Restocking The Cupboard: Devin Setoguchi

Okay so Devin Setoguchi isn't a prospect per se, but he is a draft-day pickup. And other than Pavol Demitra, Setoguchi is the biggest draft grab in Wild history as the centerpiece of the Brent Burns trade so it seems fitting to profile him alongside the others (or profile him more).

When Gary reacts, you know it's big.

So who is Devin Setoguchi?

Devin Setoguchi is a 24 year-old forward from Taber, Alberta. Standing at 6'0" 200 lbs, the right-hand shot was drafted by San Jose eighth overall in 2005 (or four spots after Minnesota drafted Benoit Pouliot). After time in Canadian juniors, the former Saskatoon Blade made his NHL debut in 2007. An Asian-Canadian, Setoguchi (or "Gooch" or "Seto" or whatever new nickname fans in St. Paul can come up with) has scored 84 goals in 267 regular-season games for San Jose; including a 31-goal season in 2008-2009.

He's also a lousy lawyer...

...and an excellent guitar player.

However, Setoguchi has been plagued by the same scoring problems that many in the Minnesota organization have in that he hasn't been able to string together a consistent season. Although Devin signed a three-year, $9 million contract on Thursday to reward his play, this past year saw Setoguchi score only two goals in his first thirty-one games before almost doubling his season point total in the next six. Despite being a three-time 20 goal scorer, it's a system which frustrates Sharks fans much in the same way Antii Miettinen was to Wild fans. Still, Setoguchi is an improvement over Miettinen on the first line as Mikko Koivu's right winger and carries attributes like blazing acceleration and physical play.

Is this a good move?

Is there a word which is better than yes? Minnesota has been a team without a major goal scorer since Marian Gaborik departed in 2009. Marty Havlat has scored 18 and 22 goals the last two seasons but teams have been able to focus on him while Mikko Koivu, a playmaker more than a goal scoring threat, tries to get the most out of his wingers. That was even more the case last season with 25-goal scorer Gui Latendresse injured for most of the year. For a team which outshot their opponents thirteen times last season, getting a player of Setoguchi's caliber and locked up cheaply for three years helps the Wild and new coach Mike Yeo be able to roll two complete scoring lines and more shots on net.

The Wild also benefit from Setoguchi's speed and physical play. Getting a line like Pierre-Marc Bouchar-Mikko Koivu-Devin Setoguchi allows for two guys with speed (PMB and Setoguchi) to actively forecheck and create better opportunities (which wasn't really possible with someone like Andrew Brunette). At the same time, Setoguchi, who lead all San Jose forwards with 43 hits this postseason, still brings the physical game necessary to protect the puck and play in the Western Conference (even with the loss of someone like Andrew Brunette). With players like Clutterbuck, Latendresse and newly acquired Daroll Powe, Fletcher is building a forward corps full of speed and/or physicality, so Setoguchi seems to adhere to that philosophy.

Finally, just getting Devin off of the bottom-six in San Jose is a boost for his confidence. He's not a bottom-six player and like everyone thrives playing with better talent. That's been the case over the last few seasons when playing with a player like Joe Thornton and while there are others who have flamed out after leaving San Jose (see: Johnathan Cheechoo), it's hard to see that being the case with Setoguchi. He's a 24 year-old still finding his ceiling and doesn't have the skating concerns which Cheechoo did. Putting Devin on a line with Mikko Koivu, a player who makes others better (albeit not at the level of Joe Thornton) and hasn't had the best wingers, should help both flourish and boost Setoguchi's confidence. At the very least, he looks to want to make his mark by taking the most famous number in Wild history and making it his own:

Tape should take care of that Gaborwhatever last name...

Can't get more ballsy than that. The Wild might not be at the level of San Jose or some of the other Western Conference elites, but having a centerpiece like Devin Setoguchi is a good step in the right direction.

Restocking The Cupboard: Zack Phillips (2011 1st Round - 28th Overall)

Read our 10 for 10 Profile on Phillips HERE.

There really isn't a whole lot more to be said about Zack Phillips that FRB hasn't mentioned before- yes, he skates with some heavy boots, but he's got a great pair of hands and terrific hockey sense (which seems to be the predominant theme of the 2011 Wild Draft Class- they are all smart hockey players.) He's as an opportunistic scorer there was in the Draft Class, and he often found results when he was around the net. Phillips also plays a sound two-way game, and can play either wing and center. His skating, which he is aware of, will improve with time and maturation. He has top-6 offensive upside, and for a toybox that lacks in the department, Phillips is a welcome addition.

Say what you want about Devin Setoguchi, but the acquisition of Charlie Coyle and the subsequent selection of Zack Phillips is what won me over in the Brent Burns trade.

I'm really looking forward to seeing him at the Prospect Development Camp July 11-17.

Restocking The Cupboard: Jonas Brodin (2011 NHL Draft #10)

Jonas Brodin, Defenseman, Färjestad (Swedish Elite League)
Height: 6'1" Weight 169 lbs
Shoots: Left
Birthday: 7/12/1993
Place of birth: Karlstad, Sweden

Brodin playing for Sweden...he's #2

Didn't see this coming.

After profiling fifteen different prospects who Minnesota could take at number ten, Chuck Fletcher went in a different direction and ended up picking up someone else with the pick. It wasn't a stretch to see the Wild spend their first pick on a defenseman, despite the general consensus of the team needing a goal-scoring forward in the system, but anyone who called Brodin is lying. The only person who had him in their top ten (out of the close to three dozen mock drafts I've looked at) was the great Bob McKenzie and even he was heckled for it.

So when this happened... was a little shocking for the crowd in St. Paul. However, in hindsight we really shouldn't be surprised. Chuck Fletcher has shown over the last three years and throughout his career that he's not afraid to go against the grain. When given the chance to draft prospects who Central Scouting see as fallers, Fletcher will go in the opposite direction. Whether it is Nick Leddy in 2009 or Brett Bulmer or Johan Larsson in 2010, the high Wild draft picks are full of quick risers who have further developed. There's still time to be proven wrong, but it doesn't look like any other first round busts.

So who is Jonas Brodin?

Interview with Hockey Wilderness (Nathan Eide)
Brodin Star Tribune article (Michael Russo)

Jonas Brodin is a 17 year-old Swedish defenseman who spent the season in the SEL (scoring 0 goals and 4 assists in 42 regular-season games) despite being 6'1" 170 lbs. While not as big as fellow Swede Adam Larsson or as well known as Saint John defenseman Nathan Beaulieu (there is always a bias towards North American players given it's who fans see more of), Brodin is a smooth-skating defenseman with great gap control and agility. He's rarely out of position, even in one of the top leagues in the world, has great patience and vision along with fellow Swede Kim Johnsson's ability to complete a breakout pass. That last thing is something Minnesota desperately missed this past season as getting out of the defensive zone often became a struggle for large stretches.

At the same time, Brodin has question marks. While his defensive play is second amongst none and very consistent, he hasn't shown the offensive capabilities that other defensemen in this draft have despite being one of the youngest draft-eligible players. Even in the World U-18s Brodin did not produce offensively (getting 1 assist in four games) playing against people his own age. Brodin is also lanky and needs to put muscle on his frame to be able to compete in the NHL and be more physical; despite playing against grown men in Sweden Brodin is at least a year and probably two away from suiting up with the Wild.

So is it a good move?

It's a good move which can become great depending on how he develops. Picking Brodin easily helps restock the cupboard as he's the defenseman with the most upside in the organization; however there really wasn't much competition. With Nick Leddy in Chicago and Tyler Cuma undergoing his second knee surgery in as many years, Marco Scandella is the only prospect with top-four potential. Brodin's defensive skills already make him a good top-four and the fact he has improved substantially as the year went on gives hope that he can become a top-two.

However given Brodin's draft position and who was passed over (Ryan Murphy, Nathan Beaulieu) there are high expectations. Although Bob McKenzie and others have compared Jonas Brodin to a young Nicklas Lidstrom, he needs to find some sort of offensive game for that to happen. I know that Wild fans don't have the best trust in having prospects develop given the track record (Minnesota hasn't internally produced a top-six forward since Mikko Koivu and a top-four defenseman since the recently departed Brent Burns) so it will be tough to be patient and see how Brodin develops with Färjestad. He is a safe pick with good value but the Wild would love to hit a home run and get offensive production from the blue line. At worst, Brodin should be Nick Schultz. At best, Brodin could be Nick Lidstom.

The Minnesota Question: Drafting For Talent Trumps Provincialism

Initially, this article was going to be about how fans shouldn't get their hopes up about Minnesota drafting a Minnesotan. Given the history of the previous regime in the draft and the projected positions of the top local guys, the chances of the Wild taking two Minnesotans in the NHL Draft was low.

How wrong was that?

Thankfully other articles took precedence before this weekend's draft and I wasn't left to look like an idiot (okay, well a bigger idiot than usual). But it's interesting to see the "Wild need to ice a team full of Minnesotans" crew out in full force after drafting Mario Lucia in the 2nd round and Nick Seeler in the 5th round with their first two picks. I know it's a good feel-good story to have a local kid make good with the professional club, but some of the attention is just too much.

