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  • 7-Round Minnesota Wild Mock Draft

    Image courtesy of Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
    Tony Abbott


    We're not keeping you waiting with a long intro. Hockey Wilderness is mocking all seven rounds of the Minnesota Wild's Draft. Barring any trades, which we will not be doing, the Wild own their first, second, fourth, fifth, and sixth-round picks, along with another fifth-rounder via the Jordan Greenway trade.

    So, who should the Wild pick? We'll be simulating all seven rounds with Draft Prospects Hockey, working off Bob McKenzie's Rankings, with the Randomness factor turned to a 7/10, and the Team Need factor at a 6/10. We'll stand in for the Wild's brain trust and make the picks.

    Round 1, Pick 13

    The Situation: We immediately face an extremely tough decision. Two surprises in the Top-12 picks in the Draft (Beckett Sennecke going No. 5 overall to the Montreal Canadiens and Cole Eiserman off the board at No. 12 to the Philadelphia Flyers) give us two primary options at vastly different positions.

    Berkly Catton and Carter Yakemchuk are on the board, leaving us to choose between a top center or a top defense prospect. Both are skilled, put up historic numbers in the WHL last year, and are worthy picks here at No. 13. So, which direction do we go?

    The Pick: Berkly Catton, C, WHL (Spokane Chiefs)

    It's a close, close call, and we're opening ourselves up to being scrutinized over this for a decade or more, but Catton gets the edge here. Why? Part of the reason is because Yakemchuk's red flag (a so-so skater at defense) stands out a bit more than Catton's (his slight 5-foot-10 frame). However, the bigger reason is team-building philosophy, specifically what Minnesota currently needs.

    The Wild haven't had a speed element at forward since Kevin Fiala left town. Minnesota absolutely won that trade from their perspective, getting a No. 1 defenseman in Brock Faber. Still, they have not gotten that Fiala-esque magic back in the lineup. Their biggest weakness since hasn't been defense; it's been secondary scoring. Catton is one of the fastest players in the draft. He's incredible in transition and can show off his playmaking ability at high speeds. 

    The Stanley Cup champion Florida Panthers could lock it down defensively but also had an incredible number of high-end forwards. Their blueline had one marquee name, Aaron Ekblad, and then filled in the rest around him. The decision here is to emulate the Florida model, assuming Faber is our No. 1 defenseman going forward and trusting ourselves to build the blueline around him.

    Round 2, Pick 45

    The Situation: The hope was to take Catton in Round 1, then come back with a physical defenseman in Round 2. The most intriguing options for that are gone, however, with Dominik Badinka (No. 26), Charlie Elick (30), EJ Emery (34), and Jesse Pulkkinen (38) all off the board. The top two forwards are Russian power forward Matvei Gridin (ranked 37th, per McKenzie), who played in the USHL last season, and Teddy Stiga (ranked 43rd), a smart, competitive, but short winger.

    Had we gone with Yakemchuk in the first round, Stiga would feel at home. However, Catton is a Stiga that's superior in almost every way. While defense is a lesser priority than forward, we still want to address Minnesota's blueline depth here.

    The Pick: Aron Kiviharju, LD, Liiga (HIFK)

    We're lifting a move from Judd Brackett's playbook: Look at the board and ask, Who fell further than they should? The answer is Kiviharju, who has had a knee injury, which kept him out of sight and out of mind for scouts this year. 

    Coming into the season, the left-shot defenseman was considered a first-rounder and probably a very high one. Elite Prospects writes about his stellar history in their Draft Guide: "From putting up historical numbers in the Finnish junior ranks to already being Finland’s best blueliner as a double under-ager in his first [U18 World Junior Championships] back in 2022, Kiviharju has special pedigree."

    As recently as late 2023, scouts were still very high on Kiviharju's prospects. Corey Pronman, who ranked him 19th, wrote, "He’s an exceptionally smart puck-mover. He sees the ice at a unique level and always has his head up looking to make a play." Smaht Scouting ranked him 21st in December 2023, predicting, "If Kiviharju falls outside the first, there is the potential for one of the bigger draft steals in recent history." We're rolling them dice. 

    Round 4, Pick 110
    The Pick: Timur Kol, LD, MHL (SKA St. Petersburg)

    At this point in the draft, it's less about playing the board anymore and more about finding guys we like. Kol comes to us at solid value (No. 94 in McKenzie's rankings) and is a very projectible defenseman. Kol was born about three weeks before the cut-off date for the 2024 Draft, meaning that he won't even turn 18 until late August.

    The 6-foot-3 defenseman is already playing games in the MHL (where he scored two goals and eight points in 14 games), with a two-game stint in the KHL. Josh Bell of McKeen's Hockey mentions him as a sleeper, saying, "Kol is an intelligent, two-way defender that brings some offensive upside along with a physical presence. He plays a reliable, safe game that coaches will love." It might take a bit (whether for developmental or KHL politicking reasons), but we've got a big, mobile, physical defenseman in the Wild organization.

    Round 5, Pick 140
    The Pick: Tomas Mrsic, C/W, WHL (Medicine Hat Tigers)

    We're still in "Taking Shots On Guys" mode, and Mrsic is worth taking a shot on because he takes shots very well. He scored 23 goals and 63 points in 62 WHL games this season, which is respectable, but there is so much more in the tank. "On pure talent, he's top-20 in the draft," says Elite Prospects, who graded him with the fifth-best shot in the draft while noting that "his skating isn't too far behind."

    But also: That shot. "Some of the best snipes of this draft cycle belong to Mrsic," EP raves. "He fires from tricky positions, in stride, and off the catch. Every release is packed with deception." Mrsic hasn't quite put it all together, but that seemingly isn't from a lack of effort. He might simply just not quite realize how talented he is. "He tends to defer to his linemates," FC Hockey notes,"[and] frequently passes up shooting opportunities."

