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The Drafting History Of The Minnesota Wild

How do you build a Stanley Cup-winning team? The answer to this will for most people is that the best way is through great drafting. While some teams managed to crack the code to success, the Minnesota Wild has alluded to this success since their inaugural season. But what are the reasons behind this?

In this first part of a long series. Which aims to look at each NHL team’s drafting history from 2000 up until 2015. This means looking at the prospects selected but how they were handled in terms of handling by the franchise. Most importantly this will look at the steals, but also the heartbreaking missed chances a team had to bring their roster to the next level.

The reason it"s only up until 2015 is that it"s not fair to judge prospects that aren"t fully developed yet. Therefore, while the Wild did have a strong 2020 draft, it won’t be featured. 

2000-2002: The Strong Start

Back in 2000, Minnesota finally returned to the NHL. This time as the Minnesota Wild. After their expansion draft, it became clear that the Minnesota Wild was never going to be an immediate cup contender, so they had to build towards that. In the 2000 NHL draft, Minnesota had received the third overall pick, and they took full advantage of this when they selected Marian Gaborik. Through his 8 seasons in Minnesota, he was the offensive superstar of the Wild. Producing goals and points in spades. 219 goals and 437 points in 502 games is astonishing and shows the type of player Minnesota got with their first-ever draft pick. 

Their second wasn’t much worse as they picked Nick Schultz at 33rd overall. The defenseman was a mainstay on the Minnesota blue line for years and played 743 games for the Wild. For a second-round draft pick, you can’t ask for much more. With 2 picks Minnesota had secured a spine at both offense and defense within a fantastic first draft, where the only prospect they missed out on was Henrik Lundqvist. However so did most other teams.

The 2001 draft continued where the past had left off for Minnesota. With the sixth overall pick, the Wild chose Mikko Koivu to be their new top center. This would turn out to be another fantastic pick as Koivu turned out to become the face of the Minnesota Wild for more than a decade.

He played over 1000 games for the Wild and is the leading assist and point scorer for Minnesota. He was the captain for 10 seasons and his jersey will surely be retired within the next few seasons. In their next draft, they even added Pierre-Marc Bouchard, who played over 500 games for the Wild to the fast building core. Four good NHL players in three drafts. Things were going well for Minnesota.

2003-2004: The Prospects That Got Away

Within the first three drafts, the Wild were hitting on almost all of their top picks and even got a few late-round draft picks like Josh Harding and Darek Boogard. In 2003 they even added Brent Burns, who at the time was a forward and the Wild was hoping for him to develop into a star

Burns absolutely did, but sadly for the Wild, it was for the San Jose Sharks and as a defenceman. The Wild haven"t managed to properly get him going, so they announced a trade at the 2011 entry draft that sent Burns to the Sharks for Charlie Coyle, Devin Setoguchi, and the 28th overall pick.

None of these turned out to be stars, but Burns had found the perfect place to play and has since the trade been one of the league"s best offensive defenders. 

Where drafting is important and it"s always said that the best way to build a team is through the draft, one thing that also matters is an asset management and development of prospects.Without those, you can draft the best player each time, but only find mediocrity as a reward.

For the Wild the Brent Burns trade was the start of their downfall years when it came to drafting, developing, and managing assets.

2005-2007 : The Darkest Years

The 2005 draft will mainly be remembered for its first overall pick, Sidney Crosby, who went to the Penguins. Arguably the best player since Wayne Gretzky. However, it also contains one of the biggest draft mistakes of recent memory. With the fifth overall pick, the Wild was on the clock with endless possibilities. Anze Kopitar, T.J. Oshie, Tuuka Rask, and Carey Price.

All turned out to be superstars in the league, with Price turning out to become the best goalie of the generation. Minnesota should have picked him, but they went for winger Benoit Pouliot. Pouliot only contributed to 18 points in his four seasons with the Wild before he was traded to Montreal, who had picked Price at sixth overall in 2005 to add insult to injury.

This started a spiral of failed picks for the wild. In 2006 they selected James Sheppard ninth overall, but he only played three seasons in Minnesota, producing 49 points for the Wild, before he was traded. In this draft players like Claude Giroux and Bryan Little, both were taken later in the draft than Sheppard.

In 2007 it was more of the same as the Wild selected Colton Gilles at 16th overall. He only mustered ten points in his time with the Wild. Better selections would have been Max Pacioretty, Mikael Backlund or PK Subban. 

2008-2009: New Year, Same Awful Draft

In 2008 the Wild picked Tyler Cuma, who only played one NHL game for the Wild, at 23rd overall. Yet another bust, where players like John Carlsson and Roman Josi were both available at the time.

A small positive in 2008 was the pick of Marco Scandella at 55th. Scandella played seven seasons on the Wilds blueline and was a nice top 4 defenceman for a while in Minnesota. He was the best player the Wild had drafted within the past 3 drafts. 

After years of poor drafting and a lack of new stars in their prospect pool, the Wild needed to find something that could help them in the 2009 draft. And while they actually hit on their first-round pick, selecting Nick Leddy, they never got the most out of him.

He was traded to the Blackhawks and the Wild never got the best out of the strong defender. However late the Wild did pick both Erik Haula and Darcy Kuemper, who both had fine careers with the Wild. 

