Starting this month, my 15 Points to Consider is going to become a weekly column.
This week: the Minnesota Wild's top prospects, Chicago's hunt for a second line center, Cedric Desjardins, Matt Frattin, and how Crosby should be valued. Enjoy!
1. The Minnesota Wild have come crashing back to earth after a really strong start. They aren't as bad as they are playing right now, just as they aren't as good as they were playing earlier. The Wild have a solid duo of goaltenders, a decent group of forwards, but their defensive depth has been ravaged by injuries (the Brent Burns trade didn't help, either). However, they are set up pretty well for the foreseeable future? Why? Several very good prospects. The top five:
Mikael Granlund – the best fantasy prospect not currently in the NHL (among drafted players). Granlund is a wizard with the puck, and he'll be centering the second line in Minnesota next season.
Charlie Coyle – a big, strong power forward brought over from San Jose in the Burns/Setoguchi trade. He's already 6'2" and over 200 pounds, and he can probably add another 10-15 pounds of muscle. A future line mate for Granlund, perhaps? Coyle is probably a year or two away from making a fantasy impact.
Zack Phillips – Phillips is the Malkin to Jonathan Huberdeau's Crosby on the St. John Sea Dogs. Phillips is a really smart player. He's average sized and his skating is nothing to write home about, but he also possesses elite offensive instincts. Phillips will develop into a very good second line center. Probably two years off. Think Marc Savard (healthy).
Jason Zucker – the captain of the American WJC team, Zucker plays a lot like Rangers captain Ryan Callahan. A really good prospect with upside as a second line multi-purpose player.
Jonas Brodin – the only defenseman among the five, Brodin is really smart and a good puck mover (although his stats don't reflect it). Minnesota needs a few long-term top four guys, and he's the best they have in the system. He's getting top minutes as an 18-year-old in the SEL – pretty impressive.
2. Bobby Ryan is either really upset at having to stay in Anaheim, or he's injured. Doesn't have the same jump he has had in the past, and he is forcing plays that usually come naturally to him (although he was very good the other night against Vancouver).
3. The Blackhawks have tried a few players at the second line center position. Patrick Sharp is better on the wing, and the same goes for Patrick Kane. The team prefers Dave Bolland in a third line role. Brandon Pirri has been tried there as well, and he may be a long-term fit. Ideally the team would add a proven center via trade or free agency, but in the era of the salary cap, great teams usually have at least one roster hole. Marcus Kruger played a few games in the spot before suffering a concussion. Pirri is the best bet to assume the role long