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August 22, 2013
Top 10 Prospects 2013
Minnesota Wild

by Corey Pronman

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Full list of NHL Organizational Rankings

Minnesota Wild Top 10 Prospects

1. Mathew Dumba, Defense
2. Jason Zucker, Left Wing
3. Tyler Graovac, Center
4. Zack Phillips, Center
5. Erik Haula, Center
6. Mario Lucia, Left Wing
7. Darcy Kuemper, Goaltender
8. Raphael Bussieres, Left Wing
9. Brett Bulmer, Right Wing
10. Gustav Olofsson, Defense

Organizational Ranking: 22nd

System Overview

Minnesota's system looks much different following the graduation of several key prospects and after dealing some future assets to Buffalo for Jason Pominville. Jason Zucker and Tyler Graovac had great years, vaulting them to the top of this system. The Wild have a fair amount of talent in the college ranks, which can allow them be patient before offering them entry-level deals, as their current crop of prospects battle for spots.

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1. Mathew Dumba, Defense
2011-12 Ranking: 3rd
Date of birth: 07/25/1994
Age: 19
Height: 6'0''
Weight: 182
Shoots: Right
Statistics: 62 GP, 16 G, 42 P (Red Deer, WHL)
Acquired: First round, seventh overall in 2012 by Minnesota

Year in Review: Dumba had an up-and-down season. He struggled in the first half, but his play picked up around midseason, including some quality play at Minnesota's camp.

The Good: Dumba is a very toolsy defenseman, with high-end, if not elite skating ability. His agility, edge work, and four-way movement are all great, and he can be a nuisance to catch in open ice. Dumba is also highly skilled and can make a ton of plays with the puck. He is very dangerous off the rush. His shot is also plus. He is a hard-working, physical defenseman, capable of laying out significant hits.

The Bad: Dumba's decisions and defensive reads still need work, although those areas progressed as the season went on. He needs to put on more strength as well.

Projection: He has top pairing tools, but his projection to potentially reach that ceiling has notable uncertainty.

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2. Jason Zucker, Left Wing
2011-12 Ranking: 8th
Date of birth: 01/16/1992
Age: 21
Height: 5'11''
Weight: 187
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 55 GP, 24 G, 50 P (Houston, AHL) / 20 GP, 4 G, 5 P (Minnesota, NHL)
Acquired: Second round, 59th overall in 2010 by Minnesota

Year in Review: Zucker was a significant riser, as he was one of the better forwards in the AHL. He played 20 games in the NHL, but showed he still needed time to adjust to that level.

The Good: Zucker is a high-energy forward who skates at a plus level. His first few steps and top speed are all very good, and he can be tough to check when coming through the neutral zone. Zucker is hard working, and he plays a good physical game despite a below-average frame. He can kill penalties and forecheck effectively. Zucker also has solid offensive skill, and a top-end wrist shot.

The Bad: Zucker's size is his most notable issue. His offensive creativity has historically been a problem in his game, although last season, that was not the case.

Projection: He could be a quality second line winger.

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3. Tyler Graovac, Center
2011-12 Ranking: N/A
Date of birth: 04/27/1993
Age: 20
Height: 6'4''
Weight: 203
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 60 GP, 38 G, 73 P (Ottawa/Belleville, OHL)
Acquired: Seventh round, 191st overall in 2011 by Minnesota

Year in Review: Graovac had a huge breakout season, scoring more points than in all of his past OHL seasons combined. He was also named the CHL Sportsman of the Year.

The Good: Graovac has a lot of tools. He is a big forward who skates very well, especially for a man his size. His stride is powerful and efficient. Graovac is a skilled player with above-average puck skills and good offensive hockey sense. He improved his defense notably, and he flashed good penalty-killing skills.

The Bad: Graovac's physical game is roughly average; despite his size, he is not the toughest in terms of his battles. He also needs to continue to get stronger.

Projection: He could be a good second line forward.

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4. Zack Phillips, Center
2011-12 Ranking: 6th
Date of birth: 10/28/1992
Age: 20
Height: 6'1''
Weight: 198
Shoots: Right
Statistics: 71 GP, 8 G, 27 P (Houston, AHL)
Acquired: First round, 28st overall in 2011 by Minnesota

Year in Review: Phillips struggled in his rookie pro season. He initially began on the fourth line, and his transition to the pro game was slow and steady.

