Over the course of the last two seasons the Minnesota Wild moved both their first and second round picks in the 2017 NHL Draft. With a pick in the third round, two picks in the fourth, and a pick in each remaining round, the chance at acquiring significant upside was considered minimal entering the draft. That being said, the Minnesota Wild absolutely seemed to do what they could to maximize the ceilings of almost every pick they made.
Ivan Lodnia, RW: 85th Overall
One of my biggest “eyetest” picks this year, Lodnia is a highly skilled albeit slightly undersized winger who made a big jump this year on a stacked Erie Otters team. He still managed to be a 57 point player in 66 games, and was a fast riser up the draft rankings over the course of the season. He is one of the quicker players who can rush a puck up ice and earn controlled offensive zone entries well. His defensive game needs work, but he reminded me quite a bit of Will Bitten from last year. With Erie graduating names like Strome and DeBrincat next season, Lodnia will be relied upon for his offensive firepower, and should be primed for a big season in the OHL, with a possible spot on the US World Junior Team in December if all goes well.
Minnesota had to wait until the 3rd round to make their first pick, and they took a player with warguably the highest upside left over from the first two rounds, and are really taking a swing here. Lodnia is a skilled high octane offensive winger, and if he can round out his game and continue his obscenely high primary point production rates in bigger ice time loads, he could be a home run for the Wild.
Mason Shaw, C: 97th Overall
Mason Shaw has a pretty nice line on his resume as the player that #2 overall pick Nolan Patrick mentioned as the most difficult player to play against in the WHL this year. He’s another small skilled forward and another high-upside gamble for Minnesota in the 4th round. There are major defensive issues he needs to work on to drive goal scoring more positively, but his offensive ability is undeniable. Size may be a concern for a center like him, but there is tons of potential there. He’s speedy, lethal with the puck, and a highly intelligent playmaker. Intensity on the puck and getting into dirty areas is something many smaller players need to work on, and Shaw is no different. He is a high risk, high reward option, and in the 4th round, the value on Shaw is sky-high. As Medicine Hat sheds some talent in the coming year, Shaw will have a large test on his hands to become the go-to offensive threat as he develops.
Bryce Misley, C: 116th Overall
The OJHL is often overlooked in terms of value for players, and there were a few names I was very interested in throughout the season. Misley was a name that the NHL services had on their radars for his meat-and-potatoes game, but I was admittedly unfamiliar with his game, and what I saw wasn’t particularly special. He’s headed to Vermont, so the Wild can play the long game to watch him develop his defensive game, but his shot, offensive instinct, and good playmaking abilities are positive. He’s a project, but the upside for a safe, bottom six centre is there. He’s adequately sized, and his production was solid for the Oakville Blades. He may have been a reach at 116, but I can see how his game could translate to higher levels over time.
Jacob Golden, D: 147th Overall
The London Knights are a team that often buries young defenders to let them develop over time behind a stacked core of more experienced talent. Golden was one of the prime pure defensive defenders in the draft in limited usage, but with his okay size and from how he was advertised coming into his rookie season, I expected more than two points in the offensive end. There is value in defensive suppression, and size is often overvalued as an asset, and there may be offensive upside to Golden’s game, but I can’t help but think this pick, or a similarly valued one could have been made later. With more ice time and more opportunity he could evolve into a depth/bottom pairing defender with penalty kill upside. If he can display an offensive game, there could be another gear there, but at the moment, he’s a defensive suppression player with mediocre size for a defender. Not the biggest swing for the fences in any case, but the Wild clearly see something they can build on here.
Andrei Svetlakov, C: 178th Overall
Svetlakov is a rare pick who has entered his fourth draft, and finally had his name called in the sixth round of the draft. I really liked what I saw of Svetlakov as a playmaker that has a filled out frame, and if he weren’t a KHL regular, I would say he’s likely the quickest name in the draft to hit the NHL for Minnesota. He’s a heavy, smart puck mover who makes other players on the ice better. Minnesota holds his rights for quite a few years, and when he and fellow prospect Kirill Kaprizov are available to make the jump, I fully expect them to join a great offensive group of young forwards and be able to push for a NHL spots. This is a great low risk pick for Minnesota to round out the riskier high upside forwards from earlier in the draft.
