The Hockey Gods blessed the Minnesota Wild with a reliable defense corps for almost a decade. It began with the arrival of Ryan Suter ten years ago and was accelerated by the rise of Jonas Brodin, Jared Spurgeon, and Matt Dumba. Together, they formed one of the best top-four units in the NHL, ranking top of the league in even strength chance suppression nearly every year.
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But the Wild have bought out Suter, and he’s with the Dallas Stars. Spurgeon is coming to the end of his prime, and Dumba is one year away from unrestricted free agency. Brodin still has plenty of good years ahead of him, but he’s almost 30. Minnesota eventually has to replace three franchise cornerstone defensemen, and general manager Bill Guerin seems to understand this better than anyone.
We can’t say enough good things about the job Guerin and head scout Judd Brackett have done to build Minnesota’s top-rated prospect pool. This is another one of those instances. Today, we’ll look at how Guerin has prepared for the eventual absence of Spurgeon, Brodin, and Dumba by acquiring and drafting like-for-like replacements in Carson Lambos, Brock Faber, and Calen Addison.
The Wild drafted Carson Lambos 26th overall in the 2021 NHL Draft. The Winnipeg native spent last season in the WHL, tallying 47 points (10G-37A) in 51 games on a stacked Winnipeg Ice team. He was also on Canada’s World Junior Championship roster before COVID postponed the event to August.
Comparing him to Spurgeon isn’t entirely fair to either of them. One is an all-time great Wild player and the second permanent captain in franchise history; the other is a 19-year-old at the beginning of his NHL journey. But both are two-way defensemen who can play in every facet of the game. Neither are particularly gifted offensively, but they make do with their limited skillsets. Lambos is projected to be an effective Top-4 defenseman for the Wild. Who’s to say he can’t fill the do-it-all role Spurgeon will one day vacate?
The Wild acquired Faber as part of the Kevin Fiala trade last month. The Los Angeles Kings initially drafted the Maple Grove native 45th overall in 2020. He played a lot of hockey the last two seasons. Not only did Faber play 59 games with the Gophers, but he represented the United States at the 2021 World Junior Championship and the 2022 Winter Olympics. Some were surprised that Faber returned to school, where he’ll be team captain, for a final college season before trying to crack the Wild roster next summer.
Pundits immediately compared Faber to Brodin when the Fiala trade was announced. Faber is tough, smooth-skating, and defensively gifted, who can eat up minutes like the best of them. It’s the same skill set that makes Brodin a valued asset in Minnesota. Brodin likely still has several good years ahead of him, but having depth in his role is incredibly important. If anything, Faber and Brodin could make for a tasty shutdown duo in the Wild’s Top-4 for years to come.
So we have the two-way prospect in Lambos and the shutdown prospect in Faber. What about offensive-defensemen? Look no farther than Addison, who is further in his development than either Lambos or Faber. Addison already has two professional seasons under his belt, making 18 NHL appearances in that time. While nothing is final, it’s anticipated he’ll be a Wild regular this coming season.
Addison’s offensive toolkit is the best in Minnesota’s system. He’s a great puck mover, solid skater, and maybe the best power play quarterback on the roster. Addison’s game is reminiscent of Dumba’s before his offensive game deteriorated. Hopefully, Addison can add some defensive awareness, physicality, and IQ to his game in the coming years.
Minnesota will soon have to move forward without three of the most influential players in franchise history. Thankfully, Guerin already has the framework in place for a successful transfer of power when that day comes. Lambos, Faber, and Addison are projected long and successful careers as Top-4 defensemen, bringing different qualities to the table. Even if those three don’t reach their full potential, the Wild still have a stacked cupboard of defensive prospects that will compete for roster spots in the next few seasons.
With any luck, it won’t just be the last ten years that Minnesota had a dominant defense. It’ll be the next ten years as well.