The day is here!
Round One of the 2014 NHL Draft is upon us. The Minnesota Wild currently own the 18th pick tonight, and things are up in the air. Are the Wild going to make a trade down to get more picks? Will a given player be drafted in the mid-first, or will we still be talking about him on Day 2? And most importantly, who gets to wear that good-looking Wild alternate jersey tonight?
Who do Wild fans hope to see drafted for Minnesota? We can't speak for you, but we're going to give you the Top-5 players (with the caveat that we think they'll be available) that we'd like to see the Wild pick. Let us know who you want in the comments!
1. Alex Tuch - It may have been a bit of a reach to grab him at 12 in our mock draft, let that speak to how highly I value this kid. Big body forward who just likes to make life miserable for his opposition.
2. Joshua Ho-Sang - Small, shifty, quick, good hands and the sky is the limit for his potential. A real swing for the fences or strike out trying pick.
3. Nikita Scherbak - This kid likes to score goals and has excellent awareness on the ice. A creative kid who can make opportunities for himself as well as his teammates.
4. Kevin Fiala - Skilled, determined, difference maker. Fiala is a little sparkplug out on the ice.
5. Travis Sanheim - Big defenseman with excellent play on both sides of the ice.
Favorite Long-Shot: Nikolaj Ehlers
What a coup if the Wild were able to grab this guy. Dynamic, point-producing forward. Elusive, and he likes to finish, 104 points in 63 games last season for Halifax in the Q.
Do Not Want: Julius Honka
Despite the fun we could have with this name, I'd rather not waste 18 on him.
1. David Pastrnak- Pastrnak has the potential to be a game-breaker. He's not defensive, and needs size, but his blazing speed and scoring ability are what the Wild need.
2. Josh Ho-Sang- Ho-Sang could be a game-destroying scorer, but he is a gamble. The Wild are deep enough to be able to risk it.
3. Robby Fabbri- His arsenal of shots is vast, and he is tenacious as all get-out. He's a little undersized, but his offensive instincts are elite.
4. Adrian Kempe- A big, powerful, forward with a great shot. He appears to be what Charlie Coyle could be, which makes a line of the two of them frightening, with a speedy center between them. Could be a GREAT asset.
5. Sonny Milano- "Offensive Dynamo" are the words used to describe him. The Wild could use one of those. Has the potential to be scary.
(had to add 6... sorry!) 6. Jakub Vrana- Fast, talented scorer who takes advantages of opportunities... no more crossbars, missed nets? Yes, please
Long-Shot: Michael Dal Colle- It's pretty well documented that the Wild need a scorer, and the player named "Best Scorer" and "3rd Hardest Shot" by ISS Hockey might be that player.
Do Not Want: Roland McKeown- The Wild have a large number of promising defenders and prospects. They do not need a McKeown, despite his abilities and promising play, and they would be passing up far too many offensive players which they need far more.
1. Robert Fabbri- He's undersized, meaning he should be available when the Wild are picking, his scoring record is phenomenal (2nd among 1st round forwards in EV P/60 last season playing in the OHL) and he still needs a couple more years to develop in juniors so he's just the kind of long term, high ceiling project the Wild could use in their system.
2. Joshua Ho-Sang- He's got great speed and explosiveness on the ice, he can score and he's the kind of flashy offensive prospect that the Wild sorely need.
3. Sonny Milano- He's got top-end offensive ability and his ceiling is very high, meaning he could become a real mid-round star.
4. Nikolay Goldobin- He was relied upon heavily by Sarnia last season and, according to reports, would have scored a lot more points with better finishers around him. He's a very good playmaker with a solid all-round game.
5. Roland McKeown- He was ranked 15th at mid-term, but has fallen down the rankings to 27th. I like that he is big and strong in defence, but also has great offensive instincts and a bomb of a shot. He tied for 2nd among draft eligble CHL defencemen in EV goals with 7 last season. He was also top-5 in GF% Rel and top-10 in EVeTOI% (per Extra Skater.com).
Long-Shot: Nikolaj Ehlers- With a multitude of Left Wings available at the top of the draft rankings (Dal Colle, Virtanen, Ritchie, Perlini), Ehlers could slip down the pecking order and into the Wild's hands. He's a talented playmaker who just had a great season playing with Jonathan Drouin in the QMJHL, finishing 5th among all draft eligible forwards in EV P/60.
Do Not Want: Ryan MacInnis- MacInnis is a 6'3", 185lb 18 year old centre who is ranked 20th among North American skaters, moving up from 33rd since the mid-term.
· He's the son of HOF defenceman Al MacInnis.
· While he is a responsible two-way centre, scouting reports say that he lacks a burst of speed and his shot needs work.
· He finished last among projected 1st round forwards in EV P/60 last season, with his 1.4 trailing the next lowest by some distance. He ranked 344th-T among all CHL forwards 18 or younger last season.
· MacInnis strikes me as a player who will be drafted high because of his size and possibly his bloodlines but who will struggle to become anything more than a 3rd/4th liner in the NHL.
· If a player can't score at junior level, then I would be very hesitant to use a 1st round pick on him.
1. Josh Ho-Sang - The kid has an upside that other players just don't have in this draft. Unfortunately, he is more high-risk, high reward and even with all his potential could still bust out. The Wild are in a better position where they can take a risk.
