Today I wrap up my look at the history of the Minnesota Wild first round NHL draft picks. All these players have yet to play a game in the Big Show, but I will do my best to grade them based on how they project and how they have developed so far.
2009, Nick Leddy (16th overall), Grade: D
A local boy, Leddy was drafted out of Eden Prairie High School. He is an undersized defenseman, listed at just 5’11, 180 lbs, but what he lacks in size, he makes up for in offensive potential. He is known for being a good puck mover with good playmaking abilities. Just eight months after he was drafted, Leddy was packaged with Kim Johnsson (an expiring contract) in a trade to the Chicago Blackhawks for Cam Barker, who had just posted a 40 point season. Barker did not work out for the Wild, and essentially the pick was wasted. It was probably rationalized as a risk/reward move for the organization at the time, and if Barker was still with the team things would look very different, but as it turned out, the whole thing was a big whiff.
2010, Mikael Granlund (9th overall), Grade: A
It may be a little premature to give Granlund an A before he ever puts on a Wild sweater, but I’m not going out on a limb too much by saying he is going to be a star for the Wild when we finally get NHL hockey again. Granlund has already shown that he can mix it up with the top competition in the SM-liiga, and until he was injured recently, he was tearing up the AHL as well. He is easily a top-six forward, and from all indications, he should be a star in the not too distant future.
2011, Jonas Brodin (10th overall), Grade: B+
Last summer, on his 18th birthday, Jonas Brodin signed a three-year entry level contract with the Wild. At 6’1”, 172 lbs, Brodin is known as a strong skater who makes good decisions with the puck. He might need to put on a few pounds of muscle if he is to be an impact defenseman at the NHL level, but he has shown in the SEL that he can skate with the big boys. Brodin is currently playing for the Houston Aeros, and while I think it may be another year at least before he cracks the Wild roster, he could easily turn into a solid depth defenseman in the next couple years. He is only 19 years old so he still has a lot of time to develop as a defender.
2011, Zack Phillips (28th overall), Grade: B
Phillips gained a lot of press last year with the way he tore through the QMJHL with the St John Sea Dogs. His final line was 30 + 50 = 80 pts in 60 games–not too shabby, to say the least. So far this season, that success has not translated into the AHL, where he has just five points through 14 games. At just 20 years old, Phillips has a lot of development left, but what he has shown so far certainly has Wild fans buzzing. It’s still too early to really grade this pick so I have to default and take the middle ground.
2012, Mathew Dumba (7th overall), Grade: B+
Having stocked their farm system with quality forward prospects, the Wild selected a potential impact defenseman this year. Dumba is all over the place on the ice, coming down low to set up one-timers or delivering thundering open ice hits. He is a little bit undersized for the position, but he certainly has the potential to become a top four defenseman–or even, as some experts predict, a top-pair player. I will wait until he gets even some AHL experience before making up my mind, as Dumba is still playing for the Red Deer Rebels of the WHL. But if the pick works out (and it’s surely no guarantee) Dumba could be a cornerstone on the Minnesota blue line for many years to come.