It's here, it's finally here!
After teasing the second annual Minnesota Wild prospect list for a while, Dan and I finally thought now was a good time to follow through. Between a year of growth, an entirely new draft class and even getting a better look at some in person (both during games and prospect development camp), there's a ton of changes from last year's list. So we got together, debated names and places on the list and came up with our definitive top-20 Wild prospects for the 2012 preseason.
(For anyone wondering what last year's prospect rankings were, click here. In addition, there is a separate pre-draft prospect ranking in the first edition of the Wild Prospect Handbook along with some great articles.)
Our basic criteria for this prospect list can be split into two. First, what kind of impact can the player have with Minnesota if they reach their ceiling? Second, how likely is it that they will reach that ceiling? So while some prospects who have been around for a while may be closer to a ceiling as a bottom-six forward, that is seen to be lower than a longer-term project who has a ceiling as a top-six forward. How much so, however, is up for debate.
The Wild have one of the elite prospect pools in the NHL according to most experts and their success has been based on the past few drafts, trades and taking their time to let players develop in Europe, collegiate and junior hockey. There's a mixture of high-end talent and depth although some positions are better filled than others. They have depth between the pipes and up front but Minnesota can't say they have the same is true about the blue line. While the team has a few high-end defensive prospects, it would be the lone weak spot.
However, there has been a major cultural shift compared to even two years ago - even on defense - and the Wild should be seeing those dividends pay off as soon as this season.
But before we begin the First Round Bust 2012 Minnesota Wild Top 20 Prospect Countdown, it makes sense to explain what our definition of a prospect is. There are many ways to subjectively define a prospect and for us, we're using the Hockey's Future definition with a few exceptions. The biggest one is that if a player is between 50 and 65 games and has played his way into the NHL lineup, we will not consider them a prospect even if they technically fall under the HF definition.
Jared Spurgeon fell under that last year and this year it's the case with Steven Kampfer and Nate Prosser. Congrats guys, you're no longer prospects.
Besides Kampfer and Prosser, change is in the air as there are quite a few players who have graduated or departed the organization. They include (but are not limited to) Marco Scandella (#3 last year), Justin Falk, Chad Rau, Casey Wellman, Colton Gillies and Cody Almond.
Lastly, Minnesota has more than twenty eligible prospects. It was tough to leave off some very deserving players but that happens when the organization has a plethora of talent. We'll take a look at some of them tomorrow before counting down from twenty to one and naming the best Wild prospect in the 2012 preseason edition.