Well, the Wild went into the first round of the draft with one simple mandate: take the best player available.
With both Cam Fowler and Brandon Gormley still available when the Wild came up to pick at No. 9, there was a lot of discussion at the draft table.
Now, I wasn’t sitting anywhere near the draft table, but I imagine that the conversation had something to do with whether to take the “best player available” or whether to draft to the team’s needs.
Fortunately, the Wild’s front office blinked and a less than enthusiastic Chuck Fletcher announced that the Minnesota Wild selected forward Mikael Granlund from HIFK Helsinki.
Granlund, a 5’10”, 180 pound center, averaged nearly a point per game in his rookie season for HIFK, playing as a 17-year-old in a league of men.
He is an exceptional playmaker and a player with terrific hockey sense—a player that should thrive under Richards’s up tempo, aggressive system. In fact, Granlund has been called the most imaginative playmaker in the draft.
Needless to say, I like this pick.
The Wild have a lot of depth in their system at defense, between young up-and-comers in Tyler Cuma and Marco Scandella, more established AHL players in Justin Falk and Maxim Noreau, and players who have sniffed the roster in Nate Prosser and Clayton Stoner.
What they don’t have a lot of are forwards.
Cody Almond and Casey Wellman are the only two players that are even close to being ready to compete in the NHL and the Wild need depth at forward—more notably at center.
With Granlund, the Wild have found a player that could actually be NHL-ready this season were it not for his existing contact with HIFK—a player that they hope will turn into another Mikko Koivu-type find from Finland.
Time will tell whether or not Granlund is that player but, for now, Wild fans can take solace in the fact that the team got a player who is very, very highly thought of.
On the other hand, things didn’t all come up roses for the Wild.
The team got their guy, to be sure, but Fletcher seemed much less than excited to take Granlund at the No. 9 spot.
It was quite obvious that Fletcher was listening to offers to move down and take their man later and try to get a couple more picks out of the deal, but it didn’t work out.
After that didn’t work out, Fletcher considered moving back into the first round in a round that saw teams moving up, down, and all around with different picks.
So, what does this point to?
Well, first of all, that the Wild have absolutely zero assets that they’re willing to part with that are worth a first round pick. Second, that even the ones that they have that have value don’t have the value that they once did.
So, where does that leave the Wild?
Well, this isn’t going to be a situation where they get better by leaps and bounds.
It’s going to be baby steps.
They’re going to improve through shrewd drafting and shrewd signings and, every once in a while, a shrewd trade. Until the stock of their players begins to go up again, however, it’s just going to be a matter playing the waiting game.