Welcome back to Top Shelf Prospects, the column that brings you the next crop of professional hockey players. As we go through the summer of 2023, each day our LWOS Prospects Writers will bring you a look at one NHL team’s top prospects or other topical article. Be sure to bookmark the site, follow Ben Kerr, Kyle Pereira and Frederik Frandson on Twitter, and spread the word for the site that will bring you analytical and critical profiles and scouting reports! You can find all the articles here as well as our extensive NHL Draft preview. Today, we look at the 2023 Minnesota Wild Top Prospects.
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.
2023 Minnesota Wild Top Prospects
1.) Jesper Wallstedt
The Minnesota Wild has over the past couple of seasons built one of the strongest and deepest prospects pools in the league. A prospect pool with an apparent top prospect in Jesper Wallstedt. The Swedish goaltender is largely regarded as the best goalie prospect in the world right now, and for good reason. Almost everything about his game is extensional and mature. His movements in the net sometimes feel almost robotic, but it’s laser precise. While it’s not the most powerful movement in the world he doesn’t need it, since he always seems to be in the right position to make the save. There isn’t much drama around him, and he makes the saves much easier than they are. His first AHL season was good overall, although there was a bit of a transitional period as he got used to the North American style of hockey.
It’s also very very rare that he makes mistakes, as his IQ is among the best goalies in the world. He sees the game well and even his stikehandling and ability to play the puck has taken a step forward since he went to the AHL last season. All abilities that he showed off with a goal during last season. While there are other goalies who are more athletic, Wallstedt’s reflexes aren’t bad by any imagination. In other words, Jesper Wallstedt is the perfect blend of maturity, raw talent, mental fortitude and IQ. A blend that should make him the Wilds starter for the foreseeable future. The only question mark is his position, as goalies can develop in strange ways.
2.) Marco Rossi
Marco Rossi’s journey to the NHL has been as troubled and problematic as the sky-high ceiling of his potential. It’s been a development cycle filled with setbacks that have drastically slowed down the speed he has progressed in the Wild depth chart. The primary reason comes from his unfortunate complications with long-term COVID-19, which nearly ended up costing the promising Austrian prospect his life. Thankfully he has recovered, but the consequences of a year without skating and hockey have left its mark. Many saw last season as his time to make his name known in the NHL as a true number-one centre. Unfortunately, after 16 games he was sent back to the AHL as he was lacking an edge to his game while in the NHL. According to Wild GM Bill Guerin, Rossi lacked the swagger to dominate in the NHL.
The season in the AHL worked, as Marco Rossi found his swagger from his junior years. He was by far the Iowa Wild’s best player on most nights and had 51 points in 53 games. His elite skating, strong vision and wonderful skillset were all on display throughout the season. He was controlling the powerplay well and added a lot of tenaciousness to his game. Something that was lacking in the NHL. This development, while it could be seen as a setback, did produce results for Rossi. He is a more complete player, and given the chance on the top lines could be a contender for a breakout player this season. He needs a good preseason, but given his journey, it will be hard to root against the Austrian wünderkind during it. The road has been long and challenging, but it might be nearing its end for Rossi.
3.) Brock Faber
It’s still very early in his career, but the title Mr. Minnesota Hockey is something that might be used in the future to describe Brock Faber. The former captain of the University of Minnesota came into the league with a bang last season. After nearly leading the Golden Gophers to the NCAA title, he joined the Wild near the end of last season. He got two regular season games where he shined, before being thrown right into the playoffs on the third pair with John Klingberg. A place where the youngster outshined the veteran in nearly every area available. While Wild fans might have been disheartened by the Kevin Fiala trade, getting Faber has helped the trade in retrospect for the Wild.
Faber style is reminiscent of Jonas Brodin. A defensive-minded player with incredible leadership, skating and a high hockey IQ. His maturity, vision and great skating make him a strong modern-day defenceman with a bright future. This topped with the fact he is a childhood Wild fan, should make him a fan favourite in the Xcel-energy center for the next decade. While he won’t dominate on the scoresheet, he could become the future captain of the Wild. For now, he is looking to make the Wild for good and getting closer to fulfilling his childhood dream of winning the cup with the Minnesota Wild.
