Wild 2010 draft preview

By Peter Prohaska

Top 10 prospects

1. Tyler Cuma, D
2. Marco Scandella, D
3. Colton Gillies, LW
4. Matt Hackett, G
5. Maxim Noreau, D
6. Cody Almond, C
7. Erik Haula, LW
8. Justin Falk, D
9. Kristopher Foucault, LW
10. Petr Kalus, LW

Team Needs

The Wild franchise lost its first ever draft pick, its all-time scorer and face of the franchise to free agency in the summer of 2009. Replacing Marian Gaborik isn’t necessarily possible, but adding a similarly dynamic talent is a crucial step to building a winner in St. Paul. Right now, Mikko Koivu, and to a lesser extent, Martin Havlat, must carry the burden of providing all the offense, and neither is that well-suited for it. Adding a high-percentage shooter, a power forward, and a power-play specialist, perhaps in the form of one or two bodies, is needed as players like Owen Nolan and Andrew Brunette wind down their careers. The Wild could stand to add a defensive prospect who can help with a heavy shot, and a strong transition. Previous incarnations of the Wild seemed fearful of selecting ‘offense-first’ types, whose shortcomings wouldn’t mesh with coach Jacques Lemaire’s defensive systems. New coach Todd Richards’ team plays a more open, high-pressure game.

Organizational Strengths

The Wild’s prospect pool isn’t great at any position. However, a series of interesting selections at defense may have them well-situated in the next two years. Tyler Cuma and Marco Scandella are both strong blue line prospects. Though neither has the offensive upside of a John Carlson or a PK Subban, both, along with big Justin Falk, are strong skaters who can read plays and hit. Max Noreau had a breakout year in the AHL, and could likely step up in relief of Marek Zidlicky, if need be.

The Wild has decent organizational depth at goaltender as well. Prospects Matt Hackett, Anton Khudobin, and Darcy Kuemper have all shown an ability to log minutes with good numbers.

Organizational Weaknesses

The Wild currently have no offensive bluechippers to give hope. In particular, Carson McMillan is the only right wing prospect in the Wild system right now. The organization must shore that side up to create balance. Generally, the organization has not had a coherent approach. Seeking early success on the ice led to impatience in development, and a modicum of success made it harder to draft sure bets. In the second year of a refocusing effort, the scouting staff has to approach the draft as if every pick counts. It’s not obvious that the former GM believed that to be the case. Consequently, few prospects from the Risebrough era have even been given qualifying offers.

Draft Tendencies

This is only the second draft for GM Chuck Fletcher and his team. Though certain scouts, such as Tommy Thompson, are contributing to the brainstorming as lame ducks, this draft will represent the work of a new regime. Two picks from 2009, first rounder Nick Leddy and fourth rounder Alexander Fallstrom, have already been traded for ready NHLers. Seventh-round pick Erik Haula, a Finn who played high school hockey in Minnesota and will attend the University of Minnesota in the fall, may represent a willingness to look to the home state first as a pipeline. As an assistant GM over the years, Fletcher’s teams looked mainly to the CHL. In 2003, Fletcher and the Ducks created the nexus of a Cup winner with two first-round picks (Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry) and also grabbed Drew Miller and Shane O’Brien. This might finally be a draft where the Wild can begin to rebuild honestly and seriously and with purpose.

Hockey’s Future Staff Mock Draft selection: Mikael Granlund, F

#9 (1st round), #39 (2nd round), #56 (2nd round from Washington in Belanger trade), #69 (3rd), #99 (4th), #129 (5th), #159 (6th), #189 (7th)