Wild 2007 draft preview

By Derek Martin

Wild Top 10 prospects

1. Josh Harding, G
2. Benoit Pouliot, LW
3. Roman Voloshenko, LW
4. James Sheppard, C
5. Danny Irmen, RW
6. Matt Foy, RW
7. Shawn Belle, D
8. Morten Madsen, C
9. Clayton Stoner, D
10. Ondrej Fiala, C

Team Needs

The Minnesota Wild finished the 2006-07 season ranked seventh in the Western Conference and second in the Northwest Division. After a respectable regular season, the eventual Stanley Cup Champion Anaheim Mighty Ducks pummeled the Wild in the first round of the playoffs. Minnesota could not keep up with Anaheim’s physical style of play. The Wild power play, which had been so good during the regular season, was absent, in part, because they were lacking a big defenseman to distribute the puck.

Minnesota needs another enforcer besides Derek Boogaard to be able to keep up with teams like the Ducks. Without one, Minnesota’s scoring forwards like Marian Gaborik and Pierre-Marc Bouchard won’t have room to be the playmakers they are.

Goaltending is Minnesota’s strongest area as it has been for its entire history. With Niklas Backstrom recently re-signing with the Wild, the veteran Manny Fernandez still on the roster, and Josh Harding one of the top goaltending prospects in the league, Minnesota does not need any help in the nets. One possibility is that the Wild trade Fernandez for a higher draft pick to get that big defenseman they currently lack.

The Picks (6)
Round 1 – 19th overall
Round 2 – 42nd overall
Round 3 – none
Round 4 – 110th overall
Round 5 – 140th overall
Round 6 – 170th overall
Round 7 – 200th overall

Organizational Strengths

Goaltending is one of the biggest strengths that the Wild have. With Harding waiting patiently for his turn as the team’s go-to guy in the nets and Backstrom’s solid play last season, Minnesota is looking good for years to come. However, there does not seem to be a solid backup plan if Harding fails to produce in the NHL.

Minnesota has an abundance of scorers in its system. Players like Beniot Pouliot, James Sheppard, and Danny Irmen have the potential to be great NHL players. The reason for all of this great talent in the Wild system is Minnesota’s drafting philosophy and the patience they give their prospects. 

Organizational Weaknesses

The Wild has a problem when it comes to size in its defensive prospects. Many of the prospects in the Wild system are just over 6’0 and a little over 200 pounds. The Wild need a big defenseman both for the short term and long term. Players like Shawn Belle and Clayton Stoner will not provide the physical type of game that Minnesota desperately needs to contend for championships. Look for the Wild to draft a couple of strong defensemen this year who can cause havoc on the ice.

Draft Tendencies

As mentioned above, Minnesota has only picked one defenseman in the first round in the organization’s history. In six of the organization’s seven first rounds they have picked a forward. A large number of the players that Minnesota selects in drafts come from Canada’s junior leagues (32). The Wild have selected 20 players from Europe and nine from United States colleges and junior leagues. Most of the time Minnesota selects the best player available. So, if a scoring forward that is high on the Wild’s draft board is still available come the 19th pick, Minnesota will look to fill the defensive void somewhere else.

Minnesota has made draft-day trades in five of the last six drafts. Last year, the Wild traded Patrick O’Sullivan and a first-round pick to the Los Angeles Kings for Pavol Demitra. In 2005, Minnesota traded a fourth-round pick to the Ottawa Senators for Todd White. In 2003, the Wild traded its third and fourth-round picks to Toronto for the Maple Leafs’ third-round pick. Minnesota selected Danny Irmen with this pick. In 2002, the Wild traded a fourth-round pick to Los Angeles for Cliff Ronning. In 2001, Minnesota traded its third and fourth-round picks to the New York Rangers for its third round pick. The Wild selected Chris Heid with this third-round pick.

Hockey’s Future staff mock draft result:
Max Pacioretty, LW, Sioux City USHL

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