Before we get ahead of ourselves looking at 2012, I think we should take a look back at the 2011 Draft Class, which was selected right before our very eyes, as the Draft was in St. Paul. In a way, that version of Minnesota's Draft will be remember for the blockbuster deal Chuck Fletcher and Doug Wilson consummated in the 1st Round, sending Brent Burns and a 2012 2nd Round Pick to San Jose for Devin Setoguchi, San Jose's 1st Round Pick (28th overall), and uber-prospect Charlie Coyle.
However, that being said, the six players selected have made progress (in some cases huge strides) in the roughly calender year since then.
Jonas Brodin, Defense - 1st Round, 10th Overall
A story I've recanted ad nauseum; Wild fans filing up the Xcel Energy staircases shortly after the 10th overall pick going "Who the hell is Joe-nis Bro-dinn?!?" Well, since then, Brodin has signed his entry-level deal during the Prospect Development Camp, starred at the World Junior Championships, and is now patrolling the blueline in more international play for the World Championships. He's basically established himself as one of the better blueline prospects in the World- lauded for his fluid skating and high-end hockey sense, the question isn't "Who is Jonas Brodin" anymore- its more along the lines of "How good can Brodin be?"
Zack Phillips, Center/Wing - 1st Round, 28th Overall
Taken with the 1st Rounder acquired in the Brent Burns deal with San Jose (which was being sought after but kept in case one of the "high end guys" was available) Phillips spent the majority of the Summer in the Twin Cities working on his skating, which was a perceived knock on his game in his Draft year. As you can see, that's Phillips and Charlie Coyle hoisting the QMJHL Championship Trophy, which Saint John won last week. As you know, Coyle started with the season with Boston University- Phillips may or may not have had a hand in getting him to Harbor Station after Christmas.
Mario Lucia, Wing - 2nd Round, 60th Overall
The son of University of Minnesota Head Coach Don Lucia eschewed his final year at Wayzata for beautiful Penticton, British Columbia to suit up for the Vees of the BCHL. To say things have worked out well would be an understatement; The Vees won the BCHL Championship, and are in the Championship Game of the Doyle Cup, which pits all of the Tier II junior leagues in Canada against each other. Check out this Q and A that FRB did with "The Voice of the Vees" Fraser Rodgers.
Nick Seeler, Defense - 5th Round, 131st Overall
Not rated by Central Scouting (remember, the CSS lists are meant to be guidelines) but rated highly by Minnesota, The Eden Prairie native spent the year in the USHL, split between Muskegon and Des Moines. FRB knew next to nothing about him on his Draft day, but was able to see him in action in Fargo this Spring. While he's heading to Nebraska-Omaha this Fall, Seeler may be a shrewd pick from The Wild's own backyard. In my opinion, I think Seeler projects to be a poor man's Dennis Seidenberg.
Stephen Michalek, Goaltender - 6th Round, 161st Overall
Michalek saw alot of rubber in his Draft Year- he did make over a 1000 saves for Loomis Chaffee, but also made a number of saves at the U-18's as well. Then he started 24 of Harvard's 40 games this Fall, and participated in the US National Team Evaluation Camp as well, where he narrowly missed out being on the 2011 edition of the US World Junior Team. He should be considered one of the leading goaltending candidates this Winter.
Tyler Graovac, Center - 7th Round, 191st Overall
Having had some tough luck the last two years- a broken jaw his rookie year, then a broken arm last season, the 6'4" Graovac was able to stay healthy enough not only to finish out the season, but be a key cog in the 67's playoff run. He played in the Traverse City Prospect Tournament in a checking role, and ideally that would be where he would slot in at the professional level.
Overall, its a positive sign when newly drafted players take steps and begin forward momentum in their development- the 2011 Class is rather beefy and gritty, with Zack Phillips being the shortest player at 6'1", but also skilled- definitely worth being excited for.
Photos courtesy of Wikipedia.org, Fraser Rodgers, USHL.com, ECACHockey.com, and Yahoo Sports Canada.