4.) Danila Yurov
Danila Yurov is one of the most exciting prospects in the Wild system. His upside is brilliant and his combination of great skating, high IQ and physicality makes him an extremely tough player to face. He is consistently making his presence known on the ice. His biggest weakness is his shot as it is only okay. His release could be faster and he doesn’t quite generate a lot of power into it. However, this is something that is coachable.
The two reasons he isn’t higher on this list are the following. Firstly, the three other prospects all have the potential to be top players in their position. While Yurov also could be that, he still needs to prove himself fully. This leads into the second reason, as he is an NHL prospect in the KHL. Often this leads to very limited playing time, which has been the case with Yurov. Last season he only played eight minutes per game for Metallurg Magnitogorsk, which limited his production. With the geopolitical situation regarding the war in Ukraine, there are worries that this could once again hamper his season as his contract is up. Wild fans will hope he is able to go to North America next season where he can transition into a perfect top-six forward in the NHL sooner rather than later.
Another Russian forward prospect for the Wild is Marat Khusnutdinov. The Russian speedster had a great season last year with SKA St. Petersburg in the KHL where he scored 41 points in 63 games. What’s more impressive is that Khusnutdinov isn’t the most offensive player in the world despite his speed. He is a very responsible two-way centre who competes at a high level. His energy and motor are seemingly endless, and he is as relentless as anyone in the KHL despite being a little undersized.
Just like with Danila Yurov, the main concern with Khusnutdinov isn’t his skillset or what he brings. Instead, it comes from the tension between Russia and the West, as his playing time might be hampered as a result of him being in the last year of his KHL deal. So far this season he has been a healthy scratch multiple times and had his minutes limited. Once again Wild fans will hope Khusnutdinov joins Yurov next season in North America, where they can join forces with fellow Russian superstar Kirill Kaprizov by the 2024-2025 season.
6.) Liam Öhgren
Another piece of the Kevin Fiala trade was the 19th overall draft pick in the 2022 NHL draft. With this pick, the Wild selected Swedish forward Liam Öhgren. Since being selected, Öhgren steadily managed to find his own in the Swedish Allsvenskan, as he progressed after a rough start with injuries. Especially in the playoffs where he was among Djugarden’s best players with 13 points in 17 games. While his team narrowly lost the final in seven games, Öhgren’s play was enough to earn him a chance to play in the SHL this upcoming season.
Öhgren is a player who drives the offence with a great mix of skating, shooting, vision and high hockey IQ. His wrist shot is especially great as he gets the puck off his stick in a flash. With his speed, he is also able to make the separation needed to get it off or to use the defender as a screen for his shot. Even defensively Ohgren is a strong player, as his speed allows him to assist in the backchecking where he can apply pressure on the puck carrier. In many ways Öhgren is a jack of all trades, but like the saying goes master of none. He is good at most things but needs to refine his skillset to truly excel in the NHL.
7.) Carson Lambos
The second defender to make the list is Carson Lambos. After leading the Winnipeg Ice all the way to the WHL Finals as their captain, Lambos is finally ready to take the next step into the AHL. He will get the chance in training camp to impress with his strong leadership qualities and high upside.
In many ways, Lambos is a typical modern-day defender, who has strong skating and sees the game well. Offensively he is a great dual threat as he has a strong and intelligent shot along with strong playmaking. His decision-making is solid in the offensive zone and defensively he is very reliable. He uses his body well to knock the puck off his opponents. His biggest challenge will be to do it at a professional level. Overall, the qualities are all there, but he will take some time to hone his style into a top-four defenceman.
