The truth can hurt sometimes, and especially when you consider most people have patterns they follow throughout their lives that truth can really cut to the core of things. For the Minnesota Wild, history has shown they are one of the more offensively anemic teams in the league. Last year was no different where the club finished dead last in scoring with just over 2 goals per game. Its tough to win many hockey games by scoring so few goals, even if you have good goaltending. The Wild need all the scoring they can get. Sound familiar? That was the the same story last year and that was why the team traded Brent Burns and Martin Havlat for Devin Setoguchi and Dany Heatley respectively. Heatley and Setoguchi combined for 43 goals which was ok, but obviously not enough to solve the team’s offensive woes. The team was hit hard by injuries to key offensive producers like Mikko Koivu, Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Guillaume Latendresse but the organization had few answers in its farm system and so adding offense should again be a major priority for the Wild in this year’s draft.
There has been lots of talk about how the Wild’s future looks bright because of the collection of prospects they have. The Wild prospect pool has come a long way, without question but how soon are these youngsters ready to be delivering the offense this team needs? With names like Mikael Granlund, Charlie Coyle, Johan Larsson, and Brett Bulmer getting closer to being ready for prime time are the scoring woes just a few years from becoming a non-issue? That is still uncertain, but it never hurts to continue to replenish the pool and when you’re on the bottom as the Wild are offensively, you can only improve right? The 2012 Entry Draft offers some nice options if the Wild chooses to add some offense up front, so who should Minnesota target?
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Kitchener’s Radek Faksa
The first thing one must do is assess the team’s needs as an organization taking into considering the current group of prospects it already has. The most promising signs of this organization’s turn around are found in its group of prospects, many of whom who are now signed to 3-year entry level contracts. So what are this organization’s biggest needs?
1. A speedy, goal scoring forward to play on their Top 6. The Wild were 30th in scoring last season, and while the team does have a bunch of promising forwards, they do not have any players that fits this description.
2. An aggressive and physical defenseman to clear out the area near the crease. The Wild are a bit soft, especially on their blueline where they have a plethora of finesse, un-physical defensemen.
3. An heir apparent 1st goalie to Niklas Backstrom. They have lots of options within their system (Hackett, Gustafsson, and Kuemper) but if they have any doubts a top tier goaltender might be an option for them.
So with that in mind, I am going to provide a list of players who I believe could (and likely) be available when the Wild go to make their selection 7th Overall, barring any trade. These are the players that would be on my draft list for this team to select that could help fill their organizational holes either in the short term or the long term.
The second of three articles will focus on forwards. If you look at my list of organizational needs the team needs goal scoring forwards with speed. Drawing from scouting reports from a number of different sources I selected 5 forwards I felt would be available when the Wild go to their selection with the 7th Overall pick. These 5 forwards fit the needs of the organization and who would be on my short list if I was a member of the Wild’s scouting department. So without further adieu.
1. Alex Galchenyuk (Center) ~ Sarnia Sting (OHL)
Height: 6’1″ Weight: 198lbs Shoots: Left
The Hockey News’ ranking: #7 NHL Central Scouting’s ranking: #4 (North American) ISS’ ranking: #14
2011-12 Stats: 2GP 0G 0A = 0pts 0 PIM’s -4
Talent Analysis: The NHL Entry draft is a practice in calculated risk. And just like playing Blackjack or Poker or other games of chance there are safe plays and then there are more high risk, high reward type of decisions. This prospect is one of the many top end players in this draft that suffered a major injury, a torn ACL. Galchenyuk has the high end flash and dash that will remind many people of Alexander Ovechkin in his first few years in the league where he just had an extra gear that no one else had. The Milwaukee, Wisconsin-native has a wicked release which he uses well to surprise unsuspecting goalies but also to set up his teammates where he projects to be a bit more of a playmaker than a goal scorer. If he had not gotten hurt it is quite possible he would be seen as 1A selection to Sarnia teammate Nail Yakupov. He loves to dangle around defenders and has the ability to finish while moving at top speed. Galchenyuk needs to add strength to his frame but he has the potential to be a premier top line forward in the NHL, or he may not be able to adapt to playing against stronger players he’ll find at the next level.
Why should the Wild draft him: Even with the signing of Mikael Granlund, the Wild lack a true game breaking threat at forward. Galchenyuk could give the Wild that speedy, high octane scoring forward they haven’t had since they let Marian Gaborik go four years ago. It would be a bit risky, but if the Wild want to take that next step as an organization a player with his potential is a chance worth taking.
