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Fletcher sets sights on next week's draft

Friday, 06.18.2010 / 3:28 PM / Minnesota Wild | 2010 NHL Entry Draft
By Dan Myers  - Special to Wild.com
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Fletcher sets sights on next week\'s draft
St. Paul, MN -- Next Friday, the 30 National Hockey League franchises will gather in Los Angeles for the 2010 version of the Entry Draft.

This Friday, the Minnesota Wild gathered media and season ticket holders to host their annual draft luncheon, keynoted by General Manager Chuck Fletcher.

With the draft in just seven days and the opening of free agency just under two weeks away, Fletcher addressed a number of topics, including the team's interest in trades, free agency and potential draft strategies.

Minnesota has eight picks in this year's draft, including five of the first 99. That many picks will provide Fletcher with plenty of flexibility next weekend should he decide to jump ahead a couple spots in Friday's first round. The Wild currently hold the No. 9 overall pick.

"I think its too early to handicap which way that will go," Fletcher said. "Teams have called about trading up for our pick and we've called teams about trading up for their pick."

After trading veteran center Eric Belanger to Washington at the trade deadline last season, the Wild netted an extra second round selection. Fletcher said he's seen teams package a pair of seconds to jump back into the first round -- a move he didn't discount should there be someone who piques the team's interest late Friday night.

"You can also package some things and move up in the draft," Fletcher said. "But you can also get a quality NHL player with a second round pick, so you can draft two good prospects that will hopefully play with your team someday."

Fletcher admitted the Wild are a bit behind in the depth department. The team drafted goaltender Matt Hackett with its second pick in last year's draft, 77th overall. By pick 77 this year, Minnesota will already have made four picks. The Wild's fifth pick in 2010, scheduled to be 99th, is 62 spots higher than its fifth pick last year. Fletcher said a team typically drafts about two players per draft that eventually make the NHL roster. With the quality and quantity of picks the team has in 2010, the Wild may have a chance to double that -- at least that's the goal.

"Obviously, we'd love to hit on all five of those," Fletcher said. "But at the end of the day, realistically, if we can hit on two or three of them I'd be really happy."

In today's salary cap era, success at the draft is what elevates a team from average to good and from good to great. For proof, look at the league's last three Stanley Cup champions. Chicago's core of Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane are both high draft picks. Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Marc-Andre Fleury are all first rounders. Detroit has done a masterful job of selecting diamonds late in the draft, including Henrik Zetterberg (7th Round) and Pavel Datsyuk (6th Round).

No matter how it's done, selecting your team's stars of the future needs to be done at the draft.

"It's absolutely critical," Fletcher said. "It's difficult to find star talent through the trading market or in free agency. It's not impossible, but it's difficult and you usually have to pay a huge monetary cost or give up valuable assets.

"The most cost effective and easier way to acquire stars is through the draft."

In terms of this year's draft, Fletcher said he will remain loyal to his board. Although the team lacks depth at forward in the farm system and seems relatively deep at defense, Fletcher insisted he will draft the best player available at every spot.

"Every player you draft is anywhere from two to five years away from making any kind of impact on your NHL team," Fletcher said. "Needs will change between now and then. The key thing to me is trying to maximize asset value and draft the most talented player you can draft.

"If you draft a good player, eventually you'll have too many good players at one position and you're always able to shift your assets around and make a trade and acquire what you need."

Fletcher also said he is open to trading picks for proven NHL talent, although he is not interested in taking on players "on the downside."

"It would have to be someone younger with a few years left on their contract; someone who will come here and be on your roster for a few years," Fletcher said.

The NHL Entry Draft gets underway at 6 p.m. CST Friday and will be televised on Versus. The Wild are set to select ninth in Friday's first round. Rounds 2-7 take place Saturday, and Minnesota is scheduled to select twice in the second round (picks 39 and 56) and once each in rounds 3-7 (69, 99, 129, 159 and 189 overall).
Minnesota Wild 2010 Draft Board
ROUND
/ PICK
Position / PLAYER Height
/ Weight
1/9 5' 10" - 180 lbs.
2/39 6' 3" - 185 lbs.
2/56 LW - Johan Larsson 5' 10" - 200 Lbs.
2/59 5' 11" - 174 lbs.
5/129 6' 1" - 210 lbs.
6/159 6' 2" - 202 lbs.
7/189 5' 11" - 162 lbs.





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