Saturday, June 12, 2010

9th - Minnesota Wild Draft Preview

Hey it's not breaking any new ground in terms of creativity but using the silhouette of the State with the catchy slogan makes for a decent shoulder patch. If Detroit can claim to be "Hockey Town" than I see no reason that Minnesota can't lay claim to being "The State of Hockey". In fact with the rich tradition of the sport at all levels I can't think of another area of the U.S. more deserving of the moniker.

1st Pick Last Year: Nick Leddy (16th overall) – The Wild grabbed the native Minnesotan out of high school but he didn’t remain property of the club for even a year as he was part of the package that brought Cam Barker in from Chicago. Leddy had 11 points as a freshman this past year at the University of Minnesota with a Golden Gophers team that fell well short of expectations.

The Good: Cal Clutterbuck (72nd overall) – Minnie picked up the winger from the Oshawa Generals where he had two productive seasons to close out his OHL career. As a pro, Clutterbuck has evolved into a premier agitator – a guy who can really get the opposition of its game because of his tenacity and attitude. He scored 21 points this year, his second season in the NHL, but I’m sure the Wild take his offensive production completely as a bonus.

The Bad: Colton Gillies (16th overall, 2007) – I don’t necessarily think the pick was all that bad but their handling of him since has been the bigger problem. The Wild promoted Gillies to the NHL in 2008-09, only dressed him for half the games and he struggled to produce even his 7 points. Instead of sending him back to Saskatoon at a time when the Blades were building a contending team, the Wild were content to let Gillies play periodically. This past year he played in Houston and managed just 20 points in 72 games.

The Unknown: Matt Kassian (57th overall) – The hulking forward terrorized the WHL for 4 years and has been developing his game at the AHL level for three seasons now. With NHL tough guys Derek Boogaard and John Scott heading to UFA summers, Kassian might get his opportunity at the top level next season.

Coming Down the Pipe: Coming in 30th place on the latest organizational rankings from prospect site Hockey’s Future, the Wild clearly have some work to do. The team seems deepest in net where Matt Hackett and Darcy Kuemper join Anton Khudobin and Niko Hovinen in the system. Tyler Cuma and Marco Scandella are the only notable blueliners and the forward crop runs thin after Gillies, Kris Foucault, and Cody Almond and even those guys aren’t considered top prospects.

Draft Trends: Minnesota has drafted 5 Finnish players in the last 4 years, far more than any other European nationality. It’s a stereotype that the team will take players from the State of Hockey but to some degree it’s been proven true as well; three high schoolers from Minnesota last year as well as 2 more in 2006.

2010 Prediction 9th overall:

Dean Millard: Jeff Skinner (Kitchener) - Skinner was one of the best players during the OHL playoffs, and if it wasn't for the heroic Windsor comeback he might have been skating off with a Memorial Cup MVP trophy. While skating and strength are his weak spots, he might have the best shot in the draft, a pure sniper. The Wild are short on high end skill, and will try and Skin to Win.

Guy Flaming: Ryan Johansen (Portland) – The late blooming center has seen his stock continue to rise steadily all season to the point that almost every scouting agency has him locked into their top-10. 25 goals and 69 points were enough to finish ahead of linemates Brad Ross and Nino Niederreiter in scoring and his performances got stronger and stronger as the season went on. He led the team in playoff scoring with 18 points in 13 games. Is he still scratching the surface of his potential? Most people seem to think so.

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