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30 in 30

Top prospects for Minnesota Wild

Forwards Alex Tuch, Joel Eriksson Ek could find way to NHL this season

by Dan Myers / Correspondent is providing in-depth prospect analysis for each of its 30 teams throughout August. Today, the Minnesota Wild.

The Minnesota Wild have been stuck in recent seasons trying to replenish a prospect pipeline that was regarded as among the best in the NHL as recently as four or five years ago. But the best players in that group, forwards Charlie Coyle and Mikael Granlund, and defenseman Jonas Brodin, have graduated to full-time NHL players and helped the Wild reach the Stanley Cup Playoffs four straight seasons.

In attempting to extend the playoff run, Wild general manager Chuck Fletcher traded a number of draft picks, limiting the ability to find more young players. As an example, they had four picks at the 2016 NHL Draft.

One thing the Wild have not done during that stretch, though, is trade first-round picks, and it appears that decision could pay off as soon as this season. 

Wild 30 in 30: Season outlook | Fantasy outlook | Burning questions, reasons for optimism

Here are the top five prospects in the Wild system, according to

1. Alex Tuch, RW

How acquired: Selected with No. 18 pick of 2014 NHL Draft

Last season: Boston College (NCAA): 40 GP, 18-16-34

A 6-foot-4, 222-pound forward with elite hands and a scoring touch, Tuch, 20, signed a three-year, entry-level contract April 13 after two college seasons. The Wild believe playing against older NCAA competition has prepared him well for his leap to the pro game. 

Tuch likely will begin the season playing big minutes and in all situations for Iowa of the American Hockey League, but it wouldn't be surprising to see him in the NHL at some point.

"You just see the growth and the way he handles himself off the ice," Wild assistant general manager Brent Flahr said. "His confidence level, he's stronger and quicker and he's blessed with a lot of natural tools. But he works very hard off the ice and he's very driven to be an NHL player."

Projected NHL arrival: This season

2. Joel Eriksson Ek, C

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

Last season: Farjestad (SWE): 41 GP, 9-6-15

Perhaps no Wild player made a bigger splash at development camp this summer than Eriksson Ek, 19, who has put himself in position to compete for an NHL roster spot at training camp in September. 

His numbers in Sweden last season don't jump off the page, but his nine goals led all under-20 players in the Swedish Hockey League. The 6-2, 198-pound forward is regarded as a tremendous two-way player with a good shot and playmaking ability. He was Sweden's best player during the USA Hockey National Junior Evaluation Camp in Plymouth, Mich., earlier this month, with three points in four games serving as captain.

"Cocky is having to tell people how good you are. Eriksson Ek doesn't do that. He just shows people how good he is," Wild director of player development Brad Bombardir said. "You can tell he's a heck of a hockey player. He's going to be a special player in the NHL for years to come."

Projected NHL arrival: This season

3. Luke Kunin, C

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

Last season: Wisconsin (NCAA): 34 GP, 19-13-32

What Kunin lacks in size (6-0, 191), he makes up for in speed and skill around the net. Offensively gifted, Kunin, 18, also plays a strong two-way game. Never short on confidence, Kunin plays with an edge not seen by many players his age.

"I want to show what I'm all about," Kunin said. "I want to prove to people that I am one of the best players in the draft. Doing that on the ice, off the ice with my character as well, I always want to show good for myself every time I'm on the ice."

Projected NHL arrival: Next season

Video: Steve Mears interviews Luke Kunin

4. Gustav Olofsson, D

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

Last season: Iowa (AHL): 52 GP, 2-15-17; Minnesota: 2 GP, 0-0-0

Injuries allowed Olofsson, 21, to make his NHL debut Nov. 19, but the Wild's depth at the position likely means he'll start the season in the AHL.

No single part of Olofsson's game stands out, but the 6-3, 197-pound left-shooting defenseman has a solid all-around game that should serve him well when he reaches the NHL. 

Expect Olofsson to play big minutes in all situations in Iowa this season before making a push for a spot in Minnesota next season.

Projected NHL arrival: Next season

5. Jordan Greenway, LW

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

Last season: Boston University (NCAA): 39 GP, 5-21-26

No prospect in the Wild system can match Greenway's size (6-6, 226). After a slow start to his freshman season at Boston University in 2015-16, he had 18 points in his final 21 games.

Greenway, 19, carried that strong play into the summer and had solid showings at Wild development camp and with the United States at the USA Hockey National Junior Evaluation Camp. During the NJEC, he had three goals in four games and found nice chemistry on a line with Kunin. 

"[Boston University coach] David Quinn is an outstanding coach and he loves Jordan," Bombardir said. "He really feels that he's going to be a great player for us, as do I, and as do all of us in the organization. They style of play that BU plays is an NHL style and you can see exactly where he's going to fit in that and where he fits there, and where he fits into the system here."

Projected NHL arrival: 2018-19

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