2010: The Start Of A New Generation.

The Minnesota Wild needed something to change as they began the new decade. 10 years since their inauguration, they had the ninth overall pick and with it, they selected Finish winger Mikael Granlund.

The hype surrounding Granlund was beyond great and with his lacrosse goal against Russia in the semi-finals of the IIHF World Championship in 2011 it became astronomical. He was seen as the star player that Minnesota had been missing for years. In many ways, his hype can be compared to the hype surrounding Kirill Kaprizov today.

Mikael Granlunds lacrosse goal from 2011 that electrified the Minnesota Wild fans

In his time with Minnesota Granlund was hit by injuries, but he was always on a 50+ point pace and had multiple seasons with 60+ points. He was electrifying and was a fan favorite but wasn"t able to take the Wild further than the second round in the playoff. 

The 2010 draft was a turning point for the Wild, who not only drafted Granlund but also selected speedy forward Jason Zucker as the 59th selection of the draft. Zucker became a key part of the Wilds offense, and with Granlund, the new core was starting to be built.

2011-2012: Drafting The Future Defensive Core

With the arrival of Zucker and Granlund, the offensive core was starting to get rebuilt. While they were lacking Gaborik, the Wild was starting to get a good mix of young hot prospects and older veterans. They had a solid goaltender in Niklas Backstrom with Kuemper and Harding as backups, but they lacked defensive prospects.

In 2011 and 2012, the Wild looked to fix that problem by drafting Jonas Brodin and Matt Dumba. Both players are still a part of Minnesota"s top 4.

Often seen playing next to each other Jonas Brodin tends to fly under the radar, but his advanced stats show just how important he is to the Wild. He posts great defensive numbers and is one of the best in the league when it comes to defensive responsibilities. 

Dumba on the other hand is polarizing in a lot of ways. He is strong and has a ton of offensive abilities. He is capable of unleashing bombs from the blueline and is a great offensive player. His defensive abilities however leave a bit to be desired. He tends to be prone to mistakes and has often been compared to Jake Gardiner from his time in Toronto. Great 99% of the time, but when he makes mistakes it"s horrible to look at.

2013-2014: The Saga Of Alexander Tuch And The Rise of A New Goalie

With the Wild finally being back in the playoffs, so stopped the easier selections in the first round. They now had to rely on scouting to find gems further down in the draft. In 2013, they had traded their first-rounder to Arizona, so the options were limited.

They missed out on all but one player, Carson Soucy, who in the past season had a breakout year on the bottom pair of the Wilds defensive core. The next year they drafted Alex Tuch, who was a great selection but was dealt with Vegas in the expansion draft.  He has turned into a great forward, and similar to Burns is a player the Wild has to be regretting not keeping.

However later in the 2014 draft, the Wild potentially struck gold, selecting goaltender Kaapo Kahkonen, who many Wild fans are expecting to be the future in net for Minnesota. The finish goaltender has put up some impressive numbers in the AHL, and hopes are that they will become the next Backstrom in Minnesota. 

2015: The Great Mid Round Selection

The first Wild pick in the 2015 draft was Joel Eriksson Ek, who has taken his time to develop into the player he was expected to be, but in the 19-20 NHL season, he has turned a few of his critics around. He is hard-working and it has been translating well, as he has been given more responsibility under the coaching of Dean Evason.

The main reason people aren"t overly happy with Ek is because of the players drafted after him being Brock Boeser, Travis Konecny, and Sebastian Aho. Three all-stars and great goalscorers. Something the Wild needs badly. 

This goalscorer, however, was potentially drafted by the Wild, but it happened 115 picks later when they at 135th selected Russian winger, Kirill Kaprizov. An unknown at the time, Kaprizov has become the hope of every single Wild fan over the past few years. He has torn apart defenders in the KHL, won countless personal awards and he even scored the golden goal for Russia in the 2018 Olympics.

He has won the KHL title, been winning the top goalscorer the past 2 seasons in a row, and is finally under contract for the Wild. He could easily become the best Wild player since Gaborik, if not better, once the season eventually starts. At 135th overall, this has the potential to be the steal of the 2015 draft, if not decade.

Conclusion On The Minnesota Wild:

The Wild is often blamed for being mediocre and with good reason. A lot of drafting has been selected, where players have been okay, but nothing more. It"s only recently that it feels like they have found players in both the first and later rounds. In the early days, they were able to build a foundation but were not able to support it with a deep draft pool from the later rounds. 

When they then stopped getting great picks things crumbled around them. They had some awful picks and missed out on great players while never adding more than 3rd liners to the roster. When they finally managed a good player like Burns or Tuch they were traded before they could really shine. 

Asset management has been an issue for Minnesota Wild, and it"s only lately that it seems to have been turning for the better. Kaprizov easily could have been traded, but the Wild kept faith in him going to the NHL eventually. With players like Rossi and the last few drafts looking good on paper, is the Wild finally going to be able to take the next step? Time will tell, but it"s looking brighter than it has done throughout their history.

Follow me on Twitter at @Mr_Frans2603 and follow us @OT_Heroics for more great content!

Also, be sure to check out the Overtime Heroics Forums page to join in on the discussion.

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