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.
The Minnesota Wild brain trust heads to the draft without a first round pick for the first time in franchise history. High expectations buoyed by the acquisition of bona fide stars Zach Parise and Ryan Suter in July 2012 led management to make a somewhat hasty trade as the shortened NHL season waned, sending Johan Larsson, Matt Hackett, this year's first round pick, and next year's second round pick away for Buffalo Sabres captain Jason Pominville. While Pominville is certainly a good player who adds a needed dimension to the offense-starved Wild, the price may have been too high.
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.
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.
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