Minnesota Wild 2011 draft review

By Peter Prohaska
 

 

The Wild added considerable depth again this year, trading for a second pick in the first round as well as former first-rounder Charlie Coyle. The team also turned to United States high schools for three of its picks. The Wild displayed a good degree of confidence again at this draft, trading up for a hometown fan.

Jonas Brodin, D – Färjestad (SEL)
1st round, 10th overall
Height: 6'1, Weight: 170 lbs

The Wild used its first round pick on Swedish defenseman Jonas Brodin. For the most part, draft watchers tend to favor eye-popping point totals first, and NHL frames second, of which Brodin brings neither. Brodin does however appear to be a master at the art of mistake-free, positionally astute defense.

Though the exact ice time numbers are not easily accessible, Brodin played a role on the best team in the Swedish Elite League at 17 years old. This alone suggests that his skating is exceptional. Wild Assistant GM Brent Flahr called him an "elite skating defenseman" with a "natural ability to play the game." This also affirms the precocious level of his intellectual ability. Decision-making, smarts, hockey sense were all buzzwords that surrounded Brodin pre and post draft. To a degree, this is the least teachable attribute, and Brodin's combination of experience at an elite level with his innate understanding suggests a very special player.

Like all recent draft picks, more size and weight will be necessary for transitioning to next level of competition. Though the scoring numbers were justifiably low last season due to a lack of power play time, one would like to see more assists from a player whose first pass is a lauded attribute. Brodin needs to develop more of a shot to have success as a first-pairing defenseman as well.

Next year will be quite a test competition-wise, as Färjestad will remain somewhat challenged for scoring. Brodin should see his time on ice and responsibilities increase.

With this pick, the Wild addressed an area of weakness, a player that has been lacking perhaps since Kim Johnsson.

Zack Phillips, C – Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL)
1st Round, 28th Overall
Height: 6'1, Weight: 181 lbs

A second wave of surprise went through the Wild faithful in attendance at the Draft when defenseman Brent Burns was sent west to San Jose in exchange for Devin Setoguchi, Charlie Coyle and San Jose's first round pick. With that pick, the Wild selected Zack Phillips, addressing a dearth of high end talent in its center ice prospects.

While Jonathan Huberdeau was rising into the top three, Phillips's stock had held somewhat steady, the Central Scouting Bureau and most others ranking him outside the top ten draft eligibles. The next years will bear out the truth, but Phillips finished just behind Huberdeau in goals and points with a quite respectable 95 points in 67 games, as well as 24 in 17 playoff games. It goes without saying that the Sea Dogs were loaded with talent, but the results are there nonetheless. While Phillips may be thought of more as a puck distributor, he played a capable defensive role for his squad as well.

He needs to improve his skating considerably, as is common. Brent Flahr pointed out that his frame is "slight."

Mario Lucia, LW – Wayzata Warriors (Minn H.S.)
2nd Round, 60th Overall
Height: 6'2, Weight: 183 lbs

Here again, the Wild went with a player perhaps known to many of its fans, at least in name. Mario Lucia is more than the son of Don Lucia, head coach of the NCAA's Minnesota Golden Gophers, he was also considered the top Minnesota high school prospect by most. Lucia has excellent size and finishing ability, but to acquire his rights, the Wild sent two picks to the Vancouver Canucks (71st and 101st overall, which they used to select David Honzik and Joseph Labate).

Lucia himself said "you couldn't have written a better story than this." And while the Wild won't admit it, picking a high profile high school star on this stage creates a compelling narrative and is good PR.

Lucia will head to Penticton of the BCHL for some seasoning over the next year. He has spoken to a couple of United States colleges but apparently won't play for his father at Minnesota. No final decisions regarding his future have been made.

Nick Seeler, D – Eden Prairie Eagles (Minn H.S.)
5th Round, 131st Overall
Height: 6'0, Weight: 174 lbs

Nick Seeler suffers on first blush by appearing to be Nick Leddy redux, just with a little less risk inherent in his draft position. That said, Seeler came along quite quickly, with a big growth spurt that did not hamper his ability.

Seeler is an offensively talented defenseman (43 points in 28 games, including playoffs) for the Minnesota state champions. While Kyle Rau received a lot of justified credit for the team's success, Seeler was successful in his ice time as well. For a player with a self-described nasty disposition and physicality to his game, he didn't draw much attention from the refs, which also speaks favorably to his ability to think the game.

Seeler is committed to Muskegon of the USHL for next season, and after that, will head to the University of Nebraska-Omaha. Omaha head coach Dean Blais has an excellent track record with defenseman, and one has to think that Seeler is at least three years off of a pro tryout.

Stephen Michalek, G – Loomis-Chaffee Pelicans (Conn H.S.)
6th Round, 161st Overall
Height: 6'2, Weight: 183 lbs

Not much sticks out for Michalek in a positive way by the numbers, but given the Wild's historical strength in finding goaltending prospects, there must be something there.

Indeed, most scouts have pointed out that Michalek had an incredible workload this season, seeing a lot of shots on a somewhat weak squad. He is a butterfly goalie who is capable of playing a very athletic game between the pipes.

He is committed to Harvard for next season, which obviously speaks to his intellect. The Crimson will be looking to replace two graduating goaltenders, so Michalek will have an opportunity to earn the starting role.

With the Wild's pipeline at goaltender pretty well set over the next few years, one has to think that they liked this player quite a bit, given some of the offensive options still on the board.

Tyler Graovac, C – Ottawa 67s (OHL)
7th Round, 191st Overall
Height: 6'2, Weight: 181 lbs

With its final selection, the Wild turned to somewhat unfamiliar territory in recent years, the OHL, to pick lanky center Tyler Graovac. Somewhat buried in the depth chart behind Ryan Martindale (EDM) and Cody Lindsay, Graovac has some potential to elevate his game. He finished just outside the team top ten in scoring, but did manage 21 points in 66 games. His defensive game needs some work, as he was one of the few 67s to finish a minus. He is not a real physical force, but should compare favorably in size to other players in the league next season. An all-around improvement seems likely from Graovac, if his effort is there. Central Scouting did have him quite a bit higher than his final draft position (120 among North American skaters) so people other than the Wild see potential in him.