It normally is perhaps the most crazy 24 hours for the NHL and the Minnesota Wild. With wheeling and dealing as the league’s 30 General Managers attempt to achieve greater salary flexibility by a series of trades that often dealt troublesome contracts and picks, but at the end of the day not that many deals were done. The bundle-ing of picks and bad salaries was not tempting to enough GM’s for them to pull the trigger on trades but no doubt there were lots and lots of phone calls and all kinds of negotiations going on. I am going to take a bit different approach then I normally do. As I drove back home to Minnesota, I was listening to KFAN (AM 1130) on the radio in my car and radio personality Dan Barriero. While I would never call Dan my favorite KFAN personality he does a decent job most of the time and finds ways to be entertaining and insightful. During Thursday’s broadcast he read an English tennis blog that attempted to describe the mixed feelings of tension and boredom of the 11 hour marathon tennis match between American John Isner and Frenchman Nicolas Mahut. The blog itself was hilarious, as he accurately captured those mixed emotions of the match but also just how bizarre and grueling it was for both the players and the spectators who just couldn’t stop watching it. It was pure brilliance and its mix of wit (especially the continual zombie references) and description brought a few chuckles in the midst of a four-hour long car ride.
So I am going to try to recapture the feeling of the 1st round of the 2010 Entry draft up until the point the Wild approached the podium at Staples Center and made their selection. I hope you enjoy it, and I promise after this prolonged sort of introduction into my feelings as the 1st round unfolded I will go into a more conventional discussion about these draftees (both from Day 1 & 2) potential and just how well I think Wild did overall and player by player.
5:15PM – After shelling out $10 for ‘event’ parking, I arrive at Tom Reid’s Hockey City Pub in St. Paul. I notice a small sign noting the occasion of the NHL Entry Draft, I walked inside to a sparsely filled bar. I scanned around towards the back room and eventually strolled up to the bar and took full advantage of the 2 for 1 drink special the NHL Draft occasion had provided me.
5:45PM – A few more Wild fans started to trickle into the establishment, and we then found out that Tom Reid’s Hockey City Pub had produced “draft day information packets” and we grabbed a few and began perusing them even though I felt a bit nerdy as I had brought my 2010 International Scouting Service Draft Guide as well as my movement tracking Central Scouting Final rankings list not to mention my NHL Draft Preview issue of the Hockey News which coincidentally was the “draft information packet” Mr. Reid had so generously provided his patrons. The feeling at the time was of nervous anticipation but also a bit cheerful as the beers started to make people feel a bit more social.
6:00PM – The staff at Tom Reid’s Hockey City Pub have turned all the TV’s to the NHL Network and its simulcast of the TSN broadcast of the 1st round, piping the audio through the sound system. We hear the sound of TSN’s James Duthie‘s voice echo as he immediately begins with the drama of whether 1st Overall will be Taylor Hall or Tyler Seguin, a drama that in all honesty few Wild fans could really careless about. We just want the drama to end and for the broadcasters to stop yapping about either of them. More Wild fans move into the bar and the anxiety is slowly starting to build.
6:08PM – Human Oompa Loompa and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman walks out to the podium under his normal serenade of boo’s before immediately addressing the crowd at Staples Center and quickly getting them to cheer by gushing about the great hospitality of the people of Los Angeles and the Kings organization. Bettman then announces that the Edmonton Oilers are on the clock and the TSN crew can’t help themselves to blather on about whether it will be Hall or Seguin. Edmonton Oilers’ GM Steve Tambellini looks confident as he is the only general manager in the building who knows exactly who they will be picking in this draft.
6:12PM – The Oilers consortium makes their way to the draft podium, folded blue and orange jersey in hand. TSN attempts to do whatever it can to turn this into a dramatic climax, showing the split screen of Taylor Hall and Tyler Seguin. At this point a part of me hopes the Oilers shock everyone and take Cam Fowler and make the TSN guys trip over themselves trying to explain what in the hell just happened. Yet the big shocker was not meant to be, and the Oilers took the best kid in this draft, selecting Taylor Hall. As TSN runs the video footage of Hall scoring goal after goal for the Windsor Spitfires and Bob McKenzie and Pierre McGuire shower him with all kinds of praise I begin to think of just how the Wild are going to have to face him perhaps as many as 6 times next season and its not a good thing. Boston is on the clock but they are not going to need much time to think about who they’re going to select.
