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Should We Second-Guess Minnesota's Use of Second-Round Picks?

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An examination of Chuck Fletcher's history with second-round picks.

The price for Chris Stewart was steep, but were the Wild smart in spending it?
The price for Chris Stewart was steep, but were the Wild smart in spending it?
Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

There has been much made about Minnesota Wild GM Chuck Fletcher and second-round picks lately. Throughout deadline season, Fletcher had been consistent with the fact that he did not want to part with his 1st or 2nd-round pick in 2015, citing that he'd given up quite a lot of high draft picks recently. When he traded for Chris Stewart, it was because Buffalo Sabres GM Tim Murray was willing to give Stewart up for a second-round pick... in 2017.

But the deferred cost in draft picks hasn't quite sold everyone on that move. Many, including yours truly, still believe that the second spent to give up Stewart was better served staying with the Wild, who by Fletcher's admission, could really use those high draft picks.

So, spurred by Fletcher trading a second-round pick for Chris Stewart last week, we're going to look at how Fletcher has used his second-round assets throughout his tenure with the Wild. Has he used them wisely? Has he always been quick to give up that valuable second-round selection? Let's find out.

We won't count 2009, because A#1) Fletcher had nothing to do with the trade that sent their second that season to Nashville in exchange for Marek Zidlicky, and B#2) Brent Flahr wasn't yet in the Wild organization, and the draft was run by Tommy Thompson, who ran the draft table during the Doug Risebrough era.

2010, 39th Overall

How Did the Wild Get It? It was Minnesota's natural 2nd-round pick.

How Did the Wild Use It? They selected Brett Bulmer, a big RW from the Kelowna Rockets. At the time of his drafting, Bulmer was considered a bit of a project, but his size and skill combination was fairly intriguing. He improved his point total the next two years after being drafted, scoring 34 goals in his age-19 season.

Who Else Could the Wild Have Drafted? In the next 12 selections, the Wild could've selected Martin Marincin, Tyler Toffoli, or Calle Jarnkrok, each of them in the NHL, having a promising start to their careers. With the goaltending logjam we see currently, Calvin Pickard would look nice to have in the AHL.

Did This Asset Help the Wild? Most people are, at this point, writing Bulmer off as a non-prospect, and they certainly may be right. I won't go there quite yet. All along, he's been a project, and for all his struggles in the AHL, he's looked pretty decent in a couple of cups of coffee with the big club. Injuries are a concern, and there are rumblings of attitude concerns like there were with Zack Phillips, but I think in the right situation, he could be a fine, cheap, "sandpaper" guy.

But if things continue they way they have, then no, this didn't help the Wild.

2010, 56th Overall

How Did the Wild Get It? This pick was traded from Washington in exchange for Eric Belanger. No, I'm not kidding. There was a team that once thought Eric Belanger was worth a second-round pick. Suddenly, we understand how George McPhee could have traded Filip Forsberg for Martin Erat.

How Did the Wild Use It? They drafted Johan Larsson, a two-way playmaking center from Sweden. He had size, was gritty, and went on to produce quite well in Sweden's top Men's League, and the AHL. The Wild ended up trading Larsson, however, flipping him and three other assets to Buffalo for Jason Pominville.

How Could the Wild Have Used It? See this entry in the next section.

Did This Asset Help the Wild? Yes. Larsson would no doubt look pretty good to have in the Wild's system- he's a center that could have transitioned into the role of Mikko Koivu in the next few years. But let's not forget- Jason Pominville also has been good for the Wild. In fact, he leads the Minnesota Wild with 115 points since he was traded. Pominville's a huge reason for the Wild making the playoffs the last two seasons, and if they make it this year, it'll be in no small part due to his contribution.

2010, 59th Overall

How Did the Wild Get It? They traded a third and fourth-selection to move up to this pick.

