Chuck Fletcher Press Conference

Zack Phillips Press Conference

Jonas Brodin Press Conference

Wild trade Burns to San Jose for Setoguchi and Coyle

As I write this, the Xcel Energy Center is still buzzing after the trade that was just announced.

The Minnesota Wild have traded Brent Burns and a 2012 2nd Round Pick to the San Jose Sharks for Devin Setoguchi, Charlie Coyle and the 28th pick in this draft.

With all the speculation that the Wild could be going after Zach Parise or any other number of elite wingers, it was clear that the Wild wanted to do something to improve their forwards, and Setoguchi does just that.

Past that, the Wild get that blue-chip forward prospect that they are desperately lacking in Coyle.

This is certainly a risk. There’s no two ways around it.

Burns was the Wild’s best offensive threat on the blue line. He helped anchor their power play and he was easily one of the most dynamic players that they had. That being said, he was likely going to command a good chunk of change next season and the Wild likely didn’t want to pay him that or think he deserved that.

In Setoguchi, they get a pure goal scorer who happens to play right wing, a position they are very thin at. They get a player who can step in and contribute right now. Not a couple years down the road. Now.

Basically, long story short, I like this trade for Minnesota but it isn’t a surefire trade. It’s not a slam dunk, but it is a bold move by a franchise that desperately needs scoring.

Wild Select Jonas Brodin, Zack Phillips in First Round

Well, that was unexpected.

With second ranked winger in the draft still on the board, the Minnesota Wild dipped into Europe once again and picked up defenseman Jonas Brodin from Farjestad, Sweden.

Now, while I’m partially relieved that I won’t have to learn how to spell Baertschi correctly, this pick does leave a bit of a bad taste in my mouth. Brodin is a great player in his own right, and I’m sure he’ll blossom into a terrific NHL defenseman (he models his game after Niklas Lidstrom – not a bad person to idolize), but the Wild need scoring help and I fell in love with Baertschi at the Media Day on Thursday at the Walker Art Center.

I’m not here to talk about Baertschi. It would be a disservice to Brodin to talk about woulda, coulda, shoulda.

Brodin is a solid two-way player that can skate and has good hockey sense. That’s the type of defenseman that the Wild need. Yes, he tallied all of four points playing as a 17-year old in the Swedish Elite League.

But, think about it. He was 17, essentially a boy playing in a league against men. What’s more is that he only had 12 penalty minutes, at 17, again, a boy playing in a league against men.

Brodin has what we like to call a “projectable frame,” meaning that he’ll pack on some pounds and be a stout 6’1” instead of the skinny 6’1” he is right now.

This is a pick, again, that will pay off in a couple years and, to be fair, there wasn’t really any pick left on the board that I can foresee stepping in right away and contributing this season.

With Tyler Cuma’s injury problems, Brodin admittedly may fill a need for the Wild. According to Goran Stubb, “He’s effective in one-on-one situations,” and “is a very mature defenseman.” He does need to pack on the pounds, though, if he hopes to bring his game over to the NHL level.

Alright, alright. I’ve talked myself down from the ledge. This isn’t the sexy pick that everyone in Minnesota might have been hoping for. He’s not a forward. He’s not a 90-goal scorer.

But he could very well turn into what the Wild need.

UPDATED: With the 28th pick in the draft, the Wild selected Zack Phillips from Saint John in the QMJHL.

So, basically everything I said about the Wild needing scoring? Yeah, they definitely addressed that.

In one trade, they picked up Devin Setoguchi (someone who can help now) and Charlie Coyle and Zack Phillips (two players who will help down the line).

Phillips has been compared to Adam Oates (a pretty darn good comparison to be sure) by some and is strong with great hands. His skating could improve a bit, but overall I’ve got to imagine the Wild are thrilled with picking him up at the 28th spot.

Again, Phillips is at least two years off, but this is an indication that the Wild are going to be rebuilding for a couple years. At least, sort of rebuilding. It seems the plan is to load up on young players while filling the gap with other players who can help out immediately.

Phillips scored 95 points with Saint John and has scored at every level he’s played at, which is certainly a welcome sign for the goal-strapped Wild.

Wild Draft Recap; Part Five of Season Review Soon to Come

It’s officially three days before the free agency period starts. The draft is over, the die has been cast on the players that the Minnesota Wild selected and it’s now a waiting game to see how they progress.

But what do they look like initially?

Let’s take a look, shall we?

Round 1, Pick 9 – Mikael Granlund, C, HIFK FinlandI already mentioned what I think about this pick, but let’s just say this—it’s a tremendous pick for a team that is rebuilding, but not rebuilding.

Granlund is a smooth skating, fast player with incredible vision who also plays a lot bigger than his 5’10”, 180-pound frame.

He gets to the puck, he gets to the net and he gets points.

The bottom line is that this kid is going to help the Wild in a big, big way, possibly as soon as next season.

Round 2, Pick 39 – Brett Bulmer, RW, Kelowna RocketsThe Wild went a little off the board with this pick. Bulmer was one of the fastest rising players in terms of his CSS Rankings, skyrocketing himself up to number 65 in the Final Rankings from number 164 in the Midterm Rankings.

He’s a project, to be sure, but he also exhibited a lot of promise in the second half of his season this year.

He proved to be a very quick learner this season in the WHL and plays a pro-style game, even if he is still lacking a bit in the development area. As Kelowna coach Ryan Huska told NHL.com, “He doesn’t say a lot. When we talk to him, it’s yes or no, and then he applies what we tell him.”

While much has yet to be discovered about Bulmer, one thing is for sure. For a project pick, that sort of mentality bodes very, very well.

