Welcome to draft prediction time! Starting today I will be going through every round of the draft and detailing who I think the Minnesota Wild should use their picks on. Today I’m starting at the top.
Unlike other sites that have explored who the Wild should draft at 12, I’m only laying down one name.
Yes, I think the Minnesota Wild absolutely need to go off the board and select Knight with their pick, and here’s why.
Missing the Boat
The last time the Wild picked a goalie in the draft was Ales Stezka in 2015, before that the Wild draft Kaapo Kahkonen in 2014. Very weird considering many teams pick at least one goalie per draft. this 3 year gap presents a big problem when you look at the first 5 goalies drafted from each of the following draft classes
- 2015 – Ilya Samsonov, Mackenzie Blackwood, Felix Sandstrom, Adin Hill, Samuel Montembeault
- 2016 – Carter Hart, Tyler Parsons, Filip Gustavsson, Evan Fitzpatrick, Joseph Woll
- 2017 – Jake Oettinger, Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, Michael DiPietro, Matthew Vilatta, Stuart Skinner
- 2018 – Olof Lindbom, Olivier Rodrigue, Justus Annunen, Jakub Skarek, Jesper Eliasson
I included 2015 as it was a very good draft class. Unfortunately for Minnesota they only had their first, a fourth, and two seventh round picks and missed out on any of those names. Stezka, even more unfortunately. has been unable to post a better save percentage than .890% in the Czech league.
2015-2017 represent a sublime crop of young goal-tending prospects. Of that list 5 of the 15 names played NHL minutes, with Hart, Blackwood, and Hill cementing themselves as goalies of the future for their prospective clubs. 15 of 15 of these players are starting goalies either at the College/AHL level or at the CHL level waiting to graduate. What a gold mine of wasted opportunity for a goalie starved organization.
Looking at 2018 there’s a drop off in talent. None of these prospects are regarded as elite or top-tier. In fact the first goalie picked, Lindbom was picked 39th overall. The top North American goalie, Olivier Rodrigue, was picked 62nd. It wasn’t a good class.
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Is the 2019 Class Any Better?
Well yes and no. There’s some talent at the top of the class but there’s a considerable drop off after the top 3 available. In this article you can see the top 10 goalie prospects rated by NHL.com. As you can see there’s a big gap in talent 3-4 goalies deep.
Spencer Knight is your can’t miss future superstar goaltender. Think Carter Hart-esque, when Knight hits the NHL, he is not going to leave for a very long time. Mads Sogaard, Pyotr Kochetkov, and Hugo Alnefelt all have starting potential, but are also not slam dunks.
There are things to like about each– Sogaard happens to be 6’7 and very athletic, Kochetkov models his game after Sergei Bobrovsky and is currently playing in the KHL, and Alnefelt is crazily athletic and has a knack for winning tight games. They each aren’t 100% bets to make an impact at the NHL level the same way the draft classes above did. This doesn’t mean they aren’t good prospects, but theirs a difference between a home run and a base hit.
Devan Dubnyk Has an Expiry Date
Devan Dubnyk is getting long in the tooth. At 33 years old and with 2 years left on his contract the Minnesota Wild need to look to the future ahead of time. Or else they will have a repeat of the Niklas Backstrom situation.
Over the last three seasons Dubnyk’s amount of games played has stayed consistent at around 60-65. However over the last three years his save percentage has gone from .923, to .918, to .913. A drop off from elite to average in that three-year span. His GAA has also ballooned from 2.25 in 2016/2017 to 2.54 in 2018/2019. Still solid numbers mind you, however age us starting to rear its ugly head.
The last time Minnesota’s defacto #1 goalie was starting to decline, the Wild did not have an immediate answer as they didn’t properly grow their depth. They got incredibly lucky, acquiring Dubnyk at a very low-cost and watching him turn into an all-star calibre goalie. What if there isn’t a Dubnyk this time?
What if this time they can’t find a new starter through trade? I can tell you right now, there is a new starter that’s relatively free for the taking. All it would cost is a little bit of a reach to go out and grab Knight at 12. Something I think the Wild should and must do in order to build sustained success.