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July 25, 2011
Top 10 Prospects
Minnesota Wild

by Corey Pronman

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Full list of NHL Organizational Rankings

The Minnesota Wild Top 10 Prospects

1. Mikael Granlund, Center
2. Marco Scandella, Defense
3. Jonas Brodin, Defense
4. Charlie Coyle, Center
5. Jason Zucker, Right Wing
6. Zack Phillips, Center
7. Johan Larsson, Left Wing
8. Justin Falk, Defense
9. Erik Haula, Center
10. Tyler Cuma, Defense

Organizational Ranking: 13th

System Overview: The Wild's system has changed drastically over the last few years, turning into a significant system through a couple of key prospects taking big steps forward along with the acquisition of Charlie Coyle as part of Burns-Setoguchi deal on Draft Day. The Wild boast the best prospect in hockey in Mikael Granlund, on top of several other impressive pieces. There's a lot of NHL projection at both skater positions in this system, as well as two notable goalie prospects in Matt Hackett and Darcy Kuemper.

Their only real weakness is the lack of real top-end talent aside from Granlund, but there are a lot of above-average talents. While this isn't something to be overly concerned about, it's what kept this system from vaulting into the top ten despite its notable depth.

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1. Mikael Granlund, Center
Date of birth: 02/26/1992
Age: 19
Height: 5'10''
Weight: 180
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 39 GP, 8 G, 36 P (HIFK-SM-Liiga)
Acquired: First round, ninth overall in 2010 by Minnesota

The Good: Mikael Granlund is a brilliant and dynamic talent who easily has the best puck skills and hockey sense in the prospect world. He is an elite player with the puck and can do so much with it. He has the ability to embarrass defenders at will with a dazzling array of moves and top-end creativity with the puck. He will show subtle stick-handling at times, and then can just make a ridiculous move that will leave observers in awe. His vision and hockey intellect are at the same level as his puck skills if not higher. Granlund's vision with the puck is tremendous and he can make passes that most players have no business attempting. His patience, anticipation and overall feel for the game allow him to hold the puck for lengthy periods of time, and thread passes through the tightest of seams with the smallest windows of opportunity. Granlund is an advanced defensive player whose elite hockey sense carries over to that side of the puck as well. He covers his assignments exceptionally well and can be a very effective penalty killer.

The Bad: His size is a hindrance and despite good work ethic, willingness to go to the net, and decent strength on the puck, he will be a fringe to below-average physical player. Granlund's skating is below-average, but he has been building strength in his lower core and that part of his game is steadily coming around. There is a slight worry about injuries after concussion issues this past season.

Projection: A perennial All-Star and a top-end possession weapon that safely projects at the least as an above-average first line forward.

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2. Marco Scandella, Defense
Date of birth: 02/23/1990
Age: 21
Height: 6'2''
Weight: 217
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 33 GP, 3 G, 19 P (Houston-AHL)
Acquired: Second round, 55th overall in 2008 by Minnesota

The Good: Scandella is a solid skater with a powerful, fluid stride. He gets to a pro-level top speed and moves in all directions well. Scandella accelerates pretty well, and has the ability to jump into the rush, as well as close his gaps efficiently. He's not an overly physical player, but his physical game projection at the NHL is above-average due to his strength and his ability to push players off the puck. Scandella's offensive skills are decent, and while not overwhelming they certainly aren't lacking either. He can make the simple plays well, but also has the ability to make a pass that's beyond five feet, and shows decent hands. Scandella's hockey sense is above-average at both ends of the ice and combined with all his other attributes, he has all the makings of a tough minutes defender.

The Bad: There's not a lot to put here aside from the fact that Scandella isn't dynamic in any particular area. Scandella has had some injury issues the last few years as well.

Projection: An above-average second pairing defenseman, with a floor projection of an average second pairing defender, but the former is much more likely.

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3. Jonas Brodin, Defense
Date of birth: 07/12/1993
Age: 18
Height: 6'1''
Weight: 169
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 42 GP, 0 G, 4 P, 14:10 ATOI (Farjestad-SEL)
Acquired: First round, 10th overall in 2011 by Minnesota

The Good: Brodin is a true plus thinker on the ice, consistently making advanced reads on defense, showing good poise with the puck and executing calm, quick breakouts. His puck-moving skills are above average. He consistently shows the ability to execute crisp, accurate passes and can execute well on lengthy attempts. Brodin also is a solid to above-average skater, with a great first step and four-way mobility and he can close on his assignments quickly. He is very advanced for his age, and could fast track to the league.

The Bad: Brodin is very conservative in nature in how he approaches the game. Despite the fact he has the speed to rush the puck up, he doesn't attempt to do so and consequently, he's not much of a puck-handler. He isn't physically involved much, and with a skinny frame and a need for strength, that tool at the moment grades as fringe.

