Grading the Minnesota Wild First-Round Draft Picks, Part Two

By Bob Spencer


Colton Gillies
Brace Hemmelgarn-US PRESSWIRE

Last week I started a project looking back at all the first round draft picks in Minnesota Wild history, and grading them based on how they turned out. Today I continue the series, beginning with:

2005, Benoit Pouliot (4th overall), 65 GP, 18 Pts (9+9), 0.28 Pts/Gm. Grade: C-

First round picks don’t always work out, it’s just the facts of life in any sports league. But Pouliot only made it to the NHL for a brief time with the Wild, and did not produce much when given the opportunity.

He was eventually traded for Guillaume Latendresse, who was productive when healthy. Pouliot has made it as a full-time NHL’er but he is still bouncing around the league–he played a couple years in Montreal, then Boston for a year, and now he is on Tampa Bay’s roster. While not all top draft picks work out, this one was still underwhelming in the grand scheme of things.

2006, James Sheppard (9th overall), 224 GP, 49 Pts (11+38), 0.22 Pts/Gm. Grade D+
Sheppard was drafted by the Wild in 2006 and was immediately given a spot on the NHL roster where he was asked to play a ton of minutes in his role season due to injuries. Sheppard holds the team record for games played by a rookie (78) and played in all 6 games of the Wild’s first round matchup against the Colorado Avalanche that year.

Later Sheppard would injure his knee in an ATV accident that would require surgery. He was designated as an “injured non-roster player” for the 10-11 season, and was then traded to the San Jose Sharks for a third-round pick following the season. Between the heavy usage early in his career and the injury, it’s difficult to judge the selection–after all, he is still just 24 years old. However, for the value returned by the pick, this one was pretty bad.

2007, Colton Gillies (16th overall), 89 GP, 10 Pts (3+7), 0.11 Pts/Gm. Grade: B-

Gillies’ departure from the Wild came as a bit of a surprise last year. He was getting regular playing time with the club but he was not performing. So he was sent down to the AHL but he had to clear waivers first. The club was probably not expecting anyone to put in a claim on Gillies but that’s exactly what the Columbus Blue Jackets did on January 14, 2012.

Gillies was not performing well at all–one point every ten games is obviously not NHL-quality–but he was showing improvement and playing a good defensive game even though he wasn’t marking the score sheet. At 23 there is still some room for Gillies to improve but it’s hard to build a team around draft picks that find their way onto other teams’ rosters.

2008, Tyler Cuma (23rd overall), 1 GP, 0 Pts. Grade: B
From this point on, the picks were too recent for the players to make it to the NHL roster–though if not for the lockout we would very likely have had a longer look at Cuma–so grading the picks will be a little difficult. I will instead grade based on how the player has developed so far and the field the player with the club’s needs.

I give this pick a B because the Wild have needed to bolster their defense for some time now. Cuma is a developing player with a good defensive instinct, and while he will not jump into the rush that often, he knows how to transition from defense to offense. I don’t see Cuma as a top-pair defenseman, but he could provide the organization with some solid depth on the blue line.

Check back tomorrow for the conclusion of the Minnesota Wild first round draft analysis.

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