Top Shelf Prospects: Minnesota Wild
Welcome to today’s edition of “Top Shelf Prospects” – a team-by-team look at the top prospects in the NHL. Today, as I continue my alphabetical journey through the NHL I bring you a look at the Minnesota Wild. As always you can find a complete listing of my previous articles here. Since we had an extensive NHL Draft preview, I will not be reviewing the players who were drafted in the 2012 draft, as there have been no games since then, and my reports on them will not have changed. What I will be doing is linking you to those articles, as well as taking a look at prospects that were acquired before this year’s draft; their progress, and their chances of making the 2012-13 roster of the NHL team in question. I will also bring you one sleeper pick – a player who was either drafted in the 4th-round or later, or was an undrafted free agent signing who I pick as my darkhorse to make the NHL. For those wondering, the cut-off for what is or isn’t a prospect is typically about 45-50 NHL games played or being 25 years old. These are not hard or fast rules though, and I may make some exceptions depending on the circumstances.
2012 Draft Profiles:
Top Prospect, Mikael Granlund, Centre
Born Feb 26 1992 — Oulu, Finland
Height 5.08 — Weight 169 — Shoots L
Selected by the Minnesota Wild in round 1, #9 overall at the 2010 NHL Entry Draft
Mikael Granlund is not just the top prospect of the Minnesota Wild, he is among the best prospects in the world, PERIOD. This kid is a super stud. He has dominated the Finnish Elite League as a teenager playing against men. He has also attended the Mens IIHF World Championships as an 18 and 19-year old and put up 14 points in 19 games. In the 2011 semifinal against Russia he scored an incredible lacrosse-style goal that has earned him postage stamp treatment in his home land.
Offensively his hockey sense is off the charts. He reads the play exceptionally well and finds openings in the defence. He has sublime hands and stick-handling ability, which he uses to beat defenders both off the rush, and in the zone. He also protects the puck well, and can use those quick hands to score goals in-tight. Granlund’s biggest strength is as a playmaker. He has outstanding vision and the ability to thread the puck through tight areas. Despite his small size, Granlund has great balance and a low centre of gravity which makes him very tough to knock off the puck. He works well on the cycle and makes a ton of plays below the goal line and behind the net.
There are still some areas for improvement in his offensive game. He is not a sniper, and his wrist shot and release and are average at best.
He is also not very fast. His top-end speed and acceleration have improved since he was drafted, but they’re just not at an elite level. They are merely slightly above average. That said, he has great edgework, agility, and balance. This, combined with his stickhandling, makes him extremely elusive in the offensive zone and off the rush. He is able to get around opponents and find and capitalize on openings.
Granlund plays a complete game and is solid in both ends of the ice. Defensively he shows a good effort level on the backcheck and a great understanding of defensive positioning. He uses his great hockey sense to read the play well, cut down passing lanes, and strong anticipation to create turnovers.
Granlund is clearly NHL ready, and a near lock to make the Wild roster this season. He will see plenty of ice time, and if he lands in the right situation with the right linemates will be a Calder trophy contender. Once all 30 teams are profiled, I will release a list of the top 30 prospects I profiled and rank each team’s system. I don’t want to spoil the final rankings, but Granlund will certainly be in the top 5.
Top Prospect #2, Charlie Coyle, Right Wing/Centre
Born Mar 2 1992 — East Weymouth, MA
Height 6.02 — Weight 207 — Shoots R
Selected by the San Jose Sharks in round 1 #28 overall at the 2010 NHL Entry Draft
Traded to the Minnesota Wild in June 2011
Charlie Coyle is the cousin of former Blackhawks’ great, Tony Amonte. After being drafted by the San Jose Sharks he went the NCAA route where he was a star freshman at Boston University. This past season, his sophomore year, was a tough year for BU as they were rocked with losses and scandals. Coyle was not known to be directly involved in any of the scandals, however he did decide to leave school and abandon ship mid-way through the season. He left school for major junior hockey and joined the Saint John Sea Dogs. Coyle finished the season strong, but he really turned it on in the QMJHL playoffs where he averaged two points per game as the Sea Dogs won the QMJHL title. On a team full of stars, Charlie Coyle was their best playoff performer, and MVP.
Coyle has a unique combination of size and skill. He is capable of playing a power forward’s game or a finesse game depending on his linemates and the opponent. Skating wise, he has a powerful stride which gives him very good change of pace and acceleration abilities as well as good top-end speed. He is agile, with good balance, and is able to use his edges extremely well. He has soft hands and good stickhandling ability, he protects the puck well and makes plays at top speed. Coyle combines these skills to score a lot of points off the rush. He loves to take a defender wide and drive hard to the net with the puck on his stick.
