Remember these halcyon days Wild fans? This is of course a picture of the first 3 selections of the 2000 NHL Entry draft which was the first one the Wild ever participated in. So there you see the top 3 picks; 1st Overall Rick DiPietro of the New York Islanders, 2nd Overall Dany Heatley of the Atlanta Thrashers, and of course the 3rd Overall pick Marian Gaborik to the Wild. I remember watching that draft in the basement of my ex-fiance's house that afternoon. Admittedly I didn't know much about the players in that draft, and all I had really heard about Gaborik was that he had blazing speed and had a sniper's shot. That seemed more than exciting enough for me, especially as I thought about watching the team in its inaugural season later that fall. Gaborik's gone, and Heatley is here (for now), and Rick DiPietro is still on the Islanders payroll but the draft is always exciting to me. It an ever important part of any organization to draft well to have the talent it needs to win the ultimate prize, the Stanley Cup. The Wild have 7 important selections to make after dealing a 3rd round pick (70th Overall) to the New York Islanders as part of the Cal Clutterbuck for Nino Niederreiter deal.
In this article I will provide a complete overview of all of the Wild's selections in this year's draft and try to provide accurate and complete analysis. When I'm not watching Wild games, I'm often watching other hockey games of these young players or reading scouting reports from a variety of trusted hockey sources to give you the best idea of what kind of players these young men are. I will provide a summary of that analysis from trusted sources like International Scouting Service, NHL Central Scouting (a player's Mid-Term rank will be listed in parentheses), and HockeyProspect.com as well as my own perspective. I hope it proves to be useful to you. So who did the Wild select in 2013?
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2nd Round (46th Overall)
LD – Gustav Olofsson (Green Bay, USHL) Height: 6'3" Weight: 185lbs Shoots: Left
ISS rank: 72nd The Hockey News' rank: 80th NHL Central Scouting (NA) rank: 51st (57th)
2012-13 Stats: 63GP 2G 21A = 23pts 59 PIM's +11
Talent Analysis: The Colorado College-commit has a tall and lanky frame which he uses effectively in a stay-at-home defenseman type of role. His excellent use of angles and an active stick really frustrates opposing forwards who try to move their way around him. He has decent mobility and can make a solid first pass out of the zone but is also comfortable moving the puck up the ice himself and looks comfortable in space. He is not a physical player, but rather uses angles and his stick to deny time and space from opposing players. Olofsson's shot is good, but nothing overly special either. The Swedish-born defenseman who was raised in the U.S. since elementary school has a very limited offensive upside. He is poised and calm with the puck and while he certainly needs to add beef to that frame he'll have plenty of time to do so in college. Mark Edwards of HockeyProspect.com is quoted as saying, "His shot needs tons of work, but this kid has plenty of upside, I expect him to be one of the Top 75 players selected."
My Take: I am not real happy with this pick. With more physical defenseman (something the team sorely needs) available at this point in the draft (like Gage Ausmus, Jonathan Ismael-Diaby) they take a player who sounds so much like what they've always had. Finesse defenseman with limited offensive potential with just the ability to poke check but not be able to handle a more determined bigger forward by being able to rub them off the puck with physical play. We may have recieved ok value when you compare where he fell in the other 'expert' lists with Olofsson but I think the Wild continue to ignore their 'soft' blueline at their own peril.
