Welcome to the 2021 Top Shelf Prospects series. As we go through the Summer of 2021 LWOH will be featuring a team-by-team look at the top prospects in the NHL. You can find all the articles here. Since we had an extensive NHL Draft preview, we will not be reviewing the players who were drafted in the 2021 draft, as there have been no games since then, and our reports on them will not have changed. Today, we look at the 2021 Minnesota Wild Prospects.
What we 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 2021-22 roster of the NHL team in question. We 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 we pick as our dark horse to make the NHL. For those wondering, the cut-off for what is or isn’t a prospect is typically about 50 NHL games played (including playoff games) or is 25 years old. These are not hard or fast rules though, and we may make some exceptions depending on the circumstances.
2021 Minnesota Wild Prospects
Wild Season and Off-Season
Led by Calder Trophy winner Kirill Kaprizov, the Minnesota Wild finished second in the Central Division last year. They went into the playoffs as heavy underdogs against the Vegas Golden Knights. However, the Wild gave the Knights a very tough fight before losing in seven games. Overall it was a step forward for a franchise that is undergoing big changes.
The off-season started with a bit of a shocker. The Wild bought out both Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. Carson Soucy left in the expansion draft. There were also a number of departing free agents including Nick Bonino, Marcus Johansson, Ian Cole, Matt Bartkowski, Kyle Rau, and Matt Bartkowski. General manager Bill Guerin also made a number of additions including Jordie Benn, Jon Merrill, Frederick Gaudreau, Dmitry Kulikov and Alex Goligoski. The biggest move has come down this week though, with Kaprizov inking a long-term extension.
2021 Top Minnesota Wild Prospect: Marco Rossi
Center — shoots Left
Born September 23rd, 2001 — Feldkirch, Austria
Height 5’9″ — Weight 183 lbs [175 cm/83 kg]
Drafted by the Minnesota Wild in the 1st round, #9 overall at the 2020 NHL Entry Draft.
After being drafted with the 9th overall pick in the 2020 NHL Draft, Rossi had a difficult season plagued with injuries and then a lengthy battle with COVID-19. He was limited to just seven games, three with ZSC in Switzerland and four with the Austrian World Junior Team.
Rossi is an excellent skater, with very good speed and acceleration. He combines that with outstanding agility and edgework. He can take defenders wide and then cut to the net. His ability to make quick cuts also makes him extremely dangerous in one-on-one situations. Rossi is just 5-foot-9, however, he is solidly built and plays a dynamic offensive game. His low centre of gravity makes him hard to knock off the puck and allows him to control it down low and create out of the cycle game. He is also surprisingly strong along the boards, winning far more battles than one would expect for a player of his size. This should only get better as he continues to mature and get even stronger.
Rossi has excellent hands and combines this with his skating ability to create offence. He can make moves while carrying the puck at top speed. He creates space by combining his quick fakes and with his quick cuts and changes in speed. Defenders have to back off to defend his speed and Rossi can take advantage of the room he has created due to larger passing and shooting lanes. He has a quick wrist shot with an excellent release. When defenders back off, he can use them as a screen and fire a shot on the net. He also has an excellent one-timer.
Rossi is talented as both a playmaker and a shooter. He has the passing skills to set up his linemates and make them better. His ability to extend plays through his work down low really lets him take advantage of these playmaking abilities. He works well in the cycle and gives his teammates additional time to get open for a tape-to-tape pass. His puck control and passing ability also allow him to run the power play off the wall. Rossi is not afraid to get involved in battles on the boards or to take the puck to the front of the net. Despite his lack of size, he plays the game in the dirty areas of the ice.
Rossi is also good defensively. He is able to kill penalties and is particularly effective on faceoffs. The 67s use him in all situations and he is often matched up against the other team’s top line. He is not afraid to get his nose dirty and helps his defence down low, working hard in the corners and behind the net. While he is often overmatched in terms of size, he has a never-quit mentality and does not back down. He also uses a quick stick to knock the puck away from opponents and create turnovers. His positioning is very good and he uses his smarts to cut down passing and shooting lanes.
