Note: This week is the annual Minnesota Wild Development Camp for the majority of Wild prospects, who are split into two teams: Green and White. You can see the rosters here. There are two scrimmages at the Xcel Energy Center Thursday July 12th at 7 p.m. CT and Sunday July 15th at 11 a.m. CT and both are free.
For the second consecutive year, on paper Team Green gets the edge in offensive talent while Team White is set more defensively. Both Wild first round forward picks (Mikael Granlund, Zack Phillips) are on Team Green along with the only two forwards who played for Minnesota this year (Jason Zucker, Brett Bulmer).
All that talent doesn't include last year's second round pick, Mario Lucia, who was supposed on Team Green but is instead attending summer classes at Notre Dame.
So there's skill up front with Granlund centering a line that can have any number of pieces to take advantage of his playmaking skills. Whether it is Phillips, who played with the 2010 first round pick at last year's camp (along with Johan Larsson), Zucker on the left wing or Bulmer on the right, the top-six talent contains a lot of speed and players who have proven that they can score. Phillips scored 30 goals in the QMJHL this past season (tied with two others, including Jonathan Huberdeau) while Bulmer led the Kelowna Rockets with 34.
As it is, Justin Fontaine has spent the past couple days on Granlund's wing. He's proven at Minnesota Duluth that he can play on a top line and is the one of the oldest players in camp at age 24. Fontaine will also be the leading returning goal scorer for Houston in the fall as both Jeff Taffe and John DiSalvatore have departed for Hershey.
One interesting note is that Zucker and Charlie Coyle, the 28th overall in 2010 by San Jose, are on different teams. The two have shown some chemistry in the past being on the same line in both last year's scrimmage for Team White and for Team USA in the World Junior Championships. He is, however, with Fontaine again and the 59th overall pick in 2010 has breakneck speed and is defensively responsible where Zucker could fit in with a few different players.
If anything, Team Green's top-6 has ridiculous upside and will be a good audition process for Houston.
The bottom-six, meanwhile, is made up of recent draft picks looking to get their shot and invitees wanting to make an impression. Players like Edina's Louie Nanne, future Boston College center Adam Gilmour and St. Cloud State senior Drew LeBlanc, whose season ended in November with a severe leg injury are all vying to catch the eye of Wild brass in their first development camp. Then there's returning invitee Carter Sandlak of the Belleville Bulls (OHL), who has been passed over in the Draft twice but comes from a good hockey family.
Team Green's defense features Minnesota's newest first round pick, Mathew Dumba, along with 2012 third round pick John Draeger and frequent Wild defenseman Marco Scandella. Dumba, who spent last season with Red Deer of the WHL, has stated that he wants to be on the Minnesota blue line next season and thus has a lot riding on development camp. The seventh overall pick has the ability to change the game in every way and is easily possesses the highest offensive ability of any defensemen in the Wild prospect pool.
Scandella, meanwhile, is the elder statesman of Minnesota's development camp for the second straight year. As his season was cut short due to injuries like many on the Wild, getting some time on the ice is always helpful. Marco, a second round pick in 2008, should dominate against boys once again and anything short of that will be a disappointment.
The third name to watch out for on Team Green is Shattuck-St. Mary's defenseman John Draeger, a good complement to Dumba or someone offensively-minded. Draeger is a guy who can skate and has room to grow as he heads to Michigan State in the fall. It wouldn't be a bad idea to have him paired with Scandella like Nick Seeler was last year or on his own to see what the 2012 3rd round pick can do.
Besides Notre Dame alumni Sean Lorenz, the rest of the Cyan line are late round picks (the elusive Daniel Gunnarsson) and undrafted invitees who have everything to gain. One interesting case is Cody Corbett, who took the rare path as a Minnesotan playing in the WHL with the Edmonton Oil Kings. Although he went undrafted this past June, this week is a chance to show what playing more games against non-high school competition has done for Corbett's game.
The three goalies on Team Green represent depth and a varied look at Chuck Fletcher's tendency to use the sixth round pick on a goalie. Although 2009 sixth round pick Darcy Kuemper is still on the shelf with shoulder surgery, 2010 sixth round pick Johan Gustafsson is more than capable to pick up the slack. Gustafsson, who recently signed his entry-level contract, has international experience with Sweden and will spend next season playing for Lulea of the Swedish Elite League before making his way to North America.
Johan played well behind a good defensive corp in Lulea, allowing 1.78 GAA and a ,929 save percentage in 29 games. He may not have that luxury this weekend but as a European goalie among a plethora of goalies in Houston and North America, development camp is a good opportunity for him to make an impact and for fans to get a rare look at Gustafsson.
2011 sixth round pick Stephen Michalek, on the other hand, had an up and down freshman season at Harvard with a 3.19 GAA in 24 games. Although he still time to develop and the jump from prep to college hockey is huge, this weekend is a chance for Michalek to shake off the cobwebs and get ready for his sophomore year.