Photo: Zack Phillips, the second of Minnesota’s two first round picks in 2011, experienced a rocky transition to the AHL with the Houston Aeros in 2012-13 (courtesy of Juan DeLeon/Icon SMI)
The Minnesota Wild brain trust heads to the draft without a first round pick for the first time in franchise history. High expectations buoyed by the acquisition of bona fide stars Zach Parise and Ryan Suter in July 2012 led management to make a somewhat hasty trade as the shortened NHL season waned, sending Johan Larsson, Matt Hackett, this year's first round pick, and next year's second round pick away for Buffalo Sabres captain Jason Pominville. While Pominville is certainly a good player who adds a needed dimension to the offense-starved Wild, the price may have been too high.
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: The speed of the NHL game has not been an issue for Minnesota winger Jason Zucker, one of several prospects that has spent time with the Wild this season (courtesy of Vincent Muzik/Icon SMI)
Most of the professional leagues around the world of hockey are done or wrapping up their playoffs. The prospect awards are really an opportunity to assess what some players were able to accomplish in their seasons, good, bad, or mixed, and to look forward to next season.
Photo: Florida Panthers forward Jonathan Huberdeau finished the 2012-13 season tied for the lead among NHL rookies with 31 points (courtesy of Rich Kane/Icon SMI)
Hockey's Future presents the top grouping of the Spring NHL Team Rankings, the staff's ranking of each NHL team's system based on the strength of the entire prospect pool. For reference, just the top five prospects are listed. To be eligible, a prospect must meet HF's prospect criteria. The ranking is done twice a year, with this edition being an update to the Fall ranking.
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.