This isn't the first time I've brought up the overuse of Minnesotans needing to be on the Wild. For being perceived as a hockey market, there are very few media members who cover hockey. Throw in the fact that people really don't follow the Draft and foreign prospects compared to the NBA or NFL and it's no surprise the big stories are which local guys were drafted. It's fairly easy to call what the Star Tribune or Pioneer Press will be covering, but its tough to see articles discussing the Wild only drafting Mario Lucia because he's from Minnesota.

And that's a shame.

Drafting a Minnesotan should be a bonus rather than a necessity. At the highest level of the game, teams need to take the best player available; especially an organization which didn't have much high-end talent when Friday started. If a hockey player from Mexico can outplay the kid who lives next to Craig Leipold, than by all means sign him. So when a player many people projected to be a late first or early second round pick (I had him at #30 in my mock draft) is still available at the end of the second round, you try to get him regardless. The same thing happened last year with Jason Zucker (the first player drafted from Nevada) and right now Chuck Fletcher looks smart given the season Zucker had at Denver.

It's not too often where the difference in player quality between ten picks is so high, but in the case of Mario Lucia Minnesota made the best call. Lucia isn't a throw in like many of the local players other teams' fans try to use as trade bait (aka the only reason Tom Gilbert has any value) and regardless of where he plays his junior and college hockey has the skills and abilities to make an impact down the line.

Other thoughts from Draft weekend:

-One of the few negatives about attending the draft is not hearing the rumors which come out. Even if you don't agree with Pierre McGuire or the TSN crew, going in blind made the Burns trade all that much more shocking. When it was announced, there was plenty of shock in the arena given Michael Russo's article that morning which made it seem like Burns wanted to re-sign.

-With that said, I do like the trade. Setoguchi is one of three or four players who can bring an immediate impact to the Koivu line (and for cheap) and Charlie Coyle is an absolute stud. It is very sad to lose a great player and person like Brent Burns and it immediately creates a huge hole on the blue line but in all honesty any quick fix plus signing Burns would leave the Wild in worse shape.

-Funny to see all the good will bought up by the new Winnipeg franchise go away with the simple words "we'd like to thank the city of Minneapolis for hosting." (The draft of course was in St. Paul).

-Tweet of the night goes to Tommy (@llamapalooza) after the Burns deal was announced.
"And this is why you never leave early. #fuckeverything"

A good portion of the crowd had left after Minnesota picked at #10.

-There was a good portion of the Draft where Texas had more draft picks than Massachusetts and Connecticut. USA Hockey really has to be happy with the diversity of locations.

-Enjoyed seeing Atlanta fans out wearing Thrashers jerseys even though their team is now in Winnipeg. It was great to see various enclaves of teams (i.e. 5 Panthers fans) and smart jerseys (including a guy wearing a Taro Tsujimoto #74 shirt - if you don't get that reference, look it up).

-Had an odd moment seeing Penguins coach Dan Bylsma taking pictures with fans in Flyers jerseys. The only thing which made it odder was Bylsma joking about not taking pictures with anyone wearing a Twins cap.

-Finally, it was great to meet a lot of different fans, media and players throughout the weekend. Everyone was so great to and approachable talk to; it's also nice to meet people you read and interact with through social media. There were even a few people who I was surprised to find out both knew and read First Round Bust to get their prospect knowledge, which is nothing short of flattering.

Wild Trade With Philadelphia For Darroll Powe

According to multiple media outlets and the Philadelphia Flyers, the Minnesota Wild have traded a 2013 third round pick for center Darroll Powe. Powe, a former Princeton Tiger, scored seven goals and ten assists in 81 games for Philadelphia last season. He's more known for being a penalty killer than offensive talent, much in the same way John Madden is, and has great speed. This trade makes Madden expendable though, which can be disappointing; especially since it's not like Powe gained any traction with the Flyers despite having some solid efforts.

Besides that, Powe also is known for this play against Jaroslav Spacek (thanks Felix).

All in all, it's an interesting trade. I understand why Philadelphia would trade Powe given their need for more money and less contracts (the Flyers are at the 50 contract limit while needing to re-sign RFAs). At the same time, Chuck Fletcher has shown himself to be a risk taker and not afraid to move second or third round picks for what he perceives to be better talent. The 2013 third round pick allows for Minnesota to not go without both a second and third round pick in one draft (the Wild traded their 2012 second round pick as part of the Brent Burns deal Friday night). In addition, this helps slightly cut costs as Powe is a restricted free agent who made $750K last season and gives players like Colton Gillies and Casey Wellman competition for a roster spot. With Minnesota having depth issues, giving up a pick equivalent to what Nikita Filatov got isn't the worst trade but at the same time Wild fans are going to have to wait and see.

Tidbits: The "Its The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year" Edition

The NHL Entry Draft is like the Christmas of the Hockey Schedule; while the timelines differentiate vastly from the calender year (July 1 is technically the beginning of the year for the NHL; it marks the start of Free Agency and many contract decisions/provisions have to be made by or after that point) so the two-day event prior to July 1 is essentially in the same mold of the night that, as Clark Griswold so succinctly puts it, Santa comes down the chimney, bearing presents.
The Draft represents a culmination for nearly everyone- the draft-eligible players, the scouts and Hockey Ops, and the fans themselves. Finally a payoff for all the playing, scouting, and uh, well, for the fans its just a treat to get to see who will slip on the sweater of your favorite team. As someone who has watched The Draft on TV throughout the years, it was a real treat to see one in person- even if you start to venture into no man's land in the late rounds because of players you've never pondered even existing being drafted, and the odd, seemingly inane late round trades.
What makes first person viewing of such an event is that everything is within touch- there are no boards, so 30 team staffs are right over there, with guys like Bobby Clarke seven feet away signing autographs; Penguins Coach Dan Bylsma chirping someone about wearing a Twins hat but yet signing a Flyers Jersey, and Steve Yzerman (my all-time favorite player) walking around with a slight limp- surely a testament to the rigors of a Hall of Fame career.
Just to my right is the media risers, where guys I make a point to read- The Greg Wyshynskis, The Eric Duhatscheks, The Mike Russos- are right there; you see them pound away at their laptops with head phones on, and then grab their recorders/flip cams and head down to the barrier to work sources and interview GM's and Coaches (very few smiles in that bunch.) There were even radio guys, staring into space but just continually talking; hell, up on the "TSN Tower", as it was coined, Bob McKenzie's voice bellowed and could be heard in the stands nearby.
There are freshly drafted kids being paraded by (couldn't knock the smiles off of half of their faces) and just a few feet away are the nervous players and families, just waiting for names to be called.
Maybe the best part about it all is the bleacher creatures; fans from near and far, including readers, Twitter followers and the ones you follow, folks there just because, and folks there because the Draft is just as important to them as it is the scouts, GM's, players, families, and media.

It is surely a spectacle- a dog and pony show, with insiders and outsiders, people on the edge of their seat waiting, and people with their feet propped up drinking beer. Television just doesn't do it justice.

- Wasn't 3 minutes after I walked into the arena and a gigantic "Go Jets Go" chant erupted in the stands. Considering the proximity, I think Jets games will be well attended, and it may become a great geographic rivalry, depending on realignment.
- Quote of the weekend from some Rangers fans, asked on how the Draft went- "we don't Draft. We buy our players, and then we buy them out."
- Just a few celebrity types seen stalking the concourses: David Backes, Jake and Max Gardiner, Jarmo Kekelainen, Rena Sarigianopoulos of Kare11 News, former Wild Assistant Dave Barr- not to mention the Draft-Eligibles themselves, especially the ones wearing the jerseys of the teams they were just drafted by. "Oh hey, that was Huberdeau..."
- This was played after Vancouver's selection in the First Round, 30th Overall:

The first minute or so played, and then was abruptly cut off. I don't think anyone caught the significance of it except me...
- Talking to a few media types, and the concensus in the press riser was that San Jose overpaid in the Burns/Setoguchi deal.
- Just a heads up if you do go- unless you are super schooled on prospects, the late rounds can drag on a little bit. I consider myself fairly schooled, and the 6th and 7th rounds weren't exactly riveting. You can see it across the board- Hockey Ops people are walking around, media folks are a little antsy. So ya, expect a lull.
- Kind of mean, but "Seth Ambroz Draft Watch" took on a life of its own, which gave it some comedic value.
- Was told this weekend that the "future considerations" part of the Petr Kalus to Columbus deal was a nice way of saying "take him, we don't want him." Don't know if Minnesota will necessarily ever get anything in return.
- Finally, I touched on this above, but the best part about this weekend was the people- the kids, the hockey guys, the media, the fans. Everyone seemed to accessible and willing to talk shop- so it was enjoyable to kick the flim flam with Lightning fans, Canuck fans, Jet Fans, etc., but also with media types too. Nate Wells and myself went to Bennett's Chop House after the Draft Saturday, which was hosting a meet and greet/beer drinking get-together with other bloggers/fans/media (I'd err greatly by not mentioning that Nathan Eide and Bryan Reynolds of Hockey Wilderness did an incredible job with it, and it was great to meet those guys)- everyone was so great, and willing to share stories or information with each other. Everyone seemed to know something, and it was all worth mentioning because of a community feel not just because of the night, but because of the sport we all choose to ardently follow.
This is why the NHL is the best; because the sport itself is so amazing, but also because the community that follows it makes it feel like we're all the same, and in it together.
It's enough to consider following the Draft to each location year after year; for the people you meet.