2. David Pastrnak - Pasta, as we have called him, has a ton a flash to him. He looks to be an exciting player to watch and the Wild have a team of good European scouts that look at Sweden and Finland for new talent. He fits the mold that could be very good for the Wild in the future.
3. Alex Tuch - Pronounced like 'Tuck' this kid has an NHL body and likes to use his size to his advantage. The Wild have been waiting for Charlie Coyle to use his size for two seasons now, and Tuch may be another option.
4. Jared McCann - This guy wants to be like Jonathan Toews and attempts to model his game after him - even wearing the number 19. McCann also has a ton of leadership qualities that could be very useful as the team starts to age and a new wave of team leaders is going to be needed to take the reins.
5. Ivan Barbashev - Russia is a marketplace that has yet to be tapped by the Wild and Barbashev possesses skills that the Wild can very much use on this team. His tenacity alone is why I would be happy if the Wild chose him.
Long-Shot: Nick Ritchie - Very unlikely to fall to 18, Nick Ritchie is a dominant forward that knows how to score with a big frame. He has good speed and good puck skills with a sick wrist shot. It would be fun to watch him develop.
Do Not Want: Thatcher Demko - Demko may very well be the best goalie in this draft, but he will not and would not be the answer for the Wild's tumultuous goalie situation this year or even next year. While he is playing for a very good Boston College team, head coach Jerry York also is able to recruit top-notch defensemen that help him out. Not to mention his team is able to score goals in bunches. Demko is a good goalie, but the Wild have better use for pick 18.
It was pretty brutal deciding on only five guys who I'd be happy if the Wild drafted. Some of these guys are so close in my mind, I almost shouldn't rank the list. There are also several more guys I'd be happy with the Wild taking.
1. Kasperi Kapanen- Kapanen excels at every facet of the game. He's fast and has great puck handling and can play in both ends of the ice. He probably won't be available at 18, but it's possible.
2. Sonny Milano- Milano is an agile skater and crafty with the puck. He is also aggressive defender. The Wild could really use a creative offensive force who isn't afraid to defend.
3. David Pastrnak- Pastrnak is highly regarded for his puck handling and for being a creative offensive player. His defensive game is not as well developed as his offensive skills though.
4. Ivan Barbashev- Barashev's speed and the ferocity with which he plays defense, makes him a great choice for the Wild. I love that he's not afraid to play physical and plays a complete game.
5. Nikita Scherbak- I love the way Scherbak uses his body to protect the puck. He can create so much offense because defenders can't take the puck from him. He has improved so much over the span of a year that he may even get a lot better.
Long-Shot: Jake Virtanen- Jake Virtanen is a physical forward who is big, fast and can score. Every aspect of his game is dominant.
Do Not Want: Dylan Larkin- Dylan Larkin will be a dependable second line forward who will have many successful NHL seasons. We need guys with a more elite scoring touch even if they are more of a risk. I want excitement!
1. Robby Fabbri, Center, OHL- I almost didn't put him on here because I refused to believe he'd be available at this juncture. And with his combination of speed, skills, and competitiveness, smart GMs will look past his small frame and make sure he doesn't fall to 18.
2. David Pastrnak, RW, Allsveskan- The next three spots are all very, very close for me. So what gives Pastrnak the edge here? I like that he's succeeded against older competition. His superior shot, and willingness to use it also fits more in line with what the Wild need all throughout their organization.
3. Josh Ho-Sang, C/RW, OHL- As you may be able to tell, I feel the Wild need a talented prospect that can create offense. Ho-Sang fits the bill with his combination of elite speed and elite puck skills. If he can simplify his game without sacrificing his tantalizing creativity, watch out.
4. Sonny Milano, LW, USHL- He could easily be #2 on this list. Über creative, and absolutely slippery with the puck, able to beat defenders and evade contact. Good Hockey IQ and willingness to play defense should endear him to NHL GMs.
5. Nikolay Goldobin, RW, OHL- He has the "lazy" tag on him, and I wouldn't be upset if the Wild went with a safer pick in fellow Russian Ivan Barbashev here. But Goldobin is one of the most talented offensive players in the draft, possessing speed, skills, and a great shot. If there's any indication his issues stem from being young and on a bad team as opposed to a character issue, you need to take a long look at him.
Long-Shot: Kevin Fiala, LW, SHL- Wait a minute, this guy only got 11 points? Three goals? That's right. In 17 games. In the Swedish Hockey League. Against men. And added another 6 points in 8 playoff games. That's absurd production for a draft-year prospect (No, seriously, go look), and Fiala has all the tools to be a great possession player. Plus, he can shoot a bit, and has plenty of grit.
Do Not Want: Alex Tuch, RW, USHL- Tuch is a giant at 6'4", and the Wild could use his size around the net. But he doesn't have the complete offensive package like the guys I've highlighted have, and the Wild's system is crying out for skill.
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For more 2014 NHL Draft Coverage, please keep checking in with Hockey Wilderness. You can read our Mock Draft, which profiles 30 prospects in detail. You can also check out our 2014 Draft Party at Tom Reid's. And if your ears need some Draft love, too, you can listen to our podcast where we preview the 2014 NHL Draft.