Who's next in Wild youth movement with top prospect Luke Kunin back up?
DENVER—Luke Kunin, perhaps the top prospect in the entire Wild organization, was called up from the minors this week. He watched two games from the press box and was slated to return to the lineup on Friday night against the rival Colorado Avalanche.
"I just hope he plays like he played when he was last up here," coach Bruce Boudreau said. "He's got speed and plays a fairly physical game and is pretty responsible. If he does all of those things, we'll be very happy."
Kunin, 20, is the latest youngster to make it to the NHL stage with Joel Eriksson Ek, 21, already up for most of the season. Both players represent a glimpse into the future.
While the Wild are very clearly built to win now, they also have a healthy farm system, ripe with up-and-comers that could make an impact down the road.
That was on display at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, with Jordan Greenway (U.S.) and Kirill Kaprizov (Russia) both introducing themselves to the world on the international stage.
"They played well," general manager Chuck Fletcher said of the two prospects. "That's a tough assignment. I know the NHL players weren't over there. You're still talking about veteran players from all over the world. These are guys that play in the top professional leagues in Europe for the most part. They are mature players with several years of experience under their belt."
Greenway, 21, stood out as a 6-foot-6, 230-pound power forward that could conceivably make an immediate impact if the Wild are able to sign him when his collegiate season at Boston University ends.
"I thought he handled himself very well," Fletcher said. "He's a guy that certainly has skill. Obviously he has a lot of size, and what's mature about his game is his understanding of the positional side of the game. ... I think Greenway just has a sort of a natural ability to play the game at such a young age. I thought that showed very well in the Olympics."
As for Kaprizov, 20, he shined in Korea, scoring five goals, including the game-winner in the gold medal game. He's someone that has the chops to be a legitimate superstar once he reaches the NHL. Only problem is he's still under contract with CSKA Moskva of the KHL and can't come over until the 2020-21 season at the earliest.
"He's a special player," Fletcher said. "I don't want to hype this thing too high. He does things that not many players can do. And getting to know him the little bit that I have and watching him play, his compete level is tremendous. His understanding of the game is tremendous. ... He's a student of the game and those type of players that have the passion. With the skill set obviously there's tremendous upside."
Nick Seeler was slated to play in his 10th straight game on Friday night, meaning the blue liner still hasn't missed a game since being called up from the minors more than two weeks ago.
"It's nice to know they have confidence in me," Seeler said. "That said, I know nothing is guaranteed for me. I'm just going to keep trying to build their trust and work every day to get better and learn as much as I can. It's been a really great experience so far."
Seeler, 24, admitted that his experience at the NHL has already been more than he ever could've expected.
"It's hard to know what to expect coming up for the first time," Seeler said. "I came up hoping to stick to my game and play my game, and I think I've done that so far. I just need to keep building and keep earning their trust."
With Seeler getting the nod, and Gustav Olofsson getting back into the lineup, Nate Prosser was scheduled to be a healthy scratch for the first time since being claimed off of waivers by the Wild on Nov. 30, meaning his iron man streak dies at 39 games.
Coyle in stitches
Charlie Coyle took a puck directly to the mouth on Thursday night against the Arizona Coyotes. He started bleeding profusely and immediately went down the tunnel in the waning seconds of the game.
Coyle, 26, was seen before Friday's game with a fat lip that featured too many stitches to count. That said, he was adamant that he wouldn't miss the game.
"It was bleeding pretty good last night," Boudreau said, confirming that Coyle would indeed play on Friday night.