There might be a number of concerns in Minnesota, but their farm system is well-stocked. They have a lot of talent including Kirill Kaprizov, Ryan Donato and Alexander Khovanov. Plus, they have a lot of young talent at the NHL level including Jordan Greenway, Matt Dumba and Jonas Brodin.
It won’t be long before you see the Wild hoisting the Stanley Cup. But, let’s take a look at their top ten prospects and who you might see soon at the NHL level.
2018-19 Minnesota Wild Top Ten Rankings
1. Kirill Kaprizov – LW/RW – CSKA Moscow (KHL)
HT/WT: 5’10”/192 lbs
Drafted: 135th overall in the 2015 draft by the Minnesota Wild
Over the last few seasons, Kaprizov has emerged as one of the most explosive offensive superstars in the KHL. This past season, he played in his second season with CSKA Moscow and had a career high in goals and points. In 57 games played, he registered 30 goals and 21 assists.
He’s a speedy winger and an excellent puck carrier. When his opponents see Kaprizov rushing down the ice with the puck, it’s game over. He knows how to evade traffic and create scoring chance after scoring chance.
If you are looking to compare Kaprizov to a current NHLer, I’d say that he’s a blend of Vladimir Tarasenko and Alex Ovechkin. He’s got the speed of Tarasenko and the stick-handling and shot of Ovechkin.
2. Ryan Donato – C/LW – Minnesota Wild (NHL)
HT/WT: 6’0”/181 lbs
Drafted: 56th overall in the 2014 draft by the Boston Bruins
Last season, Donato spent time in the AHL with the Providence Bruins and in the NHL with the Boston Bruins and the Minnesota Wild. The Bruins had decided to use Donato as trade bait at the deadline to land Charlie Coyle at the deadline.
Prior to last season, there was a lot of hype around Donato in Boston. Many Bruins fans were impressed with his play at Harvard University and his 12 games with the Bruins during the 2017-18 season (5 goals, 4 assists). Bruins fans were hoping that his success at the collegiate level would translate into success at the NHL level early on. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. In 34 games played last season with the Bruins, he had tallied 6 goals and 3 assists. Donato just wasn’t providing the Bruins with the secondary scoring that they truly needed. This made Donato expendable.
After the trade, he began to shine in Minnesota. In 22 games with the Wild, he tallied 4 goals and 12 assists. The amount of ice-time and the patience that the Wild coaching staff had with Donato had paid off.
In terms of his playing style, Donato reminds me of Ryan O’Reilly. He might be smaller than Backes, but he can be physical when needed and he can be an explosive play-maker.
3. Connor Dewar – C/LW – Everett Silvertips (WHL)
HT/WT: 5’10”/176 lbs
Drafted: 92nd overall in the 2018 draft by the Minnesota Wild
Connor Dewar is looking like a potential steal by the Minnesota Wild. Dewar is a speedy forward, who is versatile. He can play left wing and centre, but based on his playing style, he’s better off as a left winger. He’s always looking for an opportunity to create a break-up, no matter what zone he’s in. When he gets into the offensive zone, he’s a threat to put the puck in the back of the net. He’ll alternate between sniping and going closer to the net to attempt to draw the goalie off.
This past season in Everett, Dewar dominated. In 59 games played, Dewar tallied 36 goals and 45 assists. While he scored fewer goals last season than in his previous season, he managed to improve his passing and become as dominant as a play-maker as he is a finisher.
4. Luke Kunin – C/RW – Iowa Wild (AHL) and Minnesota Wild (NHL)
HT/WT: 6’0”/192 lbs
Drafted: 15th overall in the 2016 draft by the Minnesota Wild
While it has taken Kunin a decent amount of time to blossom into an NHLer, over the past season or two, he’s shown that he is capable of playing full time in the NHL.
Last season, he played in 49 games for the Minnesota Wild and 28 games for the Iowa Wild. When he was in the AHL with the Iowa Wild, he got the opportunity to play a decent amount of minutes and show off his two-way skill-set. Unfortunately, Kunin didn’t get as much playing time in the NHL, as he was logging 15:53 ATOI. But, he still proved to be effective with his minutes at the NHL level. He had tallied 6 goals, 11 assists and a 49.2 Fenwick-For percentage.
With his size, Kunin will likely be a centre rather than a winger at the NHL level. With his performance at the AHL level, if he can translate his success to the NHL, he could be a solid number two centre.
5. Alexander Khovanov – C – Moncton Wildcats (QMJHL)
HT/WT: 5’11/198 lbs
Drafted: 86th overall in the 2018 draft by the Minnesota Wild
If Khovanov had played a full season with the Moncton Wildcats in 2017-18 then he likely would have been a first-round selection in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft. But, missing a substantial amount of time had diminished his draft stock.
