Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Welcome Jason Zucker!

Last night, the Wild lost to the Rangers 3-2, and are solidifying the fact they could end up with the #2 pick in June's entry draft. But on a very bright note, prior to Tuesday's game, the team announced that they have signed Jason Zucker (My #5 prospect in the Wild system) to an entry level contract. He will be in uniform Thursday night, wearing #16, as the Wild take on the Florida Panthers.

I like this move. Yes, Zucker does lose a year off his three year deal by playing the remaining 6 games, but it will give him some valuable experience. He is coming off a season in which he posted a line of 22-24-46 in 38 games played for the Denver Pioneers this season.

For me, Zucker is a very welcomed addition to this team for the final 6 games (Honestly, watching Warren Peters, Jed Ortmeyer, and Erik Christensen has gotten very old). It will be interesting to see what Zucker can bring to the table in a short time, and who knows? He could make an impression good enough to make him a favorite for a roster spot next year. We will just have to wait and see. But for now, welcome to the Team of 18,001 Jason Zucker!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Was Monday's Win The Wild's Last This Year?

Monday, the Wild blanked division leader Vancouver 2-0, giving them their first win since March 8th against Phoenix. But, as we look ahead to the final 10 games of the season, the schedule does not favor the Wild whatsoever (It definitely favors the Fail for Nail strategy, though!).

In these final 10 games, all of them are going to be played against teams who are all in playoff contention. 4 of these games will be played against Eastern Conference teams (Buffalo, Washington, NY Rangers, and Florida), with the remaining to be played against the West (Calgary, Los Angeles, Chicago, Nashville, and Phoenix).

Here is the remaining schedule starting tonight against the Flames:

March 22 vs Calgary
March 24 @ Buffalo
March 25 @ Washington
March 27 vs NY Rangers
March 29 vs Florida
March 31 vs Los Angeles
April 1 @ Chicago
April 3 @ Nashville
April 5 vs Chicago
April 7 vs Phoenix

So as you can see, this schedule is not for the light hearted teams. And with the way this team has played in the past three months, the question has to be raised, did we see the final win for the Wild in 2011-12 on Monday? It sure looks like it

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Fail For Nail

As we all know, the Wild are in the midst of a historic collapse. On December 12th, they sat atop the NHL standings and were about to take on Midwest rivals Winnipeg and Chicago. And we know how the rest goes.

Today, the team sits with the 6th worst record in the league (Could be 4th worse by the end of tonight), and they have just become an eyesore to watch. But, if you are like me right now, every loss is a welcome site at this point.

With every loss (Which is just about every game now), the Wild boost their chances in the summer's NHL Draft lottery, which could see them potentially move up from a pick in the 3-6 area, to the #1 overall pick, which is just about a lock to be Sarnia Sting (OHL) forward Nail Yakupov.

On the season, Yakupov has put up a line of 49-52-101 in in 65 games played (In his final season with Sarnia, Steven Stamkos put up a line of 58-47-105 in 61 games played before being drafted by TB). And if you watch the above video, he has a ridiculous talent for putting the puck in the net, something the Wild could use.

At this point, lets be real. The playoffs are all but officially not happening for this team. So, take a page out of my book and hope they continue to come out of each game with 0 points. I know that sounds horrible, but honestly folks, this team needs a player like Yakupov. So why not hope for the loss, so they increase their chances of stealing the #1 pick from bottom feeders Columbus and Edmonton? It COULD happen...

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Believe in Miracles

Yesterday, the State of Hockey watched Benilde-St. Margarets defeat Hill-Murray 5-1 in the boys Class AA state hockey final. And as the final seconds ticked off the scoreboard, the Red Knights fans began chanting "We've seen a miracle", as a tribute to Jack Jablonski. The statement "Believe (Or Bel13ve) in Miracles" was often seen around St. Paul this weekend, as wristbands, shirts, hoodies, or caps were all in circulation (Found at the Jabs booth at the Lets Play Hockey expo) to help raise money for the Jack Jablonski fund.

But also, the hockey team itself was a miracle. They weren't even supposed to come out of their own section (seeded #3 in section 6AA, behind Minnetonka and Eden Prarie). But, the Red Knights did (beating the tar out of #1 'Tonka 5-1), and they never looked back. The Red Knights watched all the four seeded teams in the tourney fall on day 1 (beating #4 Edina themselves, 3-2) clearing a path to the title. They knocked off Lakeville South 10-1 in the Semifinal, and then their infamous 5-1 defeat of the Pioneers, lead by Grant Besse scoring all 5 goals. This was a miracle. Not many expected BSM to win it all. But once again, they defied the odds and did.

Now, we all get to sit back, and watch Jabby defy doctors odds and walk again.

