Photo: Winger Mario Lucia led Notre Dame’s freshmen in goals and points despite missing the early part of the season with a broken leg (courtesy of Tim G. Zechar / Icon SMI)
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.
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.
Photo: Minnesota Wild defenseman Marco Scandella is the organization's only 2008 pick to establish a role at the NHL level. (courtesy of Russell Lansford/Icon SMI)
The 2007-08 season had its positives for a franchise finally finding its legs, including a first divisional banner, but the subsequent crash and burn against the Avalanche in the playoffs is emblematic of the end of an era. The Minnesota Wild headed to Ottawa in June with its confidence shattered and certainly no closer to a coherent vision of how to build a winner. With picks jettisoned for ineffective role players, the team recklessly punted on what was to be the final draft of the Doug Risebrough era.
Photo: Defenseman Jonas Brodin, who has missed most of the first half of the season with a broken collarbone, is one of the high-profile prospects making their debut in Houston this season. (courtesy of Juan DeLeon/Icon SMI)
Although many people in and around the world of hockey were negatively affected by the 2012 NHL lockout, the Minnesota Wild was no doubt one team that saw a silver lining. With a cluster of players around the same age needing a developmental year or three in the AHL, the lockout saved the team from hard personnel decisions while also giving these young players a great opportunity to learn to play the pro game together at a high level of competition.
Photo: Drafted ninth overall in 2010, Finnish Center Mikael Granlund has made his AHL debut this season. Granlund was widely considered one of the best hockey players not playing in North America. (Juan DeLeon/Icon SMI)
Below is the top-10 section of Hockey's Future's NHL Team Rankings. The teams are ranked in terms of the quality of their overall prospect pool as voted on by the staff of Hockey's Future. For reference, just the top five prospects are listed. To be eligible, a prospect must meet HF's prospect criteria. The rankings are done twice a year.