Minnesota Wild NHL draft primer
The Minnesota Wild are back on the clock.
Minnesota will pick 24th (for now) when the NHL draft gets underway Friday after sitting out for the first two rounds last year. The front office has changed a bit since then. New general manager Paul Fenton was brought on last month after the Wild bowed out in the first round of the playoffs.
Fortunately, Fenton’s resume should inspire some confidence. He spent 12 years as an assistant GM with the Nashville Predators, helping boss David Poile build a Stanley Cup contender.
So who will Fenton take with his first pick, if he uses it at all? The consensus amongst draftniks is anything but. While a few of the top picks are all-but locked in — Rasmus Dahlin is headed to Buffalo, Andrei Svechnikov is almost certainly going to Carolina — the experts are mostly undecided on who’s going where in the back half of the first round. The latest mock drafts have the Wild taking a wide range of players, from high-skill centers to stay-at-home defensemen. A few examples:
Craig Button of TSN: K’Andre Miller, D, USNTDP (USHL)
Adam Kimelman of NHL.com: Ty Dellandrea, C, Flint Firebirds (OHL)
Mike Morreale of NHL.com: Martin Kaut, RW, HC Dynamo Pardubice (Czech Extraliga)
Guillame Lepage of NHL.com: K’Andre Miller, D, USNTDP (USHL)
Andrew Gross and Colin Stephenson of Newsday: Isac Lundestrom, C, Lulea (SHL)
Kevin Allen of USA TODAY: Ryan McLeod, C, Mississauga (OHL)
Franklin Steele of Bleacher Report: Jacob Olofsson, C, Tima IK (Allsvenskan)
Chris Ryan of NJ.com: Akil Thomas, C, Niagara IceDogs (OHL)
Richard Morin of the Arizona Republic: Ryan McLeod, C, Mississauga Steelheads (OHL)
Jeff Marek of Sportsnet: Mattias Samuelsson, D, USNTDP (USHL)
Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press: Rasmus Kupari, C, Karpat (Liiga)
Steve Kournianos of Sporting News: Martin Kaut, RW, HC Dynamo Pardubice (Czech Extraliga)
With that in mind, here’s a pretty comprehensive list of the Wild’s options in the first round, as ranked by NHL Central Scouting.
Vitali Kravtsov, RW, Traktor Chelyabinsk (KHL)
Central Scouting: 3rd (Europe)
Speed, size, hands: This 6-foot-2 power forward is the full package. He made significant strides in his first KHL season, and had 11 points in 16 playoff games.
Martin Kaut, RW, HC Dynamo Pardubice (Czech Extraliga)
Central Scouting: 4th (Europe)
Kaut jumped from 11th to 4th by the time the NHL released its final prospect rankings, and for good reason. Fast and tough to knock off the puck, Kaut is a skilled passer with a good shot, both of which were on display at the world junior championship.
Grigori Denisenko, LW, Loko Yaroslavl (MHL)
Central Scouting: 7th (Europe)
A strong skater with a high hockey IQ, Denisenko is one of the most talented Russians available this year. He had 22 points in 31 games in the Russian junior league and performed well in international competition.
Isac Lundestrom, C, Lulea (SHL)
Central Scouting: 8th (Europe)
Lundestrom doesn’t have the offensive spark of some of the other players on this list, but should be nearly NHL-ready after spending two years competing with senior players in Sweden’s top league. Lundestrom has been a solid playmaker overseas, and has nine goals and 12 assists in 91 career SHL games.
Jacob Olofsson, C, Timra IK (Allsvenskan)
Central Scouting: 9th (Europe)
Another two-way center out of Sweden, Olofsson’s solid all-around game should place him in the NHL sooner rather than later. He spent two seasons in the Swedish second division, notching 10 goals and adding 11 assists last year.
Serron Noel, RW, Oshawa (OHL)
Central Scouting: 10th (North America)
The draft’s next significant power forward after Brady Tkachuk, Noel stands out at 6-5, 201. A point-per-game player in the OHL last season, Noel is a force in front of the net.
Rasmus Kupari, C, Karpat (Liiga)
Central Scouting: 11th (Europe)
A dangerous but undersized offensive talent, Kupari made his Liiga debut this year, racking up 14 points in 39 games for Karpat. He shined for Finland at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup, posting two goals and five assists in four games.
Rasmus Sandin, D, Sault Ste. Marie (OHL)
Central Scouting: 11th (North America)
Mobile and good with the puck, Sandin was among the best first-year defensemen in the OHL last year, registering 12 goals and 33 assists in 51 games.
Dominik Bokk, RW, Vaxjo (SHL)
Central Scouting: 12th (Europe)
Bokk’s stickhandling abilities are among the best in this year’s draft. Considered a project of sorts by many analysts, Bokk dominated the U20 ranks over in Sweden, where the young German posted 41 points in 35 games for Vaxjo.
Jared McIsaac, D, Halifax (QMJHL)
Central Scouting: 13th (North America)
An intelligent stay-at-home defenseman, McIsaac should be able to chew up minutes at the next level. He also chipped in offensively for Halifax last season, scoring nine goals and racking up 38 assists in 47 games.
Akil Thomas, C, Niagara IceDogs (OHL)
Central Scouting: 15th (North America)
Speedy and agile with a deadly shot and stickhandling ability, Thomas had 81 points in 68 games last year. A center who can also play on the wing, Thomas is slightly undersized at 6-0, 170.
Ryan McLeod, C, Misssissauga (OHL)
Central Scouting: 16th (North America)
An agile playmaker, McLeod also has the frame to mix it up all over the ice. A point-per-game player for the Steelheads last season, he had 26 goals and 44 assists in 68 games.
Mattias Samuelsson, D, USNTDP (USHL)
Central Scouting: 21st (North America)
An imposing physical presence at 6-foot-4, Samuelsson is more notable for his defensive abilities. He can still contribute on offense, and racked up 38 points in 58 games with the U.S. U-18 team.
K’Andre Miller, D, USA U-18 (USHL)
Central Scouting: 23rd (North America)
A strong skater and playmaker, Miller had seven goals and 17 assists last year in 50 games with the U.S. U-18 team. He projects as a top-four defenseman, and is committed to Wisconsin for next season.
Ty Dellandrea, C, Flint Firebirds (OHL)
Central Scouting: 25th (North America)
Another two-way center, Dellandrea shows promise all over the ice. He had 27 goals and 32 assists in 67 games for the Firebirds last season, and brings a strong all-around game to the table.
Jonny Tychonick, D, Penticton Vees (BCHL)
Central Scouting: 36th (North America)
An early second-round pick by most accounts, Tychonick’s passing ability and strong skating could push him up into later part of the first round. Tychonick was a point-per-game player in the BCHL last year, and is headed to North Dakota in the fall.