Meet the New Wild; An In-Depth Look at the 2020 Draft Picks

The Wild received high praise for the team’s drafting during the 2020 NHL Entry Draft. Where were the prospects ranked before they were drafted, and how do they fit into the Wild’s system?

Marco Rossi (23) celebrates after scoring a goal against the Windsor Spitfires during his time with the Ottawa 67’s. Rossi was the first round pick for the Minnesota Wild in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft. Photo Credit: hockey-news.info

The Minnesota Wild have had a long history of uncertainty and mishaps when it comes to the NHL Entry Draft. Chalk it up to poor upper management or just plain bad luck, the Wild are notoriously bad at drafting, which of course is not helped by only one top-three pick in the team’s 20-year existence (Marian Gaborik, the third pick of the Wild’s first draft as a franchise in 2000.) 2020, however, seems to have turned that narrative upside-down, as the Wild not only did not draft poorly but were praised by journalists and fans alike for their picks in the entry draft Oct. 7. This is an in-depth look at the draft picks, where they are coming from, and where they fit into the Wild system.

Before the article, a huge thanks to Elite Prospects for their in-depth information on all of these draft picks, and many others. Their website is a great tool, and their draft guide is a great value for the price. Now, onto the picks.

Marco Rossi, Center, Ottawa 67’s (OHL)

Marco Rossi is by far the biggest steal of the 2020 NHL Draft. The reasoning the teams not drafting him, and somehow letting the Wild pick up a player whose floor, in my opinion, is an NHL low-end first liner is beyond my comprehension. There are two main concerns, being his size (5-foot-9-inches, 185 pounds) and his level of competition in the Ottawa Hockey League. Despite both of those things, as an 18-year-old during his second season with the Ottawa 67’s he managed to lead the league in assists (81), plus-minus (+69), and points (a staggering 120) whilst also scoring 39 goals on his way to a first-team OHL selection and a number of accolades, including the Eddie Powers Trophy for most points and the Red Tilson Trophy, given to the most outstanding hockey player in the OHL. At worst, the Wild drafted someone that can play immediately at the NHL level. At best, the team has found someone that can be a centerpiece in the first line for the next decade and a half. With the ninth overall draft pick drawing comparisons to players like Patrice Bergeron and Brayden Point, the Wild needed someone to replace Mikko Koivu in the center lines at the NHL level; the team seems to have found that with Rossi.

Marat Khusnutdinov, Center, SKA-1946 St. Petersburg (MHL)

The Wild needed to add centers to their depth chart after many years of drafting big defenders, and their second choice in the draft seems to be no different. Another undersized center (5-foot-9-inches, 165 pounds), Khusnutdinov, 18, is touted as a smart player who is quick with the skates and has great vision, underscored by his 25 assists and 38 points with a plus-minus of +27 in 44 games with SKA St. Petersburg’s MHL team. The Wild’s scouting division also had high praise for the number 12 ranked European skater in this draft, with Director of Amateur Scouting Judd Brackett saying, “Marat is an elite skater, two-way center with speed and has creative offensive vision,” whilst comparing his style of play to two-time Selke award winner and captain of the Los Angeles Kings Anže Kopitar.

Ryan O’Rourke, Defenseman, Soo Greyhounds (OHL)

O’Rourke is listed at 6-foot-2-inches by Elite Prospects but is probably closer to 6-foot. Either way, he weighs about 180 pounds, so his size for a defender is fairly small. That said, his lack of size is made up for in droves with his ferociousness and tenacity. Elite Prospects put it this way in their draft guide: “On the puck, O’Rourke is mean, nasty, violent — everything one wants from a durable, robust stay-at-home defender. His battle-level is unbelievably high. He never takes a moment off, never mind a shift, and much less an entire game.” As captain of his OHL team, the Soo Greyhounds, he is a natural leader and also seems to have good vision with the puck, netting seven goals and 30 assists with a plus-minus of 16+ in 54 games. The Wild compared his game to another undersized defenseman in Josh Morrissey of the Winnipeg Jets.

Daemon Hunt, Defenseman, Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL)

Hunt is a player in which the Wild hope to see what he has done further in the past compared to what he did last season. In his age 18 season with the Moose Jaw Warriors of the Western Hockey League, Hunt had a respectable 15 assists in 28 games, but failed to score a goal and had an abysmal plus-minus of -24. In his age 17 season in 2018-19, Hunt showed flashes of his potential by netting seven goals and dishing out 13 assists with a plus-minus of +21, and was even a prolific goal-scorer in his U15 league, netting 27 goals and 67 assists over two years with the U15 Brandon Wheat Kings AAA team. At 6-foot even and 185 pounds, the Wild compared Hunt to Drew Doughty, the Los Angeles Kings alternate captain, with props given to Hunt’s mobility and leadership skills.

Pavel Novak, Wing, HC Stadion Litomerice (Czeck2)

The last of the Wild’s draft picks might be playing in the Czech Second League for the 2020-21 season but gained his notoriety last season playing with the Kelowna Rockets of the WHL. In his age 17 season with the Rockets in 2019-20, Novak set the WHL on fire, scoring 25 goals and 58 points in 55 games before Covid-19 caused the cancellation of the rest of the WHL season. In Novak, the Wild get a reliable wing that can play both sides of the ice and score with ease. Novak might be a little undersized like his other counterparts in the draft (5-foot-9-inches, 170 pounds), but the Tábor, Czech Republic native drew the eye of Brackett, with a special mention of hands and hockey sense, as well as his ability to “drive the play.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s