Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Wild Draft Review / Six Gophers Drafted

First off, it's nice to see Glen Sonmor in the picture above, on the right, along with Wild Assistant GM Tom Thompson and first round draft pick Nick Leddy. Sonmor scouts for the Wild and also serves as a Gopher hockey broadcaster. One only hopes Glen will be giggling amply upon watching Leddy at the U this fall!

All in all, Minnesota made eight selections at the NHL Draft. The team held the 12th overall pick on Thursday night, but traded it to the New York Islanders for the Isles' first (#16), third (#77), and seventh (#182) round picks. The Wild took the highly-regarded Leddy with the 16th pick. The Eden Prairie defenseman was Minnesota's Mr. Hockey for the 2008-09 season and will be attending the University of Minnesota next fall.

The pick was certainly not a hometown discount. The Wild clearly coveted the puck-rushing defenseman, passing up on the more publicized Jordan Schroeder. The U of M forward was available at #12 and #16, but the Wild elected to used the pick on Leddy. Schroeder ended up going to Vancouver at #22.

Leddy provides the Wild with what it needs: a puck moving defenseman. The team will also need to be patient with him, as young defensemen rarely jump from the high school ranks to the NHL, and it seems unlikely they'll sign him out of the draft and instead allow him to develop at the U for at least one season.

On the second day, the Wild selected goaltender Matt Hackett in the third round. Hackett was the highest-ranked goaltender in the draft and fills a long-term goaltending organizational need. The team is expected to trade backup Josh Harding soon, and the two goalies in Houston are in the final years of their contracts.

Two forwards were taken in the fourth round: Canadian left winger Kristopher Foucault and Shattuck-St. Mary's Alexander Fallstrom. The Wild went for a goalie again in the sixth round with Red Deer goaltender Darcy Kuemper. They also added Finnish winger Jere Sallinen in the sixth. In the seventh round, Shattuck-St. Mary's - and Gopher recruit - Erik Haula was selected with the first pick of the round, followed by Texan Anthony Hamburg as the team's final pick. Hamburg is a product of the Dallas Stars youth hockey program.

The Wild clearly drafted for the future this year, as it is unlikely none of the players selected with have an impact this year. Still, new GM Chuck Fletcher's aim was to stockpile picks and try to re-stock the team's minor league system.

My new Examiner piece has a recap of the WCHA draftees. As mentioned previously, I am now covering the league for the Examiner, so please check out that home page throughout the season. The Gophers had six players selected: Leddy (first round to Minnesota), Schroeder (first round to Vancouver), Zach Budish (second round to Vancouver), Josh Birkholz (third round to Florida), Seth Helgeson (fourth round to New Jersey), and Haula (seventh round to Minnesota). Coach Don Lucia has yet another strong recruiting class for 2009-10.

NHL free agency opens up at 11am CDT Wednesday. We'll have a recap Thursday. The Wild are rumored to be in the hunt for Montreal's Saku Koivu, and are mentioned as potential trade partners for Ottawa center Dany Heatley - he vetoed a trade to Edmonton already. The trade winds already started blowing Tuesday with Scott Gomez going to Montreal and Christopher Higgins going to the New York Rangers. Stay tuned, as the Wild have a lot of cap money and need to make a splash in the market. Also, for those hoping for a Marian Gaborik return, don't hold your breath......

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