Sunday, July 15, 2012
It's always fun this time of year to analyze teams' prospects and their NHL-readiness, and to predict who will make the team, who will be in line for call-ups, and who will return to junior or the minors. Today I take a look at a team with no shortage of possibilities.
One of the more interesting NHL teams to watch the fall, in terms of prospects, will be the Minnesota Wild. With the free-agent signings of Zach Parise, Torrey Mitchell, Jake Dowell, and Zenon Konopka, there are seemingly fewer opening on the roster than originally thought for the incoming forward crop. With Brett Bulmer, Mikael Granlund, Charlie Coyle, Johan Larsson and Jason Zucker all knocking at the door, as well as older prospects such as Nick Palmieri, Cody Almond and Justin Fontaine reaching the make-or-break point, competition in the State of Hockey should be fierce.
Granlund has a spot to lose, as the Wild will be looking for him to not only step in but to produce immediately. Coyle is the next most heralded prospect in the system, and he has all the tools, but time in the AHL would be beneficial to him in my opinion. He will play in Minnesota at some point this season, at the very least. Bulmer and Zucker each got a taste of the NHL last year, and neither looked out of place. Both, however, could also use time in the minors to further their adjustment to the professional game. Larsson, at 19, is the wild card of this group. He plays a mature, well-rounded game and could play in the bottom six to start.
Of the older prospects, Palmieri is the most likely to get a chance because he was part of the package coming from New Jersey for Marek Zidlicky. He has played in 87 NHL games, scoring just 13 goals, but he did score 21 times in his rookie pro season in the AHL. Almond is a versatile forward who will probably ride th Houston-Minneapolis shuttle a few times this season. Fontaine is creative offensively, but there ar questions about whether his game will effectively translate to the next level. He is a long shot and will need an outstanding training camp.
The future certainly looks bright in Minnesota, with so many good forward prospects, and many other teams would love to have the problem the Wild have trying to find playing time for all of them. The team is set in goal as well, with Matt Hackett looking like a future starter and 6'4 Darcy Kuemper a solid prospect coming up.
As always, feel free to leave comments and feedback. I can be found on Twitter @RichDillon17 if you're interested. Thanks for visiting and reading!