10K Rinks

4 Wild Prospects We Thought For Sure Would Pan Out

Photo credit: Oilers TV YouTube

In honor of the Minnesota Wild’s 20th season, 10KRinks is taking a look at some franchise-long trends. Today, we took stock of some of the prospects who were supposed to pan out, but didn’t.

Let’s jump right into Minnesota’s worst draft class, that is the one that did the least with top-end picks. Every year of the Wild’s existence, with the exception of their still-developing prospects from 2018 and 2019, the team’s first-round pick has appeared in at least one NHL game through his career — except one.

A.J. Thelen

Thelen was picked 12th overall in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft. He grew up in Savage, Minn., and was a skilled defenseman at Michigan State. To consider him a bust is almost an understatement considering most first-round picks make it to the league eventually. Thelen only appeared in 10 total AHL games in his hockey career and spent most of his time in the ECHL.

Things started to go wrong for Thelen after his draft year. He had a bad start to the season on the ice, but to make matters worse, it was reported at the time that he missed team functions and was caught underage drinking the night before a game. He was kicked off the team in 2005.

Following his dismissal from Michigan State, Thelen went to the WHL to rejuvenate his hockey career and amassed 57 points in 125 games.

He was a point-producer in the ECHL, totaling more than 0.5 per game, but he only made one trip back up to the AHL for nine games. He’s is the prime example of a highly-touted prospect who never panned out for the Wild.

Roman Voloshenko

Voloshenko, was the Wild’s second-round pick in 2004, but he also never made it to the NHL.

As a 20-year-old, he came to play in North America for the first time. He put up 60 points in 69 games for the AHL Houston Aeros that season, but the year after he only scored 30 points in 76 games.

That’s it. That’s the complete record of his hockey stats in North America. He went on to play for another 10 years in various Russian leagues, including brief stints in the KHL, becoming a mainstay in the VHL for seven seasons. According to reports in the Star Tribune from 2010, Voloshenko fell under bad influences and subsequently quit the team in 2007 to go back to Russia.

For someone who succeeded tremendously at the second best North American level, it was a quick fall for Voloshenko.

Matt Hackett

Maybe he was a goalie-in-waiting who never got the chance, but Hackett was a developing player emerging on a team entering win-now mode for hockey operations decisions. Hackett’s short Wild career ended when he was traded along with a haul of other prospects to the Buffalo Sabres for Jason Pominville.

Hackett put up some decent numbers in his 2011-12 stint with the Wild. Despite going 3-6, he had a 2.38 goals against average and a .922 save percentage. He played for Minnesota in one game the season before he was traded. He made a few brief appearances with the Sabres following the trade, but he was mostly an AHL regular.

Minnesota had some reason to be hopeful about the young goaltender, though. Hackett began his OHL career with little hype, producing some abysmal numbers in limited time with the Windsor Spitfires. After a mid-season move to the Plymouth Whalers, Hackett established an increasing role and his numbers steadily increased along with it. He took his 3.44 goals against average and .900 save percentage in Year 1 and turned that into a 2.62 goals against average and .925 save percentage before his first year in Houston.

Benoit Pouliot

Pouliot is the second-highest draft pick in Wild history, selected ahead of the likes of Carey Price, Anze Kopitar and T.J. Oshie. He had been a point-per-game player at every level before reaching the AHL/NHL, and right before going pro, he had a pair of 65-point seasons for the Sudbury Wolves.

In parts of three seasons with Houston, Pouliot had 84 points in 143 games. At the NHL level, however, he had 18 points in 65 games in parts of four seasons with Minnesota. Partway through the 2009-10 season, he was traded to the Montreal Canadiens for Guillaume Latendresse, who subsequently had one of the best half-seasons in Wild history.

After that season, Pouliot never found himself in the AHL again. He finally began to maintain some consistency at the NHL level and carved out eight full seasons with six teams.

Although he ended up having success in the NHL, he didn’t do so for the Wild. They gave him extended regular time, but he never found his place as an effective NHLer until his second season with Montreal.

All stats courtesy of EliteProspects.com.

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