I'm enthralled with the NHL Entry Draft. I think my interest in draft day comes from a love of junior hockey. This particular Sunday afternoon I find myself checking in on the class of 2011.
The Oilers took yet another forward with yet another first overall pick. The Avs played it safe and went with the dependable Gabriel Landeskog second overall. Florida rejoiced when they were able to snag the leader of the Memorial Cup Winning St. John Sea Dogs, high-scoring forward Jonathan Huberdeau, all the way down at third. The Devils were equally enthused to take a ready-made Swedish defenseman that many still felt should've been the Oilers choice at first, Adam Larsson, way back at fourth. Three of these young men started the year with their NHL clubs. Six of the top eight selections did, and four of them have stuck and are all playing huge roles on teams in or near playoff spots. After Larsson went Ryan Strome to Long Island, Mika Zibanejad to the Sens, the Jets went off the board to take Mark Schiefle at seventh, and the Flyers stole Sean Couturier at eighth, then, the reigning cup champs used a pick they acquired from the Leafs at ninth to scoop Dougie Hamilton and the massive defender is piling up points in the OHL.
And then there were the Minnesota Wild, coming off yet another disappointing season of which the only solace was a top ten pick in a loaded draft which they used to select (insert drum roll here) none other than Jonas Brodin, a slim, average sized defenseman from Farjestads of the SEL. Now in his second full season in Sweden's top league Brodin is still seeking his first career goal. The Avs used their second first round selection to take Ducan Siemens, a beheamoth defender from the WHL's Saskatoon Blades, who unlike Brodin is both big and offensively gifted. Next in line at eleventh were the Carolina Hurricanes who drafted yet another defenseman, Ryan Murphy, from the OHL's Kitchener Rangers. Murphy started the year with the big club but was quickly returned to major junior, tallying eight points in twelve games already.
The list of talented players taken behind Brodin goes on and on, including Sven Bartschi, Jamie Oleksiak, JT Miller, Nathan Beaulieu, etc...
The Wild are first in the West right now, propelled by young coach Mike Yeo and a few good trades by GM Chuck Fletcher in the offseason, but they still can't draft to save their lives.
Luckily they were able to take Huberdeau's teammate Zack Phillips with their other first round selection. Maybe they'll prove the 20+ other teams that passed on him wrong...but probably not.
Last year's first overall pick Mikael Granlund has overcome a head injury to return to form in the Finnish League. Brent Bulmer, the first of three second round picks that year looked good in an early nine game stint with the big club, and Jason Zucker, taken 20 spots behind him is doing well in his sophomore season. Nick Leddy, taken with their first pick the season before that, has 16 points this season...for Chicago. Colton Gillies and Tyler Cuma haven't made an impact at the NHL level.
I'm glad to see a surprise success story in the NHL this season, and they've made it work via the trade route, but I can't help but feeling robbed that the ineptitude of the Wild at the draft table makes them unworthy.