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  • Minnesota Should Stick and Pick At 13

    Image courtesy of Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports
    Justin Hein


    Today, draft season turns into draft day, and it’s becoming clearer which prospects each team has a chance to draft. Every team keeps its plans secret. Still, it’s ultimately the same strategy: They want to leave the draft with the best players they can pick.

    Despite all the smoke screens, that inescapable truth gives us a pretty good idea of where each player will be drafted. Fans and scouts know which players have a similar level of talent, and understanding those tiers provides better analysis than trying to guess the exact order in which the draft will fall. 

    Those tiers are shaping up favorably for the Wild. With the 13th overall pick, Minnesota will likely have access to an impact player because of this year’s deep crop of talent. 

    But how can we be sure? 

    Even if public analysts can’t nail down the exact order or miss on a few big risers or fallers, they have a good idea of which players are in similar talent tiers. That’s especially true after gathering a great deal of rankings and mock drafts because it helps remove the bias of individual analysts, creating a consensus board. 

    These consensus big boards are surprisingly effective in predicting which players will be available at each pick. It’s also a great way to visualize which players almost certainly won’t be available for the Wild to pick and which could fall.

    Curtis Isacke from Sound of Hockey compiled his consensus board using 20 mock drafts from widely respected draft analysts such as The Athletic’s Corey Pronman, Elite Prospects, and NHL Central Scouting. 

    SOH Big Board - 2024.JPG

    Some of the names above 13 might fall further than expected, but by definition, Minnesota should be able to select one of the top 13 names and whoever is left after that. So, who do the experts think will be available when the Wild put in their card? 

    To answer that question, The Athletic’s Joe Smith interviewed two public draft analysts and an anonymous NHL scout, asking which players will most likely be available when Minnesota picks at 13. They settled on six likely candidates: centers Berkly Catton and Konsta Helenius, wingers Tij Iginla and Cole Eiserman, and defensemen Zayne Parekh and Carter Yakemchuk. 

    Minnesota likely won’t be able to pick from all six. However, they can choose one or two of these players in nearly any mock draft, which squares with the consensus board above. 

    The dream in this situation is for an elite prospect to tumble down the draft board for unforeseen reasons. Danila Yurov’s Wild origin story comes to mind. He was one of the best pure prospects in the 2022 draft class, but there were concerns about how early he could leave Russia. Not only was he under contract with his KHL club, but the Russian invasion of Ukraine made it even more uncertain when Russian prospects would be able to play in the NHL. 

    Parekh (D) may represent something close to that scenario. The Athletic’s Scott Wheeler wrote, “I expect him to go before 13.” In the same article, an anonymous NHL scout agreed. 

    Parekh profiles as a prototypical power-play quarterback. He has the hands, agility, and vision to create offense at five-on-five and the man advantage. According to NHLe (a statistic based on goal-scoring, point-scoring, and the relative difficulty of different minor leagues), Parekh’s offensive production is similar to a forward who would usually be drafted in the top 15. 

    Parekh vs. Boldy HP.JPG

    If Parekh falls, it will be due to his defensive game. He’s not an unwilling defender, but he’s only 6-foot-0, 179 lbs. At 18 with a February birthday, Parekh is also relatively old for this draft class, so he has less time to grow. If Parekh’s defensive game is successful, he’ll need to play a possession style where his team plays with the puck enough to offset his defensive struggles. Ultimately, Parekh represents the most likely example of a falling player that the Wild scoop up as a pleasant surprise. 

    Like Parekh, the other five players above have one or two high-powered skills and some holes in their game that they need to shore up before they can make an impact in the NHL. They each produced impressive goal and point totals, with varying concerns about their willingness to defend or their vision with the puck. 

    McKeen’s 2024 draft guide ranked each of them in their list of superlatives. Eiserman headlines the list with the best shot in the draft -- ahead of presumptive first-overall pick Macklin Celebrini. They listed Iginla, Catton, and Helenius in the top 10 “smartest forwards.” Yakemchuk was ranked the sixth “best body checker/most physical,” eighth-best shot, and sixth “best stickhandler/most creative.” No matter which player they select, he’ll have a unique skillset around which to build his on-ice identity. 

    Here’s what’s especially exciting about this group of players: even if the Wild only get their least favorite player of this group, that player would typically be selected in the top 10 picks. The 2024 draft is stacked, especially in the range around Minnesota’s pick. 

    Compare the forward prospects to those available around pick 13 in 2023. Last year’s draft was historically deep. Forwards Daniil But, Zach Benson, and Brayden Yager were picked 12th, 13th, and 14th. Daniil But was an outlier given his towering six-foot-five frame. Aside from that, though, they’re very similar to Helenius, Catton, Iginla, and Eiserman. All seven of these prospects have one or two elite tools. Still, there were questions about their overall game. 

    The 2024 draft was probably weaker on defense. 2023’s defensive depth is the main reason these highly productive forwards might slide to pick 13. While Tom Willander and Axel Sandin-Pellikka were drafted 11th and 17th, neither was as productive on offense as Parekh or Yakemchuk. Willander was a better prospect outside of the offensive zone, but even including that, it seems that Yakemchuk and Parekh would be better options if selected at 13. 

    Taken together, it seems that Minnesota is in an enviable position. Looking up the draft board, there are too many names not to like the players available at 13. Someone will be there who shouldn’t have lasted that long. Of all the years for the Wild to win barely too many games to pick in the top 10, this was the year to do it. 

    On top of that, they’re sitting on the edge of a massive talent cliff with the right to select whoever is left. 13th overall may be the last chance to draft a blue-chip prospect in 2024. Every GM drafting behind Bill Guerin should be clamoring to trade up. They might offer to sweeten the deal with an extra prospect or a few Day 2 draft picks. 

    Guerin would be crazy to do it. 


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