Minnesota Wild’s Mysteries and Wonders of Brennan Menell

AHL All Star Game, Brenan Mennel #27 (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
AHL All Star Game, Brenan Mennel #27 (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) /

The Woodbury, Minnesota native made his NHL debut with the Minnesota Wild last season. He was a member of the Expanded Playoff Bubble Roster. He then signed a contract in the KHL. What’s next for Brennan Menell?

It was the fall of 2017 that this undrafted little known 20-year-old right-shot defenseman first suited up for the AHL’s Iowa Wild. Brennan Menell was signed to an entry-level contract by the Wild GM Chuck Fletcher on September 26, 2017, mere days before the Minnesota Wild’s minor league affiliate started their season.

Here’s the 2017 article by Dane Mizutani of the Pioneer Press for more details during that time.

Menell almost immediately was a factor with the Iowa Wild, and as he kept climbing the scoring charts, my curiosity perked up. Who’s this Menell kid? Wait, he’s only 20, and he’s this productive at the AHL level? Something is up here.

That was when I decided to dig for more information on Menell, I quickly came across Mizutani’s article, which was a few months old already. I made a point to closely monitor the Woodbury native’s progress and regularly made him a featured player in my Wild Prospects segment on Brave The Wild.

My feeling was this kid really slipped through the cracks, and maybe I was the first podcast host to really bring him to the surface. I’ll attempt to take credit for this, but maybe I shouldn’t.

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In his rookie campaign in the AHL, Menell managed 8 goals and 17 assists, for a total of 25 points in 72 games, with a plus/minus of -2 on a mediocre Iowa club. Not bad for a 20-year-old undrafted free agent, who few of us had really heard of to this point.

In the next two seasons, Menell would show what he could do, getting 44 points in 70 games in 2018-2019, and an incredible 47 points last season in only 57 games, of course with the lockdown completely canceling the rest of the AHL season.

During the 2019-2020 season, Menell would skate in the NHL for five games, unfortunately not registering a point, but clearly looked the part almost the entire time.

As one might suspect Menell was beginning to get impatient being stuck in the AHL, despite him being the most prolific offensive defenseman the relocated franchise of Iowa has ever seen.

The obvious problem is the players and contracts ahead of him on the right side for Minnesota blue liners. Jared Spurgeon isn’t going anywhere, with seven years and $53 million remaining. Two years ago, Paul Fenton signed Greg Pateryn to a three-year contract for 7 million, which in my opinion was a colossal waste of money and roster availability for someone trying to move up.

No doubt Matt Dumba’s new contract a year ago may have also been disheartening for Brennan Menell’s immediate NHL hopes, with no one in a rush to trade Dumba at that time, we’ll see what happens in the next few weeks or months.

Another major twist in the story is that when Wild GM Bill Guerin traded Jason Zucker, the prize acquisition was highly touted Calen Addison, who also plays on the right side of the blue line.

With all of this on his mind, and the fears of the AHL’s start date not being in stone, Menell bolted for the KHL, and many a Wild fan feared that this was it for the hopes of seeing Menell play for the Minnesota Wild one day. Thankfully, the Wild still hold Menell’s rights, but he may not be able to return to the AHL this season.

Bill Guerin shed some light on the situation in a very good Q & A on Michael Russo’s “Straight From The Source” Podcast Episode 49.

“It’s disappointing that he kind of pulled the plug on it so early, we would have preferred to have Brennan here playing for us in some capacity. He got NHL games this year and did great, so I think he proved to himself that he could play.”

“Look that’s his decision (to play in the KHL), we still own his rights, we still have time for him, it’s not the end of the road if he wants to come back to Minnesota”

There is still hope for Menell to one day skate again for the Minnesota Wild, but depending on Addison’s development, he still may have a hard time being able to be put in scoring situations, which remains Menell’s strength, not to mention the fact that Matt Dumba is still here for now.

The defenseman in the grapevine who may fit best in a potential third pairing role would be Louis Belpedio, who plays a more balanced style, not relying on the power play as much to utilize his strengths. There is no doubt that Mennell certainly could still be in a third pairing, it just might not maximize his true value as a point producer for the power play.

Many a Wild fan still wouldn’t mind seeing Brad Hunt manning the third pair right side for another year, and being on the power play again, but after a hot start, haven’t we seen enough?

Hunt is the coolest guy in the world by all accounts, but Guerin is more interested in who makes the team better, and at only a 700k cap hit, it may not be all that ridiculous to have someone else in that spot, and Hunt either as the seventh defenseman or in the AHL for part of the year.

I discuss more of Bill Guerin’s business-like approach with things in my last article

Also, check out fellow Gone Puck Wild Contributor Aaron Heckmann’s piece about the now ever-changing landscape for the Minnesota Wild this offseason

Menell’s road to the Minnesota Wild will be a tough one, but it’s certainly not against the realm of possibilities that he will one day be in a top-four role with Minnesota, and putting up similar numbers that he did in Iowa.