3rd Round (81st Overall)
RW – Kurtis Gabriel (Owen Sound, OHL) Height: 6'3" Weight: 206lbs Shoots: Right
ISS rank: N/A The Hockey News' rank: N/A NHL Central Scouting's (NA) rank: N/A
2012-13 Stats: 67GP 13G 15A = 28pts 100 PIM's +14
Talent Analysis: I have to admit, this a clearly an off the radar selection by the Wild. None of my materials made any mention of him. I can kind of tell why they didn't. Gabriel is a 1993 birthdate and didn't do a whole lot on a rebuilding Owen Sound team. He has a decent-sized frame who plays a physical style but he has very limited puck skills and offensive upside. Gabriel gets moving and then does his best to dish out devstating hits but his lateral mobility and quickness is a bit lacking. He has been passed over in the previous two drafts
My take: A complete throw away pick by the Wild. He wasn't mentioned in any of my materials in either 2011 or 2012 in the other drafts he was passed over. That right there says a lot. No one was looking at this kid, except the Wild apparently. This kid scored just 13 goals in his overage season. Unless you're talking about a heavyweight goon, a complete dying breed in the NHL these days then I don't see why you draft a player with such a limited potential. The Wild trying to sell this kid's 'knowledge of the Wild' seems pretty weak since they know have just about nothing else to say about him. If the Wild really felt it had to pick this guy, I would've felt pretty confident with waiting until my last selection to wait to take this kid.
4th Round (107th Overall)
LD – Dylan Labbe (Shawinigan, QMJHL) Height: 6'1" Weight: 180lbs Shoots: Left
ISS rank: 107th The Hockey News' rank: N/A NHL Central Scouting's (NA) rank: 74th (95th)
2012-13 Stats: 61GP 7G 21A = 28pts 57 PIM's -40
Talent Analysis: Labbe is a two-way defender who has decent puck skills but overall is a very unrefined talent. His skating is ok, and he could be more efficient in his stride but he is making improvements. One area he needs to improve is his lateral quickness as he sometimes has trouble with shifty forwards. Despite these limitations he's a reasonable puck mover who protects the puck effectively and has a excellent shot and is a good passer. He has good strength on his skates and plays with tenacity in his own end dishing out hits and being a pain for opposing forwards who want to hang out near the crease. Labbe also must be a bit smarter in his own zone where he sometimes tries to force the play and commits costly turnovers which is a big reason why he was a -40.
My Take: He sounds like an interesting project player with some offensive upside but he still has a lot of question marks to his game. He's more skilled in the offensive end of the ice than he is in the back end and if he can't figure out how to be effective in the defensive zone I don't see much of a future for this kid. Scouts seem to like the offensive tools he has to his game, but he's certainly a kid that will need at least 3-4 years to develop and just maybe you might have a serviceable player for your club. Still, considering all of the question marks it makes you wonder why they didn't wait a bit before selecting this guy.
5th Round (137th Overall)
D – Cameron Soucy (Spruce Grove, AJHL) Height: 6'4" Weight: 190lbs Shoots: Left
ISS rank: N/A The Hockey News' rank: N/A NHL Central Scouting's (NA) rank: 129th (137th)
2012-13 Stats: 35GP 5G 10A = 15pts 71 PIM's +4
Talent Analysis: The Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs recruit brings size and a strong physical game as a stay-at-home defenseman. Soucy still has to fill out his frame, which he uses effectively to rub out opposing forwards along the boards but many believe he could afford to play with an even greater level of aggressiveness. He has reasonable mobility for a player his size but overall his game is simple. He is not all that great with the puck even though he does have a big shot when he has the time to get it off.
My Take: He's another 3-4 year project who will have time to develop at a quality NCAA program. Its an ok pick, but one that doesn't make you think he's going to suddenly surprise you either. In otherwords we'll know soon enough if we have late round steal or another Sean Lorenz.
6th Round (167th Overall)
C – Avery Peterson (Grand Rapids, USHS-MN) Height: 6'2" Weight: 194lbs Shoots: Left
ISS rank: 169th The Hockey News' rank: N/A NHL Central Scouting's (NA) rank: 77th (86th)
2012-13 Stats: 23GP 23G 31A = 54pts 2 PIM's
Talent Analysis: Avery Peterson should be familiar to those who love high school hockey around the state as he's your classic power forward. While he lacks in acceleration, he uses his frame effectively to protect the puck and can even dangle through defenders in the offensive zone as he drives to the net. Once he gets to the net he can bury the biscuit or set up a teammate. At times when he's away from the puck he seems rather disinterested and sort of waits for someone to dig it out and work it to him. A talented multisport athlete, a football player, he already possesses decent strength which he demonstrated at the NHL Draft Combine.
