The Minnesota Wild has taken an aggressive approach in free agency and trade at the NHL level, adding a franchise defenseman in Ryan Suter, and bolstering its forward corps with legitimate NHL stars in Zach Parise and Jason Pominville and a solid defensive presence in Matt Cooke. The confidence to make these moves was in part due to a group of prospects who seemed ready to come in and provide support during their cheaper entry-level contract years.
Over the last few draft classes, Chuck Fletcher and company have shown Wild fans evidence of a new developmental approach. With a good cluster of young guys already in place, there has been a shift toward drafting players who will take an extra year or two to arrive as viable prospects.
Most of the Wild's prospect group saw at least some postseason action this year. While the pro teams, the Minnesota Wild and Houston Aeros, did not have much success, a handful of prospects experienced deep playoff runs that should help prepare them as players to compete for hockey's ultimate prize.
Minnesota's college hockey tradition has always been a strong part of its identity as a state, so it is no wonder that the Wild organization relies on the NCAA to bring some of its prospects along. Another major source of identity is Europe, where the Wild has looked to Switzerland, Finland, and Sweden many times in the past. Developmental strategies vary by coaching staffs, but the Minnesota Wild look to get players into situations that will best enhance their individual styles, giving each young man the opportunities he needs for personal and professional development.
The Wild's controlled rebuilding process is entering a new phase this season, introducing its top prospects into the NHL in sheltered roles. Charlie Coyle, Jonas Brodin, Jason Zucker, Johan Larsson, and Mikael Granlund have all made their NHL debuts, with various degrees of immersion and success. The Minnesota Wild has been careful to balance experience and youth this year, but there are plenty of players in the organization who may be asked to grow quickly in the next seasons to make the most of the opportunity at hand.