Revisiting Minnesota Wild Drafts – 2015

The 16th installment in this series has arrived after looking at how the Minnesota Wild did in their first 15 NHL Entry Drafts. These recaps are available below for those who missed any or just want to refresh their memory.

After a successful 2014-15 NHL season, the Wild had just finished a 46-28-8-8 campaign that gave them their second-ever 100 point campaign. Unfortunately, the regular season success didn’t follow Minnesota to the playoffs as the club was eliminated in the second round of the postseason for the second straight year. The good news? The Wild continued to build on their success at the 2015 NHL Entry Draft by finding many prospects who remain key players today.

Early Rounds (1st & 2nd)

Round 1, 20th Overall – Joel Eriksson Ek, Center (Farjestads BK Karlstad, SHL)

The Wild’s first draft pick Joel Eriksson Ek at Number. 20. This marked the first time that the organization had used its first pick for a center since 2010. Eriksson Ek was coming off an impressive performance that saw him record 21 goals (and 11 assists) in just 25 games for Farjestads BK Karlstad’s junior team. His efforts were enough to see 34 games with the Swedish Hockey League club’s main roster, although, he only put up six points over that span.

The Wild loved what they saw and signed him to theirs Three-year entry-level contract July 2015. Eriksson Ek, like most European prospects, spent another season abroad before making his North American debut during the 2016-17 season. Although he did have his moments with Wild (seven points in fifteen games), he felt it best for his growth to go back to Farjestads.

Joel Eriksson Ek (Minnesota Wild)Amy Irvin/ The Hockey Writers

Eriksson Ek continued to have his ups, and downs, when he returned home to North America for 2017-18. He was a good performer in the American Hockey League scoring 17 points in 17 games with Iowa from 2017 to 2019. However, he did initially struggle at the NHL level with just 30 points in his first 133 games, which isn’t exactly ideal for a former first-round draft pick.

Eriksson Ek’s four-season run has seen him look like a top six forward. He has scored 30 goals and 50 points in the last 86 games. While his offense has improved, he’s also emerged as one of the top two-way forwards in the league. In fact, he was fourth in Selke Trophy voting in 2020-21 NHL season. If he can be consistent night in and night out, he will continue to be a cornerstone of the Wild throughout his $82 million extension.

Round 2, 50th Overall – Jordan Greenway, Left Wing (U.S. National Development Team, USHL)

As they have done in the past, Wild used one their early picks to take on another promising prospect of the United States National Development Team. Jordan Greenway was this time the target, a Minnesota native who had played high school hockey there. The 6-foot-6 winger from Minnesota was an international standout, helping the United States win gold at the World U-17 Hockey Challenge and IIHF U-18 World Championship.

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Greenway was a three-year student at Boston University. He joined the Wild in 2017-18 NCAA college hockey. He played in six regular season and five playoff matches with Minnesota during that campaign. But, it was only three points. The Wild loved what they saw in the newcomer and he played 81 games for the NHL club the next season.

Jordan Greenway Minnesota Wild
Jordan Greenway, Minnesota WildJess Starr/The Hockey Writers

Greenway has remained in the NHL throughout his career, but has occasionally been criticized by Wild fans for his inconsistent play. Despite being much larger than most forwards, the Canton, New York native doesn’t always use his body the way that he should. A frustrating aspect of his game is the fact that he often disappears from scoring sheets. The 24-year-old was on pace for 40 to 50 points in an 82-game campaign during 2020-21, however, he’s only on pace for 29 in 2021-22. Considering how he’ll be a restricted free agent at the end of the year, only time will tell exactly what his future with the Wild looks like.

Middle Rounds (3rd — 4th)

Round 4, 111st Overall – Ales Stezka, Goaltender (Liberic Jrs., Czech)

After doing quite well with their two first selections of the weekend the Wild were left disappointed by Ales Stezka (Libric Juniors goaltender). The Czech netminder looked solid overseas during his draft year, backstopping Liberic’s under-20 team with a 2.77 goals-against average (GAA) and .907 save percentage (SV%). He made his move to the United States Hockey league for the following campaign, however, things didn’t go the way that he planned. Stezka was disqualified despite his promising performance with the Sioux Falls Stampede, and Chicago Steel. An entry-level contract was never offeredHe was inspired by the Wild and eventually decided to return home to the Czech Republic, where his favorite sport is still played to this day.