The biggest questions around Rossi are his size. However, there are more and more small players succeeding in the modern NHL, and Rossi has the dynamic offensive skills and the skating ability to overcome his lack of size. An extremely hard worker, Rossi does it all at both ends of the ice. Now healthy, Rossi has impressed in Olympic Qualifying and heads to Wild camp looking to make the team. He has the talent to do so, but with last year being a lost development year, the Wild could choose to send him to the AHL instead. He will be one of the more intriguing players to watch this preseason, not just for the Wild, but around the entire league.
#2 Prospect: Matthew Boldy
Left Wing — shoots Left
Born April 5th, 2001 — Millis, Massachusetts
Height 6’2″ — Weight 187 lbs [188 cm / 85 kg]
Drafted by the Minnesota Wild in the 1st Round, 12th Overall, at the 2019 NHL Draft.
Boldy had an excellent season. He played for Team USA at the World Juniors, scoring five goals and seven points in seven games and winning a gold medal. He also dominated at the NCAA level, with 11 goals and 20 assists for 31 points in 22 games with Boston College. Following his sophomore season, Boldy signed his first pro deal. In 14 games with the Iowa Wild, he put up six goals and 12 assists for 18 points.
Boldy has a powerful skating stride. He can fight through checks and get to the front of the net. Boldy has very good balance and is tough to knock off the puck. This helps him in battles on the boards as well. He also has very good agility and edgework. His quick changes of direction often cause issues for defenders. He uses this skating ability to get away from defenders and create open space both with and without the puck. Boldy’s speed and acceleration are good but not great. He is smart enough and moves well enough to keep up with the play, even with the outstanding speed of some of his faster teammates, but doesn’t match them step for step.
Matthew Boldy is a pure sniper. He has an excellent wrist shot and release. It is close to being NHL calibre already. He also has a very good snapshot, slap shot and one-timer. Boldy has very good hands. He can make moves in tight to beat a goaltender. Excellent hand-eye coordination also allows him to tip in pucks and bang in rebounds. He even has a good backhand. Boldy is a smart player. He finds soft spots in the opposing defence when he does not have the puck, finding the space that allows teammates to set him up to get his shots off.
Boldy has also shown more creativity as a playmaker this season. He is also good at keeping the cycle game going, letting his teammates find openings and get away from defenders. Boldy has very good stickhandling skills, protecting the puck and even beating defenders one-on-one. He has also shown good vision and the hockey IQ to make his passes to his teammates to create scoring chances. He can thread the puck through tight spaces. Boldy uses his size to forecheck and create turnovers. He is aggressive in chasing down the puck and creating offence. Boldy is not a big hitter, but is not afraid to use his size to battle for loose pucks and to lean on opponents on the boards and in front of the net.
Boldy’s defensive game continues to improve. Once a defensive liability, now, he is a player who works hard in all three zones. He brings his physical and gritty game on the backcheck, supporting the defence with effective backpressure and containing the cycle down low in the zone. His positioning and long stick allow him to cut down passing lanes and create turnovers. Boldy has been used on the NTDP penalty kill units and has done an effective job with that. He reads the play well and is willing to put his body on the line to block shots.
Boldy has the potential to be a top-line winger in the NHL. He will also be a key asset on the power play. There is time for Boldy to continue to add muscle to his frame and become part of the new style of power forward. He also has the skill to play a finesse game. Add in the ability to work in his own end, and he is a very complete winger. Boldy heads to Wild camp looking to take a spot on the roster and make an impact in the NHL this season.
#3 Prospect: Jesper Wallstedt
The Wild drafted Wallstedt with the 20th overall pick in this year’s NHL draft. Prior to the draft, we did an in-depth scouting report on Wallstedt. As there has not been a significant sample size of games that have been played since that report; we will not repeat it. You can check out the report here.
#4 Prospect: Carson Lambos
The Wild drafted Lambos with the 26th overall pick in this year’s NHL draft. Prior to the draft, we did an in-depth scouting report on Lambos. As there has not been a significant sample size of games that have been played since that report; we will not repeat it. You can check out the report here.
#5 Prospect: Adam Beckman
Left Wing — shoots Left
Born May 10th, 2001 — Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
Height 6’1″ — Weight 187 lbs [185 cm/85 kg]
Drafted by the Minnesota Wild in the 3rd round, #75 overall, at the 2019 NHL Draft.