How Did the Wild Use It? They drafted a speedy winger who committed to Denver University, Jason Zucker. Zucker showed a nose for the net as captain the US U-18 team, but he was drafted as a two-way prospect. Everyone was pretty much wrong, as Zucker developed into a scoring dynamo in Denver.

How Could the Wild Have Used It? Larsson and Zucker were arguably the two best players on the board at the time. The Wild could have drafted Radko Gudas, but that's not close to a slam-dunk. There wasn't much opportunity cost with losing the third, fourth-rounders, either, no one there has been a productive NHL regular, let alone a star. Solid picks.

Did This Asset Help the Wild? It was looking like it might not have, with the Wild seeming to contemplate trading Zucker, but they didn't, and Zucker was arguably the best scorer on the Wild this season. Good pick.

2011, 40th Overall

How Did the Wild Get It? It was their natural second-round pick.

How Did the Wild Use It? They traded it to Boston in the Chuck Kobasew Trade?

How Could the Wild Have Used It? By doing pretty much anything else with it. But if they'd kept the pick? They could have drafted NHLers Brandon Saad, Nikita Kucherov, or Matt Nieto. They could have drafted prospects Alexander Khokhlachev or Markus Granlund. The Kobasew trade is the reason the Wild don't have the Granlund brothers on the same team.

Did This Asset Help the Wild? Kobasew scored an unremarkable 30 points in an unremarkable 105 games playing for an unremarkable Wild team. Gross.

2011, 60th Overall

How Did the Wild Get It? They traded a third and fourth round pick to the Canucks to obtain this pick.

How Did the Wild Use It? They drafted Mario Lucia from Minnesota. Lucia is a big, fast, offensive player who is currently leading the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in goals right now.

How Could the Wild Have Used It? Vincent Trocheck is looking like a good player for Florida. It'd be cool to dream on Johnny "Hockey" Gaudreau, who was selected 104th overall, but that's not quite realistic.

Did This Asset Help the Wild? If the Wild can sign him, he'll be a worthwhile pick. Lucia needs to round out his game, but his scoring touch is undeniable at this point, and the Wild always seem like they could use another big frame with speed in the lineup.

2012, 37th Overall

How Did the Wild Get It? It was their natural second-round pick.

How Did the Wild Use It? They traded it to San Jose in the Brent Burns deal.

How Could the Wild Have Used It? That specific selection could've been used to draft Pontus Aberg, a good, skilled Swedish wing prospect, or perhaps Ludvig Bystrom, a smooth-skating Swedish defenseman. No one in that range has yet set the world on fire in the NHL, though.

Did This Asset Help the Wild? It really, really should have. If you consider that pick the price to pay to get the 28th pick in the 2011 NHL Draft, then that was a really good move. The problem? They passed on Tomas Jurco, Boone Jenner, John Gibson, and everyone they could have acquired with the 40th overall pick that was traded to acquire... Zack Phillips. Ouch.

2012, 46th Overall

How Did the Wild Get It? The Wild acquired this pick in the Marek Zidlicky trade, which was also notable for the return of Stephane "STEVE!" Veilleux.

How Did the Wild Use It? The drafted Raphael Bussieres, a big, hard-nosed winger with skilled potential out of the QMJHL. Like Bulmer before him, "Magic Bus" broke out in his age-19 season, scoring 29 goals in the admittedly offense-heavy Q.

How Could the Wild Have Used It? Damon Severson, drafted by New Jersey 15 picks later, is a productive, solid defenseman that looks really nice right now.

Did This Asset Help the Wild? Also like Bulmer, Bussieres has yet to deliver on the promise he had at the time of his drafting. He struggled hard playing for a poor Iowa Wild team, but has since rebounded and is producing, scoring 16 points in 19 games... in the ECHL. It's too soon to write off Bussieres, but it's tempting.

2013, 46th Overall

How Did the Wild Get It? It was their natural second-round pick.