Mario Lucia at #60; or Home Sweet Home

Minnesota traded their 3rd and 4th Round picks to Vancouver, in order to jump up (seems to be a reoccuring trend in Wild Drafts to not have a 2nd round pick, and we don't have one next year either) and grab Wayzata High School Forward Mario Lucia.


I sigh not because of the pick- a scout I talked to lauded the fact that Minnesota got great value in where they got him as he had Lucia rated much higher- and while Lucia will be a long term development project, there is some great upside to the son of University of Minnesota Coach Don Lucia. I like the pick alot; in a sense it may be similar to Jason Zucker, whom The Wild jumped up (dealt their 3rd and 4th Rounders) to grab at the end of the 2nd last year. Clearly Brent Flahr and his merry band of scouts felt that Lucia wasn't going to be there at 70, so they went and got him. I hate to reference the Quality vs. Quantity post again, but there are traits in Lucia's game that made the Staff feel that he can be a real player. Hell, this Mario Lucia post is the most viewed post in FRB history (a long and storied one)- chances are you know too, that the kid has potential.

...And the downside to this?

We will be peppered with the local boy storylines, the accusations of pandering to a fanbase, and the rampant expectations of the insatiable provincialists that will now turn their microscopes toward young Mr. Lucia. Its on message boards, in the papers, and on the news, despite Assistant GM Brent Flahr's insistence on it being a coincidence.
The poor kid- on no doubt a tremendous day for an 18 year old (he was all smiles,) there is no doubt that he's got the spotlight on him from all angles; he's a Minnesota High School kid, just drafted by the Minnesota Wild, and the son of University of Minnesota Coach Don- there's a lot of interested parties now.

The next step for Lucia is deciding where to play next; He will be playing in either the United States Hockey League for The Des Moines Buccaneers, or the British Columbia Hockey League for The Pencticton Vees.
Lucia's rights where owned by Sioux Falls, who shopped them around the league. According to a source, the rights were offered to The Chicago Steel for the 1st Overall Pick in the USHL Draft, but neither Mario nor Don would commit to The Steel, nixing a possible deal.
What is intriguing is that the same source told me that Mario's destination could potentially be affected by where The U of M thinks its best for his development- He is believed to be leaning toward Des Moines, but the Reilly Brothers, a trio from Eden Prairie, have committed to Penticton this fall before enrolling at Minnesota. Mike Reilly, who was taken 98th overall today by Columbus, has stated be plans on enlisting Lucia to Penticton.
Even when the next step is figured out, the decision on college remains on the horizon- The U, playing for his Father, or his Father's Alma Mater, Notre Dame?

Then again, for a hometown kid drafted by the hometown team, every decision now looms large under the spotlight of the hometown fans.

The First Round: The Morning After Pill

Closed Circuit to Karen, The Usher atop the stairs above where I sat last night- you got your scorer. And another one. And another one.

I chatted up this lovely lady while waiting for Minnesota's selection at 10, and to my surprise she was knowledgeable and passionate about the game; she was a huge supporter of the former St. Paul Vulcans. So when, after much deliberation (conjecture here, but I think they desperately wanted to trade down a few picks) Chuck Fletcher and Co. made their way to the podium.

You wouldn't be surprised to know that the general sentiment from the other folks around me was "WHO THE FUCK IS THIS?!?"

As the fans began to file out, Karen and a few kids behind me extolled their displeasure with the selection of Jonas Brodin, he of not-goal scoring ability, he of not-sexy appeal, he of highest rated player on the board, and one whose contributions will go largely unnoticed. Smart decisions and puck movement generally don't get the chicks. A quick aside, I exchanged texts with a scout on Brodin:

"Extremely smart, good skater- Solid, very poised, methodical two-way defenseman. Will see some time on the PP- 2-3 years away strengthwise. He's a safe pick, but not tough or aggressive.

Playing the role of Draft Savant, I defended the pick to Karen and the kids- "he was the highest rated player on their board, you have to take him. He's gonna be a really good player. Really smart player!"
One of the snot-nosed punk kids- "small? Great."
Me: "No. Smart player."
Kid: "Oh, I thought you said small."
Me: "He'll be my size in a few years (I'm 6'2", 210 lbs.)
Kid: (eyes me up and down) "Oh. Ya, that's ok."
Me: (resisting the urge to hit the kid) "He's going to be a good player."

This is why animals eat their young.

Karen and I talked after the kids left some more, and she, of sound hockey mind, was displeased again at the notion of not getting a goal scorer, and how its what this team needs. While I can't disagree, by the end of the night I couldn't believe what a harbinger that statement was. I can't wait to get her take today.

Sitting with Nate Wells, and Tim Karsjens and his lovely and charmingly instigating wife (she was just chirping Tim all night) we got the news a handful of picks later about the mammoth Brent Burns trade. Now, anytime a trade was announced last night, it got a roar of approval; what I thought was odd was that the roar intensified when Burns' name lead off the transaction.
I don't necessarily believe it was that way because we were displeased with Burns, or that we wanted to see him go; but that his name was sure to bring return of substantial value.
What an odd paradox; Brent Burns is a fan favorite and our sacrificial lamb. We knew that his departure was going to be for the greater good of the franchise- yet we are bound to have moments this next season where he'll be sorely missed.

The kicker in this wasn't Setoguchi, and it wasn't San Jose's 1st (28th overall); it was Charlie Coyle. Coyle went 28th last year to The Sharks, and is a player. I think I stood up and started clapping as soon as I heard his name, because he is San Jose's top prospect, and the 20th best prospect according to Hockey's Future. To me, this is the piece that defines the trade.

From the same scout (who is a Sharks fan):

"Big, Very very Smart two-way guy. Makes those around him better- not a great skater, but will be a great 2nd line C. PP and PK in the NHL.

To finish the night off, with the 28th pick, Minnesota put the cherry on top by taking this guy (hey we actually got one profile right!)

Looks like we got both ends of the spectrum and then some. You look at what Fletcher and Co. came into Friday Night with- the 10th pick- and see what we had when we laid our heads down on our pillows at night's end. Despite giving up Brent Burns (who we cannot understate his impact on and off the ice here in Minnesota, and we'll miss him dearly) and a 2012 2nd Round Pick, we walked away with two quality 1st rounders, a superb power forward prospect, and immediate roster help in Setoguchi, who also conveniently fills a number of holes on paper, and cap space now and going forward without the weight of a contract extension for Burns (or Setoguchi for that matter) impending.

This is how you do it son.

Up Close and Personal

I believe I've mentioned on this blog that I'm a Season Ticket Holder- so in a twisted way, I have physical proof, in the form of invoices reminding me politely to cough up a nominal fee on a monthly basis, that I have vested interest in the Minnesota Wild. For the most part I usually don't attend designated STH events (typically because they are scheduled during the work day) but I was afforded the opportunity to attend something fun tonight.
My lovely and talented Ticket Representative sent me an invitation a week or so ago to a VIP Cocktail Party at the Mall of America- this would take place before the final stop on the Wells Fargo Minnesota Wild Road Tour, which is like your traveling caravan of players, media, and team personalities that stops in various cities in Minnesota. Players on this tour of duty were Cal Clutterbuck, Clayton Stoner, Colton Gillies, Brad Staubitz, Jared Spurgeon, and Marco Scandella- Mike Greenlay and Dan Terhaar, the TV guys were there, as was Wes Walz, who recently announced on KFAN that he would be taking a position with the organization in some sort of Community Relations role.

So my Dad (who I thought would enjoy the experience) and I headed to the executive office/conference area at MOA, and were told to grab a plate from a buffet table set up in one room before the "show" began. Excellent food- cuts of Roast Beef, Marinated Chicken Breast, rolls, salads, Spicy Green Beans; quite the spread. Also worth mentioning- FREE BUDWEISER AND BUD LIGHT.
The players/personalities were all mingling about; the crowd was kind of sparse- maybe 50-60 people or so, which meant some room to breathe. Just about every person of interest was engaged with fans, beer in hand, and went from table to table, signing pictures.
A few observations:
- Hockey pads do no justice to just how stocky Cal Clutterbuck is- dude is a plug. I have new appreciation for the guys on the receiving end of one of his hits.
- Jared Spurgeon is...just a little boy. There were teenage girls (who were on Cloud 9) who were taller- but you have to be impressed that Spurgeon is that small and succeeded in the NHL as a rookie.
- Both Marco Scandella and Colton Gillies (who was on the receiving of alot of on-mic chirping) look like they are still capable of adding 20 pounds. Tall, lanky kids.
- Scandella had a lot of insight into the foray into pro hockey; "its tough to stay focused night in and night out, for 82 games. It's something I must improve." Seems like he's got perspective, because he said he knows he still has to fight to get a roster spot. Also- he has long arms and HUGE hands. Easily twice as big as Greenlay's.
- Brad Staubitz was really gregarious and funny on the mic, talking about training and fishing in his spare time.
- Wes Walz is in just impeccable shape. Told a really funny story about how in St. Cloud yesterday he signed a jersey that he had when he was in Boston. "I thought my mom pulled it out of the trophy case. I had to think about the last time I wore #13."
- I'm not the biggest Dan Terhaar fan, but he, my Dad, and I shared a nice chat about Philadelphia's trades; "I almost crashed my car trying to refresh my iPhone trying to catch up on the news." On Ryan Smyth possibly going back to Edmonton: "I've talked to him and he's kinda odd. But I guess you got to be to want to go back to Edmonton...the Winter here is like Winter every year in Edmonton." Very nice guy.
- And the most vivid memory of the night, and one that I thought was super classy- my dad and I were playing the wall, discussing where to go have a beer after we leave the soiree- Clayton Stoner walks up on his way out (the players were starting to file down to the MOA rotunda for the public event) and stuck out his hand to shake ours and thank us for coming. I thought that was incredibly gracious of him to go out of his way to thank us, the fans, for coming out.