Bekman started the season in the AHL with Iowa. He scored three goals and five points in nine games. When the OHL got going, he was dominant. Beckman scored 17 goals and 27 points in just 21 games with the Spokane Chiefs.
Beckman’s skating stride is a bit choppy and unorthodox. Despite that, he still generates very good speed and acceleration. Beckman’s ability to change speeds is a real weapon on the rush, he can slow down the play or speed up, beating defenders. Once he gets a step on his man, Beckman can drop his shoulder and create space. His stride can be refined though and he could be even faster in time, which is a scary proposition for opponents. Beckman’s agility and edgework are also well above average. His ability to change directions and make quick cuts helps him to get away from his man both with and without the puck. Beckman is strong on his skates and wins battles along the boards and in front of the net at the junior level, however, he will need to continue to get stronger to play this way at the NHL level.
Beckman is a talented goal scorer, and absolute sniper at the WHL level, He has a hard and accurate wrist shot. It also features an excellent release. His ability to change the angle of the release just prior to shooting fools goaltenders. Beckman also has a very good slap shot and one-timer. Beckman can do it all as a scorer. He loves to drive the net both with and without the puck. He creates havoc when he gets there. Beckman is also able to get to the front of the net and score in tight with his soft hands and good hand-eye coordination. He gets tip-ins, pounces on rebounds, and can one-time in a pass from a teammate. He has a real knack for finding open space without the puck.
While best known as a scorer, Beckman can also play the role of a playmaker. He has good vision and passing skills. Beckman gets in quickly on the forecheck and pressures opposing defenders into moving the puck quickly, helping to create turnovers. He has good vision and passing skills. Beckman moves the puck quickly and then finds open space on the give-and-go. One area that Beckman needs to work on is his stickhandling. He could stand to work at maintaining his speed while carrying the puck.
Beckman’s defensive game is a bit of a work in progress. He works hard in his own end and is a willing backchecker. Beckman is willing to support the defence down low and help out against the cycle game. However, there are some areas that he can work on. His positioning without the puck could improve and he can do a better job of cutting down passing lanes. He also has a bit of a tendency to chase the puck a little too much and leave his man open. These are areas that can be improved with continued coaching and development though.
Beckman really broke out with Spokane in 2019-20 and continued that last season. He is now ready to put his junior career behind him and go pro on a full-time basis. Beckman needs some time in the AHL, working on improving his all-around game and getting stronger before he is ready to move up to the NHL. He is a year or two away from making an impact in Minnesota.
#6 Prospect: Calen Addison
Defence — shoots Right
Born April 11th, 2000 — Brandon, Manitoba
Height 5’10” — Weight 181 lbs [178 cm/82 kg]
Drafted by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2nd round, #53 overall, at the 2018 NHL Draft.
Traded to the Minnesota Wild, February 2020.
Addison spent most of his first pro season with the Iowa Wild. In 31 games he put up six goals and 22 points. He also had a short stint in the NHL, playing three regular-season games as well as three games in the playoffs. Addison picked up an assist in the playoffs.
Addison is an outstanding skater. This helps him to play a two-way game, and be effective at both ends of the ice. He is one of the fastest skaters in junior, and shows this both forwards and backwards. His edgework, agility and pivots are also elite. Addison covers a ton of ice. He can transition quickly from offence to defence and vice-versa. Addison can join the rush or pinch in at the blue line and still get back defensively. When a turnover is created, he transitions to offence extremely quickly. There are some issues with power and balance though, as he can sometimes be knocked off the puck, or have trouble winning battles in the corners or in front of the net. Addison could use more core muscle.
Addison has very good vision and passing skills, with the ability to start the transition game and play the point on the powerplay. He uses his stickhandling ability to quickly change angles and open up a passing lane to a teammate even when defenders close in on him. He loves to drive offence and jumps into the play, both off the rush and pinching at the blue line. Addison also has the stickhandling ability to skate the puck out of danger, and even to lead the rush.
Addison also has a very good snapshot and wrist shot. He gets them both off very quickly, with an excellent release. He sneaks down from the line, to get in position to use these shots from the top of the circle or slot. They can surprise goalies and have good power. His slap shot is good, but not great. Most importantly, is the fact that Addison gets his shots through traffic and on the net. His skating and poise allow him to walk the line and open up shooting lanes to get off those shots.
