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NASHVILLE – Charlie Stramel went to a few Wild games a year growing up in Rosemount, considered Zach Parise his favorite player and even had some Wild jerseys.

But the one he received on Wednesday night was different.

This one had his name on the back.

"We got him one that probably fits a little better now," General Manager Bill Guerin said.

The Wild drafted Stramel 21st overall during the NHL draft at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, making him just the third Minnesotan taken by the team in the first round.

"Obviously thrilled," Stramel said. "No better feeling than getting picked by the hometown team. I always hoped the Wild would pick me. It was always in the back of my head.

"To see that dream come true is a blessing, for sure."

Stramel was the Wild's target all along.

Not only does he fill a positional need, lining up at center, but Stramel has size (6 feet, 3 inches and 222 pounds) and is a right shot. The Wild also valued his character and competitiveness and felt they had to draft him when they were on the clock, although they did talk to a few teams about moving ahead in the first round; they didn't contemplate trading back.

Rounds 2-7 of the draft are Thursday. The Wild currently own five other selections, beginning with Nos. 53 and 64 in the second round.

"When [Stramel] was there and we were able to take him, we were extremely happy about that," Guerin said, "so we made the pick."

A self-described 200-foot power forward who's also a chippy playmaker, Stramel is coming off his freshman season at Wisconsin where he registered five goals and seven assists in 33 games — what the Wild acknowledged as a tough season for the 18-year-old after his stint with the United States National Team Development Program.

"It was a transition to college hockey playing against older players and bigger players, and the offensive production didn't happen," said Wild Director of Amateur Scouting Judd Brackett. "He's not the first player to hit a bit of a stall as a freshman."

But the Wild met with Stramel throughout the year and at the NHL combine earlier this month where he tested "extremely well," Guerin said.

Team brass also scouted Stramel for three years, which is also why they felt confident in the pick. Brackett dubbed Stramel a consensus top-10 talent at one point. NHL Central Scouting ranked him 30th among North American skaters.

"He's someone that's season was less than he expected," Brackett explained. "He owned it. He talked about it and talked about the changes he wants to make in his game and where he thinks he can make it and we believe in him."

When he returns to Wisconsin next season, Stramel is looking to integrate more physicality into his play.

"I think I shied away from that a little bit last year," he said. "That's a big focus for me is getting back into people's grills, starting stuff up and the production side, as well."

During his last season with the U.S. National Under-18 team, Stramel totaled 10 goals and 12 assists in 26 games. He's also represented the United States internationally, winning bronze at the World Junior Championship earlier this year.

"It's so hard to find a center with his size, skating ability, the grit, the jam," Brackett said. "He fits a lot of our identity, and sometimes need trumps a little bit more of the skill value."

Before joining the NTDP, Stramel skated at Rosemount High.

His sister, Sophie, was a sophomore at Rosemount last season and scored a double-overtime goal in the section finals to help the girls hockey team to the state tournament. And their mother, Gretchen, coached Rosemount to the Class AA girls soccer title before retiring. Their father, Dave, passed away in March, 2021.

Charlie Stramel acknowledged that being drafted by the Wild could mean added pressure for him, "but at the end of the day, I think that's a blessing," he said.

The 16th Minnesota native drafted all-time by the Wild, Stramel is the first taken by the franchise in the first round since Eden Prairie's Nick Leddy went 16th overall in 2009. Savage's A.J. Thelen was selected at No. 12 in 2004.

But it's the future that the Wild are focused on when it comes to Stramel.

"We do put an emphasis on where this can go for him," Brackett said. "We believe the sky is the limit for him."