In the offensive zone, Coyle is a talented playmaker with good vision and excellent passing skills. He finds open teammates and makes tape-to-tape passes. He is particularly adept on his backhand, making great passes, and unleashing a very effective shot. In terms of wrist and snap shots, he has very good accuracy, but could improve on both his power and the speed of his release, both of which are average.
Coyle, like Granlund, is a solid two-way player. He is a tenacious backchecker who works hard at this aspect of the game. He battles hard on the boards and while not a huge hitter, is physically involved in all areas of the ice. He has good positioning and excellent hockey IQ. This ability to read the play and anticipate moves leads to turnovers and counter attacks.
Coyle has the potential to make the big club out of training camp, but it is certainly not a lock. He will need to really wow the coaches and have a great training camp and preseason. If not he will start the year in the AHL. Either way, he is close to NHL ready so I wouldn’t anticipate a long AHL stay, even if he does end up being sent down. He could be back with the big club by mid-season or for the 2013-14 year.
Top Prospect #3 Jonas Brodin, Defence
Born — Karlstad, Sweden
Height 6.00 — Weight 172 — Shoots Left
Selected by the Minnesota Wild in round 1 #10 overall at the 2011 NHL Entry Draft
Jonas Brodin showed the skills that got him drafted 10th overall at the 2012 World Junior Championships. While teammate Oscar Klefbom played well and was named to the tournament all-star squad, in my eyes it was Brodin who was the number one defenceman on Team Sweden and in the entire tournament. His outstanding two-way play, providing offence from the back-end, quarterbacking the Swedish powerplay, and playing against the opponents’ number-1 line, helped lead the Swedes to their first gold medal in 31 years at the event.
Brodin is an outstanding skater. He has a beautiful, textbook perfect stride. This leads to very good speed and acceleration. His agility, edgework, and pivots are quick and crisp, allowing for him to have excellent mobility in all situations. With this skating ability and his good positioning, he is very difficult to beat one-on-one. He is also willing to play physically when necessary, battling hard with opposing forwards in the corners, and keeping the front of the net clear. He makes an excellent first pass, leading to a quick transition game for his squad.
Brodin’s excellent skating and his mobility also gives him the ability to create offense either by joining the rush, or through opening-up passing and shooting lanes in the offensive zone. He is extremely patient and composed with the puck on his stick, and uses excellent vision, hockey sense, and passing skills to create plays for teammates. His shot has decent velocity, but it’s not a cannon like some of the other defencemen profiled.
Brodin requires some AHL time before he will be ready for the NHL, to both adjust to North American ice and to refine the skills that looked so good against Junior-aged competition into ones that will work at the NHL level. He has huge potential and is a great young prospect.
Sleeper Prospect, Cody Almond, Centre
Born Jul 24 1989 — Calgary, ALTA
Height 6.02 — Weight 217 — Shoots L
Selected by the Minnesota Wild in round 5 #140 overall 2007 NHL Entry Draft
Lets be clear here; Cody Almond is not the 4th best prospect in the Minnesota system. He’s not even close to that. He is merely the best prospect that fits the sleeper criteria established. That’s not really a knock on Almond though, he’s a decent prospect and will probably play in the NHL this season, but in bottom-line duty. It’s more of an acknowledgement of the excellent depth in the Minnesota system than anything else.
Almond is a big and rugged forward. He plays an extremely physical game and his good speed makes him an effective forechecker. He has a good defensive game, and this along with his physicality are the reasons he will be in the NHL sooner rather than later. However his ceiling may be that of a bottom-line player. While he scores at the AHL level, I don’t see him having the tools necessary to be a scoring threat at the NHL level anytime soon. He does have the great skating and physical play, but lacks a quick release on his wrist shot. His stickhandling and playmaking abilities are average at best, and while he has the willingness to go to the front of the net, he doesn’t have the soft hands to bury tip-ins and rebounds. He does have the capability to be an effective NHLer mind you, he just won’t be making too many fantasy rosters any time soon.
Minnesota’s prospect system is outstanding right now. Granlund is one of the top prospects in all of hockey. Coyle and Brodin would both be the top prospect for many teams in the league. Matt Hackett is one of the best goalie prospects in the world, but could not crack this grouping. Mathew Dumba was an outstanding draft pick, and could be the perfect partner for Brodin. And they follow this all up with outstanding depth including Zack Phillips, Tyler Cuma, Johan Larsson, Brett Bulmer, Cody Almond, and Jason Zucker. Chuck Fletcher has done a really great job in building this system since taking over, and Minnesota is the envy of most of the league when it comes to prospect quality and depth.
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