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Hockey Wilderness

Shoulda, woulda, coulda.


Looking at the Wild's roster coming into the season and again at the deadline the depth didn't look too bad. As Gus played out a great season and Fleury continued to be pretty okay, the defense was sound. Kaprizov was on pace for fifty goals and after his injury Boldy stepped in and finished a nice season himself. There was good reason to think the Wild would have an easier path out of the first round with Kaprizov coming back for playoffs. Then Shaw and Ek both got hurt. The Wild had worked their way to the top of the Central but finishing third wasn't a giant disappointment. Not much to complain about before another frustrating first round exit. The depth wasn't there. Consideration about prospects and options is naturally something that has to happen cause the Wild have cap penalties. At the same time Oettinger beats us and the Wild had no first round pick in 2017 when Dallas took him late in the first round. I felt it was worthwhile to look at MN's recent draft history and progression with the expansion of Vegas and Seattle. One the Wild got wrong. The other they did right and only lost one player per the rules. I'll list a few players the Wild could have selected and the one or two they ended up picking. Total were three different GMs and management groups making these decisions. Hindsight is most certainly 20/20 because I would argue the Wild have not been outstanding in this department. Ek, Kaprizov, and Boldy being the significant pieces of value through this period of time.

2013: Soucy.(137) Otherwise nothing.

2014: Tuch.(18) Kaapo Kakhonen (109) We did get Middleton for Kakhonen so from 2013 & 2014 the Wild do have one nice asset to show for those two drafts.

2015: Joel Errikssonn Ek, Brock Boeser, Sebastian Aho, or Roope Hintz who went to Dallas one selection before the Wild took Jordan Greenway. The Wild could've used their Greenway pick on Elite Swede Rasmus Anddersson. The Wild love elite Swedes but have never had a Rassmus. Kaprizov was an afterthought and dumb-luck for Fletcher. 135th overall, Kirill is a perfect example of how the Wild haven't been complete failures in the draft in the past decade because with that many picks you'll get a few decent ones by default.

2016: Tage Thompson, Sam Steel, Luke Kunin. This eventually led to Knudi in the pipeline and He's a center, same as Kunin was. Thompson was big and lanky then but was fire for USNDPT or whatever it's called. I don't understand the criticism with Thompson then. His skating was average and he was thin. He went to STL and was thankfully for Buffalo the only player that made trading O'Rielly okay for them. We took Kunin because he was a solid two way player like Ek. The rankings had guys like Thompson, Howden, Steel, Kyrou, and Frederic down the list a little further. Bellows and Tufte were on the radar that year too cause ya know, one of us...

2017: No 1st Rounder cause it was traded to Arizona for Hanzal and White by XGMCF. Arizona picked wrong. They or the Wild could've had Oettinger or Robertson. Haha, Dallas laughing all the way to the Draft-bank. The Wild had no 2nd round pick either and they ended up with Lodnia 85th overall, and Mason Shaw at 97th. This was Chuck's last draft and he sent Haula and Tuch packing to put icing on the cake.(Both still doing fine in the NHL.)

2018: Not the strongest draft after the top ten picks but Joe Valeno, Ryan McLeod, or Fillipp Johannsson. Wild always go elite Swede. I thought the Wild should've traded up to get K'Andre Miller. I really thought that was gonna happen from a local kid, PR-thing. Again the Wild with no 2nd rounder but they took Jack McBain with the first pick in the 3rd round.(63) Anything for the Wild from 2018 you ask? Yeah Sam Hentges, otherwise Khovanov went from QMJHL stud to flunked out of the AHL.

2019: Matt Boldy, Cole Caufield, or Spencer Knight. At the time goaltending was an issue. This is a tough one but luck for Fenton cause he kinda couldn't go wrong here. The fans sorta wanted Caufield cause the Wild had no pure scorers. Everyone said "don't dump on the little guy." Well we got a chance to redeem ourselves with Rossi but we took it a step further in 2020 an selected a slower, less fiesty, Euro playmaker instead of a little pure goal scorer. Let me know how that works out. The Wild got Firstov and Beckman too so if Beckman makes it that would be good. The Wild need some draft returns.

2020: Centers Cole Perfetti, Anton Lundell, Seth Jarvis, and Dylan Holloway went in that order after the Wild took Rossi except Russian netminder slipped inbetween them at 11th. Dawson Mercer went 18th overall. That's really the significant part related to the Wild currently but when you get to the 2nd round there's Knudi and O'Rourke who went 37th & 39th. The Wild could've taken Brock Faber or Luke Evangelista who'd a winger but was looking very good for Nashville a few weeks ago. Daemon Hunt was the Wild's pick in the 3rd.(65)