"There is no doubt in my mind that I will walk again. I don't know how it's going to work or how far down the road it will be. I'm going to walk, and I plan on skating at least once. To skate is very important to me. The fact and maybe the realization that I could never play hockey again is kind of shocking to me. I feel like that just can't happen. There's no way that's going to be. I don't know how or when, but I know I will do all that eventually."-Jack Jablonski

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

A Few Good Notes

  • Last night's game between the Wild and Avalanche was obviously the team's worst performance of the season. Just a completely lifeless effort. It seems to me like the players just don't care anymore.
  • As Nate (First Round Bust) tweeted last night, Mike Yeo has lost this team. I completely agree with him. Yeo sounds like a defeated man in his post game pressers nightly now. Hopefully, next year can be a different case for Yeo.
  • If there is one good thing from this disastrous finish to the season, it is that the Wild continue to hike up the order in the NHL draft. Right now the Wild carry the 6th worst record in the league and by the end of tonight, they could have the 4th worst record. And with the Wild's upcoming schedule, they could drop even lower than that (Phoenix, Dallas, Vancouver, Rangers, Panthers, Kings, and Blackhawks are notable teams on the remaining schedule).
  • With the way Josh Harding has been playing lately, it would be hard to believe he would be back next year.
  • Marek Zidlicky has 0 points and is a -2 in 6 games since being traded to New Jersey. Thanks Devils for the 2nd and 3rd (Conditional) round draft picks!
  • I have not been impressed with Tom Gilbert (0 points, -4 rating in 5 games) since coming over to the Wild in exchange for Nick Schultz. I hope his play gets better, otherwise Edmonton will be the big winner in that trade.
I will be at the MN State High School hockey tournament the next three days, so I will not have any posts (Unless something catastrophic happens...very doubtful) probably until Monday. Give me a follow on twitter (@gilesferrell) for my thoughts on the Wild and all things hockey during that time.

Monday, March 5, 2012

The Team of 18,001's Top 10 Wild Prospects: 3-1

3. Charlie Coyle-Forward St. John's (QMJHL). Coyle was a key piece to the Brent Burns trade in last year's draft. He was selected 28th overall in the 2010 Draft by the Sharks, before being shipped to Minnesota the following season. Coyle is known as a power forward, and up until early this year he had been playing for Boston University. But Coyle decided to leave and join other Wild prospect Zack Phillips in St. John's. Since then, he has taken off. In 18 games with the Sea Dogs, Coyle has registered 12 goals and 17 assists and is a +19. Coyle just signed a three year entry level contract on March 1st, and will be playing for Houston next season, and possibly could play for Houston this year if the Aeros get far enough in the Calder Cup playoffs.

2. Zack Phillips-Center St. John's (QMJHL). Phillips was drafted by the Wild with the 28th overall pick in last year's draft (The pick was acquired from San Jose in the Burns trade). Phillips has been the Sea Dogs best scorer the past two years registering 95 (38 G-57A) and 77 (29 G-48 A) points respectively (He still has 11 games left this year so don't see that as a down year). Phillips is not the greatest at faceoffs (49% on faceoffs in 2011-12), but it is something that he has improved upon from last year (43% in 2010-11). Phillips signed a three year entry level deal in December, and like Coyle, should be playing in Houston next season.

1. Mikael Granlund-Center HIFK (SM-Liiga). This is a no brainer. Granlund was the Wild's first pick (9th overall) in the 2010 draft. Currently this year, he is 3rd in SM-Liiga in points with 53 (20 goals, 33 assists). He is doing things in that league Wild captain Mikko Koivu never did (Koivu never scored more than 30 points in a season in that league). Granlund has been big for the Finnish teams in the World Juniors, as he finished 2nd in scoring in the 2012 tournament (2 goals-9 assists in 7 games). He also has the ability to score some pretty spectacular goals. Granlund is not signed to a contract yet, but it will be one of Chuck Fletcher's higher priorities this offseason. Its almost a guarantee Granlund will be playing hockey in the U.S. next year. Question is, will he be playing for Houston or Minnesota?

10. Darcy Kuemper
9. Brett Bulmer
8. Johan Larsson
7. Mario Lucia
6. Matt Hackett
5. Jason Zucker
4. Jonas Brodin
3. Charlie Coyle
2. Zack Phillips
1. Mikael Granlund

Sunday, March 4, 2012

The Team of 18,001's Top 10 Wild Prospects: 7-4

7. Mario Lucia-Forward Penticton (BCHL). The Wild traded up to take Lucia in last year's entry draft (60th overall, 2nd round). This is a move that should pay off nicely. In his only season with Pencticton, Lucia has notched a line to date of 37-51-88 (2nd on his team. Yes, you read that right, second.) in 53 games played this season. He has helped the Vees to a record of 53-3-2 (The best in the BCHL) and they are currently riding a 40 game winning streak. Lucia is committed to Notre Dame for the 2012-13 season, so he is still a few years away from wearing a Wild sweater.

6. Matt Hackett-Goalie Houston (AHL). Hackett has seen limited time with the Wild this year. But, when he has gotten his chance, he has not disappointed. He has stopped 100 of 102 shots against with the big club this year (.980 save percentage) and also has a 0.63 GAA. But that comes in just 5 games played (only 1 start!). With Houston, Hackett is 17-13-4 with a 2.41 GAA and a .917 save percentage this year. It would seem he is the heir apparent to the starting job in the 2013-14 season after Backstrom's contract is up. So look for him in a Wild sweater full time next season as a backup.

