Wild Draft recap from The Athletic
2020 Draft Grade: B+
Getting Marco Rossi is a big piece, as a player who projects as a first-line forward and an important young piece for any team. On Day 2, I thought the Wild maximized their picks, getting four players in Marat Khusnutdinov, Ryan O’Rourke, Daemon Hunt and Pavel Novak who have solid or better chances to become NHL players.
Marco Rossi, C (No. 9): Rossi dominated the OHL this season, scoring more than two points per game as one of the best players in the entire CHL. He was a major reason why the 67’s were an elite team. Rossi is an exciting player due to his skill and IQ. He has tremendous stick handling ability in tight areas and can slide off checks. He’s a great passer with a high level of offensive creativity who projects to play the half-wall on an NHL power play. Rossi’s skating is good, but he’s more of a skill player than a speedy player. He’s not the quickest small player you’ll ever see, but he has a powerful stride and good edge work to elude checks. While Rossi is undersized, he’s a very competitive player. He drives the net consistently, he can kill penalties very well and he can be used in tough defensive situations. His great skill and production are very appealing. He doesn’t raise to the top tier of the draft due to his size and speed combination, but he projects to be a top-line NHL forward because of how smart, skilled and competitive he is.
Andre Tourigny, coach of the Ottawa 67’s, on Rossi: “He’s relentless, his competitiveness is through the roof, he has tremendous hockey sense, good skills and a good shot.”
Pronman’s thoughts: In Rossi, the Wild get one of the best players in junior hockey last season. He’s a player with tremendous skill and a high compete level. He’s undersized and a good, not great skater. But the skill and compete level are so good that I think he can become a low-end, first-line center in the NHL who can play on both special teams. He becomes a very important part of the Wild’s future and gives them much needed young depth at center.
Marat Khusnutdinov, C (No. 37): Khusnutdinov has been a leader for Russia’s 2002 age group for years and was very impressive with his junior club this season, which was the best in MHL. He has high-end skill components to his game. He’s able to make highly creative plays with the puck, improvise in tough situations and be very coordinated in small spaces. He sees the ice very well and can make tough dishes to teammates. He’s a great skater too, using his speed to beat defenders wide and making hard plays to the net. He competes hard, frequently getting to the tough areas in the offensive zone and killing penalties well. Khusnutdinov isn’t special at any one thing and he’s undersized, but it’s the combination of his skill, speed and very high compete level that equals a projected NHL player.
Sergey Golubovich, Russia’s U18 coach, on Khusnutdinov: “He’s a very talented player and has a will to win.”
Ryan O’Rourke, D (No. 39): O’Rourke played a ton of minutes for the Soo, and while his point totals may not jump off the page, he was a driving player for that team and lined up in all situations. O’Rourke is a very smart defenseman. His skill won’t jump out to you on the ice, but he makes a lot of smart plays at both ends of the ice and has the occasional high-level offensive flash. He’s a very good defender due to his IQ and his physicality. He kills a lot of rushes and projects to play tough defensive minutes as a pro. The main knock on him is just fine mobility. I don’t think he’s slow, and I have seen above-average flashes of speed from him over the years, but quickness isn’t what makes him interesting from an NHL perspective.
Kyle Raftis, GM of Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, on O’Rourke: “He had the highest average time on ice on our roster. He can jump-start our transition with a great first pass and create offense off the rush. He plays with a physical edge. He’s the one assigned to take on the toughest matchups.”
Daemon Hunt, D (No. 65): Hunt had a tough season as he missed most of the campaign after a skate blade cut his arm. A precursory look at his stat line may not inspire confidence with zero goals and 15 points in 28 games. I think he has some offense but that isn’t the strong point of his game. Hunt is a mobile and competitive defenseman. He isn’t super fast, but his edges are very good and his ability to evade pressure and walk the line is impressive. He closes on checks very well due to his feet and physical play, landing a few thundering hits this past season. Hunt’s offense is more from a good first pass as opposed to high skill plays, even if he was on Moose Jaw’s PP1. I think he’s creative enough as a puck-mover with his skating and defensive play that he could make it, but I can see why some would be hesitant.
NHL scout on Hunt: “He’s a tremendous defender because of his skating and physicality. The offense will be questioned but it’s in him, he had no forwards to get the puck to.”
Pavel Novak, RW (No. 146): Novak was intriguing the past two seasons due to the plays he makes with the puck. Inside the offensive zone he’s very dangerous due to his high-end vision and shot, standing out especially on the power play when he has space to make plays or wire a mid-distance shot. He had an impressive first season in North America, with 25 goals and 58 points in 55 WHL games. The offensive touch will translate to the next level, but he has work to do in the other aspects of his game. I wouldn’t call him soft or slow, but given he’s small and neither his speed nor competitiveness are standout attributes, he’ll have an uphill climb when he starts playing versus men.
"So let it be written.
So let it be done."