Johan Gustafsson is a promising young goalie within the Minnesota Wild's system, but the prospect pool is ankle deep behind him. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

NHL's Mock Drafts Have Minnesota Wild Drafting a Goalie


In 14 years of existence, the Minnesota Wild has selected eight forwards and seven defensemen with its top pick in the NHL Entry Draft. This year, mock drafts written by staff writers from NHL.com has the Wild taking a goaltender with what looks to be (for now) the 18th overall selection in the 2014 draft.

From Adam Kimelman, NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor:

18. MIN

Thatcher Demko, G, Boston College (H-EAST)

Best draft-eligible goaltender fills a giant organizational need; was top candidate for Mike Richter Award as top NCAA goalie despite being youngest player in college hockey.

His full first round mock draft can be found here.

From Mike Morreale, NHL.com Staff Writer:

18. MIN

Thatcher Demko, G, Boston College (H-EAST)

The 6-3.75, 192-pounder led the Eagles to the Beanpot Tournament title and the Frozen Four; finished with the seventh-best winning percentage (.738) and 14th-best goals-against average (2.13) in the nation as the youngest player in NCAA Division I.

His full first round mock draft can be found here.

And now for kicks, here’s NHL.com Staff Writer Steven Hoffner’s pick:

18. MIN

Nikolay Goldobin, RW, Sarnia (OHL)

Finished in the top 10 in scoring in the OHL and could supply the offense for a Minnesota team in need of goals.

His full first round mock draft can be found here.

That’s right, two out of three NHL Staff Writers agree–the Minnesota Wild will welcome a goaltender into the fold as the newest member of the State of Hockey with its top selection in June. Of course, we know how wrong league writers have been in the past.

However, they have a point. After years of strength and security at the position, goaltending has suddenly become a very real problem for an organization looking to counterbalance its lack of goal support. In 77 games this season, Minnesota has dressed seven different goalies and started four. In that span, Minnesota’s goalies have gone 39-26-12 with a 2.30 goals against average, a .915 save percentage and six shutouts. Remove Niklas Backstrom from the equation, and it improves drastically to a 34-15-10 record, a 2.06 goals against average, a .920 save percentage and still six shutouts.

Backstrom has been injury plagued the past few seasons and is no longer the franchise netminder he was of old, going an abysmal 5-11-2 to go with a 3.02 goals against average and .899 save percentage in 21 games played this year. He’s been shutdown after undergoing successful surgery on a core abdominal muscle. But even when he returns next season, will he be able to rediscover his game? At this point, the only thing giving Backstrom the inside track as starter is the two remaining years on his contract, the serious health concerns surrounding Josh Harding and the maturity of Minnesota’s promising young duo of Darcy Kuemper and Johan Gustafsson. That said, Kuemper is close to graduating to the NHL ranks fulltime, but the prospect pool is very shallow after Gustafsson.

There’s always the chance Wild GM Chuck Fletcher chooses to retain the services of Ilya Bryzgalov, who has been outstanding since coming over from the Oilers the day prior to the trade deadline. However, the entertaining Russia will be 34 next season, and ultimately does nothing to enhance the depth of the goaltending prospect pool other than buy more time for development.

In the collegiate ranks, the Wild has Steve Michalek playing for Harvard. In 18 games this season, Minnesota’s sixth round pick in 2011 notched a 5-8-2 record with a 2.47 goals against average, a .921 save percentage and two shutouts. Not too bad, but he’s a long shot to ever dress consistently for the big club.

Then there’s Alexandre Belanger, a third-year starter for the Quebec League’s Rouyn-Noranda Huskies. In 52 games in a league not know for defense of any sort, Belanger put together a solid 28-18-3 season to go with a 3.23 goals against average, a .881 save percentage and a shutout. As I stated, the “Q” isn’t known for its defense, so the jury may still be out on the 18-year old goalie until he can get some considerable game action at the next level. Whether that’s going to be within the Minnesota Wild organization, I can’t say.

It’s time for Wild fans and management to face facts–it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world to draft a goaltender, especially with a potentially late first round pick. So, why not pick Thatcher Demko?

A native of sunny San Diego, California–the home of La Jolla Cove and Mission Beach (I’ve been to California once and it was beautiful, ok?)–Demko has been outstanding in his freshman campaign with 2014 Frozen Four-bound Boston College. After two seasons in the Tier-1 United States League, he exploded onto the collegiate scene this year with a 16-4-3 record, a 2.16 goals against average, a .920 save percentage and two shutouts. That pretty much cemented the big goalie as the top draft eligible netminder in North America, and probably the world.

Here’s a stop he made on a two-on-none shorthanded opportunity for Maine:

For now, the Wild isn’t focused on the draft when the opportunity for a deep playoff run is currently on the line. However, if that run results in a late first round pick, Demko is certainly a goaltender worth taking a chance on. Minnesota has made worse selections. A.J. Thelen, anyone?

 

Tags: Darcy Kuemper Ilya Bryzgalov Johan Gustafsson Josh Harding NHL Entry Draft Niklas Backstrom Thatcher Demko