Thursday, 06.17.2010 / 2:26 PM CT / Minnesota Wild | 2010 NHL Entry Draft
By Michael Sonday - Special to Wild.com
There are a number of reasons, but you can eliminate that there is a bias against Minnesotans by those who are, or were in charge of stocking the Wild roster.
While there’s no doubt that Wild, and any other team would love to have players such as 2010 Olympians Zach Parise, Erik Johnson, David Backes and Jamie Langenbrunner, it’s not exactly that simple. For one, the Wild’s past success on the ice has put them in draft positions that rarely crack the top eight, resulting in many of the state’s top prospects being selected, in some cases, just picks before the Wild stepped to the podium.
In the case of a player like Langenbrunner, he was drafted well before the Wild ever came into existence. But for players like Parise and Johnson, they were never available to the Wild, and quite possibly never will be.
With the 2010 NHL Draft just over a week away, there is bound to be some top Minnesotans available – Derek Forbort and Nick Bjugstad to name two. While fans covet a hometown hero many Wild enthusiasts understand that the Wild’s first round pick is going to be based on talent and potential, rather than place of birth.
But for the sake of argument, let’s look at some of the past drafts, and also some of the top Minnesotans in the NHL today:
• 2000 Draft: Paul Martin selected by the Devils at pick 62
The Wild bypassed Martin and made Nick Schultz its second selection in team history. While having Martin would have been nice, Schultz has had a solid Wild career, playing franchise-high 607 games.
• 2003 Draft: New Jersey Devils nab Zach Parise 17th overall
Minneapolis native Zach Parise, a 2009 NHL All-Star and cornerstone of the Devil’s franchise, has notched 335 points in 407 career games. A highly touted prospect, Parise somehow continued to wait for his name to be called. When it looked like he may fall to the Wild with the 20th pick, the Devils scooped him up. Just three picks later the Wild picked Brent Burns, and not many are complaining about that choice. There was another Minnesota product available in Mark Stuart, who was taken by Boston with the next pick. He has played every game for Boston over the last two years, but doesn’t have the offensive ability of Burns.
• 2003 Draft: David Backes goes to St. Louis in the second round
Like Martin, Backes was available to the Wild, but was passed over. Backes, who the Blues took in the second round, 62nd overall, has contributed 71 goals and 156 points in 282 games. The Wild instead took Patrick O’Sullivan with the 54th pick. O’Sullivan, one of the top prospects in the draft, dropped to the Wild in the second round due to concerns over his background, which don’t seem to have been an issue in his NHL career. Of course, O’Sullivan was part of the deal that brought Pavol Demitra to Minnesota.
• 2003 Draft: Hawks take chance on Dustin Byfuglien, swipe him at pick 245
The Wild may have missed out on this future star but 29 other teams also took a pass on him…multiple times. Even the Blackhawks passed on him seven times before taking a flier on him at 245. Byfuglien was a late bloomer, but after maturing, he was a key fixture in Chicago’s Stanley Cup run.
• 2004 Draft: Gretzky and the Yotes select Blake Wheeler fifth overall
The Wild couldn’t even consider Wheeler, who was the surprise of the Draft when Wayne Gretzky announced his name to the shock of many. The Wild attempted to bring in a hometown kid by selecting A.J. Thelen at 12. Thelen never panned out, while Wheeler is blossoming into a star.
• 2006 Draft: Four local products among first eight selected
Erik Johnson, first overall; Phil Kessel, fifth overall; Kyle Okposo, seventh overall; and Peter Mueller, eighth overall were all selected before the Wild took James Sheppard with the ninth pick. While Kessel is from our neighbor to the east, he played his college hockey at the University of Minnesota. Once again the Wild never has a chance to grab a top player with Minnesota ties.
• 2007 Draft: Canadiens draft Ryan McDonagh 12th
The 2007 Mr. Hockey after an impressive career at Cretin-Derham Hall has been honing his game at Wisconsin. Four picks later the Wild selected Colton Gillies after moving up.
• 2009 Draft: Wild keeps it local and takes Nick Leddy 15th
The Wild one again took a Minnesota defenseman, but later packaged him and Kim Johnsson in exchange for Cam Barker, who was the third overall pick by Chicago in 2004.
Overall, the Wild has taken six Minnesotans – Jake Riddle, Michael Erickson, A.J. Thelen Kyle Medvec, Chris Hickey and Leddy – in 10 previous drafts. There’s also been one North Dakotan, Danny Irmen, who is the only player of the seven to have skated in a Wild game.
There is always the chance that the Wild could take Blaine’s Nick Bjugstad or Duluth’s Derek Forbort with the ninth pick overall this year. The Wild brass has probably seen Bjugstad more than any other prospect in this year’s draft due to his proximity and high visibility in past state tournaments.
But if the Wild takes Forbort, Bjugstad or any other Minnesotans next weekend, it will be because the Wild wants them to become a Minnesotan, not because they already are.
Michael Sonday is the lead writer for mnhockeyprospects.com. You can contact him here.