6:22PM – Boston Bruins quickly make their way to the podium and select Tyler Seguin. TSN captures the moment well by showing a few shots on Toronto Maple Leafs GM Bryan Burke, who could’ve had Seguin if he had not traded the pick to Boston in the Phil Kessel deal. After Seguin has his obligatory photo op with team execs and a few select scouts the 2nd Overall pick makes it over to the TSN draft table where he’s asked how he feels about going 2nd to Taylor Hall. Seguin answers the question with class, a sign of his character and the predictable portion of the 1st round is over. The anxiety is really starting to build.
6:34PM – The Florida Panthers make their way to the podium. Like most people I am guessing they’re going to take Cam Fowler, the #3 ranked North American according to CSS and #5 according to ISS. Instead they take Erik Gudbranson, and its hard to fault them at all for taking a guy who many compare to Chris Pronger. Gudbranson is a big defenseman who plays a physical and mean game, and has a cannon of a shot. A great pick by the Panthers and one that will help their defense greatly. A mild surprise but one that makes a lot of sense.
6:45PM – Columbus is up next, and as I sit there thinking of just who the Blue Jackets might pick part of me hopes they shock everyone and take Kirill Kabanov which will make everyone question the sanity of their GM Scott Howson after feeling the pain of watching Nikita Filatov leave for Russia after he felt he didn’t get a fair shot, and the enigmatic Nikolai Zherdev before him. The Blue Jackets give us the first big surprise of the 1st round by selecting Portland’s (WHL) Ryan Johansen. Virtually none of the big hockey experts had Johansen going that early, but the Blue Jackets clearly liked the big playmaker a lot. Many of the big mock drafts had us taking Johansen so its sort of a surprise to see him gone this early, I began to wonder what other surprises we could see.
6:56PM – The New York Islanders are up next as their entourage (literally and figuratively as Entourage star Kevin Connolly was apart from this group) and you could hear people say, what the hell is that guy from Entourage doing up there? As Isles GM Garth Snow moves over to the podium he provided a dagger to my draft day hopes when the Islanders picked Nino Niedereitter 5th Overall. I know a muttered more than a few colorful adjectives at this point as I still believe he was the most ideal player for the Wild to select as he combined speed, size, scoring ability and grit. The Islanders are going to get a terrific player and now I felt as though the Wild’s forward hopes rested on the selection of Jeff Skinner but would he still be there by then? The draft really started to seem out of control at this point, and I pointed out to those around me that this could be a nice recruiting boon for the OHL and WHL respectively as they had complete control over the first five picks of the draft. It was right around at this moment that Stephane Veilleux arrived with a few friends. The former Wild left winger looked to be in good physical shape. Who says you need to go to Le Appertif to see Wild celebrities as we had Veilleux and Tom Reid, what more do you need? We didn’t have to put up with Mike Greenlay and Dan Terhaar and deal with the lameness that is Nordy either!
7:06PM – The Tampa Bay Lightning, and their much overhauled management group which includes new GM Steve Yzerman makes their way to the podium and without too much fanfare selects Prince George’s Brett Connolly. A friend of mine at our table sort of throws his hands up in the air in frustration at this as another skilled, goal scoring forward goes off the board. I was not too bothered by this as this kid had struggled with injuries throughout most of last season and that to me was a big red flag. I could be wrong but at this point I did not feel this was a risk the Wild could afford to take. The anxiety really was starting to approach ulcer level as the skilled, goal scorers seemed to be flying off the board. The fact #3 rated man Cam Fowler was still available was a big surprise as a few teams who I really felt would be leaning towards adding to their defense (Islanders and Lightning especially) went with forwards instead.
7:15PM – The Carolina Hurricanes, another team who seems to need quality defensive prospects walks up to the podium where the provide another dagger and select Kitchener Rangers’ sniper Jeff Skinner. Skinner looks overjoyed as he meets Hurricanes’ GM Jim Rutherford. The Hurricanes now are fairly loaded in skilled forward prospects as they are likely going to be using Drayson Bowman and Zach Boychuk next season and perhaps Zac Dalpe as well. Skinner gives them another quality finisher and the Hurricane’s gain is a giant loss for the Wild who were rather high on him. Cam Fowler must really be going through some mental agony as he continues to slide and no doubt the Wild are scrambling and Minneapolis Star Tribune‘s Michael Russo starts tweeting how the Wild are now being swamped with offers to trade down as they will likely have a chance at Fowler or Brandon Gormley when they go to make their pick.
