By popular demand, we continue on to 2009. Not even one year removed, this one is going to be rather tricky to evaluate, but I'll do the best I can.
Remember that this is Chuck Fletcher's first draft as GM of the Wild. This is the one that let us put the past behind us and look forward. Right?
Round One: Nick Leddy - Fletcher gets points for and against here. Jordan Schroeder was the clear choice for Wild fans. Being a small forward, I had strong doubts that Fletcher had any interest in him. Then, it came time for the Wild to pick, and in a move that Wild fans were not used to seeing, traded down and added a third round pick and seventh round pick in this draft. The third round pick ended up a replacement for a pick that He Who No Longer be Named traded away. When it came time again to pick, Fletcher was on the phone, trying to trade down yet again, but the offer must not have been there.
Fletcher also gets points for drafting an NCAA player. The old regime avoided this practice like the plague. However, Fletcher loses points for drafting a defenseman into a franchise that needs forwards more than the NHL needs a new Commissioner.
In the move that everyone seems to want my opinion on, Leddy was recently traded away in the Johnsson for Cam Barker deal. I am on the record saying that I really like that trade. Sure, Fletcher traded away a prospect, but at least he manned up and made the pick rather than trading the choice away. I think Barker is a known, and Leddy is an unknown. Barker will be good for this team. I have a feeling he will be around awhile, and the Wild traded from a source of strength and surplus (defensive prospects) to shore up a weakness (NHL ready d-men).
Result: Win. Win for trading down, win for choosing a college bound player, and win for the trade.
Round Two: No pick. Traded in deal for Marek Zidlicky. Not real pleased with this right now. Many Wild fans do not like Zids. I don't mind him as much as other d-men from the past. Cough, Skoula, cough, Kuba, cough, cough. If they re-sign him or trade him off, I'm OK with it either way. Maybe they can get the second round pick for next year back.
Round Three: Matt Hackett (G) - Another goalie prospect. This one, maybe. Big doubts on bringing in yet another goalie. Khudobin looks to be the default back-up should Harding ever be traded, so is Hackett brought in for development for when Backs is 38 and can't play anymore? We will need to wait awhile to figure that out. He is having a pretty good season in the OHL, posting a 31-17-2 record with 2.69 GAA.
Result: Neutral - I don't like the pick of another goalie, but I guess it maybe makes sense if he ends up somewhere in the franchise.
Round Four: Kris Foucalt - (LW) - Currently with the Calgary Hitmen of the WHL, he has 34 points (17G, 17A) in 61 games. He is 20 years old, which is curious that he was just now drafted, as most junior players are drafted before that. However, maybe he makes it to the AHL soon and we can see if he has it in him.
Result: Neutral - Nice to see a forward pick. Fourth rounders are a long shot, so keep your fingers crossed.
Alexander Fallstrom (RW) - Looking at my post over at PHN about RW prospects, it sure would have been nice to have Fallstom in the mix. However, a trade for Chuck Kobasew took that away. Was it worth it? I guess we will have to wait and see. Fletcher was in a desperate situation with all of the injuries plaguing the team this season, and Kobasew is not exactly a slouch. He is a proven NHL player. (This was a free pick, getting this pick from Boston in the Manny Fernandez trade.)
Result: Hmmm... I'm going to say neutral, with strong hesitation. Win on the picking a forward, huge win on it being a RW, bust on trading him away before we really even got a shot to get to know him.
Round Five: Traded to the Oilers in the deal that brought Kyle Brodziak to the team. The Wild also gained a sixth round pick in this draft in the deal.
Round Six: Darcy Kuemper (G) - Sigh. Another goalie? Really? I don't understand this pick. I trust Chuck Fletcher, and a sixth round pick is basically a free pick, but wow. Another goalie in an organization with goalies coming out of it's ears, very few of which have ever panned out, none of them draft picks.
Result: Bust. I'm calling it now. This is a bust. Prove me wrong, Darcy.
Jere Salinen (F) - I have a fairly strong feeling that this pick was the result of the old regime's legacy scouts still in place at draft time. Fletcher did not have time to send out his scouts to find his players, so he was picking based on information from the old regime's style of scouting. Another forward picked out of Finland in a late round. My bet, we never see him.
Result: Likely Bust.
Round Seven: Eric Haula (LW) - I am liking this pick right now. Late round pick, little risk, big potential upside. He has a very long way to go, but he is owning the USHL this season. 63 points (24G, 39A) has got to have Don Lucia foaming at the mouth knwing he is headed for the U of M. Hopefully, Haula can continue the progress curve he is on. That would be a huge victory both for him, and for the Wild.
Result: Win. Not as much for his impact on the frnachise, but for the fact that as a 7th round pick, he has made his name known already. That is not something Wild fans are used to.
Anthony Hamburg (C) - Haula's teammate in Omaha, Hamburg is not putting up the numbers Haula is. But don't count him out. Hamburg is a player to keep an eye on.Hell, if for no other reason than he plays center and is in the Wild organization. A rare breed.
Result: Neutral - Way too soon to tell here.
Summary: Fletcher was put in an unenviable position with this draft. He was using the old regime's information and scouts. He had yet to assemble his team in the front office or out in the scouting ranks. However, he did the best he could to overcome the obstacles left for him. Trading down in the first round was a stroke of genius. Something his newly acquired fan base had never seen. Trading a prospect is something we are used to, but the reasons here were different. Fletcher's trade actually made the team better in both the short and long term. He Who Shall No Longer be Named never did that. Ever. The return value on all trades thus far has been head and shoulders about the old regime.
The next draft will be the one to watch. Fletcher has his team in place. His execs, his coach, his scouts. The 2010 draft will tell us more about Fletcher than we learned in this one.
Final grade: B.With a healthy dose of "In Fletch We Trust."