After a very inactive day one of the NHL draft, things began to heat up Saturday morning on the trade front around the NHL as the likes of P.K. Subban and Patrick Marleau among others were traded prior to the opening of the second round.
The Wild and general manager Paul Fenton looked to maybe one of the teams getting in on the action with trades, as Jason Zucker continues to be a top trade target around the league. However, the Wild general manager made it clear Friday night that he was not going to trade Zucker — or as he said, “get rid of” — unless it was for an absolute no-brainer deal.
At the conclusion of the draft on Saturday afternoon, the Wild had not moved Zucker. That came as a relief for Wild fans, as previously reported trades involving Zucker that had fallen through were bound to be massive losses for the Wild.
Fenton even went as far as saying Zucker will be a big part of this team going forward, which seems to be a relief as the 27-year-old looks to rebound from a subpar 21-goal season.
So right there on Zucker alone, the Wild came out ahead.
Then there was the actual draft, which had rounds two through seven commence before the various teams grab a flight home.
At the beginning of the day, Minnesota held seven selections in the remaining six rounds — two of which came in round six. Fenton and company got underway with the 42nd overall pick when they selected left winger Vladislav Firstov out of Waterloo of the USHL.
That was supposed to be the Wild’s only pick in round two of the draft but Fenton traded back into round two so he could select goaltender Hunter Jones. The Wild had to give up their third and fourth-round picks in this year’s draft to get up to No. 59 and select Jones, but it was seemingly worth the move.
Again, Fenton wheeled and dealed as he traded back into round three to draft left winger Adam Beckman. Another player with some high offensive upside that the prospect pool has been lacking.
After sitting out round four, the Wild closed out the day by drafting C Matvey Guskov (round five), D Marshall Warren (round six), C Nikita Nesterenko (round six) and G Filip Lindberg (round seven).
From a draft standpoint, this was about as well as one could have hoped for the Wild. No, you need not be freaking about the lack of right shots because that specific team need could be fixed in three years time when these guys will all start hitting the pros.
Minnesota drafted five forwards this weekend, four of which seemingly come with high offensive upside. The defenseman they selected in the sixth round — Warren — slipped to the Wild at No. 166 after being projected to go a couple of rounds higher.
They also drafted two goalies, which as stated before, was a huge weakness in the prospect pool with just Kaapo Kahkonen and Mat Robson as only potential NHL goaltenders. But the jury is still out on them. Jones and Lindberg again come with some high upside so you can add them to the list of potential Wild goaltenders down the road.
Goalies do take longer to mature and reach the NHL — typically around 5-6 years — so don’t expect to see either before any of the skaters make it to the NHL.
The point of all this is that the Wild took a swing for the fences with their picks, which is all you can ask from them at this point. It mirrors what they did on day two last year, with the hope that a couple of those players can pan out positively for the organization desperate for high-end talent.
It was a much better outcome than listening to the analysts tell us how the Wild drafted another crop of good two-way players with a high floor. The team has plenty of those, and they followed through on drafting players with higher ceilings.
If the Wild don’t make any other moves this weekend, you can call it a successful one. They did not give up Zucker for pennies on the dollar, and they drafted very positively and tried to fix some of their depth issues in the prospect pool.
Fenton has rightfully earned some criticism for past moves and draft picks, but none this weekend are worthy of such angst. He pulled the right strings and did the right things — with exception of saying “get rid of” in regards to Zucker — which is all you could ask from him over the draft weekend.
Now if he can just hold his ground in trade talks for the rest of the offseason, the Wild may have a chance. But at the very least, it was a solid all-around weekend for the Wild. A good draft and no mind-numbing moves.
That’s really all you could have asked for.