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

Tennessee 12/18/14 7:25 PM
Jacksonville
Philadelphia 12/20/14 3:30 PM
Washington
San Diego 12/20/14 7:25 PM
San Francisco
Minnesota 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Miami
Baltimore 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Houston
Detroit 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Chicago
Cleveland 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Carolina
Atlanta 12/21/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Green Bay 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Kansas City 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Pittsburgh
New England 12/21/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
NY Giants 12/21/14 3:05 PM
St. Louis
Buffalo 12/21/14 3:25 PM
Oakland
Indianapolis 12/21/14 3:25 PM
Dallas
Seattle 12/21/14 7:30 PM
Arizona
Denver 12/22/14 7:30 PM
Cincinnati
Atlanta 127 FINAL
Cleveland 98
Phoenix 111 FINAL
Charlotte 106
Dallas 117 FINAL
Detroit 106
Utah 105 FINAL
Miami 87
Orlando 92 FINAL
Boston 109
Brooklyn 89 FINAL
Toronto 105
Memphis 117 FINAL
San Antonio 116
Milwaukee 97 FINAL
Portland 104
Houston 92 4th Qtr 3:03
Denver 92
Indiana 95 4th Qtr 0:49
LA Clippers 99
Ottawa 2 FINAL
New Jersey 0
Boston 3 FINAL(OT)
Minnesota 2
Dallas 2 FINAL
Vancouver 0
Langston 65 FINAL
North Texas 78
Delaware State 72 FINAL
St Francis-NY 64
James Madison 72 FINAL
Ball State 52
SIU Edwardsville 65 FINAL
Campbell 70
St Francis-PA 67 FINAL
Duquesne 52
North Florida 77 FINAL
Florida State 93
Catawba 69 FINAL
George Mason 99
Ferrum 48 FINAL
High Point 106
Hampton 55 FINAL
Illinois 73
Gardner-Webb 65 FINAL
Jacksonville 68
Longwood 60 FINAL
Miami-Ohio 71
Arkansas State 69 FINAL
Miss State 55
Tennessee 72 FINAL
NC State 83
NC A&T 55 FINAL
Ohio State 97
Manhattan 56 FINAL
Pittsburgh 65
Robert Morris 57 FINAL
Toledo 83
Char Southern 58 FINAL
Wofford 64
Kennesaw St 90 FINAL
Youngstown St 84
Barber-Scotia 52 FINAL
NC Central 108
Detroit 70 FINAL
UCF 75
Liberty 70 FINAL
UNC-Wilmington 73
TX A&M-CC 73 FINAL
Denver 83
Ark-Pine Bluff 61 FINAL
Houston 56
UT Martin 54 FINAL
Illinois State 64
Milligan 76 FINAL
Louisiana 115
Abilene Christian 44 FINAL
Loyola-Chicago 83
USC Upstate 73 FINAL
Memphis 83
Alcorn State 56 FINAL
Murray State 94
Central Mich 80 FINAL
Northwestern 67
Georgia State 54 FINAL
Old Dominion 58
TX-Pan American 69 FINAL
Saint Louis 75
Ill-Chicago 46 FINAL
SMU 67
Texas State 60 FINAL
Stephen F Austin 66
SC State 39 FINAL
Texas Tech 101
Missouri State 70 FINAL
Tulsa 74
Chicago State 60 FINAL
Western Ky 75
Morehead State 50 FINAL
Green Bay 66
Northern Colorado 82 FINAL
Nebraska Omaha 92
Winthrop 62 FINAL
Auburn 80
New Mexico St 55 FINAL
Baylor 66
San Diego St 62 FINAL
Cincinnati 71
Eastern Mich 46 FINAL
Michigan State 66
Loyola Marymount 58 FINAL
Stanford 67
Incarnate Word 82 FINAL
Grand Canyon 80
Northeastern 58 FINAL
Cal Poly 60
Central Arkansas 55 FINAL
New Mexico 76
Howard 45 FINAL
Pepperdine 53
Portland 73 FINAL
UNLV 75
CS-Northridge 52 2nd Half 3:19
Oregon 76
Grambling St 38 FINAL
Washington 86
Nevada 12/20/14 10:00 AM
Louisiana
Utah State 12/20/14 1:20 PM
Texas-El Paso
(23) Utah 12/20/14 2:30 PM
Colorado State
Western Mich 12/20/14 4:45 PM
Air Force
South Alabama 12/20/14 8:15 PM
Bowling Green
BYU 12/22/14 1:00 PM
Memphis
Marshall 12/23/14 5:00 PM
Northern Ill
Navy 12/23/14 8:30 PM
San Diego St
Central Mich 12/24/14 11:00 AM
Western Ky
Fresno State 12/24/14 7:00 PM
Rice
Western Carolina 79 FINAL
UNC-Asheville 66
(21) Miss State 66 FINAL
Louisiana 51
(25) DePaul 109 FINAL
Loyola-Chicago 84
Liberty 64 FINAL
NC State 67
Elon 77 FINAL
Campbell 51
Akron 73 FINAL
UCF 64
Richmond 77 FINAL
UNC-Wilmington 67
Montana 70 FINAL
Seattle 64
(7) Stanford 46 FINAL
Chattanooga 54
Florida A&M 69 FINAL
Southern U 80
Oklahoma 72 FINAL
(13) Duke 92
Savannah State 56 FINAL
Auburn 62
Northern Colorado 43 FINAL
South Florida 84
Youngstown St 73 FINAL
Robert Morris 65
Siena 75 FINAL
Sacred Heart 65
Vermont 63 FINAL
St Francis-NY 61
(1) South Carolina 69 FINAL
Hampton 49
Fla Gulf Coast 91 FINAL
Bethune-Cookman 46
Texas Southern 92 FINAL
Houston Baptist 80
Northwestern 88 FINAL
UNLV 84
NC A&T 70 FINAL
Appalachian St 72
NC Central 52 FINAL
Coastal Carolina 67
Drexel 50 FINAL
Quinnipiac 74
Cincinnati 52 FINAL
Northern Ky 66
Alabama State 53 FINAL
Georgia Tech 77
Morehead St 69 FINAL
USC Upstate 75
Arkansas State 59 FINAL
Kent State 44
American Univ 60 FINAL
Manhattan 52
UNC Greensboro 60 FINAL
St Bonaventure 78
Arkansas-Monticello 56 FINAL
Northwestern St 61
Prairie View 70 FINAL
Sam Houston St 51
McNeese State 59 FINAL
(3) Texas 76
Yale 90 FINAL
Wagner 65
Oakland 61 FINAL
TX A&M-CC 54
Eastern Kentucky 62 FINAL
Alabama A&M 56
SIU-Edwardsville 47 FINAL
Northern Ill 69
McMurry 25 FINAL
TX-Arlington 82
Portland 65 FINAL
Eastern Washington 72
North Texas 42 FINAL
San Francisco 60
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 pro sports coach in the Twin Cities?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close