So far, Wild's prospects look golden

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 15, 2011 - 11:07 PM

Intent on restocking the Wild's farm system, GM Chuck Fletcher used draft picks and trade chips to build a potential bumper crop.

hide

Mikael Granlund, the Wild’s first-round draft pick in 2010, scored a lacrosse-style goal during Finland’s run to the 2011 world championship.

Photo: Michal Kamaryt, Associated Press

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

You know things are going well for the Wild's prospects when goalie Johan Gustafsson wins his first game in the under-20 tournament in Europe, doesn't start the next two games, and Wild General Manager Chuck Fletcher starts wondering, "What the heck is going on?"

Turns out the 19-year-old Gustafsson, a sixth-round draft pick by the Wild in 2010 who leads the Swedish Elite League with four shutouts, was called up to the senior team and backstopped Sweden to a victory over Wild 2010 top pick Mikael Granlund and Finland in the Karjala Cup.

That's been par for the course this season for the Wild's deepening prospect pool.

Longtime NHL scout Grant Sonier ranked the Wild second behind Florida on ESPN.com's organizational rankings last week. Remember, this is the same organization that was ranked 29th in the Hockey News' Future Watch in 2009 and 2010.

But a lot has changed, thanks to a couple of strong drafts and a trade with San Jose that resulted in two blue-chip prospects.

"This year's going to be a really fun world junior championships for us," Fletcher said. "We could have several good prospects playing."

The trade of defenseman Brent Burns to San Jose for winger Devin Setoguchi also gave the Wild the Sharks' top pick (28th overall) in the 2010 draft in Boston University winger Charlie Coyle (10 points in nine games); and San Jose's No. 1 pick in 2011, which the Wild used to take Saint John star Zack Phillips, who has 35 points and is on a 13-game point streak.

On the way?

Other blossoming Wild draft choices include:

• Jonas Brodin, Farjestads (10th overall, 2011): The team's 2011 first-round pick is a top defenseman for his team and played in the Karjala Cup.

• Brett Bulmer, Kelowna (39th, 2010): The pesky winger played the first nine games for the Wild before heading back to the Western Hockey League.

• Granlund, IFK-Helsinki (ninth overall, 2010): Second in the Finnish Elite League with 21 points.

• Erik Haula, Gophers (182nd, 2009): Sophomore center from Finland is second in college hockey with 18 points.

• Darcy Kuemper, Ontario (161st, 2009): Second in the East Coast Hockey League with a 1.47 goals-against average and .941 save percentage after being the WHL's player of the year last season.

• Johan Larsson, Brynas (56th, 2010): Fifth in the Swedish Elite League with 17 points, playing in the under-20 tournament.

• Mario Lucia, Penticton (60th, 2011): Notre Dame recruit is tied for fifth in the Junior A British Columbia Hockey League with 30 points.

• Jason Zucker, University of Denver (59th, 2010): Sophomore winger leads the team with five goals after being WCHA freshman of the year last season.

And at Houston, center Casey Wellman (signed as a college free agent) is second in the American Hockey League with 10 goals, and goalie Matt Hackett (77th, 2009) is 7-1-2 with a 2.39 GAA and .920 save percentage.

"We're deep in prospects at every position," Fletcher said.

A key signing

The Wild has made significant inroads since Fletcher took over a barren foundation in 2009.

"The stable of young prospects we have now, even if we didn't add any more for the next few years, I really feel the ones we have in the system now will make this franchise a contending team," Fletcher said.

One player who could make the team next year is Granlund, who helped lead IFK to a league championship and Finland to a world championship last season.

The Wild must sign him by June 1 or he can re-enter the draft. He wants to wait to sign until after his season in Finland, which is putting fear in a lot of Wild fans. Last offseason, the Calgary Flames had to trade defenseman Tim Erixon to the Rangers because he refused to sign.

"Our conversations with [agent] Todd Diamond and with Mikael, they've both indicated they're happy and looking forward to signing at the end of the season and coming over and playing here next year," Fletcher said. "There's no reason not to believe it. Who knows what's going to happen, but we recognize we're going to have to give him a very competitive contract.