It just cemented my status as a Stoner fan.

Maybe the most eye opening part of this soiree was that here I was, at times to face to face, with the same players I root for at the X, and on the TV. But here they are, no helmet, no pads, no uniform. In human form- and I think at times this is something we forget about as fans.
We tend to get myopic and look at them for what they do for a living- a player. Nothing more, nothing less- when, off the ice, they are just like you and me- scarfing down free plates of food, giving each other shit, swigging down domestic beer; but I think we often lose sight of this, and that they are judged for what they do on the ice 82 games a year, and then some.
For a guy who spends a chunk of his time every Spring researching who the Wild will Draft each year, it is enlightening in the sense that we lose sight of the fact that these kids, who will hear their name called this weekend, are just 18- 18!. I found myself watching player after player talking with Greenlay and Terhaar in amazement, going "How would I have handled the position they are in when I was 21, 24, 28?" Nevermind being 18, and in the case of Jonathan Huberdeau, who just graduated High School, and it's mind blowing- could you imagine being in his shoes, where essentially every facet of your life and how you play the game is detailed and critiqued? At some point you lose your humanity, and gain asset/commodity status.

It really puts some perspective into fandom- and adds another layer of respect for what these players do, and how they go about doing it.

Mock Madness Part IX: Nate Wells

I hope everyone has enjoyed our first annual Mock Madness. There was some teaching how to Dougie, a scenario where Ryan Nugent-Hopkins ends up falling to ten and of course some great thought out draft analysis by some of the best experts out there. Unfortunately it doesn't end that way as I have the unenviable position of trying to follow Kirk Luedeke, but lets give it the old "putting the mock in mock draft" try.

The following picks are real, the commentary is fake. It is also under the assumption that no trades will happen (which is as likely as Gary Bettman being applauded by hockey fans).
1. Edmonton - Ryan Nugent-Hopkins C
No one is stupid enough to pass up the best player in this draft to play with the best player in the last draft. Not even Edmonton.

2. Colorado - Gabriel Landeskog LW
The Avs find out Pau Gasol wasn't available for the second overall pick and take Landeskog in an effort to get some offense on a team who finished 30th in goals against last season.

3. Florida - Jonathan Hubderdeau, C/W

Putting the "re" in rebuild, the Panthers select the best player in this year's Memorial Cup and 11th savior of South Beach.

4. New Jersey - Adam Larsson, D

Between Jon Merrill and the top European skater (well besides that guy two spots up), Jacques Lemaire looks to get his Favre on and un-un-un-un retire.

5. New York Islanders - Nathan Beaulieu D

In theory, the Islanders would take Dougie Hamilton but since when do the Islanders operate in theory? Beaulieu fits in nicely with a healthy Mark Streit and gives the Islanders fans a chance to say the "p" word.

6. Ottawa - Mika Zibanejad C
The Senators are in dire need of some young offense. Ottawa's top five prospects are defensemen and goalies and that Dany Heatley trade ultimatum was highway robbery so picking Zibanejad makes perfect sense for a rebuilding club.

7. Winnipeg (from Atlanta) - Dougie Hamilton D
If we've learned anything from the new Winnipeg management, it's that they like to distance themselves from everything Thrasher. With that mindset, the _______ get away from choosing forwards and pick up a little Cali in Dougie.

8. Columbus Philadelphia (from Columbus) - Sean Couturier C
The newest change to the draft and a trade which Kirk called, the Flyers look to get a prospect in their system and replace the often-rumored, finally traded Jeff Carter (and Mike Richards assuming Chris Pronger doesn't get traded later). Seriously, any prospect will do - the Flyers had Eric Wellwood as their top prospect when the sun rose. So because of that, Philly goes BPA and takes Couturier

9. Boston (from Toronto) - Ryan Murphy D
Who saw the Stanley Cup champions picking before the host? Boston has carte blanche with the second pick in the Phil Kessel trade but defense prevails in needs. Toronto on the other hand has Phil Kessel.

Like I need an excuse to post this video...

10. Minnesota Ryan Strome C

He's unnatural, the Wild are unnatural..a match made in heaven.

11. Colorado (from St. Louis) - Jamie Oleksiak D
Oh yeah...defense.

12. Carolina - Joel Armia LW

Carolina might make a few teams regret passing on Armia. Of course they might make a few teams happy that Armia isn't on the board, but the Hurricanes can afford to go all-in on another Finn.

13. Calgary - Rocco Grimaldi C
A top-five talent with bottom-five height, Calgary is happy to take the North Dakota-bound Grimaldi and the four years that they have to sign him.

14. Dallas - Oscar Klefbom D
Nothing really to mock about Klefborn, who has the talent to make a dangerous 1-2 defensive punch with Alex Goligoski. Dallas on the other hand...

Guarantee someone will chant this...

15. New York Rangers - Mark McNeil C

Mediocre pick for a mediocre team (albeit one that has a lot going in their system). McNeil is not going to wow the Broadway crowd but will be a pleasant pickup for a Ranger team which has the time for him to develop.

16. Buffalo - Duncan Siemens D
As stated in my 10 for 10, some team is going to be enamored with Siemens and that someone is Buffalo. Picking a big WHL defenseman who had questions worked last time for the Sabres and while he's no Tyler Myers, well...he's no Tyler Myers.

17. Montreal - Mark Scheifele C
There will no boos for the Barrie Colt as luckily this draft is being held in St. Paul and not Montreal.

18. Chicago Zack Phillips C
The Blackhawks need defensive help as Cam Barker's replacement is still learning on the job but that's what free-agency is for. Get a scorer like Phillips with Toews and it'll be like the days before half the Blackhawks ended up in Winnipeg.

19. Edmonton (from Los Angeles) - Joe Morrow D
The puck-moving defenseman Edmonton needs. Badly. Moving on...

20. Phoenix - J.T. Miller C
The Coyotes are fairly defense-heavy, even without Ilya Bryzgalov, and go with the North Dakota recruit after being shown the ugly side of Gopher Arrogance.

21. Ottawa (from Nashville) - Ty Rattie RW
The pick used in the Carrie Underwood trade, the Senators look to get more offense with Jason Spezza lite.

22. Anaheim - Sven Bartschi RW
My pick for drop of the night, Anaheim takes everyone's leftovers for the second year in a row and compile a top-six full of goal scorers.

23. Pittsburgh -Jonas Brodin D
A prospect many have rated higher and Pittsburgh needs defenseman in their system as much as they need uninjured stars.

24. Detroit - Scott Mayfield D
Having Pittsburgh and Detroit next to each other just feels so right but the Wings take another WCHA-bound defenseman after Brendan Smith panned (or will pan) out so well.

25. Toronto (via Philadelphia) - Matt Puempel LW
He's no Phil Kessel (I mean he plays on the left wing) but Leafs Nation has to be ecstatic over the new greatest prospect in the world.

26. Washington - Alexander Khokhlachev, C
Yes, picking a Russian for the Caps is like picking a Russian for the Caps but if it ain't broke than...

27. Tampa Bay - Nicklas Jensen LW

If any team can afford to go with a boom or bust pick it's the team which has literally gone boom or bust over the last seven years.

28. San Jose - Brandon Saad LW
A steal for the Sharks who are amazed Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay missed out on the best Pittsburgh player since Ryan Malone.

29. Vancouver - John Gibson G
The best goalie in the draft. This probably won't happen, but imagine the look on the Vancouver faithful if it did.

30. Toronto (from Boston) - Mario Lucia LW
The draft is in Minnesota, Brian Burke is from Minnesota and loves Minnesota born players (having drafted and then traded for Jake Gardiner). By that logic, any other player is undeserving of the 30 spot.

Previous Mock Madness Entries:

Kirk Luedeke
Tim Karsjens
Derek Felska
Chris Peters
Bryan Reynolds
Jérôme Bérubé
Daniel Chan
Dan Shrader

Minnesota 101: A Visitor's Guide

So you're coming to Minnesota for a Wild game? Awesome! We'd love to have you in town. The X gets quite a few visitors, especially coming down from Canada, and so we get a lot of questions from would-be travelers. Hopefully this clears some things up.

