Wild 2002 draft evaluation

By Derek Martin

The Minnesota Wild had 10 picks in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft and has three of those players on its roster five years later. Another is on an AHL roster, and the rest are playing in the minor leagues and Europe.

The 2002 Draft could be considered a success for Minnesota because of players like Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Josh Harding.  The team averaged 35.8 NHL games per pick.

Pierre-Marc Bouchard, C
1st round, 8th overall – Chicoutimi, QMJHL
Status: NHL player
NHL Games Played: 273

Bouchard has been a constant in the Minnesota Wild lineup for the last two seasons. He was drafted out of the QMJHL and played with the Wild the very next season. Bouchard played 50 games with the Wild in 2002-03 and tallied 20 points. In his second season with Minnesota, he registered 22 points in 61 games. Bouchard spent the 2004-05 lockout season with the Houston Aeros. In 67 games played, he led the team with 54 points. The last two seasons Bouchard has played in 80 or more games each season for the Wild. He finished the 2005-06 season second on the team in assists, third in goals, and fifth in points. Bouchard finished the 2006-07 season second among Wild players in assists, fourth in goals, and third in points.

Minnesota struck gold with this first-round pick. Bouchard is only 23 years old and has 273 games under his belt. Bouchard is a restricted free agent this offseason, but the Wild have made it known that he is their top priority. Look for him to be wearing a green and red sweater for years to come.

Josh Harding, G
2nd round, 38th overall – Regina, WHL
Status: NHL player
NHL Games Played: 11

Harding spent four seasons in the WHL and a season in the AHL before making his NHL debut during the 2005-06 season. In his initial NHL season, Harding played four games, recorded a .904 save percentage and 2.59 goals against average, and posted a 2-1-0 record. Last season, Harding played in seven games with an impressive .960 save percentage and 1.16 goals against average. He posted a 3-2-1 record with one shutout.

Harding has been given limited opportunities with the Wild because the solid goaltending from veterans like Manny Fernandez and Niklas Backstrom. Backstrom is a restricted free agent this offseason. Harding is waiting patiently for a big role with the Wild, and as one of the best goaltending prospects in the NHL, he will get his chance sooner rather than later.

Mike Erickson, RW
3rd round, 72nd overall – Minnesota, NCAA
Status: NHL prospect
NHL Games Played: 0

The Wild drafted Erickson out of the University of Minnesota. He played just two seasons with the Gophers then left to return to Des Moines of the USHL. In the 2003-04 season with Des Moines, Erickson scored 61 points (38 goals, 26 assists) in 61 games. Erickson then went back to the college level and played two seasons with Western Michigan University where his offensive production dropped slightly as he scored 42 points (22 goals, 20 assists) in 73 games. Erickson turned pro with the Augusta Lynx of the ECHL in 2006-07 and had a good rookie year with 48 points in 62 games.  He still has some potential, but is a long-shot.

Barry Brust, G
3rd round, 73rd overall – Spokane, WHL
Status: NHL bust
NHL Games Played: 11

The Wild selected Brust after a top-notch 2001-02 season with the Spokane Chiefs of the WHL. Brust played in 60 games with a .912 save percentage and 2.58 goals against average. His next two seasons in the WHL were respectable and he signed a contract with the Los Angeles Kings for three years in 2004. The 2004-05 and 2005-06 seasons were split between the Reading Royals of the ECHL and the Manchester Monarchs of the AHL. Brust split his time last season between Manchester and the Kings. In 23 with Manchester he posted a save percentage over .920 and two shutouts. During his 11 games with Los Angeles, he posted a 2-4-1 record with .878 save percentage and a 3.70 goals against average.

Brust has earned the starting position for Manchester and could be given more opportunities in the NHL. However, Los Angeles currently has an abundance of veteran goaltenders on its roster.

Armands Berzins, C
5th round, 155th overall – Shawinigan, QMJHL
Status: NHL bust
NHL Games Played: 0

Berzins was drafted prior to coming to North America and playing in the QMJHL for the Shawinigan Cataractes. Berzins is a towering center standing at 6’4 and showed good scoring ability while in the QMJHL. He played two seasons with the Cataractes (2001-2003) and notched 78 points (41 goals, 37 assists) in 122 games. Berzins spent the 2003-04 season with the ECHL’s Louisiana IceGators and saw his points slip to 26 (14 goals, 12 assists). The following season he played 57 games for the Wheeling Nailers, also of the ECHL and scored only 11 points (1 goal, 10 assists). The Latvian native is currently playing in a league in the Czech Republic.

