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Over the last several seasons the Minnesota Wild have filled their pipeline to the brim with highly regarded prospects; a strategy which is starting to pay early dividends at the NHL level. Below is the inaugural edition of the Wild's prospect awards.
Two centers and nine wingers currently comprise the contingent of forwards with NHL ties that skated in Finland's SM-Liiga this past season. The mix of forwards skating in Finland is a wide range offers a wide range of skill sets – with a few players that were high scorers in the junior level and others who are solid two-way players.
The Wild commenced a 'soft' rebuild on the day Chuck Fletcher took over for Doug Risebrough. The majority of Risebrough's prospects have been flushed, and a steady eye for the future has been in evidence. It hasn't been a 'scorched earth' rebuild, whether out of honor or overconfidence, and the team should rebound soon from a season where injuries exposed a lack of elite talent. Free agents and reclamation projects can only bring a franchise so far, and Fletcher's regime has brought a concerted effort toward finding talent to the draft board. The Wild has been preparing for several of the young men playing in the U.S. college ranks and in Europe to form the team's core going forward.
The Minnesota Wild have had a dismal season this year. From losing three of their top-six forwards to injury for a bulk of the season to their historic slide from the top of the NHL to a lottery pick, this season has been memorable in Minnesota for all of the wrong reasons.
But there’s reason to be optimistic in Minnesota.
First, you only have to look at the Wild’s record before their slide started. At 20-7-3, no one would deny that the Wild were overachieving, but it was how they were overachieving that was of note.
Although Mikael Granlund remains the Wild's number one prospect, the depth for the Minnesota Wild continues to improve under Chuck Fletcher's watch. With the draft taking place on home turf, the Wild made a wise but somewhat surprising move to add another blue-chip defense prospect in Jonas Brodin. They then traded pending free agent Brent Burns for two prospects, Charlie Coyle and Zack Phillips, the latter selected with San Jose's first round pick. The addition of these players can only improve the long-term outlook of the franchise.