My Take: Another project player who we really won't know what we have until 3-4 years from now. Having watched Avery Peterson a lot I can tell you this. He is a player who you will watch and wonder what's so special about the guy. Then as the game intensifies or gets close to a critical point he'll make a big play that results in a goal and will very well be your hero when its all said and done. Its an intangible in his career as a high school star but we'll see if that translates at the next level which I would guess would be Jr. A (Sioux City, USHL) first before college. No matter what he needs to improve his acceleration and skating if he's to have any chance at the NHL at all.
7th Round (197th Overall)
LD – Nolan DeJong (Victoria, BCHL) Height: 6'2" Weight: 173lbs Shoots: Left
ISS rank: 111th The Hockey News' rank: N/A NHL Central Scouting's (NA) rank: 111th (150th)
2012-13 Stats: 51GP 5G 19A = 24pts 16 PIM's
Talent Analysis: The Michigan recruit possesses excellent mobility and uses his size effectively even though he has to fill out his 6'2" frame. He makes smart decisions with the puck and doesn't mind joining the rush on occasion where he shows great comfort in the role of set up man from the point. He has a decent shot but does not take undue risks in the offensive zone that will hurt him in his play in his own end. Scouts feel DeJong has terrific potential and once he refines his already solid skillset a team could have a real find on its hands. His physical play is average but that will not doubt be helped once he adds some beef to his thin frame.
My Take: This sounds like a pretty decent pick to me. He sounds like he has few holes in his game and its really just a matter of physical development that will help him round out his promising game. For a 7th round pick, a player with his skillset and development path seems promising and realistic. I hope he blossoms with the Wolverines next season and I look forward to following his development.
7th Round (200th Overall)
G – Alexandre Belanger (Rouyn-Noranda, QMJHL) Height: 6'1" Weight: 170lbs Catches: Left
ISS rank: 4th The Hockey News' rank: N/A NHL Central Scouting's (NA) rank: 14th (25th)
2012-13 Stats: (24-13-1) 3.46GAA .875%SP 1 SO
Talent Analysis: Belanger is a player who really had to be the ultimate line of defense for a team that really just wanted to play offense with an up-tempo style that led to lots of odd-man chances the other way. However, Alexandre Belanger never once complained as his strong play earned him the #1 job and the Huskies a spot in the playoffs. Belanger is a classic butterfly goaltender, but his movement from post to post is efficient and he reads the play (especially off the rush) very well. Belanger has a great glove and he recovers well after the first shot and never gives up on a puck.
My Take: Another great pick, especially in the 7th round. Belanger is an athletic goaltender who has seen lots of shots and while his goals against average seems high its more of a result of how little defensive help he recieves. This is a kid who can still get better in regards to his positioning from time to time, but from an athletic and desire perspective I think he is a gamer and like DeJong I look forward to tracking his development.
My overall view of this draft is that I'm rather disappointed. With the exception of the last two picks and to a lesser extent their 2nd round selection I felt this team did little to address some glaring deficiencies in their prospect pool and as an organization. The team obviously felt it needed to get bigger, which is why every player was at least 6'1" tall. Yet, did this team get any meaner? Not real sure, unless you consider drafting an overage player in the 3rd round who has almost no offensive skills a real quality addition.
This team did nothing to address its lack of speed up front, nor did it find players who I felt were outstanding finishers. Avery Peterson has good hands, but his skating is a major liability and unless he can improve it then I don't think he has any sort of NHL future at all. Defensively I felt the team missed on opportunities to draft more physical defenders that were both mobile and responsible in their own end.
Only time will tell but going so off the board in the later rounds seem foolish. We'll see just how foolish in the next few years.