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.
Team White simply put is a Chuck Fletcher squad. There's some size and skill up front, players that aren't afraid to be pests and a defense that can move the puck around. Although White doesn't have the same name recognition of its opposition, there are quite a few players to keep an eye on as they make their way onto the Minnesota Wild over the next few years.
You can also check out the companion Team Green Preview below or click the link.
Up front, the biggest name on Team White is Charlie Coyle, the 2010 first round pick who was acquired in the Brent Burns trade. After an award-winning season split between Boston University (Hockey East) and Saint John (QMJHL), Coyle is set to make a bid for the Wild this fall and is the obvious choice to anchor the right wing on White's first line.
The same can be said for Johan Larsson (56th overall pick in 2010), who in the past year captained Sweden to a gold-medal in the World Junior Championships and won the Swedish Rookie of the Year in the SEL. Both Larsson and Coyle have size (6'0", 200 lbs and 6'2", 222 lbs, respectively) and skating strides to keep up and play a NHL game as soon as next season, although odds are the power forwards will develop by starting the year in Houston.
Besides those two, Raphael Bussieres, the 2012 second round pick from Baie-Cormeau (QMJHL), and a pair of undersized players in Erik Haula and Christoph Berstchy have the ability to impress. Haula led the University of Minnesota in points last season and at times took over on a team that featured Nick Bjugstad. Bertschy, meanwhile, has first round skill - shining for Switzerland in last year's WJC - but size and consistency concerns had him fall into the sixth round. Regardless, Bertschy is an interesting long-term project.
The rest of Team White is made up of a combination of mature Aeros (Kris Foucault, Joel Broda), late round picks (Tyler Graovac) and invitees (Eagan's Will Merchant, Michigan Tech's Brett Olson). Oddly enough, there is a large amount of left-hand shots among the White forwards. Only Coyle, Bertschy and Olson shoot right.
The blue line is where Team White's strength truly lies. Although 2012 first round pick Mathew Dumba is on the other side, the other first round defensemen in camp, Jonas Brodin and Tyler Cuma, play for this team. Brodin, the 10th overall pick in 2011, has received praise by many current NHLers for his play in last May's World Championships and has become one of the top defensive prospects not playing in the league. He is not as offensive as Dumba yet has puck moving skills that Minnesota desperately needed last season.
Cuma, meanwhile, is looking to be 100% for the first time in a while after spending a solid portion last year getting back on track from tearing his ACL. The 2008 first round pick (23rd overall) did get a pair of call-ups to the Wild (although one ended up not happening due to plane issues). While injuries have derailed his development, playing against guys who are mostly younger than Cuma should be a good chance to chart his progress and future.
Besides Brodin and Cuma, the blue consists of quite a few second/third pairing players. Some like Steve Kampfer, who Minnesota picked up when they traded Greg Zanon to Boston, have had opportunities with the Wild. Some like Kyle Medvec spent the entire season with the Aeros. Others like 2011 fifth round pick Nick Seeler have talent but are taking longer to develop in lower leagues. Seeler finished a season in the USHL and will be heading to Nebraska-Omaha.
Between the pipes begins and ends with Matt Hackett, Minnesota's top goalie prospect. The 2009 3rd round pick was Houston's number one goalie for most of the season and had a respectable .921 save percentage in 12 games with the Wild. He'll likely spend most of the year with the Aeros (injuries notwithstanding) once again now that Josh Harding has been re-signed for the next three years and get a chance to continue to develop in the AHL. While Hackett has shown flashes of being ready in the NHL, getting more time to hone his craft (a philosophical decision that differs from past years) isn't necessarily a bad thing.
Team White has also brought in Mackenzie Skapski, the starting goaltender for the Kootenay Ice (WHL), despite being injured as an invite and possibly have Colorado College goaltender Joe Howe as well.
Photo Credit: Dan Shrader