Minneapolis and St. Paul
Yes! They are separate cities!

Minneapolis Skyline
They're called "Twin Cities" for a reason: they are not the same. Minneapolis and St. Paul are distinct and unique cities, and although they make up one Metro area, you should know that they don't make up a continuous city. Their downtown cores are separated and you'll need to be able to move between them (unless you want to limit yourself to just one). Minneapolis is the bigger city, with a more interesting downtown full of skyscrapers and nightlife. St. Paul is a bit smaller, both in terms of population and urban density. It's sometimes compared (favorably) to European and Canadian cities for its layout, architecture, and cleanliness.

St. Paul
St. Paul
A lot of the things you might have heard about Minnesota are probably true. During hockey season? Yeah, it's pretty damned cold. "Minnesota Nice"––that unique form of passive-aggression we Minnesotans are famous for showing around strangers, Lutheran church congregations, acquaintances, and in-laws? It's a real thing, and you might run into it at your Wild game if you "step out of line" by doing things like cursing, booing loudly, cheering for your team, or showing emotion. Don't let it bug you, though! We really are nice people, and you'll probably just get everyone around you more into the game. Sometimes the Wild fans need a bit of encouragement to get pumped up about the team. Four years of utter mediocrity can do that, but it also happens in part because a lot of the spectators at games aren't Wild fans––they're hockey fans. Minnesota loves this game, and when we lost our North Stars (and, seriously, we are still bitter at former owner Norm Green) a lot of us started cheering for local schools and college teams instead of an NHL team. We'll still show up and cheer, but because of that history, the Wild aren't #1 in everyone's hearts.

Xcel Energy Center
Centre d'Energie Xcel
The Xcel Energy Center
Lucky you, you get to see a game at the best arena in the NHL! Well, if ESPN is to be believed, anyway. The wide concourses are awesome, the sightlines are perfect from every seat, and there's a lot of cool shit to see like the Zamboni organ, or hockey sweaters from every high school team in the state on display on the suite level.

Getting There
The Xcel Center is in downtown St. Paul. Unfortunately, St. Paul is not yet connected to Light Rail. Bus is an option––and your tickets let you ride for free for 2 hours before and after the game––but it's rather inconvenient. If you're not staying within walking distance, you'll generally want to drive to the game. In fact, you probably will want to have a car even if you're staying within walking distance of the X, so you have access to Minneapolis and to suburbs like Bloomington, where the Mall of America and airport are located. Driving to the Xcel Center is pretty simple; it's right off I-35E, very near I-94, and easily accessible by two of St. Paul's major roads, Sheppard Rd. and Kellogg Boulevard.

Parking near the Xcel Center can be fairly pricey on game nights ($10-15) but is generally fairly convenient, accessible, and readily available. The RiverCentre ramp is popular, since it is directly connected by skyway (that's an indoor tunnel over the street, for you southerners). I think the parking ramp at the Science Museum (directly across Kellogg Boulevard) is a nice alternative, as it is part of the same structure and is about a sidewalk block separated from the skyway entrance, and comes in $3 cheaper than the RiverCentre ramp. There's also a municipal ramp one block away (anyone know the prices?). Official parking at the Xcel Center is limited to season ticket holders with a parking pass.

There are also a few bars which offer their customers free parking and shuttles to the Xcel Center on game nights. Alary's, Bennet's, and O'Gara's in St. Paul all offer this service.

Seats and Tickets
A lot of people wonder whether tickets are tough to come by in hockey-mad St. Paul. We did sell out our first four hundred preseason, regular season, and postseason games as a franchise, but that streak came to an end in 2010-11, with attendance dipping as low as 16,000 on a few nights. Still, the arena averaged about 99% of capacity even with the weak on-ice product, so it's probably a good idea to get your tickets ahead of time, unless you're planning on a Student Rush night (M-W nights in 2010-11, but could change). Cheaper tickets, particularly the highly-demanded upper-level ends, tend to go pretty quickly, while "good seats" are pretty readily available. The official TicketExchange, where season ticket holders post tickets they won't use, generally has prices relatively close to face value, and is often a good option to find seats even if the game isn't sold out yet. Single game, face value tickets range from about $25-50 in the upper deck, $75-85 in the lower bowl, and $90-100 on the club level. Prices will be higher for certain "premium" games, depending on the night and the team in town.

In terms of seats, there aren't any bad ones. Nothing obstructed, nothing too far to see, nothing awkward or inaccessible. I've sat on the glass and in the last row of the upper-deck corner, and I'd almost go so far as to say I preferred the view from the cheap seats to being on-the-glass, as it gives a better view of the far end of the ice. As with any arena, the sides tend to be easier to watch from than the ends, though they're also a fair amount more expensive.

In The Cities
Where to Stay
Saint Paul Hotel on Rice Park
The St. Paul Hotel
If you're staying in St. Paul, there are a decent number of hotels right near the Xcel Center. If you're looking to stay somewhere swanky, The St. Paul Hotel is pretty famous––and visiting teams will often stay there. It's just a stroll through the park away from the arena.

If you rent/bring a car, it opens up a whole lot of other lodging options. There are tons of hotels in Minneapolis, but you could also consider staying in the suburb of Bloomington. Bloomington is home to the Mall of America and Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, and so there's a big cluster of chain hotels servicing the two. The area's directly connected to I-494 and lies just south of the heart of both cities. Getting to the X is a quick drive down 494 to 35E or MN-5.

Where to Eat

Matt's Bar
An important Minneapolis pilgrimage
Best Burger: This is a hotly contested title in the Twin Cities, and we can't give a definitive answer. But you can't mention burgers without mentioning the South Minneapolis delicacy: The Jucy Lucy. (Sometimes misspelled as "Juicy Lucy.") It's a cheeseburger with the cheese cooked inside, forming a magical molten cheese core, and it's absolutely heavenly. Two restaurants, Matt's Bar and the 5-8 Club, claim to have invented the Jucy, a controversy among devotees that lives to this day. Matt's is a bit more of a dive, a little bar that doesn't waste money on unnecessary things like silverware, or plates. 5-8 tries to be a bit more upscale, including spelling "Juicy" with an "i" and offering fancy alternate cheeses to stuff your Lucy. For our money here at FRB, it's gotta be Matt's. They make a phenomenal Jucy Lucy and the atmosphere just feels right. It's a Minneapolis institution and our pick for best burger bar.

There are lots of other great, more traditional burgers in the area, too. The Nook is a St. Paul burger bar institution. Burger Jones near Uptown in Minneapolis is good enough that an amateur pilot decided to illegally land his plane on nearby Lake Calhoun, because his burger craving just couldn't wait. Burger Moes is just two blocks from the X, and gets pretty packed on game nights. The American Burger Bar is a little bit farther but still walking distance, and tends to fly a bit more under the radar. If you happen to be in the Southwest Metro, a bit of a ways from the cities, The Lion's Tap in Eden Prairie is also a perennial favorite.

Best Italian Food: Just two blocks from the Xcel Center, Cosetta is a St. Paul institution, with phenomenal Italian food at bargain prices. If you're trying to go on game night, make sure to show up early––it's one of the busiest places in town.

Best Pizza: Cosetta actually makes pretty good pizza, too, but if you're looking for delivery, Davanni's is a local staple, and it's also served at the Xcel Center. Pizza Luce is a big favorite in the cities, both for dine-in and delivery. Punch Neapolitan Pizza is also fairly popular, though they don't deliver. In Uptown, Galactic Pizza is a hipster favorite, and your pizza will be delivered by a spandex-clad superhero on a scooter.

Best Poutine: Be warned, it's tough to find a good poutine here. If it's an important part of your hockey experience, make trip to Uptown and stop at Burger Jones. Ask them to hold the onions and bacon, and it's a pretty authentic poutine, with real (Wisconsin!) cheese curds and an excellent poutine sauce (rather than the thick gravy we Americans tend to slab on).

Best Fancy Food: Manny's Steakhouse tends to be the Twin Cities' go-to fine dining experience. It's your best bet if you want swank. The St. Paul Grill, connected to the St. Paul Hotel by the arena, is every bit as upscale as the hotel. If you want to be a bit hipper, there are lots of semi-upscale joints in Minneapolis's hipster mecca Uptown.

Hockey Bars: Luckily, we've got plenty of those. Tom Reid's Hockey City Pub, across Kellogg from The X, is a hockey bar through and through. Named after Tom Reid, a former North Star player and color commentator who now does radio calls for the Wild, it's quite popular on game nights. Eagle Street is also directly across the street from The X, and again is full of hockey fans on game nights. Great Waters Brewery is also a stone's throw from the arena, with good house brews. As mentioned above, there are also a number of good bars a bit farther from the arena which offer free shuttle service on game nights––Alary's (also known for their female waitstaff), Bennet's, and O'Gara's fit this bill.