7:26PM – With Minnesota’s best forward options now very limited the anxiety at Tom Reid’s Hockey City Pub is really intense as fans are now actively discussing all kinds of possible options for the Wild; especially trading down or taking one of the two blue chip defenseman that are well within reach. A friend of mine then shrugs his shoulders and suggests Alexander Burmistrov while I offer up Emerson Etem as a possibility but trading down seems like a very realistic option to consider. The Rangers go to the podium and select Burmistrov and the Wild’s nightmare continues. With 8 picks before them, and 7 forwards have been taken and that does not bode well for the Wild as they are about to make their selection. I turned to my fellow Wild fans and said we have to pick Fowler or we’re ‘screwed’ (actually something a little bit stronger than that).
7:35PM – I quickly ask one of the other fans to check her Blackberry to see if there are any tweets mentioning a possible trade in the works. The TSN feed shows Wild GM Chuck Fletcher on the phone, while I discuss why this team either has to take Fowler or trade down. Just as I say that, the Wild contingent stands up, folded jersey in hand and begins their walk to the podium. The look of the Wild’s entourage is gloomy at best, Fletcher’s face looks sullen and depressed. After giving a very muffled shout out to the Official Draft party at Le Appertif in Woodbury which draws boo’s from the Wild fans at Tom Reid’s Hockey City Pub, Fletcher wastes no time in announcing the team selects HIFK’s Mikael Granlund. Even as they wait for Granlund to make his way to the stage the Wild consortium appears emotionless and Fletcher gives their newly acquired Finnish forward a weak greeting before they go to their obligatory photo op with the Minnesota green sweater. The selection was met with virtually no real reaction at all, and as the TSN guys began to breakdown the selection talking about his tremendous “hockey sense” most people shook their heads and began scoffing at his small size and apparent skillset as a playmaker making comparison’s to currently concussed Wild forward Pierre-Marc Bouchard. I would later hear from a friend’s Blackberry that someone tweeted there were cheers over at Le Appertif. On Saturday I read the Minneapolis Star Tribune account of the selection where the Wild could not make a deal to trade down and then were “very excited” to have a chance to select a player with such skill as Granlund. Intriguing Fletcher would say he was “very excited” when he seemed unable to conjure up even a token smile as he met with this player that allegedly “excited” him. Fletcher repeated to mention this ‘excitement’ in an interview he gave on WCCO’s Sports Huddle show with Dave Mona and Mike Max. If that’s an ‘excited’ Chuck Fletcher then he could give Ben Stein a run for his money as a master of the deadpan. So let’s take a look at Mikael Granlund.
1st Round (9th Overall)
Center – Mikael Granlund ~ HIFK Helsinki (Sm-Liiga)
Height: 5’10” Weight: 180lbs Shoots: Left
CSS Final ranking: 1st (Euro) ISS Final ranking: 15th The Hockey News‘ ranking: 10th
2009-10 Stats: 43GP 13G 27A = 40pts 2 PIM’s
Talent Analysis: Mikael Granlund is a dynamic, playmaking forward who has outstanding hockey sense and on-ice vision. ISS called Granlund the best puckhandler, best little guy, and best playmaker available in this year’s draft. Another glowing endorsement of Granlund’s ability is his performance in the Finnish Sm-Liiga playing against men well into their 30’s which sets him apart from other prospects who are playing college hockey or major junior where was nearly a point-per-game. This means he’ll be ready sooner than most European players who often are drafted out of European Division II or Junior leagues. Most often compared to smallish Finnish centreman Saku Koivu, Granlund is a outstanding competitor who is not afraid to muck and grind along the boards or go into the high traffic areas on the ice. His outstanding hands also make him a prime candidate to becoming a shootout ace, and he has good finishing ability but could stand to shoot the puck more. The Oulu, Finland-native is very shifty making him difficult to check and he projects to be a top 3 forward. Bottom Line: Granlund is a high end forward who is at least one full season away from really challenging for a spot with the Wild. A great playmaking forward, who seems to have a lot of ability but tough to really get a handle on since he has limited experience playing in North America. The Wild wanted to add skill to its group of prospect forwards and Granlund fits that realm, even though he is not what you would call a big goal producer.
See the Wild select Mikael Granlund as well as the TSN highlight package and commentary in the NHL video link listed above. You can judge for yourself how ‘excited’ Chuck Fletcher seems to be. In the links below tracks the other Minnesotans who heard their names selected in the 1st round of the draft.
See the Kings select Duluth, Minnesota-native Derek Forbort 15th Overall and receiving a quasi-standing ovation at Staples Center, although they certainly love the retro jersey they gave him to wear. A bit of a surprise since the Kings have so many outstanding defenseman in their system already with two very good players in Colten Teubert and Thomas Hickey to have yet play for Los Angeles. Forbort is a very well rounded defenseman who has great skill, excellent mobility, good size who uses it effectively and good offensive instincts.
