Photo: Johan Larsson is one of the many top prospects spending the 2012-13 season with the AHL's Houston Aeros. (courtesy of Juan DeLeon/Icon SMI)
The Wild is still in the midst of a controlled rebuilding process. While the team has added immediate help at the NHL level for some areas of deficiency, most notably an elite top-pairing defenseman in Ryan Suter, an underrated top-four defenseman in Tom Gilbert, and an all-star scoring winger in Zach Parise, a few barren years at the draft kept the team from contention recently. Very strong drafts in 2010 and 2011, punctuated by the trade for Charlie Coyle, have put the team in excellent shape to be contenders soon. The core might be able to take advantage of the NHL lockout to grow together at the AHL level. Part of the Minnesota mentality is knowing there is a long winter ahead to test for weaknesses. With luck, this group of prospects will emerge strong and battle-tested.
Mikael Granlund will make his North American debut in 2012-13 following another year of international success and a top-ten finish in the SM-liiga scoring race. (courtesy of Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)
The Wild's system was bolstered again at the 2012 NHL Draft, with Red Deer defenseman Matt Dumba immediately jumping into the top five. While the team did not graduate many players last season, the team willingly parted ways with a few prospects that did not look to be part of the program going forward. None of the 2012 draftees are very close to cracking an NHL roster, but several have enough upside to be included here.
Photo: Forward Johan Larsson was impressive this season for Brynas IF Gavle, managing 36 points in 49 games. (Vincent Muzik/Icon SMI)
It was a tough postseason for the majority of the Wild's prospects. Another year out of the playoffs for the rebuilding Wild is testing the patience of the fans, though a promising youth movement is on the horizon.
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: 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