Late Rounds (5th — 7th)

Round 5, 135th Overall – Kirill Kaprizov, Left Wing (Novokuznetsk Metallurg, KHL)

The Wild’s selection of Kirill Kaprizov as the 135th overall pick was something no one could have imagined. While the Russian prodigy showed a lot of offensive potential competing against men in the Kontinental Hockey League, there’s always the uncertainty of whether a Russian prospect will come over to the NHL. Kaprizov’s performance improved with every year. He was the KHL’s top goal scorer, set records, and led the Olympic Athletes from Russia to a 2018 Pyeongchang Olympic Gold Medal.

As Wild fans watched Kaprizov’s overseas success, the possibility of Kaprizov coming to North America became less likely with each passing season. To the delight of many, Kaprizov was signed to a 2-year entry-level contract by Minnesota in July 2020. However, his signing in the 2019-20 postseason meant that the first year was not completed. Kaprizov, however, was immediately signed for the 2020-21 NHL season. He proved to be a top-line option from the start, scoring 51 points in 55 games and winning the Calder Trophy.

Kirill Kaprizov Minnesota Wild Winter Classic
Kirill Kaprizov (Photo by David Berding/Getty Images).

Even though he had only one NHL season, the Wild knew they had to find Kaprizov as soon possible. The idea that The KHL is backRumors indicated that it was possible. Bill Guerin, general manager of the team, put in a lot of effort to secure a deal. His star was signed forward to a $45m contract for five years. That was certainly a lot of money to give a player who hadn’t even played a full 82-game campaign, however, it was a necessary move for a franchise that had never seen a player with his potential.

Fortunately, Guerin’s gamble paid off and Kaprizov has lived up to every penny of his deal. He leads the Wild in both assists (26) and points (39) ahead of the 2021-22 NHL season’s midway point. He is now more comfortable than in his rookie season, and is currently on pace to score over 100 points for the full season. Considering how Marian Gaborik holds the franchise record for most points in a season (83 in 2007-08), it’s easy to see just how important Kaprizov is to the Wild.

Round 6, 171st Overall – Nick Boka, Defenseman (U.S. National Development Team, USHL)

Surprisingly it took the Wild six rounds to choose their first defenseman of this weekend. Nick Boka, another star on the U.S. National Development Team, was that played. The native of Plymouth in Michigan chose the collegiate route and spent four years at University of Michigan. Once his degree was complete, Boka played 33 games between 2018 and 2020 for the Wild’s ECHL affiliate, the Allen Americans.

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Boka did not stand out enough for promotion to the Wild organization to his dismay. He played 44 games with the ECHL’s Fort Wayne Comets in 2020-21, scoring 18 points while also racking up a whopping 122 penalty minutes (PIMs). He switched to other teams, signing an AHL deal with the Rochester Americans for 2021-22. While he’s been Call me up a few times, he’s yet to make his AHL debut.

Round 7, 201st Overall – Gustav Bouramman, Defenseman (Soo Greyhounds, OHL)

Another 2015 draft pick who didn’t work out too well for the Wild was defenseman Gustav Bouramman. Although the Swedish blueliner impressed with 126 points in 201 games with the Ontario Hockey League’s Soo Greyhounds, he never figured out how to translate that to the professional level. Bouramman was with the Wild for two seasons, but only 28 of his games were in the AHL, and 54 in the ECHL. He didn’t do anything productive with his playing time, which led to him returning to Sweden in 2019-20 where he still plays to this day.

Round 7, 204th Overall – Jack Sadek, Defenseman (Lakeville North High School, Minn.)

The Wild selected Jack Sadek, their third defenseman, with the 204th overall draft pick. Because he was born in Minnesota, he was a true local prospect. He played both high school hockey and collegiate hockey there. Sadek was a four-year student at the University of Minnesota. He played 63 games for the Americans in ECHL. While he showed some promise, it wasn’t enough to warrant a return, leading to him Signature of an AHL Contract with the Ontario ReignHe is not expected to play in the 2020-21 season. He has not played any game for any organization during the 2021-22 seasons.

Wild Draft Grade A+

Even though it only happened nearly seven years ago, there’s no denying that the 2015 NHL Entry Draft should go down as the best in franchise history. Kaprizov is playing like a top-10 player in the NHL, Eriksson Ek is one of the premier two-way forwards and there’s still potential for Greenway to become a top-six contributor if he can put his tools together. Sure, the other four drafted players didn’t amount to much, however, the aforementioned trio more than make up for it. With how recent this draft was, it’ll be interesting to see how the 2015 class continues to develop over the next five or 10 years.