Round 2, Pick 56 – Johan Larsson, LW, Brynas Jr.Larson was considered the best player in the world at the Under-18 World Championships this year, leading Sweden to a silver medal.

He has great hockey sense and had a decent season with Brynas this last year.

He scored 34 points in 40 games and he plays with a bit of an edge, tallying 80 penalty minutes in that time. Larsson was ranked 34 in European Skaters by the CSS and has plenty of upside that the Wild can look forward to.

Round 2, Pick 59 – Jason Zucker, LW, US U-18 NTDPZucker could easily be considered to be the player that the Wild drafted in the second round with the most upside to him. In fact, the Wild coveted Zucker so much that they traded their third and fourth round picks to the Florida Panthers just so they could select the young winger from Las Vegas.

Zucker has become known as a big game player and has the potential to become a big time goal scorer. He, along with goaltender Jack Campbell, is also one of two players to have won three gold medals in the last year.

In other words, this kid knows how to win.

In addition to his winning experience, Zucker also led the U.S. Developmental Team in goal scoring, with 29 goals.

He’s fast, he’s gritty, he’s competitive and he’s got himself a nasty streak that could translate well to the NHL.

Round 6, Pick 159 – Johan Gustafsson, G, Farjstad Jr. – Many people thought it surprising that Johan Gustafsson fell as far as he did. Former Wild assistant General Manager Tommy Thompson actually had the young Swede rated 44th overall in his rankings.

Gustafsson was a large reason why the Swedish Under 18 team made it to the finals in the U-18 World championships and he is a big, athletic goalie and, more importantly a young player with a great attitude.

It will likely be a few years before Gustafsson is ready to sniff the bigs, but he gives the Wild a fantastic goalie prospect in their organization.

Round 7, Pick 189 – Dylen McKinlay, RW, Chilliwack Bruins – With their last pick of the draft the Wild selected McKinlay, a winger who had a solid second season with the Chilliwack Bruins, totaling 20 goals and 42 points in 72 games with the Bruins.

Overall the Wild had a fantastic draft, in my opinion.

They recognized the need for forwards in their system and used the first two rounds to pick up four forwards that could legitimately make a huge impact on the team down the road.

Fletcher utilized the assets that he had, not to make a splash but to make trades and picks that will have a lasting effect on this franchise. Though I would have liked to see the Wild land a number two center that could help the team immediately, as I’m sure many Wild fans would agree, the trades and draft picks were both extremely shrewd and addressed immediate needs in the organization.

While this draft may not make an immediate impact on the squad, I firmly believe that Wild pundits and fans alike will look back at this draft five or six years down the road and point to this as the start of an organization that is filled with skill and character players from top to bottom.

Overall Grade: A

Wild Grab Granlund; Struggle to Make Trades

Well, the Wild went into the first round of the draft with one simple mandate; take the best player available.

With both Cam Fowler and Brandon Gormley still available when the Wild came up to pick at their number nine pick, there was a lot of discussion at the draft table.

Now, I wasn’t sitting anywhere near the draft table, but I imagine that the conversation had something to do with whether to take the “best player available” or whether to draft to the team’s needs.

Fortunately, the Wild’s front office blinked and a less than enthusiastic Chuck Fletcher announced that the Minnesota Wild selected forward Mikael Granlund from HIFK Helsinki.

Granlund, a 5’10”, 180 pound center averaged nearly a point-per-game in his rookie season for HIFK, playing as a 17-year old in a league of men.

He is an exceptional playmaker and a player with terrific hockey sense—a player that should thrive under Richards’ up tempo, aggressive system. In fact, Granlund has been called the most imaginative playmaker in the draft.

Needless to say, I like this pick.

The Wild has a lot of depth in their system at defense. Between young up-and-comers in Tyler Cuma and Marco Scandella, more established AHL players in Justin Falk and Maxim Noreau and players who have sniffed the roster in Nate Prosser and Clayton Stoner.

What they don’t have a lot of are forwards.

Cody Almond and Casey Wellman are the only two players that are even close to being ready to compete in the NHL and the Wild need depth at forward—more notably at center.

With Granlund, the Wild have found a player that could actually be NHL-ready this season were it not for his existing contact with HIFK—a player that they hope will turn into another Mikko Koivu-type find from Finland.

Time will tell whether or not Granlund is that player but, for now, Wild fans can take solace in the fact that the team got a player that is very, very highly thought of.

On the other hand, things didn’t all come up roses for the Wild.

The team got their guy, to be sure, but Fletcher seemed much less than excited to take Granlund at the number nine spot.

It was quite obvious that Fletcher was listening to offers to move down and take their man later and try to get a couple more picks out of the deal, but it didn’t work out.

After that didn’t work out, Fletcher considered moving back into the first round in a round that saw teams moving up, down and all around with different picks.

So, what does this point to?

Well, first of all, that the Wild have absolutely zero assets that they’re willing to part with that are worth a first round pick.  Second, that even the ones that they have that have value don’t have the value that they once did.

So, where does that leave the Wild?

Well, this isn’t going to be a situation where they get better by leaps and bounds.

It’s going to be baby steps.

They’re going to improve through shrewd drafting and shrewd signings and, every once in a while, a shrewd trade. Until the stock of their players begins to go up again, however, it’s just going to be a matter playing the waiting game.

NHL Entry Draft Live Blogging Fun!

The NHL Draft is upon us and it’s looking like it’s going to be one exciting day of hockey fun.

The trades, draft picks and everything in between will be talked about.

Join myself, Hockey Primetime correspondent Michael Caples, Houston Aeros blogger and goalie extraordinaire Ms. Conduct.  Who knows, we might even have a few surprise guests up our sleeves!

Enjoy!