While the Wild don’t start training camp until next week, a number of prospects gathered at TRIA Rink in downtown St. Paul this week. The group will depart to play in the Tom Kurvers Prospect Showcase in Chicago on Thursday afternoon.
Here are five players to watch as the Wild take on the host the Chicago Blackhawks this weekend.
The pressure is on for Marco Rossi. Though general manager Bill Guerin has pushed back on the thought that Rossi is a lock to make the NHL roster out of training camp, it would be a major disappointment if the 20-year-old center does not play well enough to do just that. After spending last season in the minors, Rossi better understands the ins and outs of being a professional. He seems like a natural replacement for dynamic forward Kevin Fiala in the top half the lineup. Perhaps the Tom Kurvers Prospect Showcase can give Rossi some positive momentum ahead of training camp.
There’s very little chance Jesper Wallstedt plays in the NHL at any point this season. All indications are that the Wild want to keep the 19-year-old goaltender in the minors this season rather than throw him directly into the fire. There’s not much to gain from rushing Wallstedt’s development if he’s likely going to be an integral part of the organization for the next decade or so. Nonetheless, this weekend will be a big step for Wallstedt. After his solid performance at development camp this summer, this will be his first time competing against another team as a member of the Wild.
It looked like Adam Beckman was going to make the NHL roster out of training camp last season. Instead, he was among the final roster cuts, then went on to have a fairly underwhelming campaign in the minors. Talking to reporters at development camp this summer, Beckman did his best to move past that, setting his sights on this season. If the 21-year-old winger can dominate this weekend, it would provide some confidence heading into training camp.
After signing with the home-state Wild last month, Sammy Walker, a former Gophers star from Edina, needs to show what he can do. Though many teams expressed interest in Walker’s services this summer, as a 23-year-old center, he already is on the older side as far as prospects go. Thus, he has a finite amount of time to prove himself as a viable option at the NHL level. If Walker can look like a man amongst boys this weekend, it would go a long way in how the front office evaluates him.
As arguably the most impressive prospect at development camp this summer, Hunter Haight is already playing with house money ahead of the this weekend’s games. The 18-year-old could establish himself as a very intriguing prospect if he can continue to stand out. His skill set is undeniable, and he’s bound to grow into his 5-foot-10, 175-pound frame.