8.) Riley Heidt
Riley Heidt might not have been the Wilds first selection in the 2023 NHL draft, but to many, it was their best. In terms of raw talent and skill Heidt was among the best options in the 2023 NHL draft. Heidt brings a ton of speed and energy to the game. He controls the puck in speed and his offensive vision makes him a really tough player to defend. Heidt also works hard and isn’t scared of playing a physical game. He is a super frustrating player to face, and the combination of pure talent, aggression and tenacious energy can overwhelm many.
However, while his aggression in many ways can be seen as a positive, he will need to learn to use it correctly. There have been times when it gets the better of Heidt and his poise and discipline go out the window. He also needs to keep his composure when losing, as he can look lost while trailing. All this needs to be worked on, along with fine-tuning his talents. The talent to become a superstar centre isn’t impossible for Heidt. A position the Wild has been yearning for since their inauguration.
9.) Jack Peart
Another Minnesota native in the Minnesota Wild prospect pool is defenceman Jack Peart. After a solid sophomore season at St. Cloud State University where Peart put up 24 points in 39 games, he is looking to take another step in the NCAA this season. The steady 200-foot two-way defenceman has continued to fly under the radar for many, as he has been overshadowed a bit by the addition of Brock Faber. Similar to Faber his game isn’t flashy or filled with speed or skill. Instead, it’s the small details and areas that Peart does to perfection that make him such a good prospect for the Wild.
In many ways, Peart is a coach’s dream player as he just does what is asked of him without any real flaws in his game. He can kill penalties, move the puck well with his good skating and get into the right defensive positions to make the simple and correct play over and over again. The slight downside is his size as he is undersized. This combined with a minor lack of high-end skills, means that he could get outmatched a bit in the NHL. However, with his ability to do the small things to perfection, he could become one of the better shut-down defenders in the NHL.
10.) Adam Beckman
This upcoming season is going to be a pivotal year for Adam Beckman. After making a strong first impression in the NHL, last season was a slight disappointment. He didn’t quite seem to get going and was eventually sent down to the AHL. Here he had a good season, but it wasn’t the fireworks some expected. Especially considering his excellent shot and release that can beat goalies from anywhere on the ice. A shot he did show in the AHL.
The talent is clear and Beckman plays an intense and tenacious style, so it’s just about how it will all come together. In the juniors, he had more time to get his shot off, but it has yet to translate to the pro level. This season could be when Adam Beckman finally starts to get it all together and becomes a step closer to being a true sniper in the NHL.
Sleeper pick (Round 4 or Later): David Spacek
Finding a sleeper pick for the Wild wasn’t an easy task. There are plenty of players who qualify, but David Spacek was selected due to a fantastic 2022-2023 season. The Czech defender was one of the best players in everything he competed in last year as he had 57 points in 58 games in the QMJHL and eight points in seven World Junior Championship games.
Spacek’s ability to both put up points galore and play a very strong shutdown defensive game caught the eyes of many. He is an offensive-minded player, who reads the game well, distributes the puck at a high level and has a decent shot on top of it. Defensively he was also able to mostly shut down Connor Bedard in their meetings, which should tell a lot of the story about his defensive play. This season Spacek will take the step into the AHL and it’s going to be interesting to see if his offensive ability even remotely translates and if he is capable of shutting down offences with far more size and power than in the QMJHL. A true test for David Spacek.
In the system
As mentioned, finding a sleeper pick was a major challenge due to the depth of the Wilds prospect pool. It’s not as strong as previously, but it’s still among the NHL’s best. They have high-level skill in all positions, with great upside, and depth players to support them for years to go. The most telling part of this is that the 2023 first-round pick, Charlie Stramel didn’t make the list. Not because he isn’t a solid prospect, because he is, but rather because the upside of others is greater.
Other names like Caedan Bankier, Hunter Haight, Servac Petrovský, Vladislav Firstov, Daemon Hunt and Ryan O’Rourke were all options, but due to either the lower ceiling or greater risk didn’t make it. Overall, the future is very bright for the Wild. A future created from cleaver and strong drafting in the past five years.
Main Photo Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports