They are hoping that 2016 first-round pick Luke Kunin will be one of the young players that is capable of stepping up to fill one of them.
By all accounts he was one of the most impressive players at the Wild’s development camp and has his sights set on making the roster this season.
“My first camp was about putting a footprint down and trying to get the organization to see what I’m all about,” Kunin said this week, via the Pioneer Press. “I want to show growth and get better every day. That’s the way I like to look at things.”
The Wild selected Kunin with the No. 16 overall pick in 2016 and he followed that up with a pretty dominant performance this past season at the University of Wisconsin where he scored 22 goals and added 16 assists in 35 games. He was a point-per-game player in his two years with the Badgers before turning pro.
He ended up getting a brief look with Minnesota’s AHL team, the Iowa Wild, at the end of last season and made an immediate impact with five goals and three assists in his first 12 games.
With big money players like Mikko Koivu, Ryan Suter and Zach Parise at the top of the lineup the Wild had to shed some salary this offseason by trading veterans Jason Pominville and Marco Scandella to help create space to re-sign restricted free agents Nino Niederreiter and Mikael Granlund (neither has happened yet).
They will almost certainly get significant raises and become part of that big money core. As long as teams are going to invest that much money in the top of the roster it is always going to be essential to have cheap, young talent filling spots on the roster to make an impact for a low cap hit.
Based on what he showed in his brief look in the AHL last season, as well as his pedigree as a top-16 pick in the draft, there is reason to believe that Kunin could be just that type of player for Minnesota.