See Blaine’s Nick Bjugstad go 19th Overall to the Florida Panthers who seem to be making a big statement in this year’s draft after already have added Erik Gudbranson. Bjugstad is a player who I soured on after his lackluster state tournament, but its impossible not to see why scouts like him since has the bloodlines (nephew of former NHL’er Scott Bjugstad) and the physical size and strength to be a great power forward. He has a great shot as taught to him by his famous uncle and I think he’ll do well for the Panthers.
See the Montreal Canadiens select Jerred Tinordi 22nd Overall. At nearly 6’6″ Tinordi is a huge presence and plays a strong physical game although not quite as nasty as his father, Mark Tinordi a former defenseman and member of the Minnesota North Stars. The Burnsville, Minnesota native continues an intriguing trend of the Canadiens in selecting Minnesota-born players as the last few drafts have featured high selections from the State of Hockey in David Fischer (20th Overall in 2006), Ryan McDonagh (12th Overall in 2007), and Danny Kristo.
See the Ducks select Emerson Etem 29th Overall. While not a native Minnesotan, Etem has a Minnesota connection as he left his homestate to develop his game at Fairbault, Minnesota’s Shattuck-St. Mary’s which has been an incredible hockey factory of the NHL’s elite players like Sidney Crosby, Zac Parise and Jonathan Toews just to name a few. I was disappointed that the Wild did not pick him at 9th, as he combines great speed, character and a strong work ethic having as a youngster taking a 2 1/2 sojourn across the Los Angeles area to train with fitness guru T.R. Goodman where he worked out with guys like Jeremy Roenick and Chris Chelios. How many 14 year old kids do you know who would do that? The Ducks got a fantastic steal in being able to pick Cam Fowler but now have another in Etem and the locals loved it.
See the New York Islanders select Warroad’s Brock Nelson 30th Overall. With Kevin Connolly making the pick, Nelson goes to a team that is steadily becoming loaded with good young talent. I am not real sold on Nelson’s skating ability but his hands and offensive instincts are very impressive. He has great size and just knows where to be on the ice in order to score goals and does not shy away from racing back to help out defensively. He played well at the State Tournament (better than Bjugstad) the last few years and it will be interesting to see if that translates to big points at North Dakota as it did for fellow Warroad alum and former 1st rounder T.J. Oshie.
2nd Round (39th Overall)
Right Wing – Brett Bulmer ~ Kelowna Rockets (WHL)
Height: 6’2″ Weight: 175lbs Shoots: Right
CSS Final ranking: 65th (NA) ISS Final ranking: 72nd The Hockey News‘ ranking: N/A
2009-10 Stats: 65GP 13G 27A = 40pts 95 PIM’s
Talent Analysis: Simply put, no one else in the draft saw their stock rise as much as Brett Bulmer. According to CSS, he rose 99 spots after being rated 164th in their Mid-term assessment. Bulmer has a booming shot and a great frame that makes him a promising prospect to become a power forward. Yet he needs to fill out that 6’2″ frame, so he can physically be the bull in a china shop he desperately wants to be. Bulmer must also work on his skating but scouts note that he certainly has the character and work ethic to take the necessary steps to do so. An intriguing project forward. Bottom Line: This was a big reach by the Wild with their first pick of the 2nd round as they opted to pass on more proven offensive talent available at the time like Jordan Weal and Teemu Pulkkinen. If Bulmer doesn’t pan out, you really have to question the decision to draft a project like him.
2nd Round (56th Overall)
Left Wing – Johan Larsson ~ Brynas (Sweden Jr. Elite)
Height: 5’10” Weight: 200lbs Shoots: Left
CSS Final ranking: 34th (Euro) ISS Final ranking: 29th The Hockey News‘ ranking: N/A
2009-10 Stats: 40GP 15G 19A = 34pts 80 PIM’s
Talent Analysis: Sometimes you hear broadcasters and coaches talking about the sort of players you need to win the big games; guys who will do whatever it takes to make a play, making whatever sacrifice is necessary time after time with little thought to their own well-being. Johan Larsson is that type of player, a heart and soul type of forward who other teams hate to play against. Rated by ISS as the best defensive forward and best faceoff man available in this year’s draft he is an intriguing guy who has the versatility of playing either wing or at center. While Larsson could stand to add strength to his frame, he has not let that hold him back from dropping down to block shots or taking the puck to the net with a sense of purpose. Larsson loves to dish out hits and his totals are all due to the sheer effort he gives each and every shift. He is comfortable playing in all situations, whether on the penalty kill or crashing the crease on the power play. Bottom Line: A small but versatile energy forward who oozes effort, and is a relentless force on the ice.