    In Round 5, though, we're betting on talent.

    Round 5, Pick 142
    The Pick: Anthony Romani, C, OHL (North Bay Battalion)

    It's not a Wild draft unless we grab an over-ager. At Pick 142, we land the very last available player from McKenzie's board (No. 90) in Romani. The 6-foot-0 right-shot center went undrafted in 2023, then went on a revenge tour for North Bay, racking up 58 goals and 111 points after scoring just 23 goals and 43 points in his first draft-eligible season.

    Scott Wheeler ranked Romani as his No. 1 overage player in this draft. "He’s got an NHL shot," he wrote. "[Romani] plays offense with good timing and sense for spacing off coverage. He goes to the home plate area but also showed a midrange game this year."

    Romani feels like an excellent candidate to become a Caeden Bankier-type prospect, which is a decent outcome for a fifth-rounder.

    Round 6, Pick 174
    The Pick: Marcus Gidlöf, G, Sweden J20 Nationell (Leksands IF)

    My eye was on Mac Swanson, the 5-foot-7 forward who destroyed the USHL with 26 goals and 77 points in 55 games for the Fargo Force. Alas, the Dallas Stars sniped him at Pick 160. Swanson was sort of the end of our list of names to watch drop in the draft. So our focus changes to: Who is the best goalie available now?

    So, we're going in the opposite direction from Swanson, selecting someone who is 6-foot-6 and stops goals in Gidlöf. Goaltending prospects are a bit of an inexact science. Still, taking a late-round flier on one is never a bad idea.

    Gidlöf posted a .923 save percentage over 26 games in Swedish juniors and may just be getting started. McKeens' Derek Neumeier likes Gidlöf as an under-the-radar goalie option. "Not only does he naturally cover up a ton of the net, but he also now has enough strength to easily move around his crease and respond to the play."

    Hockey Prospecting gives him a 53% chance of becoming an NHLer, which sounds good enough for us here.

    Instant Reaction:

    We accidentally built an entire starting lineup here, with Catton, Mrsic, and Romani at forward, Kiviharju and Kol manning the left and right side of our defense, and Gidlöf in net. This feels fairly balanced in terms of skill set, with Catton bringing playmaking and Mrsic and Romani having good shots. Kiviharju is a puck-mover, while Kol should be a solid stay-at-home defenseman, even if he has potential to be more. 

    Going off Hockey Prospecting's projection models, we also come out solidly here. Catton is by far the highest-upside player in the bunch (59% chance of stardom, 68% chance of being an NHLer), but no one's star chances were below 13%. Our five skaters "should" produce 1.26 stars and 2.66 NHLers, which feels like a good haul for where we're drafting. Combined with the chances that Kiviharju returns to form following his knee injury and looks like a top prospect again, this feels like a very good scenario for this weekend.


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    Oh man. That would be an epically tough decision for Brackett…

    honestly though I think we’d have to go Yakemchuk in this situation. He fits too many needs over Catton. Getting back a Brent Burns sort of defenseman, along with Faber, Brodin, Chisholm, and Middleton, would pretty much set the blueline for the foreseeable future once Carter reached the NHL.

    Catton would be a great pick too but with Yurov coming over, the top-6 is gonna be pretty stacked already and we’d likely see Rossi get moved at that point just because of the similar skill sets and I don’t think he’d get us back a guy like Yalemchuk.

    Edited by B1GKappa97
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    Again, just take the best player left. If it's a big defender or a dynamic forward fine by me. (My fingers are more crossed that GMBGs eyeballs that it's not a Euro) 😀

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    1 hour ago, Citizen Strife said:

    So uh...now you can see what it would take to jump to #4...thanks but no thanks.

    CBJ willing to give up #4 says something too.  I think there is a lot of parity in the draft after the top 3.

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    53 minutes ago, Will D. Ness said:

    CBJ willing to give up #4 says something too.  I think there is a lot of parity in the draft after the top 3.

    I think its more about them building for the future. 

    If they wanted #13, #47 and next year's 1st I'd be willing to give that up honestly. You could land a guy like Zeev Buium or Zayne Parekh there who could turn into top-pair defenders with Faber for us and upgrade the power play. They'd make the NHL just in time for us to trade off Spurgy. 

    Shoot even Sam Dickinson, if they wanted somebody with better size and maybe some untapped offensive potential, would be a great snag there. 

    That would get us some clear upgrades over the options we'll have at #13 for sure.

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    I'd be looking at Lindstrom or Silayev at 4. Even with Lindstrom's 2 injuries, I think he'd be worth it. I also see him in the lineup next year.

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    1 hour ago, B1GKappa97 said:

    If they wanted #13, #47 and next year's 1st I'd be willing to give that up honestly.

    Maybe... I mean the timing is good to do something crazy and swing for the fences but next year's 1st could be another lottery pick.  I doubt it but maybe.  I think #47 and next years 2nd rd pick? 

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    I actually don't have too much issue trading picks for picks. I don't love NHL players for picks unless forced or looking to reduce cap expense.

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    47 minutes ago, Will D. Ness said:

    Maybe... I mean the timing is good to do something crazy and swing for the fences but next year's 1st could be another lottery pick.  I doubt it but maybe.  I think #47 and next years 2nd rd pick? 

    It could but given that we have some cap space and Geurin is allegedly looking to find a top-6 winger in UFA I have to assume that we'll be more productive next season. 

    And if we get better fortune in terms of health, particularly along the blueline, then I don't see why we should expect to be picking near the top-10 again. Will Gus and MAF be as bad combined as they were last year? That would be difficult to do and they'll have Wallstedt coming up at some point too. 

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