The Iowa Wild, which had their season end unceremoniously in the playoffs earlier in 2022, have had some interesting problems to deal with. Their lineup featured a plethora of talented youngsters but expectations may have been too high.
They will see a little bit of a shift in talent this coming season. Some of the best young players from the core will be gone with Matt Boldy, Marco Rossi, Connor Dewar, and others getting the chance to make their names with the parent club in Minnesota.
But that does not mean that the future is bleak for the Iowa Wild. If anything, there is an influx of young talent that can make the Wild interesting at least in the year to come. With the parent club being on the verge of contention, it could take these names a year or two before they are ready to move on and make an impact in the NHL.
Top Iowa Wild Players To Watch Next Season
Marco Rossi, C
The most important name to watch for both iterations of the Wild. Rossi spent 63 games with the Iowa Wild last year, tallying 18 goals and 53 points in his freshman campaign. He has all the skills in the world to be an impact player at the NHL level.
Despite his point totals, Rossi struggled at times. He is undersized, make no mistake about it. Time and a dedicated training regimen will help him combat the rigors of pro-life time. But there is also no mistaking his skill level.
Rossi, selected 9th overall, was thought to be one of the most talented players in the 2020 NHL Draft. He has great hands, great positioning, and some of the most dynamic stick-handling of anyone in his class. He might need at least part of this season with Iowa to refine his game before sticking with Minnesota for good.
Marco Rossi from Beckman and Boldy 🤩
ABSOLUTE FIRE pic.twitter.com/PGEwq2k91g
— Iowa Wild (@IAWild) December 31, 2021
Vladislav Firstov, LW
Firstov made a brief appearance with the Wild in 2021-22, skating in just eight games after he finished his junior season with the UConn Huskies. Though the Huskies are not all that good, Firstov did pretty well.
He tallied 58 points over his 83 games with the Huskies to date. Though he started as a long-shot prospect, Firstov has the frame (6’1”) and has developed well since being drafted. He was a second-round pick in the 2019 NHL Draft and for good reason.
Firstov displays the play of a big-bodied power forward who also likes to throw the body while also being able to skate. Whether in Iowa or Minnesota, that is a style of play that is sure to make him a fan favorite.
Announcement: We have signed forward Vladislav Firstov. #mnwild
— Minnesota Wild (@mnwild) March 23, 2022
Pavel Novak, RW
If you look across the NHL and AHL, there will be no shortage of undersized skill players to be had. We’ve seen evidence of that in the aforementioned Rossi and there is evidence of that in the fifth-round pick in 2020, Pavel Novak.
The Czech native was a relative unknown when he entered the 2020 NHL Draft. That said, he’s shown that he has the skill to be a name going forward. His play with the Kelowna Rockets of the WHL was impressive, seeing him tally 72 points in 62 games.
The major knock on Novak is his size, tipping the scales at 170 pounds on his 5’9” frame. Despite the downside of his stature, he is a smooth skater and has the skills to be an elite playmaker, especially if given time on the power play.
It is still quite a while to consider Novak to be a regular at the NHL level, but he’s put up the points and shows the ability needed to be a standout with Iowa at the AHL level.
NEWS: We've signed Pavel Novak to a three-year, entry level contract.#mnwild
— Minnesota Wild (@mnwild) May 9, 2022
Mason Shaw, LW/C
Shaw is an interesting one since we have already seen him in extended action in Iowa. The 97th overall pick from the 2017 NHL Draft has spent four seasons in the AHL, tallying 61 points in 124 games because of injury.
But during the 2021-22 season, Shaw showed some life. He tallied 52 points in 62 games with Iowa. He has a playmaking ability that makes him fun to watch (and did while he was in the WHL). He managed to hit career-highs in power-play goals (7) and game-winning goals (5).
Though drafted as a center, Shaw has made his impact as a winger. This could be a make-or-break season for Shaw on the wing. With uncertainty on the left side in Minnesota, a great start from Shaw could see him up with the parent club before long.
Given his pending restricted free agent status at the end of the 2022-23 season, Shaw is in a position to really make a name for himself.
NEWS: The @mnwild today reassigned F Mason Shaw to the #IAWild. #HockeyLivesHere | @exploreminn https://t.co/f5HUqT6o2o
— Iowa Wild (@IAWild) March 7, 2022
Calen Addison, D
Addison is one of those names that many people feel is ready to make the move to the big club. After an impressive 34 points in 43 AHL games last season, that may be the case. Nonetheless, defensemen are a little tougher to project, especially those who are undersized like Addison is.
He was initially acquired in the deal that saw longtime winger Jason Zucker go to Pittsburgh back in February of 202. He has shown an offensive flair from the back end at every level so far, starting his time with the Wild organization with 22 points in 31 games for Iowa during 2020-21.
He has proved that his production is no fluke while also displaying a sound consistency at both ends of the ice. He has seen time on the power play as well thanks to his smooth skating and knack for finding the open man.
Addison has already seen substantial call-up time already. That said, it would not be a shock to see him start with Minnesota or be one of the first call-up options for Iowa. If the latter is the case, he could prove to be one of the most important players in Iowa.
NEWS: The @mnwild today reassigned defenseman Calen Addison to the #IAWild. 👨🏻👀#BackwithBite | @exploreminn https://t.co/M3nNQWkYTx
— Iowa Wild (@IAWild) January 24, 2022
Ryan O’Rourke, D
The Minnesota fan base loves a good, hard-hitting defenseman. So, it is no surprise that the team took O’Rourke 39th overall in the 2020 NHL Draft. He is quite the contrast to the aforementioned Addison, a smooth-skating puck mover.
O’Rourke is nasty, mean, and violent. He is what teams look for out of a stay-at-home defender who compliments puck-movers like Addison. He brings the battle to every aspect of his game, never taking a moment or shift off.
That’s not to say he’s a slouch moving the puck. He makes smart decisions and has a booming slapshot that can catch netminders by surprise. Though not quite on the same level, he reminds me of Jonas Brodin in that he will do all the small things right and never be noticed for the wrong reasons.
O’Rourke still has some developing to do but he could see a big boost as a mainstay on the Iowa backend for the 2022-23 season. It may be the springboard to the eventual success in the NHL that so many predict him to have.
Ryan O'Rourke sends one to the back of the net!
And that's it! Wild win! pic.twitter.com/i0SkOtRVo6
— Iowa Wild (@IAWild) September 18, 2021
Daemon Hunt, D
Hunt was selected just a round after O’Rourke in the 2020 NHL Draft. Like O’Rourke, he is also Canadian-born. He had a breakout 2021-22 season with the WHL’s Moose Jaw Warriors, tallying 39 points in 46 games.
Hunt is slightly bigger physically than O’Rourke, though the latter plays a much bigger game. The latter has a rugged style while Hunt uses his elite skating to handle forwards, much in the way that Brodin (who is known for his well-rounded game) might.
It will take some time and seasoning to see if Hunt can match the Brodin comparisons. Still, he will get a chance to make his presence felt in Iowa for the 2022-23 season, continuing the trend of solid blueliners that have passed through the organization.