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 20th through 16th best players on the Wild roster that are under 25-years-old (ages are determined as of Oct. 1).
No. 20 – Defenseman Tyler Cuma
2012-13 statistics: 1 game played and 2 penalty minutes (Wild); 73 games played, 9 assists, -4 rating and 48 penalty minutes (Aeros).
The 22-year-old former first round draft pick has not made the transition to the professional ranks a smooth one. After nearly making the team as an 18-year-old, he has struggled with lengthy knee injuries. He still has a chance to be a solid stay-at-home defenseman. He relies on his positioning and hockey smarts. He can start a transition from defense to offense, but is not going to be a regular contributor in the offensive zone.
No. 19 – Defenseman John Draeger
2012-13 team: Shattuck-St. Mary’s (High School)
2012-13 statistics: 57 games played, 11 goals, 30 assists and 36 penalty minutes.
The 18-year-old Edina native was the Wild’s third round selection in this summer’s draft. He is a smart, confident, puck moving defenseman. He is committed to play at Michigan State University, where head coach Tom Anastos believes his most important attributes is his work ethic and leadership skills. He will contribute offensively, but is not going to be an elite scorer. He has a lanky frame that could stand to add some good bulk.
No. 18 – Right Wing Carson McMillan
2012-13 team: Minnesota Wild (NHL) and Houston Aeros (AHL)
2012-13 statistics: 11 games played, 1 goal, 2 assists, 1 rating and 11 penalty minutes (Wild); 51 games played, 4 goals, 8 assists, -1 rating and 43 penalty minutes (Aeros).
The 23-year-old former seventh round draft pick is one of the best late round draft picks in team history. He is a strong two-way player with very good skating skills. He can play either wing or center and will contribute a little offensively. He has a strong work ethic that has helped him improve in one-on-one battles. He has the makings to be a very dependable role player on the third or fourth line.
No. 17 – Left Wing Raphael Bussieres
2012-13 team: Baie-Comeau Drakkar (QMJHL)
2012-13 statistics: 56 games played, 21 goals, 23 assists, -2 rating and 60 penalty minutes.
The 18-year-old Quebec was the second round selection of the Wild this summer’s draft. He has strong two-way skills with high-end offensive potential. He skates and handles puck well while playing with an edge. He has no problem mixing it up; evidenced by the scrap he had with the Wild’s first round pick Mathew Dumba at a top prospects game. He still needs to improve his consistency on both ends of the ice and skills away from the puck.
No. 16 – Left Wing Erik Haula
2012-13 team: Minnesota (WCHA)
2012-13 statistics: 43 games played, 20 goals, 29 assists and 30 penalty minutes.
The 21-year-old Finland native is one of the top players at the University of Minnesota. He is growing quite accustomed to State of Hockey. He played prep hockey at Shattuck-St. Mary’s before joining the Golden Gophers. He is a highly skilled offensive player with quick and accurate shot. His best attribute is his passing ability. He still needs to improve his strength and defensive play.