The Good: Phillips is a very gifted puck possessor. His puck skills and hockey sense are both high end, and when he is on, he can make a ton of plays. Phillips's hand-eye coordination, his natural offensive touch, and his vision make him a dangerous player, capable of creating a highlight reel moment. He has bulked up a decent amount as well.

The Bad: His skating remains an issue, as he has below-average speed and acceleration. His defense could use some work as well.

Projection: He could be a top-six forward, but he carries above-average risk on his projection.

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5. Erik Haula, Center
2011-12 Ranking: 10th
Date of birth: 03/23/1991
Age: 21
Height: 5'11''
Weight: 190
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 37 GP, 16 G, 51 P (Univ. of Minnesota, WCHA)
Acquired: Seventh round, 182nd overall in 2009 by Minnesota

Year in Review: Haula was one of the top scorers in college hockey this season, getting named a second team All Star in the WCHA.

The Good: Haula is quality two-way forward with a significant amount of talent. He is an above-average skater with a powerful first step and a clean stride. He is also a great thinker who can flash top-end passing skills. Haula is good on the power play, where he is used on the point in a distributor role at times, and has the offensive instincts to see things develop well. He kills penalties effectively, and he generally positions himself well.

The Bad: Haula's size is his most notable weakness. Some scouts question if he has enough offensive skill to become a scorer at his size, although that does not seem to be too much of an issue.

Projection: He could be a second line forward.

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6. Mario Lucia, Left Wing
2011-12 Ranking: 9th
Date of birth: 08/25/1993
Age: 20
Height: 6'3''
Weight: 193
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 32 GP, 12 G, 23 P (Univ. of Notre Dame, NCAA)
Acquired: Second round, 60th overall in 2011 by Minnesota

Year in Review: Lucia was named to the All-Rookie Team in the CCHA in the conference's final season of existence. He played a marginal role for USA at the World Juniors.

The Good: Lucia is a toolsy offensive forward. He skates well, with notably above-average speed. Lucia's offensive ability is very significant, as his puck skills and raw offensive instincts are arguably plus. He can make a lot of difficult plays, as well as be a flashy offensive player with his distribution skills. Lucia has good size, and he will drive the net as well.

The Bad: Lucia is still a bit of a work in progress in terms of his reads and reactions. He can try to do too much, falling behind the pace at times. His defense needs work, and he needs more strength.

Projection: He could be a top-six forward.

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7. Darcy Kuemper, Goaltender
2011-12 Ranking: 14th
Date of birth: 05/05/1990
Age: 23
Height: 6'5''
Weight: 207
Catches: Left
Statistics: 21 GP, .934 SV% (Houston, AHL)
Acquired: Sixth round, 161st overall in 2009 by Minnesota

Year in Review: Kuemper had a great second pro season. He won the starting AHL goalie job from top prospect Matt Hackett (who was traded to Buffalo in the Pominville deal), got some NHL time, and even appeared in the playoffs for Minnesota.

The Good: Kuemper is a huge goaltender who can fill the net well without being too aggressive with his angles. He is quiet in the net, with one NHL source describing him as an efficient netminder with his movements and positioning. Kuemper battles well for loose pucks, and overall, he displays good competitiveness.

The Bad: Kuemper's raw athletic upside is somewhat below average, as he is not an overly quick goaltender with top-end reflexes.

Projection: He could be a below-average starting goaltender.

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8. Raphael Bussieres, Left Wing
2011-12 Ranking: N/A
Date of birth: 11/05/1993
Age: 20
Height: 6'1''
Weight: 195
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 60 GP, 29 G, 68 P (Baie-Comeau, QMJHL)
Acquired: Second round, 46th overall in 2012 by Minnesota

Year in Review: Bussieres was up-and-down this year, but he ended the season as one of Baie-Comeau's top scorers.

The Good: Bussieres is a gifted offensive player. He is a very creative puck handler with good offensive hockey sense. He is a flashy player who can control the play well on the man advantage. Bussieres is a decent-sized forward, with solid strength. He hits well, can protect the puck, and has some edge to his game. Bussieres is also a solid to above-average skater.