2nd Round (59th Overall)
Left Wing – Jason Zucker ~ U.S. National Development Program (USHL)
Height: 5’10” Weight: 174lbs Shoots: Left
CSS Final ranking: 51st (NA) ISS Final ranking: 30th The Hockey News‘ ranking: 54th
2009-10 Stats: 60GP 29G 24A = 53pts 27 PIM’s
Talent Analysis: The Wild dealt its 3rd and 4th round picks (69th and 99th selection respectively) to the Florida Panthers to move up to pick Las Vegas, Nevada-native Jason Zucker. Zucker moved to California at the age of 10 just for the purpose of advancing his game by playing for Los Angeles based hockey programs before eventually relocating again to Michigan to play with the National Development Program. His best asset is his speed, which he uses effectively on the forecheck. Despite a solid performance at this year’s World Junior Championships where helped Team USA win a gold medal, scouts are not sold on his hands and question his ability to finish his scoring chances. Like most kids his age he needs to improve his strength but he should have a good opportunity to do so when he attends the University of Denver next fall. A great competitor he is another young player who has tremendous work ethic who could be a very effective checking winger at the NHL level. Bottom Line: Probably best projects to be a 3rd line checker, but his speed will be most welcome on the forecheck.
See Minnesota move up by trading its 3rd and 4th round picks (69th and 99th respectively) to the Florida Panthers to select Las Vegas’ Jason Zucker 59th Overall. A fast player who likes to hit, and crash the net for scoring opportunities he is a hard working player who would be a natural fit for the Wild’s system. The Wild also dealt its 5th round pick (129th Overall) to the San Jose Sharks in the deal that brought us Brad Staubitz.
Here is an interview between Heidi Androl and Jason Zucker. Its a bit light on insight as to what Zucker can do since it talked more about his origins and the other guys he played with as opposed what he will bring to the Wild. Yet he seems like a kid with a good head on his shoulders.
6th Round (159th Overall)
Goaltender – Johan Gustafsson ~ Farjestad (Swedish Jr. Elite)
Height: 6’2″ Weight: 202lbs Catches: Left
CSS Final ranking: 5th (Euro) ISS Final ranking: 4th The Hockey News‘ ranking: 94th
2009-10 Stats: ??
Talent Analysis: A few years ago the Chicago Blackhawks uncovered a very raw talent who was moonlighting as a Zamboni driver named Antti Niemi in Finland. In some ways Johan Gustafsson is similar to Niemi, a big but raw and unrefined goaltending talent. Very agile, with excellent lateral movement his positioning can be suspect at times. His glove is very quick but inconsistent yet he still managed to be called up to play in some games in the Eliteserien and did not look out of place. Bottom Line: A bit of a long-term project goaltender who has terrific physical tools and with a little refinement could morph into a pretty special puck stopper.
7th Round (189th Overall)
Right Wing – Dylan McKinlay ~ Chilliwack Bruins (WHL)
Height: 6’0″ Weight: 162lbs Shoots: Right
CSS Final ranking: N/R ISS Final ranking: N/R The Hockey News‘ ranking: N/R
2009-10 Stats: 72GP 20G 23A = 43pts 57 PIM’s
Talent Analysis: The Wild have traditionally gone way off the board with one of their selections and that would happen once again when the team selected unranked Dylan McKinlay with its last pick in the draft. The speedy winger has great skills but his limited body strength really hinders him in a lot of ways as he is easy to body off the puck. The Bruins were a midling team, and McKinlay used his speed effectively at both ends of the ice. He is the type of player that could fill out and blossom into a steal or the kind that will flatline. Bottom Line: A kid who could turn out to be a gifted scorer if he adds strength, but must learn to be more consistent in his shifts. Adds depth at forward as he does have some offensive ability.
So there you have it, the entire Minnesota Wild draft. I must give the scouting staff credit they kept their focus on adding forwards that possessed both grit and skill. Yet at the same time I think they passed on some players with more scoring ability like Pulkkinen and Jared Knight that they may regret not picking down the road. Overall, I would rate this Wild draft class as a “B-” where they stayed focus on the correct position but I think they overvalued grit rather than scoring ability which is really what Minnesota’s prospect pool of forwards lack the most. Colton Gillies, Cody Almond, and Carson McMillan are all big grinding type forwards and youngster Jere Sallinen is more of a checking forward yet they added a few more in Larsson and Zucker.