The NHL draft is a lot like fishing. You go out on the lake, and hope to catch a nice (big) fish. But its not guaranteed and as the old saying says, “that’s why its called fishing and not catching.” I hope the Minnesota Wild do better than my most recent family fishing trip up to Lake Vermilion in northern Minnesota. We have been up there a week and I literally caught nothing at all, not one fish or anything else besides a wicked sunburn and frustration. (the rest of my family managed to catch at least some fish, but just 3 that we kept and ate) But hey, its ok. I had a great time with my family and to be honest that what really matters.
In a way NHL teams at the draft are a lot like people who go fishing. They’re all hoping for the ‘trophy’ moment where you catch a fish so impressive that it will be remembered for many years to come as a source of pride. With every draft class, its like going to a new lake to fish. This was our first time on Lake Vermilion and while it wasn’t the best for fishing we certainly gave it our best effort. The NHL draft, like fishing, has good years and bad years. When we talked around with others who were doing the same thing, most said they were not catching anything either. My brother spent hours learning all about Lake Vermilion and all of the ‘prime’ fishing spots, but despite his diligent effort most of those spots came up empty. I don’t think we had bad information and for the most part I feel if the fish were there we would’ve caught them, but it wasn’t meant to be. But back to the NHL draft…
The long wait is over. For the 31 NHL teams, countless hours of scouting finally culminate into selections being made, selections that can perhaps alter the trajectory of a franchise. That is the hope of all of the teams going into the 2018 NHL Entry Draft in Dallas and the Minnesota Wild is hoping to select the players that will help strengthen their future. But that’s hardly a revelation. All teams hope to make themselves better, and no doubt respective fan bases will be flooded with draft buzzwords like “upside”, “motor”, “work ethic”, “best player available” to go along with all kinds of random facts from their respective biographies.
At the end of the day, most of it is noise until they play the game with the team that drafted them and provide the impact the scouts and management hoped they would which usually manifests itself an indeterminate amount of years later. It is also the place where big trades are made and maybe its just me but there seems to be more buzz about potential draft-day trades than the actual draft itself. The Minnesota Wild certainly seem to be a popular club prominent NHL execs and media pundits are talking about in the various reports out there like this one from Michael Russo at the Athletic. Reports like this one, certainly give Wild fans plenty of reasons to expect some kind of draft-day splash that has often been a harbinger in change of direction for this franchise.
Like this draft day trade splash in 2006 as the Wild dealt a 1st round pick and Patrick O’Sullivan to Los Angeles for Pavol Demitra. Who could forget the infamous Brent Burns to San Jose for Devin Setoguchi, Charlie Coyle and a 1st round pick (28th Overall). I was at the draft as it was held in St. Paul that year and the reaction was very mixed. Some fans applauding it and others shaking their head in frustration and disgust, but it was pretty exciting to hear NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman say “we have a trade to announce” as it probably draws more of a reaction from the crowd than to the players we drafted that day in Jonas Brodin and Zack Phillips. Why?
Because most fans don’t know that much about the players that are drafted, but they do feel they know and understand the NHL veterans that are involved in these draft day trades. In most cases, teams don’t fully know what they truly have in the players they draft and at this point its a lot of hoping you picked the right player. Hopefully that future ‘trophy’ player a team can pride itself on selecting for years to come. As 2011 clearly demonstrates, success is not guaranteed even if you drafted a player in the 1st round. Just like a person who goes fishing who ‘just missed’ out on catching a big ‘trophy’ fish those misses in the draft often leave scars as fans love to remind people of the players their team did not pick (especially with hindsight at their disposal). So who did the Wild draft or trade this evening?
1st Round (24th Overall) RD – Filip Johansson (Leksand Jr., Swe. Jr.) born in Vasteras, Sweden
Height: 6’0″ Weight: 185lbs Shoots: Right
Central Scouting (Euro Skater): #10 ISS: #39 Future Considerations: #68
HockeyProspect.com: #55 Hockey News: #38
Talent Analysis: He is smooth skating defenseman who possesses an impressive level of on-ice intelligence. His vision allows him to anticipate plays develop in his own end as well as finding teammates with long stretch passes. He may not be the biggest defender, but he uses solid positioning to funnel opposing forwards to the perimeter or sealing off opposing skaters along the boards. He doesn’t shy away when things get rough in around the crease, but he’s not a punishing hitter by any means. He has some offensive ability but its uncertain whether that will translate to him being much of a producer at the NHL level. He looks for chances to activate from the point where he can be effective at putting shots on goal or as a set up man. Johansson a terrific penalty killer that closes gaps well as he works himself into shooting lanes and is a decent shot blocker. The Hockey News stated they felt he had a good one timer and helped Leksand gain promotion from the Swedish Alsvenskan to the Eliteserien this season. No real glaring weaknesses although some scouts feel his first 3-step quickness could use a little work as well as adding strength to his slight frame.
What the scouts said…
Dennis MacInnis ISS: “Mobile defeneseman plays with good poise and patience. Good puck movement-quick, on tape consistently. Sees the ice very well. He will join the rush or activate from the point. Defensively, he reads the play well, uses a good stick and has good position. I like this player, a draft sleeper.”
Joakim Eriksson ISS: “Intelligent player who sees the ice well and delivers hard accurate passes on the tape to spark the attack. Possesses high hockey-IQ, he is recognizing each situation and make the simple, most effective play.
“He is a solid, all around defenseman, nothing too fancy but always reliable” ~ NHL Scout
Bottom Line: Johansson could be a Top 4 defenseman with some development, with improvements to his acceleration and strength. He is a smart two-way defenseman who doesn’t really excel at anything but he doesn’t have any glaring weaknesses.
My Thoughts: Maybe its just me but isn’t this the type of player the Wild seem to covet way too much. Another, non-physical, finesse defenseman in the mold of Jonas Brodin, Gustav Olofsson and Tyler Cuma. The Wild have been pushed around and dominated in the battles in around the crease and Johansson will probably not be NHL ready for 2-3 (or more) seasons its tough to see how this will make Minnesota better in crunch time where physical battles become magnified and non-physical players seem to wither or disappear. Lastly, was this really the pick you wanted to make in the 1st round? Most scouts, including those in the draft broadcast seemed surprised how far ‘off the board’ the pick was and when you look at where the various scouting agencies had him it seems like there was a fair chance he would’ve been available in the 2nd round so why not trade down, add more assets and get him then? I am not impressed by this selection at all; especially as they let an opportunity to draft a speedy Top 9 center in Ryan McLeod or a deft playmaking Joe Veleno or sniper Dominik Bokk go by the wayside. They unfortunately missed out on K’Andre Miller whom the New York Rangers traded up to get. But if we really felt we had to have a defenseman I’d rather have taken a chance on Mattias Samuelsson, a big, physical defender who would give our team a dimension it has lacked for the better part of a decade instead of the same finesse defenseman we always seem to pick. As they say with the layman’s definition of insanity, ‘doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.’ Yeesh.
What do you think of the Minnesota’s Wild’s 1st round pick? Share with us your thoughts on Twitter @CreaseAndAssist or in the comment section below.