I know I'm about a week late on a recap type post on the Entry Draft- which is arguably FRB's wheelhouse- but life gets in the way sometimes. Like free agency madness, for example. In the past week or so, I've been quietly checking the pulse of Wild Nation to gauge how the 2013 Draft Class was received, and it's been, well, pretty wide-ranging.
With no 1st Round pick ever, Minnesota was pretty much a peripheral element for the first couple of hours. In the meantime, it was nice meeting and chatting with some of the Hockey Wilderness principals at Tom Reid's. Eventually it came time to make the selections...
Gustav Olofsson, 2nd Round 46th Overall:
I touched on Olofsson a bit in the last post before the Draft, and as it turns out it is who Minnesota took; after some thought, I really think he was a player The Wild coveted. I had a hard time understanding the desire to accumulate another 2nd pick and trade back into the 1st round, but then once the selection was made, it became easy to connect the dots- Minnesota was likely worrisome that Olofsson wouldn't be there at 46. Now, this is all conjecture, but in my (deranged) mind it makes sense.
The Colorado College-bound defender models his game after Jonas Brodin; while he isn't as advanced as Brodin defensively, he does have a bit more physicality to him. He'll pinch guys off along the walls, he'll occasionally step up on puck carriers; but the usage of an active stick is awfully similar. Olofsson is just so steady, and there may even be a growth spurt down the line; reportedly his dad is something like 6'7"-6'8", so when it is all said and done Minnesota may have a gigantic presence on their blueline down the road- there won't be any rush to put Olofsson immediately into the system (like if he was in Major Junior) so he'll have some time to develop.
There's some backlash with this pick; like Brodin in 2011, he generally isn't regarded as a "sexy pick"; but when you look at the best teams in the League, their bluelines all have steady, mobile, puck moving guys like Olofsson from top to bottom. He'd be a perfect compliment to a Matt Dumba, who could freelance a bit.
Kurtis Gabriel, 3rd Round 81st Overall:
This is undoubtedly the biggest head scratcher; the 1993 born forward from Owen Sound is already 20; so a decision regarding a contract will essentially be imminent. His stats aren't particularly sexy, and a quick youtube search reveals a collection of videos of him standing up for his teammates; but he has a tremendous backstory which illustrates the indomitable work ethic and character Gabriel brings every second of every shift. The 6'4", 190 winger has wonderful size already; his skating has long been an issue but I've heard Brent Flahr reference that Gabriel is a "late bloomer offensively"; his Head Coach, Greg Ireland, lauded Gabriel for his intangibles.
Is this pick a reach? Perhaps, but this isn't necessarily an off the radar/Eero Elo selection; Gabriel's been an invite to Development Camps in the past, and as far as I know, would have been this year too; he was on team's lists. Minnesota just happened to think so highly of him they took him.
Remember the guy Chuck Fletcher traded earlier in the day to The Islanders? His scouting staff may have taken the same kind of player a few hours later.
Dylan Labbe, 4th Round 107th Overall:
Lauded for his professional performance night in and night out on an AWFUL Shawinigan team, Labbe was selected to play for Canada at the U18's, but was hurt in an exhibition game. To be honest I know little about him, but this is what my colleagues at Future Considerations had to say about him, from our Draft Guide:
SCOUTING REPORT: Labbe is an underrated two-way blueliner, mainly because he’s an average skater. His first step needs improvement and he relies on positioning and physical play in his own zone rather than skating but can turn on the juice when needed to get to loose pucks or back on recovery. He remains extremely balanced and strong on his feet. Labbe is poised and calm with the puck in his own zone. He does not force the pass or the clear and knows how to navigate fore checkers. His puckhandling is also good in the neutral zone, where he loves having it on his stick. His anticipation is very good, he’s a smart player. His positioning usually places him where he needs to be. He sees the ice well and makes strong outlet passes. He needs to work on getting his shot offFC had him at 79 in our Final Rankings; maybe a healthy role at the U18's would have gotten him selected earlier, but Minnesota pounced on a promising player who played a major role on a bad, bad team. My colleague at FC, Mark Farine, had some more info on Labbe which he gave to Hockey Wilderness.
quicker. Labbe has a real mean streak to him. If you are going to hang out in front of that net, expect some lumber on your back or a glove to your face. Works very well in front of the net: he has an active stick… it’s always either pushing players, deflecting passes or lifting sticks. He jumps in to defend teammates routinely and isn’t afraid to finish his checks in open play. Labbe uses his skates and stick to block shots and disrupt passing lanes. He gives a consistent two-way effort every game, talented and smart. For a QMJHL rookie defenseman, he was pretty polished and had adapted very quickly to
the leadership role that he had to take for Shawinigan this season.
Carson Soucy, 5th Round 137th Overall:
Had he not missed some time in the Fall due to playing in an international Softball Tournament in Argentina and then a torn MCL that kept him out til late December, Soucy may have been similar to Labbe in that they could have gone higher. The UMD recruit (the nice thing about this Draft is that we'll be able to see Olofsson, Soucy, Nolan De Jong, and likely Avery Peterson develop right in front of us in the NCAA) plays a solid overall game; he'll play physical and bring some offense, but overall I heard he's rather unspectacular- but I keep hearing praise for his puck moving ability, which seems like something Minnesota has really begun to look for in the D they draft. I look forward to seeing him play, as I've never seen him.
Avery Peterson, 6th Round 167th Overall:
We covered Peterson already, so I'll be brief here; it is pretty rare for a team to take a player that really doesn't have a defined development path in place- as of now Peterson hasn't committed to a college or Major Junior- but it should be a matter of time as he's visited some schools. He's going to be a long term project, but there is some potential there.
Nolan De Jong, 7th Round 197th Overall:
Can't say I know a whole hell of a lot about the kid, aside from Brent Flahr's praise of his mobility but the assessment that the kid is physically immature. The Michigan recruit will likely need some time to develop, but going the NCAA route will help establish a strength training program and the practice-based schedule will help round out his game.
Alexandre Belanger, 7th Round 200th Overall:
Keeping up with their "take a goalie late" trend, Minnesota took the youngest goalie in the Draft Class. Again, I'll lean on Hockey Wilderness for more info- they got a great quote from Kyle Woodlief on Belanger.
So what are the trends in this Class? Four kids are NCAA bound, 2 of which played major roles on struggling teams, and Kurtis Gabriel may not be a well-liked pick but may end up being a cult favorite- sooner than later, considering his age. No Europeans taken in this Class, and again, Minnesota "takes a token local kid" (eye roll).