Defensively, Addison maintains good gap control and is not afraid to be physical. Addison throws hits in the corners and battles for position in front of the net. However, his size is an issue. He can be overpowered, even at the junior level. Controlling opponents in the cycle is an issue. He needs to work on adding more muscle to his frame. This can lead to him getting pinned in his end if he is unable to create a turnover. Addison really improved his game by cutting down his turnovers this past season. He can sometimes try to do too much offensively but did a much better job of picking his spots this season.
Last year was a strange season, and Addison played less than half of a normal AHL season. He also played in a weaker-than-normal AHL due to taxi squads removing talent from the league. As a result, he probably still needs a bit more AHL time before he is ready to make the jump in Minnesota. With a number of veteran defenders added to the Wild Roster as free agents, Guerin recognizes that as well. Expect to see Addison play big minutes for Iowa this season. He could be called up if injuries hit, but full-time NHL duty likely comes in 2022-23.
#7 Prospect: Ryan O’Rourke
Left Defence — shoots Left
Born May 16th, 2002 — Pickering, Ontario
Height 6’0″ — Weight 178 lbs [183 cm/81 kg]
Drafted by the Minnesota Wild in the 2nd round, #39 overall, at the 2020 NHL Draft.
With the OHL season never getting started, O’Rourke joined the Iowa Wild last season. In 33 games, he scored one goal and seven points.
O’Rourke’s strong skating ability allows him to play an effective two-way game. His agility, edgework and smooth pivots allow him to quickly change directions as needed. He also can transition quickly from offence to defence and vice-versa. O’Rourke has a strong lower body. This gives him a good balance and a powerful stride. He is tough to knock off the puck and can win battles along the boards and in front of his net. O’Rourke has good speed in both directions. His first step and his acceleration are also good, both in his forward and backwards skating. O’Rourke’s mobility is a real asset in defending in one-on-one situations.
O’Rourke has an outstanding slap shot. He does a good job of getting the puck through traffic and on the net. It is also very powerful. O’Rourke does an excellent job of getting it off with a one-timer. He also has a strong wrist shot and snapshot, both of which have quick releases. O’Rourke likes to sneak down from the point and take those shots from the top of the face-off circle. He can also join the rush as a trailer, looking for a pass. He uses his lateral mobility to walk the line in the offensive zone, opening up passing and shooting lanes.
O’Rourke has good passing skills and vision. He can start the rush with a good first pass or keep it moving in the offensive zone. However, he is much more of the triggerman at the point than a quarterback. O’Rourke can stand to improve his stickhandling and poise with the puck. He is not the type of player to carry the puck up the ice often or to look to make creative plays in the offensive zone.
A strong defensive defenceman, O’Rourke is already six-foot-two and 181 pounds. He might need to add some muscle to his frame but at just 18-years-old, there is plenty of time for that. He plays a physical game on the boards and does a good job clearing the front of the net. Solid lateral agility makes O’Rourke tough to beat in one-on-one situations. With a quick stick, he is able to create turnovers. Once a turnover is created, O’Rourke is able to quickly transition the puck and start an offensive opportunity. He is also smart defensively, playing a solid positional game, keeping the play to the outside and cutting down passing and shooting lanes in the middle of the ice.
O’Rourke’s size, strength and skating give him the potential to be a solid NHL defender. The lack of overall puck skills is a bit of a concern, but will not hold him back from making the league. It is more of the case that it’s unlikely he can grow into a #1 defenceman. Instead, O’Rourke’s ceiling, if he continues to develop, would be to be a complimentary piece on the top pair or a solid minute eater on the second pair. He will need some time and he has already made solid strides in the AHL last season. The NHL and CHL are still working through details of an exemption to their transfer agreement for players who played 20 or more AHL games last season, so the Wild will likely get to choose between sending O’Rourke back to Iowa or the OHL this year.
#8 Prospect: Marat Khusnutdinov
Centre — shoots Left
Born July 17th, 2002 — Moskva, Russia
Height 5’9” — Weight 165 lbs [176 cm/75 kg]
Drafted by the Minnesota Wild in the 2nd round, #37 Overall, at the 2020 NHL Draft.
