Photo: Matt Hackett has gradually over the past year to become one of the top goaltending prospects in all of hockey. (Photo courtesy of
Russell Lansford/Icon SMI)
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.
Most Improved Prospect: Johan Gustafsson, G, Luleå HF (SEL)
Photo: Minnesota Wild defensive prospect Jonas Brodin is seeing plenty of ice time at the 2012 World Championships in Stockholm (courtesy of
Vincent Muzik/Icon SMI)
Last summer, Jonas Brodin was one of the fast risers at the 2012 NHL Draft, ultimately being taken 10th overall by the Minnesota Wild. That draft ranking came on the strength of some regular SEL play for the Swedish champion Farjestad, as well as a top-flight performance at the 2011 U18 World Championship. This past season was yet another eventful one for the 18-year-old, most especially in light of his WJC gold medal performance.
Photo: Erik Haula(MIN) enjoyed an outstanding sophomore campaign where he led the Golden Gophers with 49 points (20 goals, 29 assists) in 43 games. He was a driving force in guiding Minnesota to their first Frozen Four appearance since 2005. (Photo courtesy of Vincent Muzik/Icon SMI)
Hockey's Future spoke with Erik Haula following Minnesota's 1-6 loss to Boston College in the second National Championship semi-final game on Thursday.
Photo: The 10th overall pick in the 2011 NHL draft, Jonas Brodin is among the many talented young players the Wild have drafted out of Europe. (Photo courtesy of Vincent Muzik/Icon SMI)
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.
Mikael Granlund, C, HIFK (SM-Liiga)
Drafted 1st round, 9th overall, 2010
Photo: The first pick taken by the Wild in 2007, Colton Gillies never quite developed into the power forward he was projected to when taken 16th overall. (Photo courtesy of NHL)
The last remnants of the old empire haven't quite all been swept away, but with the waiving in Colton Gillies in January, the 2007 draft will be notable for the late round picks that seem to be tracking well. And while having yet another first round pick fail to stick with a team seems disastrous, the 2007 draft has provided some decent depth for the Wild organization.
In 2006-07 the Wild scored the fewest goals of any team in the league, yet grabbed the seventh playoff seed in the West based on the strengths of an excellent year from Nick Backstrom backstopping Jacques Lemaire's trademark team defense. The team however was quickly dispatched by the eventual champion Ducks. And although any playoff berth is generally a sign of a successful season, it was apparent that more high-end offensive skill was needed to supplement the core after such an anemic goal-scoring year.