Ten years in the past, the Minnesota Wild drafted Matt Dumba with the 7th general pick out within the 2012 Draft. Dumba was an offensive supplement to Jonas Brodin, whom they chose at eleventh general the 12 months prior. The thought at the back of the choices was once easy: Draft a defensive pairing that might change into a cornerstone of the franchise.
For probably the most section, this labored neatly. A decade later, each are patrolling the Wild blue line for neatly over 20 mins a sport. It took just a little to increase chemistry, however they have been the offensive/defensive 1-2 punch Minnesota envisioned at their height. Even now, after a pectoral harm wrecked Dumba’s offensive upside, they’re nonetheless an efficient shutdown pair.
But since 2012, Minnesota’s made little effort to building up the following technology of defensemen. Of their subsequent 18 choices within the first 3 rounds of the draft, the Wild chased offense virtually solely. The handiest defensemen picked amongst them have been Gustav Olofsson (second spherical, 2013), Louis Belpedio (third spherical, 2014), and Filip Johansson (1st spherical, 2018). The trio had a blended 60 video games in a Wild sweater.
So within the final 3 drafts, including younger defensive intensity was a concern once more. General supervisor Bill Guerin and head scout Judd Brackett took Ryan O’Rourke and Daemon Hunt in 2020, then adopted it up in 2021 with Carson Lambos and Jack Peart.
Even after taking 4 defensemen with prime choices in two years — once more, greater than they’d in virtually a decade — Guerin and Brackett might not be performed beefing up the blueline. In Corey Pronman’s contemporary mock draft for The Athletic, he slotted defenseman Denton Mateychuk to the Wild at pick out 24.
Minnesota doesn’t want to hassle sending a scout to the WHL’s Moose Jaw Warriors to get the inside track on Mateychuk, both. They can simply give his defensive spouse Hunt a choice.
That’s proper. If Minnesota drafts Mateychuk, no longer handiest will they get an offensive supplement to the harsh, defensively-minded Hunt. They’ll get a possible spouse for Hunt that already comes with a 12 months of integrated chemistry.
“We no doubt play off each and every different within the D zone and within the offensive zone,” Mateychuk informed Moose Jaw’s professional site in a profile. “When you play with a man like that, you increase just a little of conduct and notice what he does and what you’ll be able to do to enrich him and the opposite direction round.”
Whatever they’re doing, it’s operating. Hunt had a cast offensive season, scoring 39 issues in 46 video games, even whilst coping with accidents that avoided him from taking part in for Team Canada on the World Juniors. When the Wild drafted Hunt, maximum scouts idea his upside was once that of a cast, bodily defensive defenseman. It’s transparent now that Hunt has an opportunity to be a bit greater than that.
His offensive manufacturing rose from simply 0.54 issues in keeping with sport in his draft 12 months to 0.78 within the COVID-shortened season to 0.85 this season. As Hunt was older and more potent than his opposition, we will be able to be expecting a soar in issues. Still, you wish to have to look enlargement over stagnation, and Hunt no doubt completed the previous.
Hunt’s 17 objectives have been fourth within the WHL, as neatly. The league chief, Chad Nychuk with 21 tallies, performed 18 extra video games than Hunt.
As fascinating of a prospect as Hunt is, although, Mateychuk is posting jaw-dropping numbers as a 17-year-old. He scored 64 issues in 65 video games, simply slightly lacking the point-per-game mark. WHL defensemen with related manufacturing of their draft years this century come with long-time defenseman Jay Bouwmeester, Ivan Provorov, and budding superstar Bowen Byram. He’s neatly forward of the place first-rounders Dumba, Seth Jones, and Shea Theodore have been at that age.
So if the ones numbers are so excellent, why would Mateychuk fall to twenty fourth general, and even inside hanging vary? It’s that factor all of us like to knock potentialities for: measurement. He’s 5’11”, which in some way, one way or the other, nonetheless issues to NHL groups. It may just even subject to Minnesota, who’s sought after to bulk up on protection.
But that are meant to be coated by way of different potentialities of their machine. Lambos is 6’1″, as are Hunt and O’Rourke, who each have a name for being nasty gamers. Mateychuk may well be smaller, however he’s no slouch within the defensive zone. Scott Wheeler of The Athletic says of him, “He performs a competent and calculating sport constructed round his mobility and sound decision-making… and [can] steer opposing gamers into difficult spots regardless of no longer being the most important man.” Jared Spurgeon will have to be evidence that Mateychuk’s taste of protection is projectable.
Then there’s the truth that Moose Jaw depends upon him to spark the offense. Mitch Brown of Elite Prospects says of their Draft Guide, “Mateychuck averages 150 puck touches in keeping with sport, greater than 50 above the typical top-pairing defenseman.” Mateychuk isn’t a Ryan Suter-type who touches the puck so much and stays methodical and grinds down the tempo, both.
“He’s all the time sprinting up the ice,” Brown states. “It’s onerous to be at the reverse facet.”
The approach that Hunt and Mateychuk play, particularly as a unit, is strictly what Dean Evason needs from his defensemen. Throughout the season, we noticed no longer handiest Spurgeon, Brodin, and Dumba lively within the offense however the likes of Dmitry Kulikov and Jon Merrill getting slapshots and breakaways.
Look at Hunt’s purpose right here:
That’s Mateychuk operating the half-wall at the energy play, with Hunt set poised to fireside off a cannon from the purpose. Mateychuk is completely poised to be a particularly lively offensive defenseman in Evason’s machine, with Hunt offering Brodin’s safety-blanket function. Only Brodin doesn’t have the type of clap bomb Hunt has in his arsenal.
It’s arduous no longer to think about Mateychuk as a Brackett-type prospect. Byron Bader of Hockey Prospecting not too long ago ranked Mateychuk 5th in his draft elegance. His fashion tasks Mateychuk as having a 55% probability of being a celeb. Look at his height comparables, and also you’ll in finding Quinn Hughes, who Brackett picked seventh general in 2018.
It’s comprehensible if the Wild need to in finding offense on this draft, specifically if and after they section with Kevin Fiala. But regardless of the “D” in entrance of his identify at the intensity chart, they’d get offensive manufacturing from Mateychuk. His chemistry with Hunt is every other intriguing issue for the highest prospect, and it’s simple to look them proceeding to develop within the group in combination, a lot the similar approach Brodin and Dumba did a decade in the past. The Wild will have to do backflips if Mateychuk falls to 24, and don’t be surprised in the event that they parlay Fiala right into a prime pick out to take hold of him, both.