Well now. This little series of ours has gotten some attention. Thank you To Derek from The Copper and Blue for pointing out the stats on players becoming "career players." The Wild, according to that set of stats, has not done horribly as of yet. However, the definition of a "Career player" is that they played in more than 200 NHL games. I wanted to put out a couple of caveats before I go blindly into this stat.
First, a first round pick who simply suits up 200 times does not seem like a win to me. A first rounder needs to contribute to the franchise's success. Second rounders, the same. I would say the third round would be about the soonest I would except a guy for fourth line duty for 200 games as a win. First and second rounders should contribute and be top players on the team, or bring something valuable to the franchise.
Second, there are few players that have played 200 games in Wild jerseys that never would have gotten that chance in another franchise. Stephane Veillieux is one of them. He would have been in the AHL for much, much longer in any other franchise. However, the Wild were, and still are, a young franchise. They put people into roles they likely should not have been in, long before they were technically ready to do so. This results in a handful of guys playing and being "career players" long before they should have, and resulting in them not developing properly.
Completely different observation, while I have noticed that the majority of players drafted are not immediately recognizable NHL names, many of these picks are Europeans. Not to say that Europeans cannot play, what I mean to say is that it looks like many franchises were taking gambles with high picks on foreign players, and many of those players never made the jump to North America.
Please remember, a player rated a s a bust is as more of a slight on the management, not directly on the player.
With that, let's look at the class of 2004. This is a doozy. Buckle up.
First Round: AJ Thelen - When discussing worst draft picks of the last ten years, AJ Thelen always comes up. I'm not talking worst Wild draft picks, I'm talking worst draft picks of any team. Alexander Daigle is the worst, but Thelen is on the list. AJ has played a total of ten games, ten, at the AHL level. He has been in the ECHL his entire professional career, and is a mediocre player, at best, at that level. This is the worst pick in franchise history.
The list of NHLers drafted after Thelen is long, but the main one to bring up would be Mike Green of the Washington Capitols. Who wants a 40 goal scorer on the blue line, right? No one.
Result: Major Bust
Round Two: Roman Voloshenko (L) - If memory serves me correctly, Voloshenko was the first of Wild draft picks to get frustrated with not making the show and leave the organization due to conflict with management, ala Petr Kalus. His two season with the Aeros looked promising, but as we all know, the Wild have always been so stacked with scoring wingers that there was just no room to give Voloshenko his try at the NHL. He left for Russia, and his last reported season was 2008-09.
David Booth, David Krejci, Alex Gologoski, and Brandon Dubinski were all drafted shortly after this pick.
Round Three: At the deadline of the 03-04 season, the Wild traded Brad Bombadir and Sergei Zholtok to the Predators. This gained them an extra third and fourth round pick.
Peter Olvecky - A solid defensive forward in the AHL, Olvecky got his chance with the Wild last season, playing 31 games and registering seven points. He left the franchise this past off season and is currently playing in the AHL for the Milwaukee Admirals.
Clayton Stoner - Reports have it that Stoner's career has been laced with injuries, and this season is no different. He recently underwent surgery for a sports hernia and will be on IR for awhile. He got his first taste of NHL play just this season and certainly made an impression. He had an assist and a fight in his first game, and played seven more before being pulled due to injury.
In all honestly, defensemen take a bit longer to develop than forward, so Stoner is still a work in progress. My guess is he gets a full time shot at the NHL next season, and it will be make or break.
Result: Neutral - The injuries are worrisome, but he has yet to be given his shot. After next season we can pass full judgment. If he makes the squad, he is a win. If he doesn't, he is headed toward being a bust.
Round Four: Three picks this round. Hang on tight. (The story of this fourth round is long. The Wild traded away their pick, then traded for three other team's picks.)
Ryan Jones - Had solid development, and was a rare NCAA draft pick by the old regime. Jones had just four games with the Aeros before being traded as part of the deal that brought Marek Zidlicky to the team. Jones is currently with the Predators, with 41 GP and 11 points.
Result: I say win. The franchise got some return from him, which is more than can be said for most of these picks.
Patrick Bordeleau (LW) - Since being drafted, Bordeleau has played for 15 different teams. 15. He has had no NHL experience, and just this season has seen his first extended AHL time with the Lake Eerie Monsters. In 46 games with the Monsters, he has two points. He looks destined to be a career ECHL guy.
Julien Sprunger - When you are most well known for having your neck broken by David Backes, things are not likely going well fro your career. Sprunger's right are technically no longer owned by the Wild. This is due to the conflict with an IIHF reciprocity deal, so technically he is not part of any franchise right now. He plays in the Swiss Elite league, and as we should all know by now, is on the Swiss Olympic team. He has a poin-per-game average of just a hair under one. However, he never made the jump to North America, and only participated in a handful of prospect camps.
Round Five: Jean-Claude Sawyer (D) - Another player who has made his career in the ECHL. He has seen very limited time in the AHL and has little to no chance of ever seeing extended time. He is currently with the Toledo Walleye of the ECHL.
Round Six: Aaron Boogaard - Brother of Derek Boogaard, it is not any stretch of the imagination that the Wild used their sixth rounder to pick him for that reason alone. He is currently a part of the Penguins organization and has seen extended time in their AHL affiliate. This season he has spent time between the AHL and ECHL. He does not have the size of his older brother, but judging by the numbers, shares his scoring touch.
Round Seven: Two picks in this one due to trades in prior seasons.
Jean-Michael Rizk (RW) - While I can see why the Wild may have drafted him, with 81 points in one season in the OHL, Rizk never did much after that. His last reported season was 08-09 in the Canadian Inter-university League.
Anton Khudobin - So. What to say here, huh? Spent one season in the ECHL, made the move to the AHL after multiple injuries crippled the Aeros goalies, got the call up to the NHL due to multiple injuries on the Wild roster and won both games in which he appeared. He has never had a phenomenal W-L record, but he also seems to have limited goal support wherever he goes. He has certainly shown he can run with the big dogs. However, as a goalie, the standards become very wishy washy. Is he a win because he won two NHL games, or is he a bust because he may never be back? With the new regime, he may be the new back up when / if Harding is ever traded. He may also become trade bait. My bet? He sees NHL action again.
Result - Neutral, leaning toward win. He showed his ability, but he seems streaky.
Round Eight: No pick. Traded with Darby Hendrickson to the Avs for a fourth round pick in 2005.
Get this. Pekke Rinne was drafted with the last pick of this round. Quite the find.
Round Nine: Kyle Wilson (C) - Never signed by the Wild, Wilson is now with the Capitols organization, and recently made hi NHL debut with them. This is his fourth season with their AHL affiliate where is has put up near 60 points each season, and is on pace to do so again. Not an easy organization to break into the NHL with, especially as a center.
Result: Bust for the Wild. Win for the Caps.
Summary: Certainly a candidate for worst draft in team history. Stoner and Khudobin have the last chances to save this draft from the cesspool of hockey history. Jones and Wilson seem to be doing well in other organizations, but that doesn't count. Once they are out of the Dark Ages and into the light, that is no longer a success for the Wild. All in all, I give this draft an F. Stoner and Borat may be able to pull that up to a D if they become long term NHLers.