"We have a lot of opportunity, he seems to have liked his time over here the last two summers and he knows [captain] Mikko [Koivu]. You never know. I never take anything for granted, but I think we have a very competitive opportunity for him."

Bright future

Fletcher says he has been delighted with the growth of several prospects.

For instance, he says of the puck-moving Brodin: "The points don't show it, but he plays all the important minutes. We hope the offensive part will develop. It's kind of funny. The knock on kids coming out of Canadian junior is that they're really good offensively but they have to learn how to play in their own zone. In Sweden, they take these kids and they teach them how to play defense so well that they don't play offense.

"The defensive side of his game is so good. He moves the puck, he's very smart. Now it's just getting him to take a few more chances, to get him to join the rush occasionally, to get him on the power play."

Candidates for playing in the world junior tournament in Calgary next month include Larsson, Gustafsson and Brodin for Sweden; Granlund for Finland; and Zucker and Coyle for the United States. The Wild hopes Bulmer and Phillips will be invited to Canada's selection camp.

Both Zucker and Haula, who played for Finland in last year's junior tournament but is now too old at 20, are listed at 5-11. Zucker is considered more a goal-scorer and Haula a playmaker.

Fletcher calls Zucker "a dynamic player" and says Haula has "opened a lot of eyes here. We always knew he was talented player. At his size, let's be honest, there's a lot of smaller skilled college players that have success, and you never know how that will translate to the pro level.

"But when we saw him at the world juniors last year, I think he showed us there was another level of competitiveness to his game and some drive there that might be able to separate him from just being a good college player."

  • related content

  • Wild-Columbus game preview

    Monday November 14, 2011

    Preview: The Wild reaches the final game of its five-game road trip at 2-2, having bounced back from a lackluster 5-2 loss at Los Angeles on Saturday with a 3-2...

