NHL Draft: Wild's biggest needs, top prospects

NHL Draft: Wild's biggest needs, top prospects

The Minnesota Wild have seen a strong group of forwards climb into the NHL in recent seasons, highlighted by burgeoning star Kirill Kaprizov. They also have future franchise goaltender Jesper Wallstedt waiting in the wings, and are coming off a season where they looked like a legitimate Cup contender. How they’ll manage their current net situation if Marc-Andre Fleury retires or signs elsewhere is yet to be determined.

Still, the Wild have a decent system despite their winning ways, and have prospects such as Marco Rossi and Calen Addison ready to step in and make an impact.

Wild prospect Jesper Wallstedt has the potential to be an elite goalie in the NHL. (Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images)
Wild prospect Jesper Wallstedt has the potential to be an elite goalie in the NHL. (Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images)

Top Prospects

Jesper Wallstedt - Minnesota traded up to get Wallstedt at the 2021 draft, and it could be a move that pays dividends for years as he looks poised to become not only Minnesota’s goalie of the future, but potentially one of the best netminders league-wide. He’s big and calm in net, showing great control in his movements.

Wallstedt has been playing professionally in the SHL since he was 17 and he hasn't looked out of place. Against his peers, Wallstedt is almost unbeatable. Minnesota fans should be very excited.

Calen Addison - Acquired from Pittsburgh in the Jason Zucker trade, Addison looked NHL-ready this season in his 15 games with Minnesota. He loves to join the rush and wants the puck on his stick to direct play.

Addison will become a key component to Minnesota’s power play, but needs to continue to choose his moments. Minnesota would also like to see Addison use his offensive willingness to make a quick step into the play on the defensive side by closing gaps and taking time and space away from opposing players.

Carson Lambos - Among the top blueliners in the WHL, Lambos was limited this season by injuries. He has impressive offensive capabilities, which he showcased upon his return to the Winnipeg Ice, and stays tight to the play. His willingness to force the play allows him to jump into offensive positions, or rapidly change directions and close gaps. His push to keep the puck moving in the right direction keeps opposing forwards on their toes and creates space for others on the ice.

The 26th overall pick in 2021 will look to have a big rebound this year and is a likely blueliner for Canada this summer at the World Juniors.

One To Watch

Pavel Novak has been excellent for Czechia on the world stage, and has easily translated his game to North American ice, scoring 29 goals and 72 points in 62 games for the Kelowna Rockets this season. He’s small, but is dangerous with the puck. He’ll be a prospect to watch as he transitions to the AHL this year.

Already in the American League is Mason Shaw, who could earn additional call-ups this season after his offense grew exponentially with Iowa. Overseas, Simon Johansson got back on track in Liiga, and could be called over to North America to take another step this year.

Ready To Step In

The pandemic impacted many things, one being Marco Rossi’s health as the young talent suffered from lingering myocarditis following COVID-19. Rossi can generate offense in a variety of ways and seems like a well balanced and dynamic forward. He drives play with speed and creativity, and has an ability to finish utilizing a deceptive-yet-strong shot. Rossi spent the bulk of this season in the AHL regaining his game, but should transition smoothly into Minnesota’s top six this season.

Another candidate to join the Wild is Adam Beckman. He had a spectacular camp prior to 2021-22 and made his NHL debut. He’ll factor in along the wing for the Wild in a depth role, and is likely to still see some development time in Iowa. Rossi and Addison will also make their case in the NHL this year.

Needs At The Draft

With Addison, Lambois, Ryan O’Rourke, and Jack Peart trending in the right direction as blue-line prospects, having Jesper Wallstedt in net, and a group of young forwards in the NHL, the Wild have the luxury to take select for want, not need in the first round. They have selections in every round except the seventh.

Despite the movement of blue-line help coming in, their current NHL defensive corps is aging, so continuing to add prospects at the position is a must. At the NHL level, the Wild have Kaprizov, Jordan Greenway, Matt Boldy, Joel Eriksson Ek, and Tyson Jost up front. Their youngest NHL regular on the back end, however, is Jacob Middleton, who is 26.

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