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  • The Wild Must Move Around the Board To Maximize Judd Brackett

    Image courtesy of Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports
    Luke Sims

    After years of the Minnesota Wild trapped in the tough position between contending and pretending, they finally get good news. Great teams are most frequently built through the draft, and experts herald the 2023 Draft classes as one of the best we’ve ever seen. It's a unique opportunity, so how should the Wild approach this one? 

    It's very simple: Get value.

    Minnesota will be breaking their recent trend of having multiple first-round picks, with just one crack at the first round for the first time in three years. They'll select 21st overall, but they also have a pair of second-rounders to play with, receiving the Vegas Golden Knights' pick from the Buffalo Sabers in Jordan Greenway. Since Vegas won the Cup, it’ll be at the end of the second round, but a second-rounder is a second-rounder.

    We’ve seen the Wild get tremendous value from players who have fallen in the draft in recent years. Minnesota’s director of amateur scouting, Judd Brackett, is great at acquiring value from players slipping in the draft. He’s done it in every draft since the Wild hired him four years ago. 


    The Wild had just one first-round pick and still managed to snag a pair of falling prospects in this draft. Marco Rossi was in contention to be a top-five pick, potentially the third-overall selection. All of the national scouting sources had him rated as no lower than ninth. The Austrian center was an elite 120-point producer with Ottawa in the OHL. But teams were worried about his height (5’9”), and he slid to Minnesota at No. 9. The results weren't there in his shot at the NHL last year, but at age-21, there is still hope for Rossi and plenty of time for him to turn it around. 

    Minnesota also drafted another skilled, short player, this time one who dropped out of the first round. Scouts probably shied away from Russian phenom Marat Khusnutdinov due to his size (5’9”) and the ever-present Russian factor. As the hands of time have spun, however, that pick is looking tremendous for the Wild. Khusnutdinov just enjoyed a breakout season, one that stacks up well against some of the best Under-21 for a KHL player. 


    Again, Brackett scooped up two players who fell in the draft. Major scouting sites like McKeen's and TSN had Jesper Wallstedt as the 16th overall pick, if not higher, in that draft. The Detroit Red Wings took a different goalie, Sebastian Cossa, at 15th overall. Then the Wild traded up two spots (from 22 to 20) to get immense value for Wallstedt, one of the elite goalie prospects in recent memory. 

    Six picks later Brackett drafted Carson Lambos, who was once in contention for the first-overall pick. However, Lambos suffered an injury in his draft year that hurt his draft stock tremendously. Most major public scouting services had Lambos in the top-20. The Wild got him at 26, and now he’s a standout defensive prospect in their top-ranked system.


    In NBA Jam terminology, Brackett was on fire, getting tremendous value in his third consecutive draft. While Liam Öhgren was seen as a safer pick, the 19th overall pick was around where most draft pundits expected him to go. But Danila Yurov should have been long gone by pick 24. The Russian forward was seen by many scouting agencies as a fringe top-ten pick, with some scouts having him as high as seventh in last year's class. The Russian factor no doubt played a large part in this fall, but other GMs' losses became Brackett's gain. If not for his bold decision (not to mention the added security that came from trading for Pick 19), there’s no way Minnesota would've landed a player with Yurov's skills and stats at 24th overall. 


    What we've learned is that Minnesota can't stay put. The Wild have benefitted from moving around on draft night in each of the past three years. They swung a draft day trade involving Luke Kunin which led to drafting Khusnutdinov, they made a minor move to grab Wallstedt, and they banked an extra first-rounder before the draft to feel good about rolling the dice on Yurov. They know how to get value in the draft. 

    The Wild need to be flexible once again, and they can benefit from either trading up or down. If the right player starts slipping down the boards, Minnesota should be aggressive in getting that player, whether it's Matvei Michkov, Oliver Moore, or any other consensus top-10 pick that starts tumbling down the boards. They can move either or both of their second-round picks to do that, or even trade back into the late-first/high-second round.

    But on the other hand, if there are plenty of good players available at 21, why not trade back and try to get even more picks in this deep draft? With how much talent is on the table, someone is bound to fall. If moving back can pick up another second-rounder to play with, why not? Giving Brackett more ammo to try and add to the already-loaded prospect pool has been a winning strategy so far. 

    Brackett has repeatedly proven that he knows how to navigate the draft. When the moment to capitalize and wring out some extra value arises, the Wild shouldn’t hesitate to accommodate him. 

    All stats and data via HockeyDB, CapFriendly, and Elite Prospects unless otherwise noted.

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    Very Judd friendly article assuming all Judd’s picks will make the nhl roster.  Ok I’ll get on the hope train too.  What the hell it’s draft week

     Get prepared to hear repeatedly how we love all our picks and never expected them to fall to us at pick 21, etc.  this is every scout team’s comments roughly 100% of the time. 
    Memo to Judd while player xyz is falling down the draft board: if you look around poker table and cannot determine who is the sucker, you’re the sucker


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    I read comments from Brackett saying nice things about Eduard Sale who's a big Czech winger who has skill and questionable drive & consistency. So that bodes well for my pessimistic predictions. 

    Third season coming and Jarvis is looking to have a breakout campaign in Carolina. My draft hope is that the Wild do something good. Doesn't have to be great or the best, but it CANNOT fail or be the worst. Yes, we'll need time to see what happens but Lundell and Jarvis made their teams at <20 years old. Sillinger and Johnston have also done it without being top five selections. Frankly, I'm tired of the waiting 3-4 years for prospects or watching the hype-train lose steam. 

    The positive spin I'm willing to put on the big picture is related to Guerin's stabilization and small gains. The solid appearance of the goaltending and defense is reassuring but the forward ranks could use some upgrades.

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    I don't know that maximizing Brackett is the best idea. Brackett's kind of players are good skaters, good hockey IQ, and 200' game. Size has not really mattered. 

    I'd kind of like Guerin to have a little more input this time around. I'd love for him to go up and get Moore who should be the most scouted prospect we have. I'd love to walk away with Danielson and Ritchie in addition to Moore, but that's just how greedy I am this draft. 

    However, with where we are drafting, in 2003 we would have been in the Getzlaf & Kesler range had we traded for another pick. Could you imagine that combo? I'd also settle on Mateo's find-Edstrom. 

    Matteo Mann is a 3rd round grade who I'll bet goes early or before, and I'd love to get him at 64. I think this is the draft where Guerin needs to bring his creativity to the table. Just about all prospects should be on the table as well as most of the current roster. 

    Protec mentions the stabilization of incrementally getting better. Now it's time to trade in some of our better for even more and fill organizational holes specifically at the center position, and at the size on defense position. 

    I'm sure Brackett's list will not match mine, but if Guerin can tweak what we're looking for a little bit, Brackett should be able to adapt. I also would not mind trading out '24 and '25 1sts to get more high level swings in this draft. Our rebuild should be over after this draft, then comes the developing.

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    Listen to Russo and Joe smith interview Brackett this week on “straight from the source” on apple podcast s for free 

    Brackett is a well spoken diplomat for the sport and of course all his Wild draft picks.  Not surprising given that he’s risen from lowly sports writer to Wild head of scouting. 
    as it becomes harder to give bracket the benefit of the doubt with each of his drafts, I heard bracket as a yes man/company man ladder climber not the grizzle’d rink rat I’d like in my teams head of scouting.  I have full faith in BG but Brackett now looks like a short notice backfill when we had to rid the org of the father son Fenton duo of failure and Brackett was recently pushed out of Vancouver.  Prove me wrong Judd.  Canucks prospects not exactly raising their nhl success

    Edited by Pewterschmidt
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