The Bad: Busseries has been inconsistent in his QMJHL career. His tendency to try to do too much can hurt him, as he will make iffy decisions at a concerning rate.

Projection: He has top-six upside, although he carries a lot of risk.

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9. Brett Bulmer, Right Wing
2011-12 Ranking: 7th
Date of birth: 04/26/1992
Age: 21
Height: 6'3''
Weight: 197
Shoots: Right
Statistics:43 GP, 4 G, 7 P (Houston, AHL)
Acquired: Second round, 39th overall in 2010 by Minnesota

Year in Review: Bulmer struggled in his first full pro season on a performance level, and he dealt with injuries.

The Good: Bulmer is a big, physical forward. He hits well, protects the puck effectively, and has a bit of edge to his game as an agitator. Bulmer is a good, if not a great, skater, and he moves at a desirable level for a large forward. His ability to pressure the puck carrier makes him a good forechecker. He has decent defensive value, and he could project as a penalty killer. Bulmer has average hands.

The Bad: Bulmer's pure offensive hockey sense is below average, and he likely does not project as a points producer at the NHL level. He still needs time to acclimate to the pro pace, gain strength, and find his role.

Projection: He could be a quality third line winger.

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10. Gustav Olofsson, Defense
2011-12 Ranking: N/A
Date of birth: 12/01/1994
Age: 18
Height: 6'3''
Weight: 185
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 63 GP, 2 G, 23 P (Green Bay, USHL)
Acquired: Second round, 46th overall in 2013 by Minnesota

Year in Review: Olofsson was one of the top NHL prospects in the USHL, where he was named to the All-Rookie team.

The Good: Olofsson is an above-average to plus skater. He is agile, moves well in all directions, and has a powerful stride. He is a very effective defender who makes a lot of stops due to his hockey sense and mobility. He keeps the play in front of him, and he stays with his checks. Olofsson has decent size and will use his frame.

The Bad: Olofsson can make a good outlet pass, but his pure offensive upside is a question mark. He also needs to bulk up a lot.

Projection: He could be a fringe second pairing or good third pairing defenseman.

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The Next Five

11. Johan Gustavsson, Goaltender: Gustavsson is an athletic butterfly goaltender, with good, active feet. He still needs some work on his reads and fine technical details.

12. Christoph Bertschy, Center: Bertschy is a skilled, gritty forward who has done well in international play. He is small, however.

13. Adam Gilmour, Right Wing: Gilmour is a highly-skilled winger, with good speed. He is raw, but he has potential.

14. Tyler Cuma, Defense: Cuma has the potential to play in the NHL in a shutdown role, but he just cannot stay healthy.

15. John Draeger, Defense: Draeger is a quality defensive defender who works hard and makes a good first pass. He will likely need a long stay in college.

The Sleeper: Avery Peterson, Center

Peterson is a skilled forward with good hands, above-average vision and a quality strength level. He's already got a good frame at 6'2'' 194. He needs to work on his skating.

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Minnesota Wild Organizational Top 10

Players 22 or under as of 09/15/2013 or still considered a prospect as defined here.

1. Jonas Brodin, Defense
2. Mikael Granlund, Center
3. Charlie Coyle, Center
4. Mathew Dumba, Defense
5. Nino Niederreiter, Left Wing
6. Jason Zucker, Left Wing
7. Tyler Graovac, Center
8. Zack Phillips, Center
9. Erik Haula, Center
10. Mario Lucia, Left Wing

Brodin was sensational as a legitimate top pairing defenseman for Minnesota, as he was the best rookie in the NHL last season. He is tracking as a potential star defenseman. Granlund still has star potential, as he is an elite puck handler with similarly gifted hockey sense. His first season in North American was just decent, but if he rebounds, he could light up scoresheets. Coyle was just average in the AHL during the lockout, but he hit another level in the second half and in the NHL. Niederreiter was good in the AHL as a skilled power forward. After reportedly requesting a trade, he was dealt to the Wild by the Islanders in exchange for Cal Clutterbuck. He has top-six tools, although his skating could still use some work.

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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Top 10 Prospects 2013 (08/21)
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Next Column >>
Top 10 Prospects 2013 (08/26)
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Top 10 Prospects 2013 (08/26)

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