Wild Draft Day Wrap
The Wild made a big move and added big players at the 2013 NHL Entry Draft
Over the years, Minnesota Wild General Manager Chuck Fletcher has shown a willingness to make big moves to improve the club.
That has rung true especially at the NHL Draft, where, since becoming GM of the Wild in 2008, Fletcher has traded for Devin Setoguchi and Charlie Coyle while also laying the groundwork for a Dany Heatley trade a couple of weeks later in 2011.
On Sunday, with the 2013 edition of the draft underway, Fletcher showed why that description fits him to a 'T'.
With the Wild's first round selection in the pocket of the Buffalo Sabres after it was traded for winger Jason Pominville at the trade deadline, Minnesota was making waves by trading for New York Islanders wing Nino Niederreiter -- a No. 5 overall selection in the 2010 draft -- in exchange for right wing Cal Clutterbuck and a third-round pick.
Niederreiter, who spent last season with the Islanders' American Hockey League affiliate in Bridgeport, Conn., scored 28 goals and added 22 assists in 74 games with the Sound Tigers. He's also played in 64 games with the Islanders over parts of to seasons, scoring two goals and an assist.
"I'm very excited to get a new start and a new opportunity," Niederreiter said. "Scoring goals and making the right play in the right situation, that's kind of my game. I'm a power forward and I'm going to bring that to the table."
Fletcher, who said he had hoped to be able to perhaps trade back into the first round of what many experts have labeled the deepest draft in years, was thrilled he was able to get Niederreiter, whom the Wild had their eyes on in 2010. Fletcher said getting him was akin to getting that first rounder back, only nabbing one already two years into his development.
"He's a young guy who is a proven goal-scorer at every level short of the NHL so far," Fletcher said. "We expect him to contribute at the NHL level in the near future."
It was the second trade of the day for Fletcher and the Wild after moving defenseman Justin Falk to the New York Rangers in a pre-draft trade in exchange for winger Benn Ferreiro and a 2014 draft pick.
When the Wild were finally on the clock four hours into the draft, it selected defenseman Gustav Olofsson 46th overall, a 6-3 Swede who played hockey last season with the Green Bay Gamblers of the United States Hockey League.
Olofsson, who is committed to play college hockey at Colorado College, scored two goals and added 21 assists with the Gamblers last season and is known primarily for his defense, skating and ability to get the puck out of his zone.
When asked who he patters his game after, Olofsson responded with a familiar name.
"Jonas Brodin… just his fluidness and how he skates really stood out to me. That's how I'd like to play," Olofsson said, referring to the Wild blueliner who just wrapped up a banner first season in Minnesota and was named to the NHL All-Rookie Team. "A two-way defenseman with string skating ability and good hockey sense."
Minnesota added to its forward stable in the third round with the 81st overall pick when it selected Kurtis Gabriel, a 6-3 right winger who played for Owen Sound of the Ontario League.
In 67 games with the Attack last season, Gabriel scored 13 goals and added 15 assists. Going undrafted in the OHL meant Gabriel had to work extra hard to get noticed by NHL scouts.
"It's an absolute dream come true and I mean that to its fullest," Gabriel said. "Some guys have come up the easy way. I've come up the hard way. I know how to work hard and that's what I'm going to build my career on."
"A late bloomer who really improved this year," Flahr said. "He's a big imposing winger that brings a physical element every night."
In round four, the Wild added another defenseman when it took Dylan Labbe from Shawinigan of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League 107th overall.
Labbe, 6-1 and 180 lbs, scored seven goals and 21 assists last season. He was the 74th ranked North American skater in the NHL's Central Scouting Final Rankings.
"Two-way defenseman, I can play offense and be a safe defenseman," said Labbe, who says he patterns his game after Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith.
"Smart, puck-moving defenseman that plays in all situations," Flahr said. "He needs to get stronger but he has a quality upside."
At 137th overall in the fifth round, the Wild nabbed the 129th ranked North American skater in Central Scouting's final rankings in Carson Soucy, a University of Minnesota Duluth commit.
Another tall defenseman, Soucy -- a native of Viking, Alberta -- stands 6-4 but is still a bit light at 191 lbs. He scored five goals and assisted on 10 others last season for Spruce Grove of the Alberta Junior Hockey League. Flahr praised his mobility and ability to move the puck.
The Wild stayed close to home for its sixth round selection, grabbing forward Avery Peterson of Grand Rapids High School with the 167th overall selection.
Ranked 77th in Central Scouting's final midterm rankings, Peterson scored 23 goals and assisted in 31 others in 23 games as a junior with the Thunderhawks last season. He also played in eight games with Sioux City of the USHL, scoring once and assisting on three more.
"A good-sized, two-way center that skates well," Flahr said of Peterson. "He's been a productive player at the high school and USHL levels."
Minnesota finished its day with a pair of picks in the final round, selecting defenseman Nolan De Jong 197th overall and goaltender Alexandre Belanger 200th.
De Jong, a 6-1 a 65-pound blue liner headed to the University of Michigan, scored five goals and 19 assists for Victoria of the British Columbia Hockey League last season. He finished the season ranked as the 111th best North American skater.
Belanger, a 6-foot lefty, was ranked 14th among North American goaltenders and played in 44 games for Rouyn-Noranda of the QMJHL last season, posting a 3.46 goals against average and a .875 save percentage.