While you're in town, definitely try some of the local beers. St. Paul's Summit makes pale ales which are extremely popular around here. Brooklyn Center's Surly is another ale brewery that many locals swear by as an alternative. New Ulm's Grain Belt lager is as German as the rural town where it's brewed, and is quite popular with drinkers of the lighter stuff. (It's also a bit cheaper.)

Also, know that liquor stores are closed on Sundays, and, for our Canadian friends, remember that the drinking age in this country is a whopping 21.

Late Saturday Night at Mickey's Diner
Mickey's is a St. Paul landmark
Coffee: Sadly, we don't have Timmy's down here. Sorry! You'll be hard pressed to find a half-decent donut shop in the area. Our coffee tends to come mostly from boutique shops similar to Starbucks––but locally-founded national chain Caribou Coffee is ubiquitous around here. Local chain Dunn Bros. is also quite popular, with better atmosphere and drinks and less corporate presence, though the locations are a bit more scattered.

Special Mention: Mickey's Diner Car is a St. Paul landmark, with an actual diner car building sitting in the middle of downtown St. Paul, and excellent, cheap diner food. It's also open 24/7. (And, yes, it is the one from the Mighty Ducks movies.)

What to Do
If we're being completely honest, the Twin Cities aren't super well-known for our attractions––especially during the winter. We're called the State of Hockey for a reason, though, so take the opportunity to play some open hockey at one of our many, many municipal rinks, or skate on one of hundreds of outdoor rinks, including one a few blocks from the X in downtown St. Paul. If you're a big shopper, there's always the Mall of America, with hundreds of stores and even an amusement park inside.

Hipsters and Indie kids will love Minneapolis's Uptown, widely considered one of the most hipster-friendly districts in the country. The Twin Cities are pretty well-known for their arts scene. We have the most theater seats per capita outside of New York, including orchestral performances at Minneapolis's Orchestra Hall, theatrical productions at theaters like the Guthrie (Minneapolis), Broadway touring casts at theaters like the Orpheum (Minneapolis) and the Ordway (St. Paul), as well as a swath of independent improv theater troupes in Uptown.

We also have quite a few concert stages and clubs, including the iconic First Ave, perhaps best known as the filming site for Purple Rain. Thanks to the music scene, we're also home to one of the best independent popular music radio stations in the country, the Minnesota Public Radio station The Current, so when you're driving around, listen to 89.3 FM instead of the usual ClearChannel garbage.

MSP's also home to quite a few museums. The Science Museum is directly across Kellogg from the arena, and provides fun hands-on demos.  The Minneapolis Institute of the Arts (MIA) is ginormous and varied (and free!), and the Walker Museum is one of the biggest modern art museums in the country (and home to Minneapolis's famous giant Cherry and Spoon statue).

And for the love of all that is good and holy, PLEASE don't call us "Minny."
Seriously. Nobody here calls it that, and we really don't appreciate it. It's not even clear if you're talking about the state of Minnesota, the city of Minneapolis, or any number of suburbs, lakes, or creeks (City of Minnetonka and its eponymous lake, Minnehaha falls and creek, and rural towns like Minnewashta and Minnetrista). Just. Don't. Do it. You'll look like an idiot and lose all your friends.

Quality or Quantity?

In the Second Round of the 2010 Draft Minnesota traded their 3rd round pick (#69) and their fourth round pick (#99) to Florida for the 59th overall selection, in which they used to select Jason Zucker of the U.S. National Team Development Program. Brent Flahr, Assistant General Manager and the "Guy Who Runs The Draft", said they traded up because Zucker was "still there."

This selection set off a small debate amongst the denizens of the Wild board of Hockey's Future, about whether or not that there was more value in Jason Zucker, or in the two picks we traded to get him.
Some claimed, with much merit, that a team like Minnesota and its utterly bare toybox, should have kept the two picks and made the selections because we need numbers- and with the more selections, the greater chance that one, maybe more, will pan out.
There were others, including myself, argued that its quality that matters- Flahr and Co. traded up for Zucker, who they must have had high on their Draft board, and that there could have been a perceived drop off or step down in the talent pool at the next tier. As the adage goes, you like a guy, go get the guy. Who knows where Zucker was on their board, but that they traded two picks, the 69th and 99th, meant that the player had some value to them.

So this question has been festering in my head for nearly a year now- which is more important: Quality or Quantity?

Here's what we know- The General Manager is charged with getting the most out of an Entry Draft. His job is to make his organization better, whether its by adding NHL roster players or prospect talent. The Draft picks, in a sense, are assets- its a matter of how they are used. So he doesn't necessarily make the actual selections- that's typically the role of the Assistant GM, but he will listen to his staff, who are the guys doing the dirty work all year long.
There is also the perceived talent pool in the Draft each year- this year, for example, is "deep" for the first 90-100 picks or so. Meaning, there is a damn good chance you can get a handful of potentially good players. This can vary from year to year. As you can tell, its not an objective scenario, to where a black and white answer isn't easily applied.

I talked to someone this week about this topic, and was told that it is a little of both; quality and quantity when you are drafting. That being said, you have to look at a team, and that there is a finite number of roster spots- so "would you rather have three middle-tier role players or one top-six?"
Now this reference quickly countered this statement by pointing out that Anaheim, in 2003 (considered the Holy Grail of Entry Drafts) took Ryan Getzlaf in the middle of the 1st Round, and then traded up to grab Corey Perry late in the 1st- Both have been key cogs in a Stanley Cup win, and Perry was a beast this season, winning the Rocket Richard and becoming an MVP Candidate.

While an allusion to 2003 may be a bit ostentatious in terms of quality, it does serve to prove a point- that it isn't just one or another. It varies from year to year, the modus operandi, but the hope is that like the Ducks did, that you can marry both.

Mock Madness VIII: Kirk Luedeke

I am really really pleased to present the next contributor to the Mock Madness series- Kirk Luedeke. He's an impressive man- he writes for both the New York Hockey Journal and the New England Hockey Journal, is in Graduate School at Georgetown, and served our Country in the United States Army; he continues to serve as a Public Affairs Officer. Also, he writes maybe the most extensive and informative draft blog on the series of tubes we call the Internet, the seminal Bruins 2011 Draft Watch. This website is something I check out everyday, and I suggest you do too. And for those Twitter-philes, he can be (and should be) followed at Kluedeke29.

Plainly put, Kirk is one hell of a human being, and I'm honored that he was willing to do a mock for us.

Here we go...

1. Edmonton- Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, C:
No-brainer for the Oil who grab the immensely popular Red Deer star believing he’ll turn Taylor Hall into 50-goal scorer
in three years.

2. Colorado- Adam Larsson, D: Colorado agonizes between taking another stud D to pair with Erik Johnson and a more pressing need on the wing with Gabriel Landeskog, but opt for the skilled defender.

3. Florida- Jonathan Hubderdeau, C/W: Huberdeau rides that Memorial Cup MVP wave all the way to Sunrise as Panthers fans rejoice.

4. New Jersey- Gabriel Landeskog, LW: Lou Lamoriello and his right-hand man David Conte race up to the stage to announce their pick and future captain before Armageddon arrives.

5. NY Islanders- Dougie Hamilton, D: Garth Snow and company happily pluck the big, talented and bright defenseman with possibly the highest ceiling of any in the class.

6. Ottawa- Mika Zibanejad, C: Bryan Murray surprises everyone expecting him to go with French Canadian Couturier by taking the draft’s biggest riser and beginning the Sens’ rebuild in popular fashion.

7. Winnipeg- Sean Couturier, C: The former Thrashers recognize a bargain when they see one and snap up the once expected top first- or second-overall pick with nice value.

8. Columbus- Ryan Murphy, D: Desperate for a power play QB and offensive star from the blue line, the Blue Jackets figure they won’t make the same mistake with Kris Russell and take the most dynamic scoring D since Phil Housley.

9. Boston (via Toronto)- Ryan Strome, C: The Bruins’ needs lie more with defense, but with this 106-point scorer and offensive stud on the board, they figure to tab Marc Savard’s long-term replacement and a potent 1-2 punch up the middle with Tyler Seguin.

Note: (If Columbus deals the No. 8 to Philly, then flip the players at 8 and 9)
*Ed. Note- Luedeke mentions that he's heard that this deal is done and awaiting announcement.

10.Minnesota- Nathan Beaulieu, D: The Wild can go any direction here, but opt for the new Sarnia Sting coach’s kid who can do a quite a bit of everything and will make a nice complementary player to Brent Burns.

11. Colorado (via St. Louis)- Sven Bartschi, RW: After nabbing the big two-way defenseman, the Avalanche grab the pure goal scorer and this year’s version of Jeff Skinner to jolt the offense.

12. Carolina- Joel Armia, LW: Jim Rutherford would love a big gunslinger to go with his sheriff Eric Staal and deputy Skinner. The 6-3 Armia fits the bill.

13. Calgary- Joe Morrow, D: Legitimate puck-moving d-men are the one skill set that flies off the board fast and the Flames are well acquainted with the WHL standout.

14. Dallas- Oscar Klefbom, D: Joe Nieuwendyk and Co. are thrilled that Calgary opted for Morrow over Klefbom, who may just be the best offensive defenseman of all in the 2011 class.