Projection: An above-average second pairing defender who easily projects as a top four defender.

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4. Charlie Coyle, Center
Date of birth: 03/02/1992
Age: 19
Height: 6'2''
Weight: 207
Shoots: Right
Statistics: 37 GP, 7 G, 26 P (Boston University- Hockey East)
Acquired: Trade from San Jose; drafted first round, 28th overall in 2010 by San Jose

The Good: Coyle is a tremendous physical package and he easily projects as a plus physical player in the NHL. He's got a big, wide frame with plenty of muscle on it, and is incredibly strong on the puck. Coyle is very good in the cycle game and protecting the puck down low. Coyle likes to drive the net and there aren't many defenders who can push him off the puck when he drops his shoulder and stiff arms towards the crease area. He's well conditioned and there's so much to like about his athletic package. His puck skills are above-average and well above-average for a bigger player. He has admirable creativity and vision, and has the ability to create from the sideboards on top of his work physically. Coyle has an above-average shot that's heavy and has the ability to score a decent amount of goals. He works hard, and features a good two-way game.

The Bad: Coyle's skating is below-average and while his feet don't look heavy, there just isn't that pro-level top gear to his game, although his balance on his skates is notable. His decision-making needs some work, keeping in mind the jump to Hockey East out of the EJHL was a factor in that area. He can be too fancy at times though and has to reign in some of the turnovers while trying to do too much.

Projection: An average second line center who safely projects as an average third line center.

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5. Jason Zucker, Right Wing
Date of birth: 01/16/1992
Age: 19
Height: 5'11''
Weight: 180
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 40 GP, 23 G, 45 P (University of Denver-WCHA)
Acquired: Second round, 59th overall in 2010 by Minnesota

The Good: Zucker's a plus skater with an explosive top gear and he moves with a lot of energy to his game. He zooms up and down the ice, and can put speed pressure on the defense when he's pushing the puck up or when he comes in on the forecheck. His work ethic is as top end as his skating ability and he has a never say die attitude when he's pursuing offensively or when he needs to sacrifice his body in the defensive end. Zucker has a plus shot and can score from a distance with a hard and accurate wrist shot, on top of a notably effective one-timer.

The Bad: Zucker's not the kind of player you want holding the puck for extended periods as he's a basic player with it, and lacks true offensive instincts. His frame is a little slight, and he has to put on a fair amount of strength and muscle.

Projection: An average second line winger who should at the least become a heck of a two-way third line winger.

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6. Zack Phillips, Center
Date of birth: 10/28/1992
Age: 18
Height: 6'1''
Weight: 178
Shoots: Right
Statistics: 67 GP, 38 G, 95 P (Saint John-QMJHL)
Acquired: First round, 28th overall in 2011 by Minnesota

The Good: Phillips' hockey sense is above-average which is evident in how he consistently anticipates the flow of the play. Once he senses his team is about to gain possession of the play, he jettisons into an open lane to receive a pass and get the puck up the ice, yet is responsible defensively and works hard in that aspect. He's also demonstrated very effective penalty killing. That work ethic is apparent in the offensive size too as despite his frame that significantly lacks muscle he goes to the physical areas consistently. He's a solid distributor and on the power play will occasionally flash above-average in that regard. Zack's a solid to above-average finisher with good accuracy on his wrist shot.

The Bad: The major issues with Philips which are going to really hamper his pro potential are his fringe skating and his body. He has heavy feet and despite a decent first step, the tool really lacks pro-level qualities. While Phillips did succeed at going to the net at the Junior level, he has a ton of gym work ahead of him before he'll be ready to do it at the NHL level. While he frequently lined up at center in the QMJHL this year, he projects as a winger and I've seen him be effective as a left wing.

Projection: An average second line forward ceiling to above-average third line forward floor.

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7. Johan Larsson, Left Wing
Date of birth: 07/25/1992
Age: 18
Height: 5'11''
Weight: 203
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 43 GP, 4 G, 8 P, 9:43 ATOI (Brynäs-SEL)
Acquired: Second round, 56th overall in 2010 by Minnesota

The Good: Larsson is a tremendously advanced forward whose hockey sense, intangibles and physical shape could have him playing in the league as soon as next year. His hockey sense is above-average and he's the type of player who makes a lot happen despite a below-average skill set just due to his awareness and effective decision-making. He has fine vision and is a decent passer. Larsson works his tail off, brings a lot of energy to every shift and regularly gets praise from NHL sources for being one heck of a competitor. He projects to have an average NHL physical game despite being less than six feet tall, just due to the significant amount of strength he has and his willingness in the physical areas. Larsson can play center and wing and shows an above-average defensive game playing both positions.

