MINNESOTA’S ALL-TIME DRAFT TEAM: THE CROWD DOESN’T GO WILD

The Wild landed their most talented player with their first pick in their first-ever NHL draft in 2000. They could use a few more game-breakers in the Marian Gaborik mold.

Marian Gaborik|USA Today

Marian Gaborik|USA Today

The Minnesota Wild have only been around since 2000-01, and their all-time all-drafted team reflects their relatively short existence. It has neither the superstar power nor the elite top-to-bottom depth of its Original Six counterparts – in fact, it doesn’t come close.

Fourteen of the Wild’s 20-member all-time drafted team are current NHL players, giving it a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately vibe. The blue line is definitely the strength of the team – which makes sense when you consider Minnesota’s traditionally defensive approach – while the forward group is hardworking, though a little thin on skill and scoring. The exception, of course is the first-ever draft pick in Wild history – Marian Gaborik stands alone as the most talented forward to be picked by the team when he went third overall in 2000.

Let’s get into it.

Gaborik is joined on the first line by Mikko Koivu, the Wild’s captain and longtime No. 1 centre, and left winger Jason Zucker. Gaborik gets the goals, Koivu is a two-way warrior, while Zucker brings speed and scoring and should find plenty of open space with opponents focusing on Gaborik. The second line provides secondary offence in the form of Mikael Granlund between Alex Tuch and Patrick O’Sullivan. It’s not an overly intimidating unit but they can put the puck in the net.

Erik Haula centres the third line, which is a bit of a shift for him as he usually plays right wing. But he can play pivot, too, and that’s where this Wild team needs him. He’s big, physical and skates well for a player his size, and he has solid two-way support in wingers Cal Clutterbuck and Benoit Pouliot. This unit won’t score a ton, but they won’t give up much, either, and it’s a physical trio with Clutterbuck and Pouliot also available for penalty-killing duties. The fourth line has a dash of offence in Pierre-Marc Bouchard at centre, plus a promising all-arounder in right winger Joel Eriksson Ek and a good old-fashioned grinder in Stephane Veilleux on the left side. As mentioned, the pickings at forward start to get a little slim…

The defence corps will dictate the ultimate success of this team. Wild thing Brent Burns brings his big shot and roving ways to the top pairing, with Jonas Brodin taking on a defence-first role. Matt Dumba and Nick Leddy team up on the second pair, a high-rev combination of skating ability and power-play prowess, with a physical edge as well. The third duo features more offence in mobile Marco Scandella, and a full serving of defence in Nick Schultz, who was the second-ever player drafted by the Wild after Gaborik in 2000.

In net, Darcy Kuemper gets something that he’s never been handed in the NHL – a full-time job as the starter. He’s fared very well when he’s been thrust into the No. 1 role as an injury replacement in recent years. Anton Khudobin, another backup who has delivered when called upon in the past few seasons, gets the backup gig.

Here are the other players considered for the Wild’s all-time all-drafted team. At centre: Luke Kunin (15th, 2016) and James Sheppard (ninth, 2006). At right wing: Haula was moved from right wing to centre, but other than that there were no other legitimate candidates at right wing. At left wing: Johan Larsson (56th, 2010), Jordan Greenway (50th, 2015) and Ryan Jones (111th, 2004). On defence: Clayton Stoner (79th, 2004) and Justin Falk (110th, 2007). In net: Josh Harding (38th, 2002).

Here’s a look at Minnesota’s all-time all-drafted team. The 20-player lineup is based on players’ entire NHL body of work.

CENTRES
Mikko Koivu (6th, 2001)
Mikael Granlund (9th, 2010)
Erik Haula (182nd, 2009)
Pierre-Marc Bouchard (8th, 2002)

RIGHT WINGERS
Marian Gaborik (3rd, 2000)
Alex Tuch (18th, 2014)
Cal Clutterbuck (72nd, 2006)
Joel Eriksson Ek (20th, 2015)

LEFT WINGERS
Jason Zucker (59th, 2010)
Patrick O’Sullivan (56th, 2003)
Benoit Pouliot (4th, 2005)
Stephane Veilleux (93rd, 2001)

DEFENCEMEN
Brent Burns (20th, 2003)
Jonas Brodin (10th, 2011)
Matt Dumba (7th, 2012)
Nick Leddy (16th, 2009)
Marco Scandella (55th, 2008)
Nick Schultz (33rd, 2000)

GOALIES
Darcy Kuemper (161st, 2009)
Anton Khudobin (206th, 2004)