The Minnesota Wild have done a very good job of building a young nucleus of talented players. The team’s prospect list does not necessarily reflect the future of the Wild due to so many young players having key roles on the NHL team.
To accurately build an opinion of the team’s future success, you have to look at young players in the amateur ranks, the minor leagues and the NHL. The Wild have graduated their top young players from prospects to NHL veterans.
In part one, the 11th through 15th ranked young players are likely going to play most of the season in Iowa. Part two started bringing some of the NHL players into the mix. This third, and final, part breaks down the best of the Wild’s young talent. There is a proven forward, two proven defensemen and a pair of up-and-coming forwards.
Here is the third installment of the Wild’s top players under the age of 25. It is the five best players.
No. 5 - C Erik Haula
The Wild received a very pleasant surprise when Haula played above his seventh round draft selection. The Finnish-born University of Minnesota product combines speed with smarts to get in position to take away passing lanes and win races to loose pucks. Possibly the most impressive aspect to Haula’s game is his ability to intercept long passes at center ice and turn it into offense. The 23-year-old rookie had a breakout postseason with four goals and three assists while generally playing against the opposing team’s top line.
No. 4 - D Jonas Brodin
Brodin is calm and poised with the puck. He showed that during his rookie season of 2012-13. The 21-year-old paired with Ryan Suter to form the team’s top pairing. He took a little bit of a step back last season after suffering a facial injury. Despite the hesitant play with the puck in the defensive zone, Brodin improved as an offensive player. He has an accurate shot and good passing and puck handling skills. When everything comes together on a consistent basis for him, he could be a dominant defender.
No. 3 - D Jared Spurgeon
There was very little expectation for Spurgeon when the Wild signed him as a junior free agent in 2010. The 24-year-old has increased his offensive production while improving his overall skill set. Last season, he became a more complete defenseman by using his body smartly. He did not make huge hits, but was physical along the boards. He has been on the Wild’s first or second pairing almost all of the last three seasons.
No. 2 - LW Nino Niederreiter
The Wild may have struck gold in the 2013 draft day trade with the New York Islanders that brought the Swiss power forward to Minnesota. Niederreiter was a fifth overall draft pick, but was not handled properly by the Islanders. He was happy to move on and the Wild were happy to get him. He is big, feisty and has all the offensive skills to be a star. He has proven to be a deadly scorer off the rush, but will be a dominant offensive player when he becomes a consistent scorer around the net.
No. 1 - C Mikael Granlund
Granlund broke out as a dynamic offensive player last season. He quickly became the team’s No. 1 center and playmaker early in the season. He has incredible vision and passing ability to set teammates up for easy goals. He is able to thread passes through traffic while facing the opposition’s best defensive players. He developed very good chemistry with the team’s top wings, Zach Parise and Jason Pominville, while Mikko Koivu was out with his ankle injury. Granlund showed the playmaking skills, but didn’t show the finishing touch until the playoffs. He scored an individual highlight reel goal in Game 3 of the first round series against the Colorado Avalanche in overtime.