It’s officially three days before the free agency period starts. The draft is over. The die has been cast on the players that the Minnesota Wild selected and it’s now a waiting game to see how they progress.
But what do they look like initially?
Let’s take a look, shall we?
Round 1, Pick 9 – Mikael Granlund, C, HIFK Finland – I already mentioned what I think about this pick. Let’s just say this, it’s a tremendous pick for a team that is rebuilding, but not rebuilding.
Granlund is a smooth skating, fast player with incredible vision. He also plays a lot bigger than his 5’10”, 180-pound frame.
He gets to the puck. He gets to the net. He gets points.
The bottom line is that this kid is going to help the Wild in a big, big way, possibly as soon as next season.
Round 2, Pick 39 – Brett Bulmer, RW, Kelowna Rockets – The Wild went a little off the board with this pick. Bulmer was one of the fastest rising players in terms of his CSS Rankings, skyrocketing himself up to number 65 in the Final Rankings from number 164 in the Midterm Rankings.
He’s a project, sure, but he also exhibited a lot of promise in the second half of his season.
He proved to be a very quick learner this season in the WHL. He plays a pro-style game, even if he is still lacking a bit in the development area. As Kelowna coach Ryan Huska told NHL.com, “He doesn’t say a lot. When we talk to him, it’s yes or no, and then he applies what we tell him.”
While much has yet to be discovered about Bulmer, one thing is for sure. For a project pick, that sort of mentality bodes very, very well.
Round 2, Pick 56 – Johan Larsson, LW, Brynas Jr. – Larson was considered the best player in the world at the Under-18 World Championships this year. He led Sweden to a silver medal.
He has great hockey sense and had a decent season with Brynas.
He scored 34 points in 40 games. He also plays with a bit of an edge, tallying 80 penalty minutes in that time. Larsson was ranked 34 in European Skaters by the CSS. He has plenty of upside that the Wild can look forward to.
Round 2, Pick 59 – Jason Zucker, LW, US U-18 NTDP – Zucker may have the most upside drafted by the Wild in the second round. In fact, the Wild coveted Zucker so much that they traded their third and fourth round picks to the Florida Panthers just so they could select the young winger from Las Vegas.
Zucker has become known as a big game player and has the potential to become a big time goal scorer. Zucker and goaltender Jack Campbell are the only two players to have won three gold medals in the last year.
In other words, this kid knows how to win.
In addition to his winning experience, Zucker also led the U.S. Developmental Team in goal scoring, with 29 goals.
He’s fast, he’s gritty, he’s competitive and he’s got himself a nasty streak that could translate well to the NHL.
Round 6, Pick 159 – Johan Gustafsson, G, Farjstad Jr. – Many people thought it was surprising that Johan Gustafsson fell as far as he did. Former Wild assistant General Manager Tommy Thompson actually had the young Swede rated 44th overall in his rankings.
Gustafsson was a large reason why the Swedish Under-18 team made it to the finals in the U-18 World championships. He is a big and athletic goalie. More importantly, he is a young player with a great attitude.
It will likely be a few years before Gustafsson is ready to sniff the bigs, but he gives the Wild a fantastic goalie prospect in their organization.
Round 7, Pick 189 – Dylen McKinlay, RW, Chilliwack Bruins – With their last pick of the draft, the Wild selected McKinlay. McKinlay had a solid second season, totaling 20 goals and 42 points in 72 games with the Bruins.
Overall, the Wild had a fantastic draft.
They recognized the need for forwards in their system. They used the first two rounds to pick up four forwards that could legitimately make a huge impact on the team down the road.
Fletcher utilized the assets that he had. He decided not to make a splash but to make trades and picks that will have a lasting effect on this franchise. I would have liked to see the Wild land a number two center that could help the team immediately. I’m sure many Wild fans would agree, the trades and draft picks were both extremely shrewd and addressed immediate needs in the organization.
While this draft may not make an immediate impact on the squad, I firmly believe that Wild pundits and fans alike will look back at this draft five or six years down the road and point to this as the start of an organization that is filled with skill and character players from top to bottom.
Overall Grade: A