2021: Here's the most interesting consideration around this draft as a matter of hindsight. MN has needed centers since Fletcher sent Haula packing with Tuch as an incentive. The Wild took Wellstedt 20th overall needing to solve a goalie question. Boston was 21st but just two picks later were the Oilers, who also had goaltending questions. The Wild picked Carson Lambos at 26th but Dallas was able to get Wyatt Johnston at 23rd. In a different hypothetical iteration could the Wild have got Johnston a center, and still picked Wellstedt? Knowing the Stars, Panthers, and Blue Jackets probably weren't gonna draft a goalie with their first but Edmonton might, the Wild could have been more aggressive to swap picks. Boston in particular is a team that might have wanted to shed cap somehow or pick up futures. Was there an angle to swap 1sts with Boston? Lambos had been hurt and was more of a reach since he had fallen in the draft rankings from a previous high. Is it a draft thing that these "Gurus" feel the need to select an under-radar guy that everyone else has overlooked or missed the boat on, in order to prove their guruity??? I have a gut feeling Minnesota thought Edmonton would select Wellstedt, perhaps Boston but it went how it went. Other than Johnston, Sillinger, and Jan Moser who was taken 60th in the 2nd, no other players outside the top 10 have played a notable number of NHL games. MN selected Jack Peart in the 2nd at 54th. Big-time playoff rookie Matthew Knies was taken 57th by Toronto. He was ranked 37th in Central Scouting as a winger. Not surprisingly he's 6'3 210lbs and was listed as such when drafted. Bigger stronger players seem to have success at the NHL level. I don't think that's an illusion.

2022: Elite Swede Ohgren, and Yurov were 19th and 24th overall. The Wild finally picked a center in the 2nd round. Hunter Haight was the 47th overall pick. I like that Mike Milne played AHL hockey this season after being selected 89th overall. Still pretty early to look at the most recent draft too critically. Other than Slapkofsky nobody has played any NHL games. Shane Wright with a few, but only about 50 total NHL games between all the picks from the 2022 draft.


I'll let somebody else build the spreadsheet but you can see areas where there was virtually no return. There's a few hits over the years but the significant pieces are few and far between. Let's hope the Wild's fortune improves in this area. The consensus seems to be that it is but so we'll continue to watch the time pass and the impact of the Bombardir, Hendricks, and McLeod development program which truly rubs in the "grit".


Main idea is, the draft matters. Look at the success for players the Wild had(Tuch) or could have had(Oettinger, Hintz, or Robertson) while showing little for those years of opportunity. It makes a big difference if players you select make it sooner than later or never. You obviously get better odds with top ten picks. That's why it's so frustrating that with Judd Brackett, the second "draft guru" in a row that the Wild have employed, 2020 hasn't paid dividends for MN. It has for other teams but not MN while other teams have found plenty of value for their organization in later rounds. The Wild will again draft in the late teens or twenties. They really need to get a center like Tage Thompson or Roope Hintz at the end of the first or second round.  Yeah, yea, yeah, I know it is a gamble but the Wild still don't have center depth all these years later since GMBG has taken over. I believe he has been trying. The money or players haven't been there. Getting Freddy and locking him up is proof GMBG is trying to pin down a reliable solution to establish that depth. But Freddy is no Hintz and the Wild wouldn't be able to afford him anyway. The Wild's success in the draft is as important as anything they're doing in the big picture to affordably improve the talent, culture, and inject the "grit". Looking at the drafts since 2013, apart from dumb luck have they injected much more than jack-shit?

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Great stuff Protec.  This timeline is proof that evaluating talent is a bit of a crap shoot.  And when an org gets lucky and finds a diamond in the rough that talent must be retained.  Wild don’t have a stellar track record in that dept.  there are many orgs that are right there with us.  Few teams have a cap hell situation like us which made the 2020-2023 drafts so important.  The org needs to strike gold in each of these drafts to avoid going sideways for a decade (2022-2032 when these draft picks should begin contributing).  The empirical results so far starting with Rossi are not encouraging.  The surprise regular season success last season and this season are a mirage IMO.  The first round exits prove that out. 

Office Space Monday GIF

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Another noteworthy observation is the time for Tage Thompson to be very good. Casey Middlestadt in Buffalo is another example of a guy who had a really nice year. Some players like Tuch were able to get an NHL job full time in just a handful of years, while some players step right in,(Lundell) or take 5+ years like Thompson before they are impressive. 

That leads me to a couple conclusions. One, Chuck Fletcher is an idiot cause he failed to draft well in 2016 & 2017 which is why the Wild currently have nothing now from that period. Top Fentonism cost us another important year that should have resulted in one player being on the Wild’s roster now. When you combine that with having given Tuch away, and Fenton not screwing up by getting Boldy, it’s like 1 for 5 getting guys that will make your roster in 4-5 years.

Conclusion two is that players take some time to arrive. Tuch, Ek, and Boldy didn’t step right into an NHL role but it was clear that they would be able to build on their early professional experience to become full time players who help your team. Rossi still might be able to do this but I will continue to make the same point about European players and their style of hockey not translating to the NHL. I didn’t make this up. It’s common knowledge that Euro guys are finesse, skill guys, with hockey IQ, and aren’t physical. It’s great to let players simmer in the minors but if you decide too soon that Tuch or Thompson aren’t gonna make it after two years of college and AHL, you could end up with nuthin and they’re scoring 30 or 40 goals. So is this what Rossi will need? Couple more years? Interesting to consider these timelines and historical context. The Wild could still see Rossi become a dominant little European force. Or, realize the North American style hockey players who were drafted later on would’ve been better picks. Is it safer to adhere to the proven trends and avoid the high-risk, high-reward contrast when selecting players who don’t fit an NHL mold? Ask NHL GMs who picked bigger players in 2020 who proved themselves against men or who had nice North American pedigrees? 

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