Minnesota Wild possess numerous highly skilled players at CHL and Junior A level

By Peter Prohaska
Photo: Since returning from his first NHL training camp, Zack Phillips has been brilliant for the Saint John Sea Dogs, managing 16 goals and 32 assists in only 27 games. (Photo courtesy of Terry Wilson/OHL Images)

The Wild's group of prospects come from a wide range of North American junior programs, and though the team can and does focus on plenty of Minnesota prospects, the development of the young draftees is taking place all over the hockey map. They organization currently has one player in the QMJHL and OHL, three in the WHL, and three playing at the Junior A level.

QMJHL

Zack Phillips, C, Saint John Sea Dogs
Acquired: 1st round (28th overall) in 2011

Drafted using San Jose's first round pick, Phillips represents an important part of the return for Brent Burns. Though he's played for a Saint John team that's been fairly stacked the last three seasons, Phillips has contributed in no small way to the team's many successes. He can both make plays and finish them, and his point totals (16 goals and 32 assists through 27 games) reflect this versatility.

He was criticized a bit coming into the 2011 draft for a dearth of dynamism in his skating, but he has made this a focus of his off-season work and is certainly no worse than average. In all, Phillips could perhaps be said to prove that a great team is no barrier to individual greatness, and he will undoubtedly elevate his next team as well.

Zack Phillips, along with Brett Bulmer, is among the players invited to attend Team Canada's World Junior Selection Camp. Neither was part of the summer session or last year's squad, but both could potentially find a spot on this year's version.

WHL

Brett Bulmer, RW, Kelowna Rockets
Acquired: 2nd round (39th overall) in 2010

Bulmer was rewarded for a good training camp with an extended stay with the Wild this fall. Though the initial talk coming from the GM's office was that Bulmer might ultimately stick for the season to allow other rookie contracts to stagger, Bulmer's skill-set is probably better served with one more year of junior competition. His size, speed and defensive game are all tracking pretty well to eventually be an NHL fit, but he could always improve in those areas, while potentially finding some more scoring to round out his toolbox. After all, his scoring numbers in the WHL might have had him as a bit of a reach in the second round of 2010's draft, and didn't really impress last season.

Since returning from the NHL, Bulmer is showing that there's more to his game than hitting, with solid point totals coming into the midpoint. He is more than a physical match for most players in the WHL this season, and with a consistent effort should close out a notable career with great confidence.

Colton Jobke, D, Regina Pats
Acquired: Free agent, September 23rd, 2010

Jobke is a somewhat rough-hewn defenseman who brings a bit of offense and leadership in addition to his tough side. After two seasons with Kelowna, one wearing the 'A', he was traded to Regina to bolster that club's blue line with some veteran decision-making.

Jobke was a last minute addition to Team WHL for the Subway Super Series, a nice nod for a blueliner from the old school.

Josh Caron, D, Kamloops Blazers
Acquired: Free agent, September 23rd, 2010

Caron is a defenseman whose most notable skill is fighting. He has good size and is decent defensively. This season, he was actually off to a very good offensive start as well before being suspended three games for a hit to Max Reinhart's (CGY) head. Such plays are part and parcel of what Caron brings, and the gritty blueliner is unlikely to change that aspect of his game.

OHL

Tyler Graovac, C, Ottawa 67s
Acquired: 7th Round (191st overall) in 2011

Graovac was off to a hot start this season, but a concussion proved to be a bit of speed bump for the young center. He is certainly going to be no better than a second-line center this season, with the top line of Sean Monahan and Tyler Toffoli (LAK) tearing up the league currently for the division-leading 67s.

Graovac nonetheless can earn valuable experience playing defensive minutes, and has a shorthanded goal to his credit already. He brings a nice combination of size and skill, and as a seventh rounder is certainly projecting pretty well. He is well on pace to make last year's numbers forgettable and if everything goes according to plan for his squad, should play a big part in a playoff run as well.

BCHL

Mario Lucia, LW, Penticton Vees
Acquired: 2nd Round (60th overall) in 2011

The Wild showed great confidence in sending their third and fourth round picks to Vancouver in order to move up and grab local favorite Mario Lucia. With a well-known name locally, the son of Minnesota head coach Don Lucia was one of the top players in Minnesota his junior year. Choosing to forgo another year of prep competition in order to get ready for the challenge of the college game with Penticton of the BCHL, Lucia is currently showing why the Wild were so keen on getting their player at the draft in St. Paul.

At better than a two points-per-game pace, Lucia's playmaking and speed have been a driving force behind his team's early success. Lucia will take this experience to the University of Notre Dame next season.

USHL

Nick Seeler, D, Muskegon Lumberjacks
Acquired: 5th Round (131st overall) in 2011

Seeler was a very effective contributor from the blue line for the Minnesota state high school champions from Eden Prairie. Following directly in the footsteps of Nick Leddy (CHI), Seeler put up superior numbers in his final year, and though he is a little smaller currently, could certainly fill a similar role down the road.

Seeler is finding his offense at this level, and though he sports an ungainly minus-10, the team collectively is minus-97. His numbers should improve as he gets used to the style of play. Seeler is expected to join Coach Dean Blais at the University of Nebraska-Omaha in a couple of seasons.

Anthony Hamburg, C, Omaha Lancers
Acquired: 7th Round (193rd overall) in 2009

Hamburg is now in his third stint with the Omaha Lancers, having left the Colgate program at the midpoint last season. While he put up a respectable total with the USHL squad in thirty-one games last year, he's off to a slow start that suggests his convoluted development path thus far has him in tough for a hockey career. At 20 years old already, Hamburg needs to show he's head and shoulders above the competition this level. Though he was injured early, he'll need a very strong second half of the season to stay in the conversation.