15. NY Rangers- Mark Scheifele, C: Another big draft riser and smart, character kid falls into New York’s lap here and Broadway’s lights shine on the former Cornell recruit.

16. Buffalo- Jamie Oleksiak, D: Visions of a Tyler Myers clone swim in the Sabres’ heads as they grab the monstrous 6-foot-7 Northeastern defender who could play at 260-270 pounds.

17. Montreal- Mark McNeill, C: The Habs grab the draft’s most physically- developed player and hope that he can flick the switch to be a consistent, snarly power center with skill that every NHL team covets.

18. Chicago- Jonas Brodin, D: Cerebral puck mover is slight and needs a lot of work on the physical side, but could flourish with Chi-town’s cast of characters on D.

19. Edmonton (via Los Angeles)- Duncan Siemens, D: While many can debate this mobile blue liner’s ultimate NHL upside, what cannot be questioned is his character and leadership. The Saskatoon standout is the perfect player to continue Steve Tambellini’s rebuild.

20. Phoenix- Matt Puempel, RW: The Peterborough ace may be unremarkable in a lot of areas, but he’s money when it comes to scoring goals. The Desert Dogs call his name and smile.

21.Ottawa- John Gibson, G: By the time this Michigan recruit and gold medal-winning stud is ready to compete for NHL duty, Craig Anderson will be longer in the tooth. Potential franchise netminder with ice water in his veins at crunch time.

22. Anaheim- Nicklas Jensen, LW: Ducks add one of the purest offensive talents in the draft. Boom or bust winger is worth the risk here.

23. Pittsburgh- Brandon Saad, LW: Penguins grab the hometown star who will be motivated to prove that his falling stock is unwarranted. Legitimate top-five talent is a steal here for the Pens.

24. Detroit- Rocco Grimaldi, C: Ken Holland has never shied away from legitimately talented little guys, and Grimaldi is a fierce competitor and winner.

25.Toronto (via Philadelphia)- Vladislav Namestnikov, C: The Leafs have seen plenty of this dangerous and creative pivot’s scoring antics in London this season and go for the kid who looks up to Pavel Datsyuk as his favorite NHL player.

26. Washington- Alexander Khokhlachev, C: Predicting a Russian to the Caps seems to be a copout, but Khokhlachev is a high-end scorer and solid citizen. He’s solid value here for George McPhee.

27. Tampa Bay- Connor Murphy, D: Although durability has been an issue, the Bolts can’t pass on this player’s upside. His maturity and character are a bonus with his prodigious talent. They’re no strangers to risky health issues having drafted Brett Connolly a year ago.

28. San Jose- Zack Phillips, C/W: Skating is nothing to write home about, but all this guy does is score. Put him with Joe Thornton and magic could be in store.

29. Vancouver- Tyler Biggs, RW: The Canucks need toughness and big bodies after being exposed in the Stanley Cup final against Boston. Biggs brings the nasty and has some skill, too.

30. Toronto (via Boston)- Ty Rattie, LW: Playmaking winger can also finish and is one of the most creative players in the 2011 draft. There’s a bust factor, but we think he could be a stud once he gets strong enough to handle the NHL’s rigors.

Previous Mock Madness Entries:
Tim Karsjens
Derek Felska
Chris Peters
Bryan Reynolds
Jérôme Bérubé
Daniel Chan
Dan Shrader

Point/Counterpoint: Cam Barker Buyout

So there is some innuendo floating about that Minnesota will be looking to buy out Cam Barker come July 1; While I (Nate) am against it, Dan feels otherwise. So we're gonna debate the hell out of the topic, for your pleasure.

Shotgun not being Jay Mariotti.

Nate Wells:
Despite fan opinion - and let's be honest, even Bobby Orr would be slightly hated if he was traded for the reigning Mr. Hockey who was playing at the U - there's no immediate need to get rid of Cam Barker. I'm not saying he's been overachieving and playing like the 3rd overall pick in the NHL Draft but he's not costing the team.

Dan Shrader:

Ok, to put the Nick Leddy stuff aside- yes, he's from Eden Prairie, yes, He played at the U, and he's now in the NHL. I'm convinced he would have been back at the U had he not been traded, but the trade certainly looks worse with these variables. You may have a point about no immediate need to get rid of him, but there are younger guys who are showing they are NHL-capable immediately. Nate, this is why you buy him out. And it would cost us roughly peanuts if we do it now, instead of later.

I have to agree that a Nick Leddy in the Wild organization would be back for a sophomore year with the Gophers, which is disappointing as the team could have used him. But Dan, can you really count on the young guys performing up to and beyond expectations? Lets face it, between injuries and poor stretches none of the Wild's young defensemen (and I'm throwing Stoner, Falk, Spurgeon and Scandella into this) had a great full season. The team needs a guy who can both motivate and take over if the young guys falter. Remember how well just giving the job went with Clayton Stoner in October?

So what happens when the perpetually injured Barker gets hurt again? One of the kids will get his ice time. And since we look to have at least 3-4 guys who will be duking it out for his spot if and when he gets another boo-boo, why not just eliminate him from the roster, save roughly 2 million, and just let the kids duke it out? I see your point with Stoner, but he was fighting through injuries at the beginning and once he got regular playing time (with Marek Zidlicky's shoulder injury,) Stoner proved to be one of the more consistent, if not most consistent D we had during that great 2-3 month stretch.
See, the reality is that Barker doesn't have the mobility nor the assertiveness to be productive offensively (power play time aside, and even then he's a second pairing guy;) so he was at his most effective as a defensive, crease clearing 6th defenseman. And guess what, we have guys like Stoner and Justin Falk (who are cheaper and more mobile) who can do that role. Time to cut our losses and move on.

I think you could make an argument that he's regressed since his Draft Year.

Save $2 million? If the plan is to save $2 million when Minnesota has something like $11 million to sign 4 players for this season than Craig Leipold just wants to save some money. It's not like Wild are going to make a big splash in free agency this summer and need the money to sign Brad Richards. This is a weak free agency class and Minnesota would be better off not overpaying for another top-9 forward. Yes the team needs to garner more depth up front but it's coming through the draft and pipeline rather than as a short-term fix. Same goes with the defensemen as I don't see that $2 million saved on Barker being used on another one like Steve Montador or Shane O'Brien. Given the players who are ahead in the depth chart, St. Paul is not the most attractive destination.

And Dan, you talk about Stoner playing better once he was injury-free. Barker was playing his best hockey in Minnesota before he was hurt. It's a low-risk situation holding onto him next season as he's a RFA. If he plays well, either hold on or trade him. If he fails, trade or worst-case scenario don't tender Barker and be free of paying a buyout.


If he's bought out, I don't necessary think its about saving money- its about admitting this personnel decision didn't work, and the window of opportunity- in which he can be bought out for a third of his final year because he's under 30, is there. The reality is that what he was brought in for- to be a focal point of the blueline because he didn't get that chance in Chicago- hasn't worked. And while he's still able to get into the lineup (for the time being,) he's now a depth defenseman in a limited role; we have kids who can do that role and develop. This unfortunately, will be the only way Barker stays in the league.
You make valid arguments here- but alas, Cam Barker's time in Minnesota appears to be dwindling away. If there is speculation that he could be bought out, or a report that he's being actively shopped, chances are he has a limited shelf life here.

Mock Madness Part VII: Tim Karsjens

Mock number seven comes to us from an old friend. You may recognize Tim's work as he has written a few guest blogs and has in the past taken a part in the First Round Bust roundtable. He also is on Twitter (@bozak911) and has written for the Gone Puck Wild blog as well along with one or two things I'm sure I'm missing like not being a Todd Richards fan. A great hockey mind, we're happy to have Tim grace us with his mock draft.

For my mock draft, my only solid prediction will be that the final standings in the draft order are subject to change. This draft will see a lot more movement, up and down, than I think anyone is expecting. The teams that I suspect will move their picks are;

Edmonton may move down (they really need a young, franchise D-man).
Ottawa will move up.
Florida will move down.
Islanders will move down.

Personally, one of the order moves that I am sort of expecting will be Florida moving the 3rd for Ottawa's 6th and 21st. I can see Edmonton moving the first for a package of picks and a potential top pairing defenseman. Couple that with some of the bottom half defensemen with great potential, I can see Edmonton taking their pick to the bank and converting it into huge currency pieces. The Islanders are also shopping their pick around the league.

From a Wild-centric opinion, I also expect the Wild to move down roughly five to six spots, which would put them in the range of a Tomas Jurco or a Zack Phillips.

As for the order of picks?

1. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
2. Gabriel Landeskog
3. Jonathan Huberdeau
4. Adam Larsson
5. Doug Hamilton

Outside of the top five, it will be a crap shoot and a "needs" based selection of the best player available.

If the team with the pick has their eyes on a center?
Couturier, Ryan Strome, Mika Zibanejad, Mark McNeill.

If the team is more in need of big wingers?
Armia, Baertschi, Jurco.

If the team is in need of Defense?
Murphy, Beaulieu, Siemens, Oleksiak... This draft is deeper on solid blue liners than the last few.