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Minnesota 16 FINAL
Buffalo 17
Atlanta 7 FINAL
Baltimore 29
Tennessee 17 FINAL
Washington 19
Seattle 26 FINAL
St. Louis 28
Cleveland 6 FINAL
Jacksonville 24
Cincinnati 0 FINAL
Indianapolis 27
Miami 27 FINAL
Chicago 14
New Orleans 23 FINAL
Detroit 24
Carolina 17 FINAL
Green Bay 38
Kansas City 23 FINAL
San Diego 20
Arizona 24 FINAL
Oakland 13
NY Giants 21 FINAL
Dallas 31
San Francisco 17 FINAL
Denver 42
Houston 7:30 PM
Pittsburgh
San Diego 10/23/14 7:25 PM
Denver
Detroit 10/26/14 8:30 AM
Atlanta
Boston 95 FINAL
Brooklyn 90
Minnesota 112 FINAL
Oklahoma City 94
Golden State 83 FINAL
Houston 90
Charlotte 96 FINAL
Chicago 101
Utah 91 FINAL
LA Lakers 98
Minnesota 1 FINAL
Los Angeles 2
San Jose 0 FINAL
NY Rangers 4
Calgary 4 FINAL
Winnipeg 1
St. Louis 0 FINAL
Anaheim 3
TX-San Antonio 20 FINAL
Louisiana Tech 27
Syracuse 30 FINAL
Wake Forest 7
Purdue 38 FINAL
Minnesota 39
Western Ky 38 FINAL
Fla Atlantic 45
(12) Baylor 27 FINAL
(22) West Virginia 41
(11) Kansas State 31 FINAL
(17) Oklahoma 30
Iowa 31 FINAL
Maryland 38
So Florida 38 FINAL
Tulsa 30
Tulane 13 FINAL
UCF 20
Virginia 13 FINAL
Duke 20
Akron 20 FINAL
Ohio U 23
Western Mich 26 FINAL
Bowling Green 14
Eastern Mich 14 FINAL
Massachusetts 36
Appalachian St 53 FINAL
Troy 14
(25) UCLA 36 FINAL
California 34
Texas A&M 0 FINAL
(4) Alabama 59
Army 17 FINAL
Kent State 39
Kansas 21 FINAL
Texas Tech 34
UAB 22 FINAL
Middle Tennessee 34
Rutgers 17 FINAL
(13) Ohio State 56
(8) Michigan State 56 FINAL
Indiana 17
New Mexico 31 FINAL
Air Force 35
NC State 18 FINAL
Louisville 30
(21) Clemson 17 FINAL
Boston College 13
Ball State 32 FINAL
Central Mich 29
Cincinnati 41 FINAL
SMU 3
(9) Georgia 45 FINAL
Arkansas 32
Oklahoma State 9 FINAL
(10) TCU 42
San Jose St 27 FINAL
Wyoming 20
Miami-Ohio 41 FINAL
Northern Ill 51
New Mexico St 17 FINAL
Idaho 29
Colorado 28 FINAL
(20) USC 56
(23) Marshall 45 FINAL
FIU 13
Southern Miss 30 FINAL
North Texas 20
Georgia Tech 43 FINAL
North Carolina 48
Tennessee 3 FINAL
(3) Ole Miss 34
Utah State 13 FINAL
Colorado State 16
Missouri 42 FINAL
Florida 13
Kentucky 3 FINAL
(24) LSU 41
(16) Nebraska 38 FINAL
Northwestern 17
Georgia State 27 FINAL
South Alabama 30
Washington 20 FINAL
(6) Oregon 45
Iowa State 45 FINAL
Texas 48
(7) Notre Dame 27 FINAL
(2) Florida State 31
Nevada 42 FINAL
BYU 35
Stanford 10 FINAL
(14) Arizona State 26
Hawaii 10 FINAL
San Diego St 20
Arkansas State 10/21/14 7:00 PM
Louisiana
Connecticut 10/23/14 6:00 PM
(18) East Carolina
Miami-Florida 10/23/14 7:00 PM
Virginia Tech
So Florida 10/24/14 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Troy 10/24/14 6:30 PM
South Alabama
BYU 10/24/14 8:00 PM
Boise State
(6) Oregon 10/24/14 9:00 PM
California
North Texas 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Rice
UAB 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Arkansas
Rutgers 10/25/14 11:00 AM
(16) Nebraska
Maryland 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Wisconsin
Texas 10/25/14 11:00 AM
(11) Kansas State
Minnesota 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Illinois
Memphis 10/25/14 11:00 AM
SMU
North Carolina 10/25/14 11:30 AM
Virginia
San Jose St 10/25/14 12:00 PM
Navy
Northern Ill 10/25/14 12:00 PM
Eastern Mich
(25) UCLA 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Colorado
Akron 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Ball State
Massachusetts 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Toledo
Ohio U 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Western Mich
Ga Southern 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Kent State 10/25/14 1:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
Oregon State 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Stanford
Fla Atlantic 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(23) Marshall
Louisiana Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Southern Miss
(1) Miss State 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Kentucky
Georgia Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Pittsburgh
(22) West Virginia 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Oklahoma State
Texas Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(10) TCU
Michigan 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(8) Michigan State
Boston College 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Wake Forest
Central Mich 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Buffalo
Vanderbilt 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Missouri
Old Dominion 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Western Ky
UNLV 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Utah State
Temple 10/25/14 4:00 PM
UCF
(15) Arizona 10/25/14 5:00 PM
Washington St
Texas-El Paso 10/25/14 6:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Wyoming 10/25/14 6:00 PM
Colorado State
Syracuse 10/25/14 6:00 PM
(21) Clemson
Texas State 10/25/14 6:00 PM
ULM
(3) Ole Miss 10/25/14 6:15 PM
(24) LSU
(4) Alabama 10/25/14 6:30 PM
Tennessee
So Carolina 10/25/14 6:30 PM
(5) Auburn
(13) Ohio State 10/25/14 7:00 PM
Penn State
(20) USC 10/25/14 9:00 PM
(19) Utah
(14) Arizona State 10/25/14 9:45 PM
Washington
Nevada 10/25/14 10:59 PM
Hawaii
Columbus 3 FINAL
Red Bull New York 1
Seattle 2 FINAL
Los Angeles 2
Ottawa 6 FINAL
Hamilton 16
Montreal 20 FINAL
Toronto 12
Calgary 33 FINAL
Winnipeg 23
Edmonton 24 FINAL
Saskatchewan 19
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Who is your favorite Wild player?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close