Photo: The Wild used their first draft pick on a defenseman for the third straight year with the selection of Gustav Olofsson at 46th overall (courtesy of Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images)
The Wild's big free agent signings last season may have dented the scouting budget. The Wild stayed pretty close to home this year, not drafting a player out of Europe for the first time in team history. The scouting staff did travel coast to coast in Canada with a studied focus on defense and size, but with an implicit directive of taking the long view with this draft class. Several of these players will be playing at the NCAA level next year and keeping tabs will mean a two hour drive rather than an eight hour flight. It also means that all of these players remain two years away from consideration at the professional level. All in all, it was quite an unspectacular draft that will take much patience to assess properly.
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: Red Deer defenseman Mathew Dumba, the seventh overall pick in 2012, is one of six Minnesota Wild prospects playing at the junior level in 2012-13. (courtesy of Marissa Baecker/Getty Images)
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.
Photo: Johan Larsson is one of the many top prospects spending the 2012-13 season with the AHL's Houston Aeros. (courtesy of Juan DeLeon/Icon SMI)
The Wild is still in the midst of a controlled rebuilding process. While the team has added immediate help at the NHL level for some areas of deficiency, most notably an elite top-pairing defenseman in Ryan Suter, an underrated top-four defenseman in Tom Gilbert, and an all-star scoring winger in Zach Parise, a few barren years at the draft kept the team from contention recently. Very strong drafts in 2010 and 2011, punctuated by the trade for Charlie Coyle, have put the team in excellent shape to be contenders soon. The core might be able to take advantage of the NHL lockout to grow together at the AHL level. Part of the Minnesota mentality is knowing there is a long winter ahead to test for weaknesses. With luck, this group of prospects will emerge strong and battle-tested.