The Minnesota Wild have not been the most successful team at the draft table in their 14 year history. However, that has started to change under Chuck Fletcher. The second general manager in team history has invigorated the prospect pool with a variety of skill sets.
Here are the five best selections in Wild history.
No. 1 – Marian Gaborik – 2000 Round 1, Pick 3
Gaborik was the Wild’s first ever draft pick and it worked out very well. He immediately stepped into the lineup and was the most offensively gifted player in the organization. As an 18-year-old in the Wild’s inaugural season, he scored the first goal in franchise history and tied for the team lead in goals. He continued to be the lone offensive star on the team for year’s. He played eight seasons in Minnesota and held the franchises all-time point lead until this past season. He still owns the franchise record for points per game.
Career Statistics: 810 games played, 347 goals, 357 assists
No. 2 – Mikko Koivu – 2001 Round 1, Pick 6
Koivu has been the face of the franchise for several seasons and has been the captain for the last five seasons. He passed Gaborik as the franchise’s all-time points leader in mid-March with three assists against the New York Islanders. Despite his recent playoff struggles, Koivu is one of the better players in the franchise’s history.
Career Statistics: 601 games played, 130 goals, 322 assists
No. 3 – Nick Schultz – 2000 Round 2, Pick 33
Schultz was the model player under the team’s first head coach Jacques Lemaire. There is nothing flashy to his game, but he gets the job done night in and night out.
Career Statistics: 880 games played, 27 goals, 119 assists
No. 4 – Mikael Granlund – 2010 Round 1, Pick 9
Granlund has the makings to move up the list over time before eventually settling at the top. He has the best offensive skills of any player on the team. He and Gaborik are the most offensively gifted players in team history. Granlund improved by leaps and bounds over his strike-shortened rookie season last season. He was a big part of the Wild’s success last season.
Career Statistics: 90 games played, 10 goals, 39 assists
No. 5 – Brent Burns – 2003 Round 1, Pick 20
Versatility is one of Burns’ best assets. He has played both wing and defense during his time with the Wild and now the San Jose Sharks. He has a big strong body and some offensive skill.
Career Statistics: 633 games played, 97 goals, 191 assists
Here are the five worst selections in Wild history.
No. 1 – A.J. Thelen – 2004 Round 1, Pick 12
Thelen was the first first round draft pick the Wild used on a native Minnesotan. He was a big defenseman with good offensive skills. The Savage native had a very good freshman season for Michigan State, but was dismissed from the program during the following season due to off-ice issues. He then played two seasons in the Western Hockey League and did not get a contract offer from the Wild. He spent most of his four professional seasons in the East Coast Hockey League. In all he played just 10 games in the AHL and never sniffed the NHL.
Among the next 50 selections were: Drew Stafford (Pick No. 13), Travis Zajac (20), Wojtek Wolski (21), Andrej Meszaros (23), Mike Green (29), Dave Bolland (32), Bryan Bickell (41), David Booth (53), Nicklas Grossmann (56), Brandon Dubinsky (60), Alex Goligoski (61)
No. 2 – Kristofer Westblom – 2005 Round 3, Pick 65
Westblom was the second earliest goaltender drafted in Wild history, only Josh Harding in the second round was selected earlier. The Wild did not offer him a contract and after completing his junior eligibility, he played three seasons in the Canadian college ranks. He had a brief stint in the ECHL, but spent the rest of his three-plus professional seasons in the Central Hockey League. His selection is marred by a pair of goaltenders selected within the next 50 picks – two-time Stanley Cup champion Jonathan Quick and 2014 Vezina Trophy finalist Ben Bishop.
Among the next 50 selections were: Kris Russell (Pick No. 67), Jonathan Quick (72), Ben Bishop (85), Keith Yandle (105), Vladimir Sobotka (106), Niklas Hjalmarsson (108), Alex Stalock (112)
No. 3 – Tyler Cuma – 2008 Round 1, Pick 23
Cuma’s development has been slowed because of two serious leg injuries. He reportedly nearly made the Wild’s roster as an 18-year-old. He was one of the last cuts and had a good start to his junior season, but suffered a knee injury during camp for Canada’s world junior championship team. He came back strong, but had another season end because of a leg injury while playing a game in the Xcel Energy Center for the Houston Aeros. The Wild passed on four defenseman that have become top two-pairing guys and a top two center to take him.
Among the next 50 selections were: John Carlson (Pick No. 27), Vyacheslav Voynov (32), Roman Josi (38), Derek Stepan (51), Travis Hamonic (53)
No. 4 – Ondrej Fiala – 2006 Round 3, Pick 40
Fiala was a scoring forward in the Western Hockey League. He topped 20 goals twice in three junior seasons. The Wild did not sign the Czech native and he went to Europe. He played two games in the KHL and missed three full seasons before playing in Austria the last two seasons.
Among the next 50 selections were: Nikolai Kulemin (Pick No. 44), Jeff Petry (45), Shawn Matthias (47), Milan Lucic (50), Artem Anisimov (54), Steve Mason (69), Brad Marchand (71)
No. 5 – Mike Erickson – 2002 Round 3, Pick 72
Erickson was the first Minnesotan the Wild selected early in the draft. The Wild selected him following a less than spectacular freshman season at the University of Minnesota. He played nine games and recorded one goal and two assists. He played one more season for the Gophers before heading back to the USHL. He finished his collegiate career at Western Michigan. He played two plus seasons professionally – one plus in the ECHL and one in Germany.
Among the next 50 selections were: Frans Nielsen (87), Matthew Lombardi (90), Valtteri Filppula (95)