Last season Khusnutdinov bounced around the Russian leagues. He put up three goals and 14 points in 10 games playing in the Russian junior league. He also added one goal in four VHL games. Khusnutidinov played 12 KHL games picking up two assists.
An explosive skater, this is the core of Khusnutdinov’s game. He has an outstanding first step and really good acceleration. His ability to change speeds puts defenders on the back foot as he is a real threat to get by them on the outside and cut to the net. Khusnutdinov’s excellent speed can also create breakaway opportunities. He is also extremely shifty, with excellent lateral movements thanks to great edgework and agility. This enhances his ability both with and without the puck. Khusnutdinov has a low centre of gravity and a strong lower body. His powerful stride allows him to fight through checks and get to the dirty areas of the ice. It also makes him surprisingly good in battles along the boards. He will still need to get stronger to play against men though.
Khusnutdinov marries his skating ability with excellent hands. He can make plays while moving at top speed. He has the vision and the skill to set up teammates and create scoring chances off the rush. His ability to control the puck down low and make quick moves to shake defenders and create a passing lane is also valuable. He can slow down the play or speed it up, giving his teammates time to get open for a pass. Khusmutdinov reads the play well, and once there is the smallest opening, he can make the play. He can control the play along the boards on the power play, creating scoring chances.
He also has a strong arsenal of shots. Khusnutdinov can play the role of the sniper as well. He has an excellent wrist shot and a quick, deceptive release. His shot is both powerful and accurate. His snapshot features many of the same traits. Khusnutdinov is also effective with his one-timer. With his soft hands, he can make a move to his backhand and elevate the puck quickly over a sprawling goaltender. Khusnutdinov is not afraid to get physical on the forecheck or to battle for loose pucks in the corners. However, he will need to continue to add muscle to be effective in these areas in the pro game.
Khusnutdinov brings his solid work ethic to the defensive end of the ice. He effectively supports the defence against the transition game by putting back pressure in the right areas. He also comes down low to support against the cycle game. However, there are times he has issues against bigger and stronger opposition. Khusnutdinov reads the play well and uses his active stick to cut down passing lanes, steal pucks off opponents and create turnovers. Once those turnovers are created, he is quick to transition them into offensive chances.
The biggest question on Khusnutdinov is his lack of size. He has the offensive skills to be a top-six centre. He also has the defensive game to not only avoid being a liability but to actually help his team in his own end. However, how this will translate to smaller ice with bigger opponents remains a question. Khusnutdinov will likely spend another year or two in Russia before coming to North America. He has already had a strong start to this season with five points in eight KHL games.
#9 Prospect: Alexander Khovanov
Centre — shoots Left
Born April 12th, 2000 — Saratov, Russia
Height 5’11” — Weight 198 lbs [180 cm/90 kg]
Drafted by the Minnesota Wild in the 3rd Round, #86 overall at the 2018 NHL Draft.
Khovanov spent last season in Russia. He was impressive in the VHL (Russia’s version of the AHL), putting up eight goals and 24 points in 30 games. He also played seven KHL games but was held scoreless.
Khovanov has good, but not great top-end speed. He also has good acceleration, reaching that top speed in just a few strides. Khovanov’s stride has improved, and he is better able to fight through checks and maintain balance than he was in his draft year. This is still an area that could improve though as he adds lower body mass. As he has gained back some of the weight that was lost battling his illness, Khovanov has improved. The strength gains should continue in future years. Khovanov also has good agility and edgework. He can change directions on a dime, making him very elusive both with and without the puck.
Khovanov is an outstanding playmaker. He has the vision and the passing skills to put pucks through tight areas and on the tape of his linemates. He reads the play really well, slowing things down when necessary to give a teammate the opportunity to get open. Khovanov has soft hands and is a very good stick handler. He combines this with his skating ability to be a nightmare for defenders in one-on-one situations. He can either beat his man and cut to the net, or create a passing lane, or use his defender as a screen and take a shot on net. Overall he is a very smart offensive player.
