Minnesota has been great at drafting top end players in all rounds of the draft. The club has drafted an especially great group of young forwards the past few years, a few of which have already dipped their toes in the NHL waters. While the Wild do need to replenish the forward prospect cupboard as its contents graduate, it’s the defensive prospect pool that is looking quite shallow at the moment. With top defensive prospect Jonas Brodin likely in St. Paul to stay, that leaves 2012 7th overall pick Mathew Dumba as the top young gun waiting in the wings. After him is injury prone blue-liner Tyler Cuma and depth defensemen Chay Genoway, Steven Kampfer and Brian Connelly. Not exactly a prospect pool filled with top-four NHL material.
Last year, the draft was full of high-end blue line talent, and the Wild capitalized on it, drafting Dumba fourth of five Western Hockey League defensemen taken in the top eight picks of the draft. This year, there’s a good variety in the list of draft eligible prospects, and it’s looking to be one of the deepest drafts ever—possibly as deep or deeper than the epic draft of 2003. However, there is an interesting amount of big, elite defensemen available in this draft, including Seth Jones, Rasmus Ristolainen, Darnell Nurse and Nikita Zadorov among others in the top end of the draft rankings. The aforementioned Ian McCoshen has also been among this list, slipping in and out of the projected first round depending on who’s making the list.
This season, yours truly has been able to get a good glimpse at McCoshen on a few occasions—he certainly doesn’t disappoint. The kid is a big defenseman at 6’2” 207-pounds and uses his body well to separate opposing skaters from the puck. McCoshen uses his big wingspan to poke the puck off the stick of attacking forwards, and it also comes in handy whenever he needs to retrieve an inaccurate pass in either zone. Another one of his assets is how he can quarterback a team’s top power play unit. He is especially good at cycling the puck down to his forwards from the left point and also has a great point shot. Both McCoshen’s slap and wrist shots are quite heavy and he always finds a way to create scoring chances while playing a defensively responsible game. His wrist shot is especially accurate and can catch a goalie napping quite easily.
While the kid plays some great offense, it’s his defense that especially stands out. He’s a big, smooth and highly mobile defender that can munch a lot of minutes and can play in all situations. He makes a great first pass out of the defensive zone and excels in clearing up traffic in front of the net. McCoshen isn’t a player that’s destined to be a career bottom-pairing NHLer—everything about him, and his style, screams top-four defenseman. A Boston College commit, a few years developing while playing college puck will go a long way in preparing him for the pace and competitiveness of the NHL game.
The only question is if he’ll be available when the Wild make their draft selection. If Minnesota continues on the course they’re currently on, Ristolainen, Nurse or Zadarov would be the better pick. However, if the Wild turn things around in time to make the playoffs, McCoshen would be a great, safe pick late in the first round. Even if Minnesota doesn’t make it into the playoffs, they could still probably pick up McCoshen early in the second round. The young defenseman would certainly be a great addition to a defensive corps that also includes Ryan Suter, Brodin and Dumba.
One thing is for sure; whoever snatches up Ian McCoshen in June is getting an A-level prospect that will likely have a long and prosperous NHL career. If I’m a Minnesota Wild fan, I’m keeping my eye on this kid, and you should, too.