5. Jason Zucker-Forward Denver (WCHA). Zucker was drafted by the Wild in 2010 (2nd Round, 59th Overall) just prior to him heading to Denver to play for the Pioneers. In his two seasons in Denver, Zucker has posted back to back 20+ goal seasons while also being at the top of the Pioneers scoring chart. A big improvement for Zucker this year has been his presence on the power play as he has registered 9 PP goals this year, compared to 2 all of last year. Zucker has not signed a entry contract yet, so one would assume that he will play one more season in Denver, but he too could end up in Houston next year.

4. Jonas Brodin-Defenseman Farjestads BK (Elitserien). When you look at Brodin's stats, he doesn't jump off the page at you. So obviously he must do something else well when he gets taken 10th overall in the NHL Draft. He is a tremendous presence in the defensive zone, and he is known as a very intelligent defenseman.. He has the skill set to be a good two way forward in this league, so watch for his offensive stats to get better over time. Brodin signed a three year entry level contract last July, so look for him to be playing in Houston next year.

Here is the list through today. Come back tomorrow for the final three!
10. Darcy Kuemper
9. Brett Bulmer
8. Johan Larsson
7. Mario Lucia
6. Matt Hackett
5. Jason Zucker
4. Jonas Brodin
3. Tomorrow
2. Tomorrow
1. Tomorrow

Saturday, March 3, 2012

The Team of 18,001's Top 10 Wild Prospects: 10-8

I promised this yesterday, so apologies for this being late. And due to some lack of time I will have to split this up into a few days worth of posts. So today we will begin the list of the Wild's top 10 prospects by going through numbers 10 through 8. Tomorrow will bring 7-4 and Monday will have 3-1. So let's begin...

10. Darcy Kuemper-Goalie Houston (AHL). Kuemper was a 6th round pick (161st overall) by the Wild in the 2009 draft. Then this past May he signed a entry level contract with the club, and he has played this year with Houston. So far this year, he has team leading GAA (2.37) and save percentage (.922) despite being a back up to Matt Hackett this year. Look for Kuemper to be the starter in Houston next year once Hackett moves up to MN on a permanent basis.

9. Brett Bulmer-Forward Kelowna (WHL). Bulmer got a taste of the NHL early on this year (Played in 9 games with the Wild), before being sent back to Kelowna for the season. Since he returned he has scored 31 goals and added 23 assists in 46 games. At this pace, he will lead the team in scoring despite playing in 18 fewer games than the next best scorer. In addition to scoring, Bulmer brings a physical presence to the ice as he has 87 penalty minutes this year. Look for Bulmer to play with Houston next year (He signed a three year entry contract last April), but don't rule out a return to Kelowna.

8. Johan Larsson-Forward Brynas IF (Elitserien). Larsson was a 2nd round pick by the Wild in the 2010 draft. Larsson is currently third on his team in points (35) and is second in assists (24). In the 2010 WJC under 18 tournament, Larsson scored 6 goals while adding 8 assists in just 5 games while helping Sweden win a silver medal. He, like so many others on this list, signed an entry contract with the team last spring, so one could assume that next year he will play in Houston.

10. Darcy Kuemper
9. Brett Bulmer
8. Johan Larsson
7. Tomorrow
6. Tomorrow
5. Tomorrow
4. Tomorrow
3. Monday
2. Monday
1. Monday

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Here Comes The Kids

Today, the Wild announced that they signed one of their top prospects, Charlie Coyle, to an entry level deal. Coyle is currently playing for the Saint John's Sea Dogs of the Quebec Junior Major Hockey League and is putting up ridiculous numbers in his short time there so far (12-12-24 in 16 games). This coming after his unexpected departure from Boston University, as he wished to better his game by going to Saint John's.

Coyle now joins Saint John's teammate Zack Phillips, Jonas Brodin, Brett Bulmer, and Johan Larsson as Wild prospects who have signed their entry level deals in the past year. The Wild also noted on their news story that the team will try and sign #1 prospect Mikael Granlund following the World Championship in May (Big surprise) and will also go after 2010 draft pick Jason Zucker following the end of the Denver Pioneers season.

If you aren't excited for next season when these kids are in Houston (Or in Granlund's case, he could be in Minnesota next year) playing pro hockey, get excited. In fact, some like Coyle and Phillips could play for Houston following the end of the Sea Dogs season this year(But they will no doubt be making a deep playoff run).

Chuck Fletcher has done a tremendous job in turning his prospect farm into a gold mine after his predecessor burned it down to ashes. There has never been a more deeper prospect pool in the short history of this franchise. And add the fact he has significant cap space going into next year (or two), the future for this team has never been brighter.

With the way the Wild are going down this year, you'd figure they will draft high up again in the draft this year (They could still get a pick in the top 5 if they play their cards right). So they will add more depth to the system one last time, before the team finally takes off.

The kids are coming folks. Sit back and enjoy the ride.

NOTE: Tomorrow I will finally post my top 10 prospects list. I just never got around to finishing that up, so be sure to check that out.