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31 in 31

Top prospects for Minnesota Wild

Eriksson Ek, Kunin can add depth to forward group this season

by Mike G. Morreale @mikemorrealeNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

NHL.com is providing in-depth prospect analysis for each of its 31 teams throughout August. Today, the Minnesota Wild.

The pipeline of prospects for the Minnesota Wild is promising. Four forwards played a key role for their respective country in the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship.

Forwards Luke Kunin and Jordan Greenway helped the United States win the gold medal, forward Kirill Kaprizov of Russia won bronze, and center Joel Eriksson Ek was a top scorer for Sweden. Kunin, Kaprizov and Eriksson Ek each served as captain of his team, and there's a good chance Eriksson Ek and Kunin will earn a role with the Wild this season.

Minnesota did not have any picks in the first two rounds of the 2017 NHL Draft. It selected right wing Ivan Lodnia in the third round (No. 85) and center Mason Shaw in the fourth round (No. 97), and Shaw earned the Wild Hustle Award at development camp.

 

[WILD 31 IN 31: Season preview | 3 Questions | Fantasy breakdown | Behind the numbers]

 

Here are the Wild's top five prospects, according to NHL.com:

 

1. Joel Eriksson Ek, C

How acquired: Selected with No. 20 pick in 2015 NHL Draft

Last season: Minnesota: 15 GP, 3-4-7; Iowa (AHL): 1 GP, 1-0-1; Farjestad (SHL): 26 GP, 8-8-16

The timing for Eriksson Ek, 20, to fill a spot at third- or fourth-line center is now following the departure of Erik Haula to the Vegas Golden Knights in the NHL Expansion Draft. Eriksson Ek (6-foot-2, 197 pounds) showed great vision and a tremendous shot in his three seasons with Farjestad of the Swedish Hockey League, scoring 37 points (21 goals, 16 assists) in 101 games. He scored nine points (six goals, three assists) in seven games for Sweden at the 2017 WJC.

"He's just a meat-and-potatoes kind of player, and he can play left wing or center, which is good," coach Bruce Boudreau told the Wild website.

Projected NHL arrival: This season

 

2. Kirill Kaprizov, LW

How acquired: Selected with No. 135 pick in 2015 NHL Draft

Last season: Salavat Yulaev (KHL): 49 GP, 20-22-42

Kaprizov, who turned 20 following the season, set a record for points by a teenager (42) in the Kontinental Hockey League in 2016-17, topping the 41 points scored by Washington Capitals forward Evgeny Kuznetsov in 2011-12.

Kaprizov led the 2017 WJC with nine goals and 12 points in seven games for Russia and was named the tournament's best forward. The KHL announced on Aug. 10 that Kaprizov signed a three-year contract with CSKA Moscow. The 5-9, 185-pound forward is skilled and strong enough to play in the NHL but likely will spend one more season in the KHL.

Projected NHL arrival: Next season

 
3. Jordan Greenway, LW

How acquired: Selected with No. 50 pick in 2015 NHL Draft

Last season: Boston University (NCAA): 37 GP, 10-21-31

Greenway, 20, who decided to return to Boston University for his junior season, has 57 points (15 goals, 42 assists) in 76 NCAA games. A big forward (6-6, 226) with good scoring touch, he had eight points (three goals, five assists) in seven games for the United States at the 2017 WJC and was named a top-three player on the team.

Projected NHL arrival: Next season

 

4. Luke Kunin, C

How acquired: Selected with No. 15 pick in 2016 NHL Draft

Last season: Wisconsin (NCAA): 35 GP, 22-16-38; Iowa (AHL); 12 GP, 5-3-8

Kunin (6-0, 197) signed a three-year, entry-level contract in March. He scored five goals in 12 games for Iowa after his second season at the University of Wisconsin, when he was the Badgers' first sophomore captain in 41 years. Kunin, 19, helped Wisconsin (20-15-1) to a 12-win improvement from 2015-16. He had four points (two goals, two assists) in seven games for the United States at the 2017 WJC.

Projected NHL arrival: This season

 

5. Gustav Olofsson, D

How acquired: Selected with No. 46 pick in 2013 NHL Draft

Last season: Minnesota: 13 GP, 0-3-3; Iowa (AHL): 59 GP, 6-18-24

Olofsson 22, likely would have played more NHL games last season had it not been for injuries, including a torn labrum in each shoulder and a medial collateral ligament sprain in his right knee sustained at the 2016 Traverse City Prospects Tournament.

Olofsson (6-3, 195) earned time on the power play, made minimal mistakes, and proved he had good offensive upside last season. The Wild signed him to a two-year contract on June 26.

Projected NHL arrival: This season

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