Nick Swaney, C: 209th Overall
Minnesota decided to use their last pick on a hometown boy in Nick Swaney. He’s a ‘97 born centre who is one of the younger undrafted 2015 draft eligible players and he’s destined for the highly ranked Minnesota-Duluth program. Joining names like Joseph Anderson, Riley Tufte, and Dylan Samberg, he will be relied upon quickly to make strong offensive contributions. He is another somewhat undersized skilled centre who will need to gain some strength to take steps forward, but his ability to drive offense through his passing as well as his shot will be valuable to keep an eye on over the next few years. Defensively, he also managed to suppress goals against very well for a player his size with his ice time. Minnesota supposedly picked him to avoid having to chase him as a college free agent, and from my relatively limited experience observing him, I happen to agree. His analytics look very good, his offensive play is dynamic and positive, and in the 7th round, anything goes, and if you like a player, you take him. He’s a project, but if he can fill out a bit, Minnesota could have an interesting player on their hands.
Development Camp Roster Invites
Gerald Mayhew - Ferris St. University (WCHA)
Jack Walker - Victoria Royals (WHL)
Joel Teasdale - Blainville-Boisbriand Armada (QMJHL)
Sam Huff - Maple Grove High School (MN-HS)
Leon Bristedt - University of Minnesota (Big Ten)
Mike Regush - Merritt Centennials (BCHL)
Giorgio Estephan - Lethbridge Hurricanes (WHL)
Matt Bradley - Medicine Hat Tigers (WHL)
Brendan van Riemsdyk - University of New Hampshire (HE)
Marc Michaelis - Minnesota State-Mankato (WCHA)
John Witala - Ohio State University (Big Ten)
Luc Gerdes - Colorado College (NCHC)
Adam Plant - University of Denver (NCHC)
Yusuke Kon - Japanese National Team (WJC-U20 Div. 2A)
Kevin Davis - Everett Silvertips (WHL)
Jake Linhart - University of Wisconsin (Big Ten)
Nicholas Boka - University of Michigan (Big Ten)
Artem Minulin - Swift Current Broncos (WHL)
Brennan Mennell - Lethbridge Hurricanes (WHL)
Alex Green - Lincoln Stars (USHL)
Noah Ganske - Bloomington Jefferson High School (HS-MN)
Dereck Baribeau - Val d’Or/Quebec (QMJHL)
Ryan Edquist - Boston College (HE)
Jake Kelly - Clarkson University (ECAC)
While I was unable to attend the camp in person, as an analytically based researcher, there are a few excellent names I’m glad Minnesota gave a shot to here. Brennan Mennell had a fantastic year in the WHL this year, and should earn himself an AHL deal somewhere, if not Minnesota.
Artem Minulin somehow went undrafted, but he’s a prime candidate to have a great season and enter the draft again.
Sam Huff was just barely too young for the draft last year, but his numbers from this year were exceptional, involving himself in over 60% of his team’s goals on average. He could be one to watch as he prepares himself for an NCAA career at the University of Minnesota in 2018.
I’m glad Minnesota extended an invite to Yusuke Kon, as any chance to grow the game is welcome. I know next to nothing about him, but it is always a great opportunity for developing hockey nations to get the chance to learn from the top clubs in the world.
Joel Teasdale was another inexplicably undrafted invite. While he is undersized for his style of play, his ability to get high danger chances and generate shots is fantastic. His defensive game was also quite solid, and I’m looking at him to make a large improvement in his game next year in the QMJHL as he takes on a larger role.
As a Torontonian, seeing Jack Walker’s name on the list was a bit of a surprise. After just one year of holding his rights, the Leafs did not make a qualifying/bonafide offer to Walker, and his rights expired, allowing him to join in on Minnesota’s camp. He’s a speedy forward converted from defense a couple of years ago, but he couldn’t build on the massive jump in offensive output that led to the Leafs taking a flyer on him. He may be a candidate for an AHL deal, but he would likely be a wait-and-see player with a hope for further development.