The Minnesota Wild finished with a 35-36-11 record in 2011-12, well out of reach of the eighth and final playoff berth. Like in years past, the team struggled to produce goals at the NHL level and experienced various injuries to key players.
Top 10 Prospects:
The Wild's biggest need currently is more defensive depth. Since picking Brent Burns at 20th overall in 2003, the Wild have not developed an impact defenseman. Although Marco Scandella looks capable of playing in the top four and should contribute on the scoresheet some as he grows in confidence, the slow development of 2008 first rounder Tyler Cuma due to injuries has created a void. While 2011 first rounder Jonas Brodin looks to be a prodigious talent positionally, his game hasn't shown much offensive flair thus far. The 2012 draft class looks to have a fine group of candidates who can be dynamic puck-movers, and at worst it should yield a defenseman capable of top-four play, should the Wild look to defense in the first round.
The Wild could also continue to add some depth down the middle. The team has shown in the last two seasons that it doesn't have an adequate replacement if Mikko Koivu is hurt, and one top center is not enough in today's game. Mikael Granlund, Charlie Coyle, and Zack Phillips each could provide an enormous boost to the Wild's offense down the road, but the team needs to find another player capable of some top-six offensive skill.
The Wild has some excellent depth prospects, with the likes of Johan Larsson, Brett Bulmer, and Jason Zucker seemingly close to providing upside even as they learn the NHL game. Erik Haula, Mario Lucia, and Sean Lorenz could also conceivably earn NHL jobs two to three years down the line. Matt Hackett, Johan Gustafsson, and Darcy Kuemper all seem to be legitimate goaltending prospects. These predictions may seem somewhat optimistic, but compared to the lean years, one has plenty of reasons to be encouraged.
While things have improved since Chuck Fletcher's hiring, the team is at a critical juncture. They seem to have been rebuilding while also trying to field a competitive NHL squad and the results so far have been mixed. So much of the the Wild's future success depends on Granlund, Coyle, and Brodin as they are the key building blocks for the future.
The Wild has an overall balanced approach to its scouting, having selected at least one player from every major source (with the exception of Russia) over the last few years. Perhaps playing to the local fanbase a bit by focusing on Minnesotan high schoolers, the team has also looked to Sweden and Finland regularly. While once the team seemed to draft based mainly on a player's size, the Wild in recent years has been judiciously selecting well-rounded players. This has meant quite often dealing picks to move up a slot. Barring a trade, this would be the first year since 2006 the Wild has picked a player in every round.
The Wild hold the 7th, 46th, 68th, 98th, 128th, 158th, and 188th picks in the 2012 NHL Draft.
No. 7: Jacob Trouba, D, USNDTP
Trouba is arguably the not only the best player left at the draft board but also one of the best rounded defensemen available in the 2012 NHL Draft. Though not the flashiest blueliner available, Trouba brings to the Wild something they have seemingly lacked since their inception: a top-pairing defenseman who can play on both special teams as well as shutdown opposing forwards. He also possesses a hard, accurate point shot, owns good size, and plays with tons of poise.