The Minnesota Wild have developed one of the best young core of prospects in the NHL.
That has all come in the last four years.
Before Chuck Fletcher took over as the team’s general manager, the Wild had the weakest prospect pool in the league.
Fletcher is using a draft-and-develop philosophy in an attempt to make the Wild yearly Stanley Cup contenders.
Here are the 15th through 11th best players on the Wild roster that are under 25-years-old (ages are determined as of Oct. 1).
No. 15 – Defenseman Justin Falk
2012-13 team: Minnesota Wild (NHL)
2012-13 statistics: 47 games played, 1 goal, 8 assists, -13 rating and 54 penalty minutes.
The 23-year-old former mid-round draft pick is a big stay-at-home defenseman. He plays a safe, steady game. He has good skills with the puck, but is not going to be a consistent offensive threat. When he is at his best you rarely notice him because he is denying opposing forwards offensive opportunities. Despite having a 6-fot-5-inch frame, he does not play with enough physicality. He needs to be more physical on the puck.
No. 14 – Right Wing Cal Clutterbuck
2012-13 team: Minnesota Wild (NHL)
2012-13 statistics: 74 games played, 15 goals, 12 assists, -4 rating and 103 penalty minutes.
The 24-year-old has become a fan favorite with a physical, agitating style of play. He has led the NHL in hits multiple times, but also has goal scoring offensive ability. He has a quick and hard shot that he aims for the upper corners. In addition to being physical, he plays good defense positioning. He needs to improve his discipline and body control when checking. He will score his goals, but lacks high-end scoring ability with poor shooting accuracy.
No. 13 – Left Wing Mario Lucia
2012-13 team: Penticton Vees (BCHL)
2012-13 statistics: 56 games played, 42 goals, 51 assists and 42 penalty minutes.
The 18-year-old Wayzata native improved his prospect status with a huge season in the British Columbia Hockey League. Prior to becoming a second round draft pick in 2011, the son of the University of Minnesota head coach was considered by scouts to be a smart, versatile, two-way type of player. However, some scouts question whether his skills are good enough to eventually play in the NHL. He may have silenced those critics with his nearly two-points-per-game output in a Canadian junior league. He will play this season at Notre Dame, where he can continue to improve his status.
No. 12 – Center Zack Phillips
2012-13 team: Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL)
2012-13 statistics: 60 games played, 30 goals, 50 assists, 47 rating and 32 penalty minutes.
The 19-year-old former first round draft pick had a big season as the team leader for Canada’s best junior team. He has very good puck skills, especially as a playmaker and passer. He has the versatility to play either center or wing with elite offensive upside. He needs to improve his strength, skating skills and aggressiveness. His elite playmaking skills lead to a lack of shots. He needs to shoot more to open passing lanes.
No. 11 – Left Wing Jason Zucker
2012-13 team: Minnesota Wild (NHL)/Denver Pioneers (WCHA)
2012-13 statistics: 6 games played, 2 assists, -2 rating and 2 penalty minutes (Wild); 38 games played, 22 goals, 46 assists and 38 penalty minutes (Pioneers).
The 20-year-old former Denver Pioneer got his first taste of the NHL last season. He became the first Nevada-trained player to be drafted when the Wild took him in the second round of the 2010 draft. Speed may be his best attribute. He can fly and has a very good ability to find and get to open ice. His quick and accurate shot makes a high-end scoring threat. He needs to improve his strength, puck handling skills and defensive ability.