Matt Foy, RW
6th round, 175th overall – Merrimack, NCAA
Status: NHL prospect
NHL Games Played: 28

Foy was drafted out of college while playing for Merrimack in 2001-02. The following year he played in the OHL for Ottawa where the 67s made it to the OHL finals. Foy was a key part of that team as he racked up an incredible 132 points (61 goals, 71 assists) in 68 games. In the postseason, Foy recorded 31 points (11 goals, 21 assists) in 21 games. He was awarded the Jim Mahon Memorial Trophy for leading the league in scoring for a right winger.

The next three seasons of Foy’s career was, for the most part, spent with the Wild’s AHL affiliate, the Houston Aeros. Last season he had 50 points in 62 games.

He has played in 28 NHL games, nine last year, and has just 5 points (2 goals, 3 assists). As Foy improves on the defensive side of the game he will get more opportunities in the NHL.

Nicklas Eckerblom, C
7th round, 204th overall – Djudgarden, SWE
Status: NHL bust
NHL Games Played: 0

Eckerblom, a hard-working player, has played 49 career games with Djurgardens of the Swedish Elite League and has registered only one assist. The past two seasons Eckerblom has played with Almtuna in the Swedish second tier league. He posted five points in 15 games during the 2005-06 season and 10 points in 34 games last year. Eckerblom is a checker-style center that doesn’t score a lot of points.

Christoph Brandner, F
8th round, 237th overall – Krefeld, DEL
Status: NHL bust
NHL Games Played: 35

Brandner is a big forward who could move well for his size and had a knack for scoring. He was drafted by the Wild as a member of the Krefeld Penguins of the German elite league (DEL). He played three seasons with Krefeld and was second on the team each year in scoring. The 2002-03 season was a championship year for the Penguins and Brandner led the team with 28 goals. The following season Brandner played 35 games with the Minnesota Wild. He scored four goals and recorded five assists with the Wild. Brandner was assigned to the Aeros in January of that year and played 37 games, recording 14 points (7 goals, 7 assists).

Brandner played 26 games with the Aeros in 2004-05 and scored eight points. He played in Sweden during the 2005-06 season and posted only five points in 25 games. Last season Brandner went back to Germany and played with the Hamburg Freezers. His numbers jumped back up to what they were last time he played in Germany. Brandner scored 22 goals and 10 assists in 48 games. While playing in North America, Brandner was uncomfortable being away from his family and homeland. He is 31 and likely not making a comeback to the NHL.

Mikhail Tyulyapkin, D
9th round, 268th overall – Novgorod, RUS
Status: NHL bust
NHL Games Played: 0

The 6’2 defenseman has played his entire hockey career in Russia. The Wild drafted him out of Russia’s Junior League, from the Nizhny Novgorod Torpedoes. Tyulyapkin played the 2004-05 season with Novokuznetsk Metallurg of Russia and spent two seasons there. Last season he played for Kazan Ak-Bars of the Russian Super League. Tyulyapkin is a very defensive-minded player who will score just a few points per season.

Mika Hannula, F
9th round, 269th overall – Malmo, SWE
Status: NHL prospect
NHL Games Played: 0

Hannula was drafted by the Wild while playing in Sweden for the Malmo IF. He played the 2003-04 season with the Aeros and posted 27 points (9 goals, 18 assists) in 67 games. The next season Hannula went back to playing in Sweden with Malmo IF. In 2005-06, he played with HV71 Jonkoping and scored 31 points (13 goals, 18 assists) in 45 games. Last season Hannula split his time between HV71 Jonkoping and Russia’s Yaroslavl Lokomotiv. In 18 games with HV71, he recorded 15 points (9 goals, 6 assists) and in 23 games with Yaroslavl he notched 15 points (7 goals, 8 assists).

Hannula won two gold medals in 2006 with Team Sweden, one for the Winter Olympics and the second for the World Championships. He is clearly one of Sweden’s top players because he is hard working and quick on his skates. The Wild no longer hold his rights.

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