The Minnesota Wild have no shortage of quality defensive prospects that have come through their ranks. The latest is Daemon Hunt, a 3rd round (65th overall) pick in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft who has quickly made a name for himself within the ranks of Minnesota prospects.
There have been some concerns, however, about his durability long-term. There are a few good reasons for that, including his latest injury.
Missing the World Juniors
Hunt missed the World Junior Championships, where he would have represented Team Canada, due to an undisclosed injury. He was replaced by Ethan Del Mastro, a fellow left-handed defenseman. Hunt was set to make a big impression on Canada in his final year of tournament eligibility.
Given that the tournament was held in Alberta, Hunt’s home province, it is a big blow to the young defenseman. It is also another in a line of injuries. There was even some speculation that he might get a chance with the big club during 2021-22, but an injury landed him scratched before that happened.
Daemon Hunt slid to block a shot yesterday at practice … hurt his hand (aftermath in vid below)
Today, Team 🇨🇦 announces he won’t be able to play at WJC
Heartbreaking for Moose Jaw d-man who missed out on Dec team after fracturing finger in final selection camp scrimmage pic.twitter.com/rIMxOm2aqM
— Mark Masters (@markhmasters) August 7, 2022
There are a lot of things to like about the left-shooting defenseman. Picked 65th overall in 2020, Hunt stands 6’1” and weighs in at right around 200 pounds. Though he isn’t overly big, he does have a sturdy frame that could make him a regular at the NHL level.
What really stands out about Hunt is his skating ability. He has the kind of explosive first step that can make him very difficult to get around as a defender. He generates a lot of power when skating and shows great discipline in his stride.
That skating gives him the ability to not only join the rush but to push the puck up ice. His backward mobility helps to match the speed of the attacker, taking the play wide and eventually edging them out at the wall.
What a day.. extremely humbled, honoured and excited to be part of the @mnwild organization. Huge thanks to everyone who has support me throughout my hockey career so far. Let’s go Wild!! pic.twitter.com/9ICvTvTk8d
— Daemon Hunt (@DaemonHunt_) October 8, 2020
Hunt’s Best Qualities
Hunt has shown some elements of physicality and has proven that he has quality hockey IQ as well. He is good at slowing down odd-man rushes as support joins the play, leading to mitigation of those high-danger chances.
His offensive game is somewhat in question. He has the kind of shot that could see to major upticks in production, though he doesn’t seem to know what to do with it on most nights. That said, there is some hope in his offensive game.
In his debut season in the WHL with the Moose Jaw Warriors, he posted 15 assists in 28 games. In just 23 games during the COVID-shortened 2020-21 season, he posted 8 goals and 10 assists in just 23 games. If there were questions about that being a fluke, he posted career-bests in goals (17), assists (23), and points (39) in just 46 games.
Some more signings! ✍
The #mnwild has signed defensemen Daemon Hunt (@DaemonHunt22) and Ryan O’Rourke to three-year, entry-level contracts starting with the 2021-22 season.
🗞 » https://t.co/VHgU1sA2u1 pic.twitter.com/cIGdImyMCr
— Minnesota Wild (@mnwild) May 6, 2021
It has been no secret that Hunt has been a question mark the last few years. He has missed time in a number of situations due to injury. Without him consistently in the lineup, it can be difficult to project where he fits into any potential lineups.
More importantly, it begs the question of whether he can hold up to the rigors of the NHL game. He has solid skating and strong defensive skills with the frame to become a good stay-at-home defender in the future. But if his body can’t hold up, all of that will go out the window.
It is safe to say that he has the ability to be a top 10 prospect in the Minnesota system. That said, his injury past has many with keen eyes doubtful of his future. If he can string together injury-free hockey for an extended period of time, it would be no surprise to see him shoot up prospect lists.
How He Shakes Out with the Wild
Hunt has the talent and size to become a fixture on the Wild blue line. The current depth at the position and his checkered injury past present two very large question marks. Regardless of the situation on the Wild blueline, he can’t be impactful if he is out with injury.
The Wild blueline is also interesting as there is likely to be some major transition in the near future. Star defender Matt Dumba is entering the final year of his deal and is due a big raise. It is widely expected that he will not be part of the franchise by year’s end.
Should Dumba move on, that leaves a couple of potential openings between him and some of the veterans on the team. It is expected that Calen Addison will fill one of those spots. Hunt could very well be the guy that fills one of the others.
The ceiling is high for Daemon Hunt. His offensive game continues to progress and he already has the defensive tools to be a regular. If only he could stay on the ice and avoid the injury bug.
ICYMI: Captain Daemon Hunt (@DaemonHunt22) has signed a 3-year entry-level contract with the Minnesota Wild.
📸: @keithhershphoto pic.twitter.com/m7uhuIzjUX
— Moose Jaw Warriors (@MJWARRIORS) May 6, 2021
Credits On Featured Image: Amy Meredith on Flickr