Although, I do predict that the goalies will be taken a bit later in the round than a few other mock drafts have them listed.

It is a distinct possibility that Couturier does indeed fall to the Wild at 10. However, if Zibanejad, Armia, McNeill, Jenner, and Jurco are still on the board, for what it is worth, Fletcher should move down, no questions. I have too many questions regarding Couturier, and my brain immeidately equates what I've heard about him to one Benoit Pouliot. If there are a slew of good defensemen still on the board, don't hesitate to drop down another spot if any of the earlier mentioned forwards are still there.

Maybe I'm the only one warming to Jurco as a "trade the pick and move down" idea, but it would be nice to pick up a couple of 2nd rounders. Plus, with the youtube sensation that he is, I can imagine Jurco on the right side of Granlund in two years. Granlund the play-making center and Jurco the big power forward with soft, soft hands.

Just me?


1. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
2. Gabriel Landeskog
3. Jonathan Huberdeau
4. Adam Larsson
5. Doug Hamilton
6. Sean Couturier
7. Ryan Murphy
8. Mika Zibanejad
9. Ryan Strome
10. Mark McNeill
11. Nathan Beaulieu
12. Duncan Siemens
13. Joel Armia
14. Sven Baertschi
15. Boone Jenner
16. Jamieson Oleksiak
17. Tomas Jurco
18. Zack Phillips
19. Jonas Brodin
20. Mark Scheifele
21. Brandon Saad
22. Phillip Danault
23. John Gibson
24. Joseph Morrow
25. Jonathan Miller
26. Vladislav Namestnikov
27. Christopher Gibson
28. Nicklas Jensen
29. Alexander Khokhlachev
30. Tyler Biggs

Mock Madness Part VI: Derek Felska

Mock draft number six in our series of Mock Madness was done by Derek Felska. Derek is a regular on many Wild message boards under the nom de plume LemaireisGOD and also writes his own blog the State of Hockey News. In addition, he has been compiling his own takes on the various prospects Minnesota might take so be sure to check that out. Enjoy!

1. Edmonton - Adam Larsson (D - Skelleftea)~ Last year the team drafted its franchise go-to player in Taylor Hall and now it can grab its franchise defensive anchor; and it adds to a young core that already includes Eberle and Paajarvi.

2. Colorado - Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (C - Red Deer)~ The Avalanche now have two great playmaking centers in Matt Duchene and Nugent-Hopkins. Hopkins is at least a full season from being NHL ready and Colorado will be willing to wait.

3. Florida - Gabriel Landeskog (LW - Kitchener) ~ The Panthers will love having this strong two-way center as they begin a long rebuild. Landeskog will remind some of Jonathan Toews in terms of his leadership qualities and that is precisely why Dale Tallon makes this pick.

4. New Jersey - Dougie Hamilton (D - Niagara)~ The Devils have had a steady exodus of quality defenseman over the years and Hamilton is the stud defensive talent that can be a solid two-way component for a rebuild.

5. Islanders - Sean Couturier (C - Drummondville)~ The Islanders will gladly take another skilled offensively gifted forward to go along with John Tavares, Josh Bailey, Kyle Okposo and Michael Grabner.

6. Ottawa - Jonathan Huberdeau ( Saint John)~ The Senators will take the skilled scorer as they attempt to rebuild offensively as Daniel Alfredsson's career winds down.

7. Winnipeg ??? - Ryan Strome (C - Niagara)~ Strome gives Winnipeg a great playmaking center that could eventually anchor the 1st line. Their prospect pool needs all the help it can get right now.

8. Columbus - Ryan Murphy (D - Kitchener Rangers)~ The Blue Jackets blueline has been craving an offensively gifted blueliner for years, Murphy is 100% offense and they won't care that he doesn't care too much about his defensive game as long as he can give their defensive corps the fast puck moving offensive dyanamo it has long been waiting for.

9. Boston - Nathan Beaulieu ~ (D - Saint John)~ The Bruins will see some changeover in its defensive core and it will relish the opportunity to acquire an incredibly skilled two-way defenseman in Beaulieu. First Seguin, then Beaulieu...pretty decent picks for the Phil Kessel trade.

10. Minnesota - Joel Armia ~ (RW - Assat)~ The Wild need scoring, and will be excited at the opportunity to draft the supremely skilled, 6'3" Finnish-born goal scorer. * not who I want but that's who I think the team will draft.

11. Colorado - Mika Zibanejad ~ (F - Djurgarden)~ Colorado's penalty kill was absolutely terrible. Zibanejad will give them a two-way forward that can be used on both the power play and penalty kill and give them a player who some compare to Chris Stewart. Ironic they will be using the 1st rounder they acquired from the Blues to get a Stewart-type player.

12. Carolina - Duncan Siemens ~ (D - Saskatoon)~ The Hurricanes are pretty well set at forward but they would like to add a bit more sandpaper to its defense and Siemens gives them a mobile defenseman with an element of nasty to him.

13. Calgary - Sven Bartschi ~ (LW - Portland)~ Bartschi doesn't fit the classic Flames mold, but they need some offensive talent to replace aging scorers in Iginla and Jokinen.

14. Dallas - Mark McNeill ~ (C - Prince Albert)~ I think the Stars are going to be having lots of flashbacks about another kid they drafted from Prince Albert with their 1st round pick back in '88 as they select the versatile Raiders forward.

15. Rangers - Ty Rattie ~ (C - Portland)~ The Rangers are looking to buyout Chris Drury and will be looking for skilled playmakers to replace him.

16. Buffalo - Mark Schiefele ~ (C - Barrie)~ Buffalo has been looking to add more size to its group of forwards. With Zach Kassian sure to get a shot soon, the 6'2" Schiefele would be another step in that direction.

17. Montreal - Jamieson Oleksiak ~ (D - Northeastern)~ The Habs system is fairly well loaded with talent at virtually all positions, so I think they may take a chance on the draft's biggest project in the 6'7" mobile blueliner from Northeastern.

18. Chicago - Oscar Klefbom ~ (D - Farjestad)~ The Blackhawks were giving Nick Leddy lots of ice time in the playoffs in part because they did not have a lot of options defensively and the steady Swedish blueliner will give Chicago some much needed depth at defense.

19. Edmonton - Jonas Brodin ~ (D - Farjestad)~ The Oilers have auditioned a lot of defenseman the last few seasons but haven't been overly happy with most of them. I expect for the Oilers to hope two skilled Swedes in Larsson and Brodin can change that.

20. Phoenix - Matt Puempel ~ (LW - Peterborough)~ The Coyotes are a team that could certainly use some goal scoring; and with talented playmakers like Boeddker, Turris they will certainly be able to set up the Petes' sniper.

21. Anaheim - Vladislav Namestikov ~ (F - London)~ The Ducks could use some secondary scoring as they were very reliant upon the production of their top 3, and Namestikov gives an element of versatility of being able to play all 3 forward positions but also be a skilled forward.

22. Pittsburgh - Brandon Saad ~ (F - Saginaw)~ The Penguins would like to be a little tougher to play against; and Saad gives them a big-bodied two-way forward who has the strength to battle near the crease.

23. Ottawa - David Musil ~ (D - Vancouver)~ Musil is a no-nonsense stay at home defenseman that will help fill out the Senators blueline which could use an overhaul, and Cowen and Musil will help in that regard.

24. Toronto - Boone Jenner ~ (C - Oshawa)~ Jenner is hard working team-first center that can develop into a Top 6 to Top 9 forward and they need all of the skill and versatility they can get.

25. Detroit - Connor Murphy ~ (D - USNDT)~ The son of former NHL'er Gord Murphy's is a two-way defenseman with a reasonable amount of grit. With Rafalski's retirement and Niklas Lidstrom's not too far away they will want to have some options for replacements.

26. Washington - Scott Mayfield ~ (D - Youngstown)~ This raw and still somewhat unrefined defenseman has grit, mobility in a decent-sized frame. The Caps are looking to round out their defense and even though Mayfield is a few years away they have shown patience in developing defensive prospects as they did with Green, Alzner and Carlson.

27. Tampa Bay - Rocco Grimaldi ~ (F - USNDT)~ With Martin St. Louis on their team, the Lightning understands just how good a diminutive but immensely skilled forward can be; and Rocco Grimaldi may be the steal of the draft if he turns out to be as good as Martin St. Louis.

28. San Jose - Tomas Jurco ~ (RW - Saint John)~ In the absence of any glaring needs, the Sharks will simply take the best player available and it will be tough to pass up a skilled scorer like Jurco.

29. Vancouver - Alexander Khoklachev ~ (C - Windsor)~ The Canucks have seen just how huge a smallish but determined forward can be, and Khoklachev may not be pretty but he works hard and would help Vancouver maintain its depth at forward.

30. Toronto - Nicklas Jensen ~ (RW/LW - Oshawa)~ The Maple Leafs will add another versatile but enigmatic skilled forward in Danish-born forward Nicklas Jensen.

Thanks Derek!

Previous Mock Madness Entries:
Chris Peters
Bryan Reynolds
Jérôme Bérubé
Daniel Chan
Dan Shrader