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  • FERRELL: Wild Can No Longer Take Conservative Draft Approach

    Giles Ferrell

    In the nearly 20-year history of the Minnesota Wild, they have drafted conservatively, to simply put it.


    The team -- more specifically general manager Doug Risebrough -- looked as if they were draft geniuses in the first four years, drafting Marian Gaborik, Mikko Koivu, Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Brent Burns in the first round between 2000-03. These were all players who would play significant roles on the team upon their arrival to the NHL.


    However, luck ran out on the Wild and they drafted bust after bust in the first round for the next five years.


    Then came in Chuck Fletcher as general manager in 2009, and there was renewed hope that the Wild could turn their drafting around. They did in a way in that they were not selecting busts, as the likes of Mikael Granlund, Jonas Brodin and Matt Dumba were selected in three of Fletcher's first four years.


    But even in the years since the Dumba pick, the Wild have done a good job of drafting NHL-caliber players in round one. One problem has been the Wild not having first-round picks -- none in 2013 and 2017 due to trades -- but they were more set on pushing their chips in and going for the Stanley Cup.

    Query Results Table
    Round Overall Team Player Nat. Pos Age To Amateur Team Amateur Lg. NHL GP G A PTS +/- PIM
    2000 1 3 Minnesota Wild Marian Gaborik CS RW 18 2018 Dukla Trencin Slovakia x 1035 407 408 815 95 492
    2001 1 6 Minnesota Wild Mikko Koivu FI C 18 2019 TPS Turku Finland x 973 201 487 688 68 564
    2002 1 8 Minnesota Wild Pierre-Marc Bouchard CA C 18 2014 Chicoutimi QMJHL x 593 110 246 356 6 190
    2003 1 20 Minnesota Wild Brent Burns CA D 18 2019 Brampton OHL x 1043 198 451 649 15 651
    2004 1 12 Minnesota Wild A.J. Thelen US D 18 Michigan State CCHA
    2005 1 4 Minnesota Wild Benoit Pouliot CA LW 18 2018 Sudbury OHL x 625 130 133 263 25 371
    2006 1 9 Minnesota Wild James Sheppard CA C 18 2015 Cape Breton QMJHL x 394 23 68 91 -38 192
    2007 1 16 Minnesota Wild Colton Gillies CA LW 18 2013 Saskatoon WHL x 154 6 12 18 -12 72
    2008 1 23 Minnesota Wild Tyler Cuma CA D 18 2012 Ottawa OHL x 1 0 0 0 0 2
    2009 1 16 Minnesota Wild Nick Leddy US D 18 2019 Eden Prairie High-MN x 660 60 224 284 -26 123
    2010 1 9 Minnesota Wild Mikael Granlund FI C 18 2019 HIFK Helsinki Finland x 477 94 228 322 26 122
    2011 1 28 Minnesota Wild Zack Phillips CA C 18 Saint John QMJHL
    2011 1 10 Minnesota Wild Jonas Brodin SE D 18 2019 Farjestad Sweden x 486 28 90 118 32 138
    2012 1 7 Minnesota Wild Mathew Dumba CA D 18 2019 Red Deer WHL x 342 56 94 150 34 184
    2014 1 18 Minnesota Wild Alex Tuch US RW 18 2019 USA U-18 USHL x 158 35 54 89 13 35
    2015 1 20 Minnesota Wild Joel Eriksson Ek SE C 18 2019 Farjestad Sweden x 148 16 21 37 -4 46
    2016 1 15 Minnesota Wild Luke Kunin US C 18 2019 Wisconsin Big Ten x 68 8 13 21 -12 40
    2018 1 24 Minnesota Wild Filip Johansson SE D 18 Leksand Jr. Sweden-Jr.

    Provided by Hockey-Reference.com: View Original Table

    Generated 6/21/2019.

    The main problem for the Wild in the first round of the draft is simple: They draft players with high floors, but not high enough ceilings. Meaning the player is expected to make the NHL, but they are not expected to be that game-changer the Wild are badly needing.


    Looking back at game-changing players the Wild have missed on is a slippery slope for any fan to take part in. It usually is followed by severe indigestion or causes you to run for your favorite beverage for some relief. Time and time again the Wild have whiffed on their pick and it has usually been followed later in the round by a player that goes on to be great leaving the fanbase asking questions.


    There is no better example of this -- although debatable -- than in the 2015 first round when Minnesota selected center Joel Eriksson Ek at 20th overall and watching winger and Burnsville native Brock Boeser get selected three spots later to Vancouver. Boeser has gone on to be regarded as one of the better young sharpshooters in the game today and Eriksson Ek is still trying to work his way up the Wild depth chart after two full uneven seasons.


    [caption id=attachment_51693" align="alignnone" width="2860]USATSI_8669134.jpg A great what could have been for the Wild when they passed on Brock Boeser for Joel Eriksson Ek in 2015. Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports[/caption]


    Then came the 2018 fiasco -- led by now new general manager Paul Fenton -- where Minnesota completely went off the board in round one by selecting defenseman Filip Johansson, a player that was more projected to go on day two. There is still hope in the front office that Johansson can make the NHL, but again, he would seemingly be more of an NHL-caliber player although nothing close to a game-changer.


    With the Wild roster in flux and the void of a game-breaker still remaining, the Wild can no longer take the conservative draft approach. They have to take their shot in round one at a player with a very high ceiling despite whatever risks may come with it.


    Yes, NHL draft picks take a couple of years before they reach the NHL, but the problem is still likely to remain for the Wild in 2021-22. They need a game-breaker. They have needed one since Gaborik's departure in 2009, and trying to trade for one has been proven unfruitful for Fletcher and so far Fenton -- although the jury is still out on some of his moves.


    "Safe is death" or as you may remember a team coined phrase from two years ago, "good is not good enough" is very much in play for the Wild on Friday night. They have to find a player who can potentially become an elite player with their 12th overall pick.


    If rounds three through seven of last year's draft is any indication of how the Wild will go in round one tonight, they should have no problem picking a player with that high ceiling.


    If Fenton and company do not pick a player with a high ceiling and go with just another NHL caliber player, then the question has to be asked. What is Fenton exactly trying to accomplish here?




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