Minnesota Top 20 prospects

By pbadmin

1. Mikko Koivu, C (Age 21) Although Koivu has yet to put up the big offensive numbers that TPS Turku and the Minnesota Wild had hoped he would, he is still being groomed for a top 2 center position within the Minnesota Wild organization. He has the size and skill to become what the organization is looking for. He continues to center the second line for TPS Turku and has increased his scoring pace as the year has progressed. He was Minnesota’s first choice, sixth overall, in the 2001 Entry Draft.

2. Patrick O’Sullivan, C (Age 19) O’Sullivan was an early cut from the Minnesota Wild Training Camp this fall, yet that didn’t deter him from his direction of a successful season. The 2003 second round selection of the Wild parlayed his early season setback into another solid season and a Gold Medal at the 2004 World Junior Championships with Team USA. O’Sullivan is currently eighth in scoring in the Ontario Hockey League and his points per game average is among the league leaders.

3. Josh Harding, G (Age 19) Harding, the WHL Most Valuable Player for 2002-03, has continued his fine play earning the back up role to Marc-Andre Fleury on the silver medal winning Team Canada Under-20 World Junior Championship squad. He is playing this season in the Western Hockey League for the Brandon Wheat Kings where he is currently 16th ranked among Western Hockey League goaltenders. He has been struggling recently but as the top goaltending prospect in the organization, he will be given every opportunity to succeed.

4. Rickard Wallin, LW (Age 23) After an impressive start to the 2002-03 campaign, Wallin was called up to the Minnesota Wild from the Houston Aeros of the American Hockey League. Four games into his NHL career he fractured his hand and upon his return was reassigned to Houston. In 2003-04 Wallin had a disappointing training camp resulting in an early assignment to Houston. He has great puck skills and top two line upside and is one of the leading players on the Houston Aeros in points per game average. He has missed 17 games this season with a knee injury but has returned and continued to put up good offensive numbers.

5. Matt Foy, RW (Age 20) The Wild have high hopes for this youngster that they selected in the sixth round of the 2002 entry draft. He had an Ontario Hockey League All-Star season in 2002-03 amassing 61 goals, 71 assists for 132 points for second in league scoring to teammate Corey Locke. Foy was signed this off-season and assigned to the Houston Aeros to continue his development. The organization hopes that he continues to develop into a top six scoring forward.

6. Stephane Veilleux, LW (Age 22) Veilleux has continued his development with the Houston Aeros for the past two seasons earning a substantial 38-game stay as an injury recall to the Minnesota Wild last season. This season he leads the Houston Aeros in scoring as the organization looks for Veilleux to become a regular with the Wild in the upcoming season as a third or fourth line winger.

7. Adam Courchaine, C (Age 19) One player vaulting up the rankings with the Minnesota Wild prospect rankings is 2002-03 WHL second team All-Star Adam Courchaine. Courchaine selected in the seventh round of the 2003 NHL Entry Draft and earned an invitation to the Team Canada Under-20 World Junior Championship Selection Camp. Courchaine is a skilled center that currently sits in eighth place in Western Hockey League scoring.

8. Chris Heid, D (Age 21) Heid was signed this offseason by the Minnesota Wild to begin his career in Houston. The former WHL All-Star is a prototypical defensive defenseman has had a good performance for the Houston Aeros in his first professional season. He will continue his ascension in the professional ranks as a smart stable blueliner and compete for a top 6 spot in Minnesota next fall.

9. Zbynek Michalek, D (Age 21) Czech Republic native Zbynek Michalek is competing in his second season in the American Hockey League. Michalek earned an eight game call up from the Houston Aeros to the Minnesota Wild in January 2004. Michalek has good offensive upside with a skill set and size that translates well to the NHL. Once he applies more consistent effort towards the physical and defensive aspects of the game, his opportunity in Minnesota will grow substantially.

10. Kyle Wanvig, RW (Age 23) This power forward has earned three separate call ups from Houston to Minnesota in the 2003-04 season. Wanvig has a lot of size and strength and decent touch around the net. He is on pace for a 30-goal season in Houston. He has been hampered in his development by injury but could develop into the premier big winger in the organization.

11. Eric Reitz, D (Age 21) This sixth round pick in 2000 had a good first season last year in his professional debut scoring 19 points and 112 penalty minutes for the Houston Aeros of the AHL. Has a physical edge and good work ethic. Top end skills limit his potential, which looks to be a fifth or sixth defender.

