The Wild has moved into a developmental phase that features a solid cluster of prospects playing together on the AHL's Houston Aeros. This leaves a smaller group of young men still playing at the junior level.
While Mathew Dumba is the highest pick not to have yet gone pro, late round pick Tyler Graovac has come out with a lot of jump in the early part of the OHL season. Another pair of prospects in Louis Nanne and Adam Gilmour are getting one season of post-prep hockey in at the junior 'A' level before making the jump to the collegiate game. Balanced drafting means having a few different time lines in play, but there is considerable intrigue in this group for Minnesota Wild fans.
Mathew Dumba, D, Red Deer Rebels
Acquired: 1st Round (7th overall) in 2012
There was a lot of excitement around Wild nation when Dumba joined the prospect group. His playing style is something Minnesota fans have not seen often and certainly missed when Brent Burns was traded to San Jose. Dumba is a dynamic skater who seeks to gain the offensive zone using good vision and puck skills. He is also a player who uses that same skating ability to make big hits. While not a very large player, Dumba is solid and has good timing.
This year, he has fallen off some from the initial excitement of last year's campaign. His Rebels team is not quite as strong, and he is a distance off from the scoring pace he achieved last season with six goals, eight assists through 26 games. November is no time to panic, and for any defenseman, junior is a fine place to continue to hone the defensive side of his game. Dumba's offense will continue to come. His bigger test will presumably take place on the ice in Ufa, Russia at the World Junior Championships. Dumba has been an excellent performer in his career playing for his country and Team Canada will need him to perform at the top of his game in all three zones this time around as well.
Colton Jobke, D, Regina Pats
Acquired: Free Agency, September 2010
Jobke is a somewhat undersized defenseman who brings a bit of offense with his toughness and leadership. In this overage season with Regina, the Pats' captain put up some impressive totals with 13 points through 15 games. The Wild's procurement staff deserves credit for its efforts to acquire Chay Genoway, Steven Kampfer, and Jared Spurgeon, and if Colton Jobke can play a future role with the Aeros, it will have really done well in terms of adding a solid level of blue line depth for hardly any cost.
Jobke has had his share of injuries throughout his junior career, and he sustained a very dangerous cut on his hand from a skate blade in early November. Time will tell how it affects his hockey skills going forward, but he remains out of the Pats' lineup for another month most likely.
Tyler Graovac, C, Ottawa 67's
Acquired: 7th round (191st overall) in 2011
Tyler Graovac was a fine depth pick for his position in the seventh round. He had the frame and some pedigree coming out of midget but not a lot of offense in his draft season. The years have been good to Graovac who overcame a tough jaw injury, worked on his shot, and of course matured physically and mentally over a junior career that really coalesced for him in the 2012 playoffs.
Now as an older player in his league, Graovac is finally using his good size and a fine release to generate some goals on a consistent basis, scoring 18 goals and 27 points through 21 games. It helps playing with a talented linemate like Sean Monahan, but Graovac has also come a long way in his overall game. He is not a two-way specialist but has shown some ability to play special teams. Graovac had a pretty nice showing in two games of the Subway Super Series as well, although he played mainly third line minutes. While he has to be considered quite a long-shot for any further international play, his prospect stock has risen quite a bit this season already. One would think an entry-level contract is forthcoming at some point, as Graovac has a pretty encouraging toolkit and now some confidence going forward with it.
Raphael Bussieres, LW, Baie-Comeau Drakkar
Acquired: 2nd Round (46th overall) in 2012
The Wild's scouting staff does seem to put some emphasis on a player's ability to elevate his game during the rigors of a playoff series. This may have been the case when they selected Bussieres in the second round. While he has a few assets in his toolkit, from a good frame to decent vision, Bussieres brings an ability to agitate that the Wild like in the system. Players like Stephane Veilleux, Cal Clutterbuck, and even Johan Larsson seem to relish the role of disrupting other players' discipline and getting them off their game. Bussieres fits that mold, bringing physicality and skill to the table.
Bussieres also fits the mold of a player making progressive strides in his junior career. Though his draft years totals of 44 points in 56 games were not impressive, he was better than a point-per-game in a playoff series in which his team was grossly out-manned. He is well beyond that point-per-game mark now with 16 goals, 20 assists in 27 games, and he has made improvements in every area of his game. That is expected to a degree with an older player, but nonetheless a welcome sign. Bussiere's ability to play a tough-checking, distracting, and productive game is a major component of the Wild's template for its youthful core.
Louis Nanne, LW, Penticton Vees (BCHL)
Acquired: 7th round (188th overall) in 2012
The Wild kept it in the family when it selected Nanne out of Edina High School with its seventh round pick in 2012. The young man knows what it will take for him to live out his dream though, and to that end he headed northwest to British Columbia to get some seasoning. He was off to a fine start in BC's Junior 'A' league but has run into some inconsistency due to a persistent shoulder issue, which has had him in and out of the lineup. Ordinarily Nanne plays an important top six role for the club and should be putting up a point per game on a regular basis. He is close to that mark with eight goals and 18 points in 20 games. The Vees were so dominant last season, with the presence of Mario Lucia an important part of the puzzle, that the team was bound to fall back some in a league with plenty of year-to-year turnover. With any luck, Nanne can keep building on this season and get back on track.
Nanne's sights are more likely set on a long-term ambition of playing for his hometown University of Minnesota Golden Gophers in the fall of 2013. It will be a solid team as usual but could certainly see some key departures that leave room for Nanne to challenge for significant minutes. He is a project with some good skills and a high level of desire, and fans in the Twin Cities area will certainly look forward to taking a closer look next fall.
Adam Gilmour, C, Muskegon Lumberjacks (USHL)
Acquired: 4th round (98th overall) in 2012
Adam Gilmour had a bit of slow start to his first USHL season, but he has gotten it going lately. He now sits third on the team in scoring with 14 points in 20 games and the team has been getting it done. A pretty well-scouted prep star from the Noble & Greenough school in Massachusetts, Gilmour is a decent-sized player with a solid all-around set of skills.
An almost imperceptible reach on the draft board, being taken at 98th overall when central scouting had him at 101, Gilmour has plenty of positive indicators. One primary good sign is certainly the vote of confidence from head coach Jerry York and his staff in getting Gilmour's commitment to Boston College. He will start there in the 2013-14 season and though it will be another, much steeper, learning curve, Gilmour's nice blend of skills point to a promising player. As a second overall pick in the USHL entry draft, expectations are high for Gilmour to be a difference-maker this season. He seems well on his way.