give them a balance between youth and experience.
What the Wild need is the next generation or group of prospects to take the next step and make an impact. The Wild have several high-end prospects that have significant potential but are lacking in overall depth. Not selecting until the third round of the 2017 draft did not help.
2017-18 Minnesota Top Ten Prospects
1. Kirill Kaprizov, LW/RW – CSKA Moskva (KHL)
Drafted: 135th overall in the fifth round of the 2015 draft by Minnesota
The Wild rolled the dice on their fifth-round pick swinging for the fences with Kaprizov. He is still under contract in the KHL for another two years, but there is no doubting his elite offensive ability. Kaprizov has a proven track record of production playing in the KHL and internationally for Russia. Kaprizov would have a tremendous impact should he come to North America, giving the Wild a significant offensive boost, but that looks to be a few more years away at this time.
2. Joel Eriksson-Ek, C – Iowa Wild (AHL)
Drafted: 20th overall in the first round of the 2015 draft by Minnesota
After spending some time in the NHL last year as a 19-year-old, and having a terrific World Junior performance, all signs pointed to Eriksson-Ek having an impact in his rookie season in the NHL. He started the year and has played in 45 games with Minnesota, but has just one goal and eight points in that time. He has been assigned back to the AHL to regain some confidence and momentum in Iowa. Eriksson-Ek remains the heir apparent to Mikko Koivu as one of the Wilds top two centers as they play a similar game. He has size, skill, smarts and plays a reliable two-way game.
3. Luke Kunin, C – Iowa Wild (AHL)
Drafted: 15th overall in the first round of the 2015 draft by Minnesota
Kunin had two successful years in NCAA and broke the point per game pace in his sophomore year. In addition, he was named Captain of Team USA leading them to Gold at the World Junior and finished last year as a pro, playing in 12 regular season games posting five goals and eight points. Kunin played his way into his NHL debut this year, posting two goals and four points in his first 17 games. Now back in the AHL, he continues to develop and gain pro experience. He has a bright future with the Wild and will be one of the players they expect to play a prominent role.
4. Jordan Greenway, LW – Boston U. (NCAA)
Drafted: 50th overall in the second round of the 2015 draft by Minnesota
In his junior year with the Terriers, Greenway continues to pile up points and penalty minutes. Greenway has a World Junior Gold Medal with USA, and was a member of the USA World Championship roster as well. Another feather in his cap is his inclusion to the USA Olympic roster coming up in South Korea. Greenway is a hulking power forward that has plenty of skill and can skate. He has NHL impact potential written all over and is a likely candidate to begin his pro career after the current school season ends.
5. Louis Belpedio, D – Miami U. (NCAA)
Drafted: 80th overall in the third round of the 2014 draft by Minnesota
Belpedio is in his senior and final year of NCAA hockey and has quietly assembled a very solid resume. Serving as Captain for the past three years, won a Gold Medal with USA at the U-18 in 2014, won a NCHC Championship in 2015 and a World Junior Bronze with USA in 2016. As a senior he is expectedly producing a career year and is a point per game offensive production. He has always been an offensive producer. His defensive game has seen marked improvement as seen in his plus/minus, which has been a double-digit negative the past two seasons but is back in the plus column now. Belpedio has the option to wait until August and become restricted free agent this summer, so expect the Wild to push hard to sign him immediately at the conclusion of this season.
6. Dmitri Sokolov, W/C – Barrie Colts (OHL)
Drafted: 196th overall in the seventh round of the 2016 draft by Minnesota
Another roll of the dice on a Russian player. Sokolov has tremendous offensive upside and is a dangerous goal scorer with a deadly quick, hard, and accurate shot. Despite having already come to North America, the red flags on his file was his conditioning, consistency, and compete. Common concerns among 17-year-olds, Sokolov is now 19, earned a spot on the Russian World Junior roster and has found scary good chemistry on his new team in Barrie with fellow countryman Andrei Svechnikov. Prior to the trade Sokolov wore a letter in Sudbury as an Alternate Captain showing he has made gains in his attitude towards his team and career. The Wild took a gamble on Sokolov as he nearly passed through the draft unselected, and it looks like it is going to pay major dividends.
7. Justin Kloos, C – Iowa Wild (AHL)
Drafted: Signed as a free agent by Minnesota in 2017
Signed as a free agent after four years in the NCAA at the University of Minnesota.
In the final two years, he served as Captain and posted over a point per game offense. In his rookie year as a pro, Kloos has carried his offensive production over in the AHL as the team’s rookie leading scorer and the sixth overall in the AHL. Kloos even earned his first call-up to the NHL and made his debut but was held pointless. It remains to be seen if he can take the next step and produce in the NHL, but as a free agent the Wild are playing with house money, and at the very least have a quality AHL player.
8. Sam Anas, RW/C – Iowa Wild (AHL)
Drafted: Signed as a free agent in 2016
Another college free agent, now in his second year as a pro, Anas had a good rookie season posting 28 points. He has already eclipsed that point total by nine points in 26 fewer games this year and is leading the team in scoring with 16 goals. This is a contract year for Anas, and he is playing his way into another two-way NHL contract at this pace. Anas is very undersized and needs to continue to produce at perhaps an even higher pace to be considered for an NHL call-up.
9. Ivan Lodnia, RW – Erie Otters (OHL)
Drafted: 85th overall in the third round of the 2017 draft by Minnesota
Lodnia was the Wilds first pick in the 2017 draft, which didn’t occur until the third round. Lodnia is hot off a Championship season in Erie that culminated in a Memorial Cup appearance. Lodnia is a powerful skater and strong player in his peer group with a good, hard shot. Lodnia has taken on a bigger role in Erie this year as many of the Otters star players have graduated and his production has improved as a result. The California native will have one more year of junior eligibility remaining before he turns pro.
10. Mason Shaw, C – Medicine Hat Tigers (WHL)
Drafted: 97th overall in the fourth round of the 2017 draft by Minnesota
Shaw suffered a knee injury at his first NHL Prospect Tournament and has yet to play a game this season. Expected to miss 4-6 months, he is due to make his return before the end of March, and it will be a challenge for him to overcome having missed almost an entire key development season. Shaw is an undersized and speedy player that had a breakout 94 point season in his third season in the WHL as a late born prospect. Making the transition to pro next year may be a challenge, and it would not surprise if he is returned for an Over Age season after having missed most of this year.