The Bad: Larsson is a fringe to below-average skater who needs to keep his feet moving at full pace just to somewhat keep pace with pro players. His puck skills are below-average, although he can flash a decent move here and there.

Projection: An average third line forward who should at the least become a below-average third line forward, but the former is more likely.

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8. Justin Falk, Defense
Date of birth: 10/11/1988
Age: 22
Height: 6'5''
Weight: 215
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 55 GP, 3 G, 14 P (Houston-AHL)
Acquired: Fourth round, 110th overall in 2007 by Minnesota

The Good: Falk started the year in the NHL and while he didn't keep his job there, he should be pressing for a starting job next season. He has pro-level mobility and is quite a skater for a defender his size. He stays with his checks well, and his wingspan will allow him to play defense even against forwards who are plus skaters. His frame is huge, quite filled out and he is notably coordinated. Falk can make the basic plays well, and on occasion can flash a decent pass.

The Bad: Falk should easily project to have a plus physical game with his frame, but he's not one to engage physically all that much. His awareness at times can look off, and while he can be decent defensively, that aspect of his game isn't at a high-enough level to log heavy minutes when coupled with his poor offensive skills.

Projection: In a perfect world, an above-average third pairing defenseman, who safely projects to at least end up on a third pairing.

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9. Erik Haula, Center
Date of birth: 03/23/1991
Age: 20
Height: 5'10''
Weight: 184
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 34 GP, 6 G, 24 P (University of Minnesota-WCHA)
Acquired: Seventh round, 182nd overall in 2009 by Minnesota

The Good: Haula is a solid to above-average skater who has a very impressive top gear that pushes the pace well, and sources say they have been quite impressed by the development in that area. He's a creative and instinctual offensive player who can control the puck well, make fine distributions and create offense from the perimeter. His work ethic also lets him have a decent inside game, as he will drive the net and go to the high percentage areas. Haula's skills on the puck are solid and while not overly-impressive, he has the offensive skills to create.

The Bad: Physically, Haula is a little slight, and while his body has shown progression there is still a ways to go. He can be victim of trying to do too much offensively, resulting in poor giveaways. Defensively, he has some work left to do, although there is notable commitment to trying to improve in that area.

Projection: It might be boom or bust with Haula. If he can't make it as a below-average second line forward, he probably doesn't have the skill set to fill a bottom-line role.

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10. Tyler Cuma, Defense
Date of birth: 01/19/1990
Age: 21
Height: 6'2''
Weight: 197
Shoots: Right
Statistics: 31 GP, 1 G, 4 P (Houston-AHL)
Acquired: First round, 23rd overall in 2008 by Minnesota

The Good: Cuma moves at a decent level, showing fine all-around mobility with the jump in his step to get that extra burst up the ice if needed. His defensive awareness is above-average, as he plays a quiet, yet decent positional game, has an active and effective stick-check and reads the game in his own end moderately well. Cuma can make the first pass out of his end at a moderate level, and he's certainly a capable puck-mover. He doesn't shy from physical play, and will engage with his checks.

The Bad: Health has been a major issue with Cuma, and this past season was cut short after requiring knee surgery, the second surgery on the same knee. Cuma's still physically undeveloped with a slight frame and he can be outmuscled off the puck. There's not much in terms of offensive skills or instincts from Cuma as his skills are fringe, and when he tries to get involved offensively, it usually just ends up with a turnover.

Projection: He's got a shot to be an average third pairing defender, but his NHL chances are steadily slipping.

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The Sleeper: 2010 second round pick Brett Bulmer is a player some NHL sources believe has a shot to be a scoring power forward if some things go right. He impresses with his skating ability, decent hands and the physical element to his game.

Extra Notes: Forward Casey Wellman is a player I've gotten split reports on. One source says he's a dynamic skater who could easily find his way into a regular role in an NHL lineup, while another source says there's not enough to his package and he has the look of a career AHLer. In my viewings, I've seen flashes of the offensive skill and good work ethic, but I'm not sure he'll ever be anything more than a bottom line player.

Cody Almond is a physical, defensive forward who played against the opponents top players on a nightly basis in the AHL. There's not much in terms of offensive skill from Almond, and his skating will need to improve to be effective at the highest level.

Goaltender Matt Hackett has a lot of skill in his game in terms of his reflexes and athleticism, but also has a lot of fine-tuning left in his technical game. His positioning and rebound control still need a notable amount of attention.

My report on Mario Lucia can be found here.

Corey Pronman is an author of Hockey Prospectus. You can contact Corey by clicking here or click here to see Corey's other articles.

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Stats and Fury (07/24)
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Top 10 Prospects (07/22)
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Top 10 Prospects (07/26)

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