The Wild is convinced it will get a player it really likes with the No. 12 pick the first round of the NHL Draft on Friday, and history suggests that might be true.
Here is a look at some of the franchise’s draft history:
*The Wild has eight picks in this year’s draft, tied for the most it has had since the draft was reduced to seven rounds in 2005. The Wild has had eight picks three other times, including last season.
But the Wild hasn’t made at least one pick in each of the first three rounds of the draft since 2012, a notion that speaks to former general manager Chuck Fletcher’s willingness to include picks in trades aimed at bolstering the Wild’s playoff hopes.
“I think the most important thing was continuing to save our draft picks to make sure we had a full draft, and now we have eight picks this year. That’s great,” general manager Paul Fenton said. “The things that happened here before, it was done for purpose. It was done to try and get there and win.”
Fenton said the Wild could have tried to make a short-term move to fill the roster void after Matt Dumba’s injury last season but that he decided against it.
“In the past, that probably would have cost an asset and I wouldn’t be sitting here today saying we’re picking No. 12 and we’re going to get someone we’re really happy about,” Fenton said.
*The seven players drafted by the Wild who have the most career points were all chosen in the first round: Marian Gaborik (No. 3), Mikko Koivu (No. 6), Brent Burns (No. 20), Pierre-Marc Bouchard (No. 8), Mikael Granlund (No. 9), Nick Leddy (No. 16) and Benoit Pouliot (No. 4).
The problem is the Wild hasn’t always seen the benefit of the best players it has drafted.
All of Koivu’s career and almost all of Bouchard and Granlund’s career production has come with the Wild. But nearly half of Gaborik’s 815 career points came after he left the Wild. The vast majority of Burns and Pouliot’s production came for other teams, while Leddy never played a game for the Wild after being traded early in his career.
*The Wild’s future hinges a great deal on the 2015 draft. In that year, Fletcher took Joel Eriksson Ek in the first round (No. 20 overall), Jordan Greenway in the second round (50th overall) and Kirill Kaprizov in the fifth round (135th overall).
Eriksson Ek and Greenway figure to play top-nine (and possibly top-six) forward roles next season and beyond, while Kaprizov’s likely arrival for the 2020-21 season could give the Wild the sort of young game-changer they haven’t had in a long time.
*Kaprizov might end up being the best draft pick in Wild history if he achieves the sort of stardom fans are craving. Burns is also in that discussion thanks to his breakout in San Jose. Koivu’s strong two-way play gets him into the conversation, while Erik Haula has delivered tremendous value to both the wild and Vegas as a seventh-round pick.
But I still have to say Gaborik earns that distinction. With 407 career goals, he has more than twice as many tallies as any other Wild draft pick in history.