Khovanov has a powerful and accurate wrist shot. However, his wind-up is a bit long at this point, and this takes away a bit of the element of surprise. It is not that bad, it just is a step below some of the better shooters in the game. He also has a strong snapshot and a very good backhand. Khovanov is a pass-first player though. He could stand to shoot more often, which would also help to make him less predictable.
Khovanov’s defensive game has improved. He is not afraid to be physical along the boards or down low and his added strength has been useful this year. He could be even better as his strength continues to improve with time. Khovanov has become more consistent in his own end. As his endurance improved he has provided more of a consistent backchecking presence, supporting the defence down low and creating turnovers.
Khovanov had some issues with the AK Bars coaching staff last season and is headed back to North America this season. He may need some time in the AHL and that is likely where he starts the year. Khovanov will look to continue to round out his game and make a push for the roster in 2022 or 2023.
#10 Prospect: Jack Peart
The Wild drafted Peart with the 54th overall pick in this year’s NHL draft. Prior to the draft, we did an in-depth scouting report on Peart. As there has not been a significant sample size of games that have been played since that report; we will not repeat it. You can check out the report here.
Sleeper Prospect: Nikita Nesterenko
Center — shoots Left
Born September 10th, 2001 — Brooklyn, New York
Height 6’2″ — Weight 176 lbs [188 cm/80 kg]
Drafted by the Minnesota Wild in the 6th round, #172 overall at the 2019 NHL Draft.
After being drafted out of the USHS system, Nesterenko spent a season in the BCHL before heading to the NCAA last year. He put up eight goals and 19 points in 24 games with Boston College as a freshman last season.
Nesterenko is a good skater. His stride is smooth and this helps him to generate good speed and acceleration. He is dangerous both with and without the puck, beating defenders in one on one situations with his ability to change speeds. His edgework and agility are also very good. This allows him to change directions and find open ice. Nesterenko needs to add muscle to his lanky frame though. He can sometimes be knocked off the puck due to the lack of strength and balance.
Nesterenko is a very good playmaker. He combines his strong skating with good stickhandling ability and can make plays at top speed. His ability to carry the puck through the neutral zone helps him to generate effective zone entries. He also has very good vision and passing skills. Nesterenko’s puck handling allows him to control the puck and buys teammates time to get open in the offensive zone. When they do, he can make a quick move with his hands as well as use his agility to move laterally to open up a passing lane and set them up for a scoring chance. Nesterenko has the skills to put the puck through tight spaces or to saucer a pass to a teammate.
While he is most known for his playmaking skills, Nesterenko can also score goals. He has a powerful and accurate wrist shot. His good hands also allow him to toe-drag the puck before shooting which can open up shooting lanes as well as change the angle of his release, fooling goalies. Nesterenko needs to get stronger though. This will help him get to the dirty areas of the ice and make plays as he fights through checks. It will also help him to win battles in front of the net and along the boards.
Nesterenko took a long route to the NCAA, playing high school hockey and in the BCHL before heading to Boston College. This shows in his defensive game, as it still needs some work. Playing at lower levels of competition, Nesterenko would have the puck most of the time when he was on the ice and dominate the game. While he has shown a willingness to work hard in his own end, his game needs refinement as he is often out of position and needs to learn how to play against high-level competition.
Nesterenko needs time to develop and will get that with another year or two with Boston College. He can use that time to bulk up and get stronger. Nesterenko also needs work on his all-around game. This is to be expected given his lack of experience playing high-end hockey. He is a long-term project for the Wild but could be a valuable piece if he can develop to his potential.
Other 2021 Minnesota Wild Prospects
There is real depth in the Wild system, beyond just the top ten. Other forwards worth keeping an eye on include Jack McBain, Vladislav Firstov, Mason Shaw, Connor Dewar, Ivan Lodnia, Matvey Guskov, Pavel Novak, Sam Hentges, Damien Giroux, and Caeden Bankier. Defenders to watch include Daemon Hunt, Filip Johansson, Marshall Warren, and Fedor Gordeev. Other goalies in the system include Hunter Jones, and Dereck Baribeau.
2021 Minnesota Wild Top Prospects Main Photo:
EDMONTON, AB – DECEMBER 26: Marco Rossi #23 of Austria skates against the United States during the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship at Rogers Place on December 26, 2020 in Edmonton, Canada. (Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images)