Just a bit of housekeeping during this low point in NHL-NHLPA negotiations. Hopefully there is more as the weekend and next few days go on but it seems like every time I say that it's a broken promise.
First of all, the Wild are #1! Woo-hoo!
After winning free agency this past year, Minnesota's prospect pool switched spots with the Florida Panthers and took the number one slot in the Hockey's Future fall rankings. It completes a meteoric rise for the prospect pool. In just three years, GM Chuck Fletcher and company took the team from the cellar to the penthouse.
1. Minnesota Wild
Strengths: The Minnesota Wild have spent several years rebuilding their system and now boast one of the deepest, most talented group of prospects in the NHL. Leading their system is potential star Mikael Granlund. Behind Granlund there are a multitude of talented, offensively minded forwards that includes Charlie Coyle, Zack Phillips, and Jason Zucker. They also have a very talented group of two-way forwards that includes Johan Larsson, Brett Bulmer, and Erik Haula. Leading the defense are puck-moving defensemen Jonas Brodin and Mathew Dumba. The Wild also have very good goaltending prospects in Matt Hackett and Darcy Kuemper.
Weaknesses: Beyond Dumba and Brodin, the defensive talent is average. Though there are several promising wingers, the organization could probably use more depth at wing.
Top 5 Prospects: 1. Mikael Granlund, C; 2. Jonas Brodin, D; 3. Charlie Coyle, C; 4. Mathew Dumba, D; 5. Johan Larsson, C.
When we started this blog back in the hockey-playing days of October 2010, one of the first things written was how the same website ranked the Wild prospect pool 26th overall. It was hard to complain about that ranking at the time and honestly we didn't. The pool was shallow. More than anything, everyone in their top 5 (which coincidentally is also our top 5) has been drafted or acquired since 2010 and that goes to the job the team has done in scouting and filling needs.
And even though none of us did anything besides Fletcher and Brent Flahr (who I assume are both long-time readers of First Round Bust going back to October 2010), there's something to cheer about.
Granlund and Seeler return from injury
In other prospect news, two injured players are set to make their return. Both Houston Aero forward Mikael Granlund, First Round Bust's #1 Minnesota Wild prospect, and University of Nebraska-Omaha freshman defenseman Nick Seeler are in their respective lineups tonight.
Granlund has been out since November 2nd against Oklahoma City with a severe ankle sprain. It was one of two injuries to first round picks in that game; the other occurred to Jonas Brodin, who remains out with a broken collarbone. The Aeros have responded well without the two by going 7-3-2 in the 12 games Granlund has missed and are currently on a 5 game winning streak going into tonight's contest against the Texas Stars.
Seeler, meanwhile, only missed last weekend's series against Minnesota with an undisclosed injury. While it was unfortunate for Dan and I to not get a chance to compare the 2011 fifth round pick to last year's USHL play, the Mavericks have him listed as one of seven defenseman according to Mick Hatten of the St. Cloud Times. The freshmen enters tonight's game against St. Cloud State having scored 6 points (2G-4A) in 12 games.
Michalek leaves Harvard for the USHL
Finally, 2011 sixth-round pick Stephen Michalek has joined the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders of the USHL. The goalie initially started the year at Harvard, where he was a sophomore, but had not played for the Crimson despite going 7-7-8 in 24 games as a freshman. Michalek was added to Cedar Rapids' protected list last month and made his debut this past Saturday. Unfortunately, it didn't go as planned. Michalek gave up 5 goals in a 5-1 defeat to Dubuque and took the loss.
Photo Credit: Vincent Muzik/IconSMI