THE WILD WIRE - DEFENSE & GOALTENDING DEPTH CHARTNov 18, 2020
A few weeks back, I dove into the forwards who were under contract with the Wild organization, focusing on players who may spend some time in Iowa.
For a look at that blog, click here: https://www.iowawild.com/news/detail/wild-wire-forward-forecast
Since that piece was published, NHL free agency took place and the following moves impacted the forward ranks:
- Kyle Rau was re-signed to a one-year, two-way NHL contract
- Joseph Cramarossa (free agent from Rockford’s organization) signed a one-year, two-way NHL contract
Now it’s time for a glimpse at the defensemen and goaltenders who could don an Iowa Wild sweater this fall errrrrrrr winter errrrrrr spring…well, you get the picture, WHENEVER THE PUCK DROPS on the 2020-21 season.
As a reminder, here’s my blogging disclaimer:
- THIS IS SIMPLY A LIST OF DEFENSEMEN AND GOALTENDERS CURRENTLY UNDER CONTRACT WHO COULD POSSIBLY PLAY IN IOWA DURING THE 2020-21 SEASON.
- THE AUTHOR OF THIS BLOG, ME, HOPES ALL OF THE PLAYERS LISTED BELOW MAKE THE MINNESOTA WILD ROSTER AT SOME POINT.
With that out of the way, here’s a look at who Iowa Wild fans could see at some point this season.
For reference, I’m using Cap Friendly – click here for a look at current Minnesota Wild contracts.
DEFENSEMEN UNDER NHL CONTRACTS (ALPHABETICAL ORDER)
- ADDISON, CALEN
- BARTKOWSKI, MATT
- BELPEDIO, LOUIE
- GORDEEV, FEDOR
- MERMIS, DAKOTA
- MCCOSHEN, IAN
DEFENSEMEN UNDER AHL / ECHL CONTRACTS (IN ALPHABETICAL ORDER)
- ATKINSON, JOSH
- BEAULIEU, PHIL
- REGISTER, MATT
- THOMPSON, KEATON
- WARNER, HUNTER
Of the 11 players listed above, Atkinson, Bartkowski, Belpedio, Thompson and Warner are sort of the core group who are back under contract. Combined, those five players totaled 63 points last season.
Atkinson burst onto the scene last year, impressing the coaching staff with his elite skating ability. Bartkowski and Belpedio are AHL-stalwarts, and both have suited up for Minnesota in their careers. Thompson, when healthy, was the perfect left-shot partner for Belpedio in his first year with the organization. Warner had his season cut short due to injury for the second time in three years, but knows his role well, and is a physical presence every time he’s on the ice. And Register made the most of his opportunity in 2019-20, playing in 30 games after beginning the season on a tryout contract.
Addison, 20, was acquired in the Jason Zucker trade in February and will vie for a spot in Minnesota. However, most first-year players need some time in the AHL, so I’d expect Addison to chew up big minutes in Iowa as he adjusts to the pro game. He’s an offensive-minded blueliner, who posted 52 points in 50 games in the WHL with Lethbridge.
Mermis (6’0”, 194 lbs.) and McCoshen (6’3”, 210 lbs.) were both signed in free agency, and bring a ton of experience. Mermis has 304 AHL games on his resume and 20 more in the NHL, and McCoshen has 171 AHL contests under his belt, plus 60 more in the NHL.
Gordeev was on Minnesota’s roster in Traverse City, Michigan last season for the NHL Prospects Tournament. He eventually reported back to the junior ranks, but he’ll turn pro this season. The former Toronto Maple Leafs prospect is 6’6” and has plenty of potential.
Lastly, Beaulieu is a rookie from Northern Michigan University, who was signed as a free agent. If Iowa has a “normal” training camp, I think he’ll be given a legitimate shot to stick around. But with COVID and the delayed start to the season, who knows what camp will look like. Either way, I’d expect Beaulieu, a Duluth, Minnesota native, to make a sizable impact in Allen (ECHL) and be a viable call-up option.
Now, 11 defensemen is a lot, as teams usually carry seven or eight (not counting injured players) on the active roster. Belpedio, of course, has a chance to make Minnesota’s roster and one or two injuries up top could mean the loss of Bartkowski, and / or Addison. So, on paper it’s a large group, but once the season gets underway, I’m sure things will fall into place. Plus, competition for playing time is something all coaches love to have.
Looking back at the 2019-20 Iowa Wild, there are only two blueliners who contributed somewhat significantly who aren’t listed above: Brennan Menell and Turner Ottenbreit.
Menell, who led the AHL with 48 assists, bolted for Russia’s KHL a few months back. He’s currently got 18 points in 17 games for Dinamo Minsk. Full disclosure, his offensive production will be missed, especially on the power play. However, Minnesota did extend a qualifying offer to Menell, so if he returns to North America, they control his rights.
Ottenbreit, earned two points (1g, 1a) in 30 games with Iowa last season. He’s currently signed to an ECHL contract with Allen, Iowa’s affiliate. So, conceivably, he could earn an AHL call-up just like last season.
For the record, this is how Iowa’s defense pairings looked at the start of the game on March 11, 2020, the club’s final contest before the pandemic pause, and ultimately, cancellation. It should be noted that Bartkowski was on NHL recall at the time.
Thompson – Menell
Register – Belpedio
Ottenbreit – Atkinson
So, when you consider those pairings and the familiarity / chemistry the players have with one another and then factor in the potential impact of guys like Addison, McCoshen and Mermis, it’s easy to see why the organization is excited about the depth on defense.
GOALTENDERS UNDER NHL CONTRACT (ALPHABETICAL ORDER)
- BARIBEAU, DERECK
- JONES, HUNTER
- KAHKONEN, KAAPO
We’ll start with Kahkonen, the reigning AHL Goalie of the Year. He was spectacular last season, giving Iowa a chance to win almost every night. Plus, he made his NHL debut, going 3-1-1 in five games with Minnesota. The 24-year-old signed a two-year deal this offseason, with his 2020-21 salary being a two-way contract, meaning he doesn’t need to clear waivers to be sent to Iowa. I’d imagine Kahkonen gets a good look in NHL training camp and we’ll see how he fares battling Alex Stalock for the back-up job in Minnesota.
Baribeau, 21, made his AHL debut last season with the Wild. Between Allen and Iowa, he played 19 pro games last season. The young netminder has been banged up the last two years, playing in just 40 total games between juniors (OHL) and his ECHL / AHL experience. He’s big and mobile, and showed some promise last season. The upcoming 2020-21 season is a big one for his development.
Jones is a 2019 second round draft pick. He finished last season 31-14-3 with Peterborough of the OHL. Either he, or Baribeau, will be the “number 2” goalie in Iowa if everyone is healthy. You can bet Minnesota is high on the 20-year-old, otherwise they would have likely added another goaltender in free agency to provide more depth in Iowa / Allen.
As for Mat Robson, who won 11 games for Iowa last season as a rookie, he recently signed with the Straubing Tigers in Germany. Not sure if that’s official yet, so hopefully I’m not ruffling any PR feathers here….
With last season’s defense mostly intact, some solid free agent additions, and the prospect of Kahkonen manning the pipes on a regular basis, I’d say it’s a good bet that Iowa will be back near the top of the AHL in team goals against average.
Now, I’m all fired up for some hockey. Honestly, the season can’t get here soon enough!
- Wild Joe Radio