How Did the Wild Use It? They drafted Gustav Olofsson, a bit of an unknown defenseman from the USHL's Green Bay Gamblers. Olofsson is big, skates really well, and is solid positionally, if not a big point-getter.

How Could the Wild Have Used It? Madison Bowey is a flashier defenseman who's a point-per-game guy in the WHL. Eric Comrie would look nice in the Wild's system, but so would any decent young goalie. It's way too early to say that either of them would be better than Olofsson, though.

Did This Asset Help the Wild? It's again too soon to call it, particularly since Olofsson has missed most of this season with injury. However, the Wild are quite high on him, and there was speculation going into the season that he could jump Mathew Dumba or Christian Folin on the depth chart. We'll see.

2014, 39th and 50th Overall

How Did the Wild Get It? The 39th pick was acquired by the Wild in the Devin Setoguchi trade, and the 50th was their natural second-round pick.

How Did the Wild Use It? They traded the 39th pick to Buffalo in the Matt Moulson trade, and the 50th in the Jason Pominville trade.

How Could the Wild Have Used It? To be honest, we're just talking about abstractions here, as this draft just happened last year. Roland McKeown, who went 51st overall, was used in a package to acquire Andrej Sekera, who would have looked nice in a Wild uniform. But with the depleting depth in the Wild's farm system, particularly in the AHL, those two picks could have gone a long way to helping the Wild solve that issue.

Did This Asset Help the Wild? The Jason Pominville price was steep, yes, but as we covered, he's been worth that price. Moulson is a more interesting question. Was the process on the Moulson trade good? Probably, he was a proven goal-scorer that could positively influence possession. But the results? Much more muddled, as Moulson was outscored by Charlie Coyle and Erik Haula in his time in a Wild center- they may have already had the depth they needed without making that trade.

2016, ??? Overall

How Did the Wild Get It? Natural Second-Rounder.

How Did the Wild Use It? The Matt Moulson Trade.

Did This Asset Help the Wild? Again, it may have been a worthwhile risk, but it's very debatable as to whether it was a success, and it could hurt the Wild 5 years down the road.

2017, ??? Overall

How Did the Wild Get It? Natural Second-Rounder.

How Did the Wild Use It? Trading it for Chris Stewart last Monday.

Did This Asset Help the Wild? Stewart has two points in four games, but it's hard to say that the Wild made the best use of this asset. Stewart brings sandpaper and some scoring depth to the Wild, he was playing below-average hockey, even compared to his teammates in Buffalo. Maybe he's going to play inspired down the stretch with a playoff team in a contract year, but even then, you have to question the wisdom of making this move due to the Wild's depth at wing, as well as the fact that he'll be a Free Agent after this season. 6 weeks (plus playoffs) of a guy who's maybe an upgrade in this lineup is really worth a second-rounder?

It was only very recently that Fletcher had become so cavalier with his second-round draft picks (with the exception of the regrettable Kobasew trade), but he's gone all-in on this current team, using those second-rounders as currency. From 2014-17, he's traded 4 of a possible 5 selections in order to make upgrades to this team, both real (Pominville, probably Moulson) and perceived (Stewart).

One could write off these selections being traded away. "The draft is a crapshoot, it's only the second-round" is something that's easy to say. And there's truth to that. But what's frustrating about these second-round picks being traded is that in general, Fletcher and Flahr have done a great job with those selections. Zucker and Larsson look like really solid NHL players. Lucia and Olofsson seem like good prospects for the Wild. Even Bulmer and Bussieres could have been good if they weren't on dumpster fire teams- we'll never know.

If you think that the Wild's farm system is lacking in depth now, how will it look in 2017, when the Wild will have lost a first-rounder, four seconds, and a fair amount of thirds, all in a 5-year stretch. You have to hope the Wild really nail the high-round picks they are given, keep finding guys like Erik Haula and Tyler Graovac, or win a Cup in the near future. Because otherwise, Fletcher could be setting the Wild up for failure by mortgaging the Wild's future.