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Minnesota Wild draft preview: Forwards

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The Minnesota Wild have a lot of high-end young forwards. The problem is that almost all of them are in the NHL or remain in the amateur ranks.

Charlie Coyle (age 22), Mikael Granlund (22), Erik Haula (23), Nino Niederreiter (21) and Jason Zucker (22) are on the NHL roster and have played a significant number of games at that level.

The group of young forwards waiting in the wings include five players in the professional ranks; Brady Brassart (21), Brett Bulmer (22), Raphael Bussieres (20), Kurtis Gabriel (21), Tyler Graovac (21), Zack Mitchell (21) and Zack Phillips (21). The Iowa Wild struggled last season because they did not have enough skilled offensive players. Brassart, Gabriel and Mitchell spent all or almost all of last season in the juniors. Their full season jump to Iowa should help.

The next wave of prospects entering the professional ranks includes European junior Christoph Bertschy (20) and four collegians; Adam Gilmour (20), Mario Lucia (21 in August), Louis Nanne (20) and Avery Peterson (19).

The Wild are likely to select a few forwards in the draft, which could include each of the selections they have in the first three rounds.

Here are 15 forwards to watch heading into the 2014 NHL draft.

Ivan Barbashev, Moncton (QMJHL)

Central Scouting Service’s No. 18 North American Skater

Elite Prospects describes him as “a skilled playmaking winger with impressive vision and passing ability.” They also say that he “thrives in a high-paced offense” and “has a good, hard shot and isn’t transparent about making a pass or firing it on net.” They added that he “has dynamic talent but inconsistent in his efforts.”

Conner Bleackley, Red Deer (WHL)

Central Scouting Service’s No. 35 North American Skater

TSN Director of Scouting Craig Button describes him as a “determined, competitive player who doesn’t take any shortcut.” He also says that Bleackley is “smart and in right areas and is a catalyst for positive plays all over the ice” and that he “doesn’t allow himself to be denied or his team to be denied.” Button also says that Bleackley plays a team game.

Robert Fabbri, Guelph (OHL)

Central Scouting Service’s No. 21 North American Skater

Brendan Ross of Dobber Prospects describes him as a player that has “an innate ability to sneak into scoring areas uncontested and strike quickly.” He adds that Fabbri has “great hands and hockey sense” with “top-end” skating and “quick first steps and elusive edge work, both elements that contribute to his success as an undersized player.” He also says that Fabbri “thinks the game at an advanced level, possesses a competitive attitude and if size wasn’t a consideration, he’d be considered a top 10 pick.”

Kevin Fiala, HV 71 (Sweden)

Central Scouting Service’s No. 3 European Skater

Hockeysfuture.com describes him as “a pure scorer at this stage in his development with several ways to create scoring chances.” They add “to succeed at the next level he will need to add some bulk and strength and refine other aspects of his game to complement his offensive skills.” They also say he is “a high risk/high reward prospect, projections on Fiala range from him becoming a Patrick Kane-type scorer to a player who puts up big numbers in Europe his entire career; never skating in the NHL.”

Josh Ho-Sang, Windsor (OHL)

Central Scouting Service’s No. 22 North American Skater

Button describes him as “a dynamic type player” with “excellent hands and can make plays in tight and is very difficult to get the puck from.” He adds that Ho-Sang “can make plays that very few are capable of.” He also says that Ho-Sang is “one of the most highly skilled players in the draft.”

Adrian Kempe, Modo (Sweden)

Central Scouting Service’s No. 6 European Skater

Elite Prospects describes him as “a strong, bullish forward that has size, strength and a work ethic to match.” They also say that “he can be tenacious on the forecheck and never misses finishing a check” and that “he has a heavy shot and isn’t shy to drive towards the net.”

Dylan Larkin, USNTDP (USHL)

Central Scouting Service’s No. 17 North American Skater

Button says that he “has the ability to play the game at a very high pace, temp and intensity.” He adds, “combine that with very good hockey sense and his impact becomes significant.” He also says that Larkin “wants to make a difference in game and finds ways” and that he is “ultra competitive.”

Jared McCann, Sault Ste. Marie (OHL)

Central Scouting Service’s No. 10 North American Skater

Elite Prospects describes him as “a hard-working, two-way forward who displays strong agility and mobility.” They also say McCann is “effective at both ends of the ice and has the ability to produce strong numbers due to his hands, patience, shot and sense.”

Sonny Milano, USNTDP (USHL)

Central Scouting Service’s No. 16 North American Skater

David Gregory of NHL Central Scouting describes him as a “dynamic” player and is “very good with the puck in traffic and in open ice and can make defensemen look silly.” He adds that Milano will “allow the play to come to him, take a hit and chirp it up before heading on a 2-on-1 in the opposite direction, resulting in a goal.” He also says that Milano “certainly has the potential of becoming a complete player.”

David Pastrnak, Sodertalje (Sweden-2)

Central Scouting Service’s No. 5 European Skater

Ross describes him as having an “exciting offensive skill set.” He adds that Pastrnak uses “quick agile cuts and dazzling puck skills” and that he “attacks quickly often making defenders look foolish along the way.” He also says that Pastrnak “hounds pucks in an unrelenting way and doesn’t steer away from traffic but his underdeveloped frame can hold him back occasionally in puck battles.”

Brendan Perlini, Niagara (OHL)

Central Scouting Service’s No. 8 North American Skater

Button describes him as “a big, strong, excellent skating winger with a great release on his shot that can beat goalies from 35 feet.” He also says that Perlini’s “growth as a player has skyrocketed and with his skills, he has the potential to be an impact player who is difficult to negate.”

Nikita Scherbak, Saskatoon (WHL)

Central Scouting Service’s No. 15 North American Skater

Button describes him as having “excellent scoring instincts and he arrives at the right times to take full advantage.” He adds that Scherbak’s “awareness of how to exploit opportunities is very good” and that he “is vigilant and alert in this regard.” He also says that Scherbak is “a versatile player who can play off strengths of others.”

Nick Schmaltz, Green Bay (USHL)

Central Scouting Service’s No. 19 North American Skater

Button says that he has “excellent hockey sense and Nick has an ease to his game that very few possess.” He adds that Schmaltz has “excellent puck skills and can make plays that creates scoring” and “has the ability to make those around him better and to take advantage of their skills.”

Alex Tuch, USNTDP (USHL)

Central Scouting Service’s No. 12 North American Skater

Ross describes him as “a big robust winger who wreaks havoc by using his strength and size to wear down opponents.” He adds that Tuch’s “success has come from his competitive nature and ability to compliment his line mates by playing true to his brand of hockey - winning puck battles and dominating possession.”

Jakub Vrana, Linkoping (Sweden)

Central Scouting Service’s No. 4 European Skater

Button says he has a “very good offensive mind and is hungry from the circles down in the offensive zone.” He adds that Vrana has a good shot and is a player you have to respect because he can score or make a play.” He also says that Vrana has the “ability to be dangerous quickly” and has “one shot and score capability.”

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