3. Teuvo Teravainen (Left Wing) ~ Jokerit (Sm-Liiga)
Height: 5’11” Weight: 161lbs Shoots: Left
The Hockey News’ ranking: #12 NHL Central Scouting’s ranking: #2 (European) ISS’ ranking: #9
2011-12 Stats: 40GP 11G 7A = 18pts 6 PIM’s -5
Talent Analysis: The Wild are pretty familiar with talent Finnish players, and Teuvo Teravainen is the next great offensive talent to emerge. Teravainen rose up the rankings as he displayed sublime offensive skill, with a quick release and excellent creativity with the puck. He is a tremendous skater and when he’s on the move he’s very difficult to defend because he makes plays at high speed. His ability to think the game a few steps ahead of his opponents sets him apart from most of the rest of the draft class of 2012. The Helsinki-native is just average defensively and needs to hit the weights big time especially if he expects to succeed at the NHL level. Scouts would like to see Teravainen to be a bit more selfish with the puck and use that quick release of his but most agree he has outstanding potential. Watching him play he sort of reminds me of Carolina’s Jeff Skinner.
Why should the Wild draft him: If Granlund is the Finnish ‘Gretzky’ as a set up man, then Teravainen might be finisher and even though they played for arch rivals in the Sm-Liiga for Jokerit and HIFK respectively they could make for a dynamic combination. Minnesota could use a talented winger like Teravainen on its Top 6.
4. Radek Faksa (Left Wing) ~ Kitchener Rangers (OHL)
Height: 6’3″ Weight: 203lbs Shoots: Left
The Hockey News’ ranking: #11 NHL Central Scouting’s ranking: #7 (North American) ISS’ ranking: #16
2011-12 Stats: 62GP 29G 38A = 67pts 47 PIM’s +19
Talent Analysis: Kitchener has had a great tradition of developing top end talent, and Radek Faksa is their latest example. Faksa combines great hands and hockey sense in a big body. He may not have the fleetest first step but can motor pretty well once he gets up to speed, but he works effectively in the high traffic areas of the ice to not only carry the puck through defenders but also win battles. Scouts love the fact he made the decision to play in North America after having played well in the Czech men’s league the season before. He’s adapted well to the the North American style of game and seems to have tremendous potential as Top 6 center-man who can be a beast down low in the offensive zone. The Opava, Czech Republic-native has a quick release to his heavy shot that is also quite accurate; especially his wrist shot. Like Forsberg, he plays hard at both ends of the ice and is not a defensive liability. Scouts believe that he can improve his quickness to make him more effective in the NHL, but the rest of his game seems to being very close to NHL-ready. I would compare him to Carolina’s Eric Staal.
Why the Wild should draft him: Faksa is a bit safer pick, and while he’s still honing his speed he has strong Top 6 potential. He’s already a very good two-way forward with good scoring ability, and with speed he could become a productive Top 3 forward.
5. Sebastian Collberg (Right Wing) ~ Frolunda (Eliteserien)
Height: 5’11” Weight: 174lbs Shoots: Right
The Hockey News’ ranking: #14 NHL Central Scouting’s ranking: #3 (European) ISS’ ranking: #13
2011-12 Stats: 41GP 0G 0A = 0pts 0 PIM’s -8
Talent Analysis: The term sniper is an apt description of this speedy Swede. Collberg loves to shoot the puck and he uses his speed to beat defenders on the outside before rifling shots on goal that either confound the goaltenders or force a juicy rebound for his teammates to pounce on. Agility is another strength for Collberg who can change direction and speed quickly that makes him a nightmare to defend one on one. He spent most of the season in the Eliteserien but struggled to get much ice time on a veteran laden squad. The Mariestad, Sweden-native is not a complete player though, he only gives a token effort defensively and is not physical at all. He’s very much a one-dimensional player. Collberg had a tremendous World Junior Championships this winter and was a major reason Sweden came home with a gold medal. Like most young players he needs to add strength to his frame, but he has all of the potential to be a dangerous scoring winger in the mold of Phoenix’s Radim Vrbata.
Why should the Wild draft him: If the Wild want a speedy sniper, Collberg may be the ideal candidate. He loves to shoot and has the hockey sense to take full advantage of his offensive talents. His defensive game would need work to make him a viable NHL player, but that can be learned far more easily than the offensive instincts he clearly possesses.