Photo: Defenseman Matt Dumba takes over the top spot in this edition of the Minnesota Wild Top 20. Dumba opened the 2013-14 season in the NHL, but he is currently skating with the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks (courtesy of Brad Rempel/Icon SMI)
Jonas Brodin, Mikael Granlund, Charlie Coyle, and Nino Niederreiter have graduated from prospect status and now appear to be legitimate NHL players, though all still at various early stages of their careers.
Photo: First-year pro Erik Haula, who has four points in five AHL games this season, represents the depth of talent that the Wild have at the pro level (courtesy of Jason Mowry/Icon SMI)
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.
Photo: Jonas Brodin led all NHL rookies with over 23 minutes of ice time per game during the abbreviated 2012-13 season (courtesy of Bruce Kluckhohn/NHLI via Getty Images)
Given a full NHL season in 2012-13, the Wild's Top 20 would not look quite as deep. Jonas Brodin and Nino Niederreiter would have graduated barring injury, and Jason Zucker, Charlie Coyle, and Mikael Granlund would have been close as well.
Photo: One of several Wild prospects to see significant ice time in the postseason, Charlie Coyle skated on the Wild’s top line and earned powerplay time in the playoffs (courtesy of Vincent Muzik/Icon SMI)
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.
Photo: Jonas Brodin is one of several prospects making an impact for first-place Minnesota, having stepped directly into a top-pairing role in his rookie season (courtesy of Kathleen Hinkel/Icon SMI)
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.