12. Marc Cavosie, LW (Age 21) Cavosie, a former ECAC NCAA player of the year, had his first taste of professional hockey last season with Houston in the AHL scoring 19 points in 54 games. He will have to develop more of a scoring touch if he is to compete for a position in the Wild organization.

13. Mika Hannula, LW (Age 24) The Wild used their last selection in the 2002 entry draft on this two-way player from the Swedish Elite League. Hannula was signed in the offseason and is spending 2003-04 adjusting to the North American game in Houston. He is projected to be a third or fourth line energy forward that is responsible at both ends of the ice.

14. Danny Irmen, RW (Age 19) Irmen was the Minnesota Wild’s third selection in the 2003 Entry Draft. A scoring forward out of the Lincoln Stars of the USHL, he spent his freshman season with the University of Minnesota in the WCHA this year. He has contributed 10 goals and 7 assists for 17 points with the Golden Gophers.

15. Mark Cullen, C (Age 25) This Minnesota native, and younger brother to the NHL’s Matt Cullen, was a standout at Colorado College, amassing 167 points in 153 games over four seasons. Has spent the past two seasons with the Houston Aeros of the AHL, gathering 47 points with a plus 14 rating in the 2002-03 season, and 26 points in 42 games in the 2003-04 season, the start of which he missed after receiving treatment for cancer that was discovered in September, 2003. Of note, he leads the team with a +2 rating this year on a team with over 70 percent of its players in the negative.

16. Dan Cavanaugh, C (Age 24) Cavanaugh was originally drafted by the Calgary Flames in the second round of the 1999 Entry Draft and was subsequently traded to the Wild along with an eighth round draft pick in exchange for Mike Vernon. The AHL veteran is completing his third season with the Houston Aeros, and his first as captain of the team, and is currently tied for third on the team in scoring with 32 points. This is his best offensive campaign while in the AHL, but scoring isn’t necessarily where his strengths lie. His hard work game to game has earned him the respect of his Aeros teammates and coaching staff, and in the 2003-04 training camp Jacques Lemaire commended Cavanaugh for being an effective defensive role player.

17. Frederic Cloutier, G (Age 22) The former top goaltender for the ECHL Louisiana Ice Gators (2001-02) has found it difficult to advance through the Wild system in the position where the Wild is arguably the strongest. He’s played well in the games he’s played for Louisiana over the last three seasons (combined 64-17-10, 2.35 GAA, .924 save percentage), but hasn’t been able to break through with the Houston Aeros of the AHL. In 2002-03 he played in twelve games for the Aeros and did fine (4-3-2, 2.45 GAA, .905 save percentage), but in 2003-04 he’s bounced back and forth between the Ice Gators and Aeros and lost both his appearances with the latter, allowing 9 goals on 69 shots (.870).

18. Armands Berzins, C (Age 20) Berzins signed with Louisiana Ice Gators (Minnesota’s ECHL affiliate) in the offseason to develop his game in North America. Has the size and raw skills to develop into an NHL player, but needs to work on every facet of his game to achieve this goal.

19. Barry Brust, G (Age 20) This big goalie has been in the WHL since the 2000-01 season, playing for the Spokane Chiefs until January 8, 2004 when he was traded to the Calgary Hitmen, who were interested in the former third round draft pick and his wealth of playoff experience. Brust was named Goaltender of the Year in the WHL in 2001-02, setting Chiefs franchise records in GAA (2.14) and save percentage (.922), but followed that up with a disappointing season in 2002-03 (3.44 GAA, .883 Sv%) after being drafted 73rd overall by the Wild in the June entry draft in 2002. The 2003-04 season has seen him play fairly well in his time with both the Chiefs and Hitmen, earning a 2.48 GAA and .901 save percentage. Critics say that Brust relies too heavily on his size and positioning to make a huge impact at the NHL level.

20. Nicklas Eckerblom, LW (Age 20) Selected 204th overall by the Wild in 2002, Eckerblom is considered a hard working player with good skill in his own end. He represented Team Sweden in 2002 for the Under-18 team, and then again in 2004 for the WJC. In 2003-04 he played 38 games with the Djurgardens of the Swedish Elite League but was unable to register a point. With the Djurgardens under-20 team, however, he collected 21 points in 19 games.

Glen Jackson and George Bachul contributed to the list.