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How much draft capital do the Wild have?

After going all-in at the deadline and losing in the first round, are the Wild in trouble for draft night?

2021 NHL Draft - Round 2-7 Photo by Brandon McCauley/NHLI via Getty Images

With the Minnesota Wild’s season long over and a stall in the Kevin Fiala trade rumors, it seems appropriate to take inventory of the team’s assets going into this draft.

After a stellar 113-point season, the team’s first-round draft slot is the latest in recent memory (24th overall). The Wild also traded away their second-round pick in the flurry of deadline-day deals, namely the one which brought Marc-Andre Fleury to St. Paul on Craig Leipold’s private jet.

In spite of this, Billy G finds himself in possession of three picks in the first two rounds. Since former-Wild prospect Jack McBain did not see a path to becoming a top-six center with the Wild, they flipped him to the Arizona Coyotes for a second-round pick (this pick originally belonged to the Vancouver Canucks, but was sent to ARI in the Oliver Ekman-Larsson trade). The Wild also recouped a second-round pick as compensation for 2018 1st-round pick Filip Johansson. This leaves Minnesota picking at 24th, 47th, and 56th overall (1.24, 2.15, 2.24). All of that is before accounting for the Wild trading Fiala, a star they won’t be able to afford for whom the trade market is rumored to be a first-round pick and a prospect, or just a high first-round pick. With that many picks and a penchant for moving around the draft order, GM Bill Guerin’s table should be an exciting place to be on July 7.

On the one hand, three picks in two rounds is more than usual - that’s definitely good. Most experts agree that prospect evaluation (using scouting or analytics) is so difficult that teams are best off just getting as many picks as possible.

On the other hand, sitting at the back of the first round really caps the ceiling of the talent those picks can generate. With our first-rounder coming in so low, do the Wild have a better draft position than other teams? It’s a complicated question even for an NHL executive to answer. For fans (who are generally not up-to-speed on dozens of draft prospects), it’s nearly impossible. This is a great place for historical data analysis to come into the picture.

hockeyprospecting.com is a site designed by Byron Bader which is built on his NHL prospect data model. The model takes a wide range of variables into account including point production, age, height, and weight. Most interestingly, the model also accounts for quality of competition based on the leagues in which a prospect plays, allowing the model and its users to easily compare Russian, European, and North-American prospects on a level playing field. Bader has also done a historical analysis of draft position value shown below:

NHLer rate is the amount of times a prospect picked in this range plays 200+ games — this is a great proxy for the hit and miss rate, especially in later rounds. Star% is how often a player picked in this position will become a prolific scorer (forwards like Tyler Seguin, Mathew Barzal, and William Nylander; defensemen such as Dougie Hamilton, Charlie McAvoy, and Devon Toews). Working retroactively, Bader has shown that the model would have “beaten” NHL scouts by picking players such as Brayden Point much sooner than his actual NHL draft position.

So, let’s add up what the Wild should get out of this draft. Note on the right a typical team’s outcomes before making trades:

So, you can see that the Wild are about where they need to be to fill out a roster, but don’t have much draft capital to go after home-run players in this draft. As it stands now, this draft looks to be one that is filling out the future bottom-half of the lineup. To me, this seems like an issue for a front office determined to acquire elite talent through the draft and then control costs over their rookie contracts.

On the other hand, this is all before a Kevin Fiala trade. If the Wild can get the second-overall pick from New Jersey or the seventh-overall pick from Ottawa, both teams rumored to have interest in trading for Kevin Fiala, the team would be nearly double this draft’s star potential. That would be a huge win for this front office.