Minnesota Wild fans got their first glimpse at the future of Wild hockey last week at its annual prospect development camp. The camp featured two days of open practice, followed by a 3-on-3 scrimmage to conclude the week’s festivities. While we felt like the 3-on-3 scrimmage left a lot to be desired, it was still an excellent opportunity to familiarize ourselves with a loaded cupboard of prospects.
Marco Rossi, Adam Beckman, and Jesper Wallstedt rightfully garnered most of the attention. Rossi and Beckman already have a few NHL games under their belts, whereas Wallstedt is the first elite goaltending prospect the Wild have ever had. It’s no surprise that they, along with newcomer Brock Faber and 2022 first-round pick Liam Öhgren, were the primary attractions of the event.
By and large, fans got what they expected from those guys. Rossi and Beckman looked mature and ready to compete for roster spots. Wallstedt looked composed beyond his years. Faber and Öhgren calmed some nerves regarding Kevin Fiala’s departure.
But none of them quite caught our attention the way Hunter Haight did.
It didn’t take long to see why Bill Guerin’s scouts took a chance on Haight at 47th overall despite underwhelming OHL numbers. He dominated the 3-on-3 tournament, forming a lethal duo with Beckman en route to his squad winning the tournament. Haight instantly flashed an elite offensive toolkit with some highlight reel plays.
He may not have been the best player at development camp, but he left one hell of an impression in front of his new fanbase.
The scouting consensus on Haight before the draft was that he’s very skilled, but he couldn’t quite put everything together in the OHL last season. You wouldn’t have guessed by looking at his production, but Haight was widely regarded as one of the most skilled forwards in the entire draft.
In his final draft rankings, The Athletic’s Scott Wheeler said, “Haight has breakout season written all over him for next year. Things just didn’t really come together in Barrie this season, and the respective seasons of their players all suffered as a result. But Haight’s talent as an individual creator and finisher is real, and it feels like it’s only a matter of time until he’s filling the net in junior.”
Elite Prospects ranked Haight No. 34 in their final draft ranking, saying, “There’s a foundation of skills in place that should be the envy of most of his first-time draft-eligible peers, and some two-way diligence that speaks to an advanced level of maturity in his game, too.”
If Haight can even scratch the surface of his ceiling, it would be another Day 2 coup from the Judd Brackett-led scouting department. Brackett and Co. have done a remarkable job identifying mid- to late-round players with plenty of upside. Just look at his first two drafts in charge. Marat Khusnutdinov, Jack Peart, and Daemon Hunt were all Day 2 selections whose stock skyrocketed after the draft. If anybody knows what they’re doing regarding the NHL draft, it’s Brackett.
Guerin’s ability to delegate the drafting and prospect evaluation to the experts also plays an integral part in this process. Brackett has complete control over the draft process, and Guerin backs him fully. Knowing when to let others do your job for you is one of the best qualities an NHL GM can have, and Guerin does just that.
Haight is an excellent addition to a long list of high-ceiling Wild prospects. What we saw at last week’s prospect camp was just the beginning of his Wild story. He’ll head back to Barrie next season, but not before making a stop at Canada’s World Junior Summer Camp first. Haight was a late addition to the roster after Zach Dean couldn’t attend due to injury. He’s a long shot at making the World Junior roster next month, but it should be a valuable experience nonetheless.
There’s plenty to be excited about with Haight. He has loads of upside, is incredibly slick with the puck, and plays a complete 200-foot game. The only question is, can he put it all together and take the next step?