While some scouts and general managers weren’t high on Khovanov, he’s been proving the doubters wrong. Last season with the Wildcats, he played in 64 games and tallied 25 goals and 49 assists. He’s quickly emerged as one of the best forward prospects in the QMJHL and might be on his way to Minnesota soon enough.
Khovanov might be the best Russian centre prospect since Evgeny Kuznetsov. He’s got top line potential. He has great hands, superb vision and seems to always be capitalizing. If he can stay healthy and continue to progress, he could easily be the Wild’s future number one centre.
6. Jack McBain – C – Boston College
HT/WT: 6’3/201 lbs
Drafted: 63rd overall in the 2018 draft by the Minnesota Wild
Jack McBain’s first season with Boston College wasn’t a great one. This past season, McBain appeared in 35 games and tallied 13 points. This is a huge setback for McBain, who had recorded 58 points in 48 games with the Toronto Jr. Canadiens the season prior.
McBain was facing tougher competition at the collegiate level, but he’s still got a lot of work to do to get to the NHL level. When you watch McBain play, you’ll notice that he’s sound offensively. He’s a solid play-maker and love to control the pace of the game in the offensive zone. But, when he has to get back to his own zone, that’s a completely different story. McBain has solid speed, but it’s not where you’d hope it would be. Plus, he’s even slower when he’s skating backwards.
McBain reminds me a lot of Frederik Gauthier of the Toronto Maple Leafs. That’s not a good thing. Gauthier like McBain has problems accelerating up and down the ice. If McBain doesn’t improve, he’ll either be a fourth liner or he’ll spend the bulk of his career in the AHL.
So, hopefully, another year with Boston College will help prepare him for the workload of the NHL.
7. Kaapo Kähkönen – G – Iowa Wild (AHL)
HT/WT: 6’2/223 lbs
Drafted: 109th overall in the 2014 draft by the Minnesota Wild
Kappo Kähkönen just completed his first season in North America. He played in 39 games with the Iowa Wild. Unfortunately, it was rough for Kähkönen. He recorded a 2.78 GAA and a .908 SV%. When you compare those numbers to the production that he had with Lukko the previous season, you realize just how tough the transition to North America was for Kähkönen.
Kähkönen seems to always position himself too low to the ground. In Finland, that seemed to work well for him. But, that didn’t translate well to success in the United States. Kähkönen needs to stand a bit taller in net, otherwise, he’ll have some difficulty in high danger situations.
8. Louie Belpedio – D – Iowa Wild (AHL)
HT/WT: 5’11/194 lbs
Drafted: 80th overall in the 2014 draft by the Minnesota Wild
In Louie Belpedio’s first full season with the Iowa Wild, he managed to put together a solid campaign, but he’s got a lot more work to do. In 70 games played, he tallied 6 goals and 15 assists. While he has work to do in his development, he still managed to play in two games at the NHL level with the Wild. But, he still needs to further development in order to become a mainstay in the NHL.
Belpedio is a good puck-moving defenseman. He’s capable of getting puck from zone-to-zone untouched. But, once he’s in the offensive zone, he doesn’t have much to offer. Belpedio needs to improve his offensive game if he plans on having a lengthy NHL career. If he can beef his offensive production, he could potentially be an asset on the Wild’s second power-play unit.
While his offensive production is a bit rocky, he’s a good skater and does a fair job closing gaps on the blue-line.
9. Brennan Menell – D – Iowa Wild (AHL)
HT/WT: 5’11/183 lbs
Brennan Menell, while undrafted, has surprised scouts and fans. His 2017-2018 season with the Iowa Wild wasn’t great. It was his first season in the AHL and his offensive production wasn’t even close to how he what it was in the WHL. But, Menell made up for his slow transition to the AHL in his second season (2018-19) in Iowa. This past season, he played in 70 games and recorded 44 points. It was a solid second season for Menell.
This past season, Menell has proven to the Minnesota Wild organization that he can be an effective puck mover. He’s can be relied upon for zone-to-zone transitional play. But like Belpedio, his offensive game needs a jumpstart. His shot has deteriorated over time and he needs to pick it back up if he intends on a lengthy career.
10. Nico Sturm – C – Clarkson University
HT/WT: 6’3/207 lbs
On April 1st, the Minnesota Wild signed the highly-touted collegiate free agent to an entry-level contract. Sturm was coming off of a great campaign with Clarkson University, in which he tallied 14 goals and 31 assists in 39 games played. His season with Clarkson didn’t go unnoticed and he was a Hobey Baker candidate. Unfortunately, he didn’t win the award as Cale Makar truly earned it over him, but his senior season with Clarkson did pave the way for him to receive a NHL contract.
Sturm excellent speed and his transitional play is truly impressive. He’s a natural goal scorer. Sturm will always be on the hunt for the optimal scoring chance. Plus, his stick-handling is top-notch. When you watch his highlights especially in the shoot-out, you’ll see that he can go forehand to backhand and fake out the goaltender almost every single time.
Sturm has a lot of upside and could be a decent third line centre in the near future.