With the UFHL Draft approaching the Minnesota Wild brought in a few prospects to go through on ice exercises with current Wild prospects. Steve Stamkos, Drew Doughty, and Zach Bogosian joked on the ice before warms ups. With the second overall pick the Wild have many choices, all of them at the Xcel Engery Center today, to choose from. This is the third straight year the Wild have chosen in the top 2.
In a press conference before the scrimmage GM Willgress announced the Wild will wear #28 stickers on their helmets in memory of their fallen teammate Luc Bourdon.
Team White: Neuvirth, Bogosian, Erixon, Sneep, Persson, Bergfors, Ryan, Boyle, Stamkos, Kalus, and Sacchetti
Team Black: Unice, Finley, Hrabal, Doughty, Danis-Pepin, Berglund, Turris, Azevedo, Irmen, Ritola, and an unknown prospect who was invited by GM Willgress.
The teams played two 18 minute periods of running time, with Team Black winning 7-6 in a come from behind victory.
00:51 Boyle (Sneep, Bogosian)
05:25 Ryan (Bergfors, Bogosian)
12:00 Berglund (unknown player, Hrabal)
15:31 Kalus (Stamkos, Persson)
17:40 Erixon (Sacchetti, Ryan)
02:51 unknown player (Turris, Berglund)
03:05 unknown player (Berglund, Irmen)
07:51 Ritola (unknown player, Doughty)
08:20 Stamkos (Bogosian, Erixon)
09:47 Azevedo (unknown player, Danis-Pepin)
11:03 Persson (Bergfors, Boyle)
13:26 unknown player (Berglund, Turris)
16:52 unknown player (Finley, Hrabal)
From the drop of the puck it was evident that team white was the most physical of the two. Boyle centered a line with Ryan and Bergfors on either wing for the first period while Stamkos would center Kalus and Sacchetti and they would swap for the second. Sneep and Bogosian appeared to be a great pairing as both of their powerful shots from the point seem to get on Unice. The Swede pairing of Persson and Erixon held their own as the game was very fast paced.
If Team White was the physical team, Team Black was pure speed. Turris, and the mystery player were lights out the fastest skaters on the ice. It took a while for the pace of the game to swing in Team Blacks favor but when it did it was tape to tape passes on the fly. In the first period Berglund centered Azevedo and the mystery player while Turris centered Ritola and Irmen. Finley and Hrabal were one defensive pairing while Doughty and Danis-Pepin were the other.
All of the prospects faired very well. Stamkos showed the flashes of brilliance that are probably going to make him the #1 pick. The other forward was the best player on the ice, he led all players with 4 goals and 2 assists. All of the media in attendance was attempting to see who this player was, but could not see under the dark face shield. Bogosian and Doughty were their usual selfs playing a great all around game while chipping in offensively.
GM Willgress would not hint who the player was that he had invited but he did say that he may be looking to acquire another pick to try to select this player. GM Willgress commented it was nice to have all four of his college prospects in town for the workout, most of the media chuckled knowing that Sneep, Finley, and Sacchetti are from the Twin Cities area. Danis-Pepin and his parents came to the workout to tour the city in the hopes of finding out what the town will be like after Danis-Pepin's senior year at Maine.
The Wild have depth at all positions. The Wild have five goaltenders, three of which have seen time in an NHL game. Recently signed Josh Unice and 2006 Draft Pick Michal Neuvirth have not seen any NHL time but are considered to be potential #1 goalies, both are probably 2-3 years away from NHL duty. Rookie Jon Quick was thrown into NHL duty before his time but management is very happy with his development. Pekka Rinne and Marek Schwarz could have the opportunity to be in the NHL come October. The Wild may not have the clear cut future stud like a Carey Price but they are pleased with the direction their goaltending is going.
Possible goalie picks at #2: None, the Wild will not pull a Blake Wheeler and take a potential second round pick at #2.
The Wild have eight defensemen who are still considered eligible to be on the farm. Nicklas Grossman and Matt Smaby were free agent signees after the 2006 and 2007 THN Future Watch edition was released. Grossman was a very pleasant surprise for the Wild this year and Smaby played strong in the last ten games of the season the Wild will look to the both of them for the 2008-09 season to contribute when in the lineup. After Grossman and Smaby NHL experience is non-existant. Danis-Pepin, Finley, and Sneep are all playing in strong NCAA programs. Recently signed Josef Hrabal has an opportunity to crack the roster this year and is probably the closest NHL ready prospect. Dennis Persson recently signed an NHL contract but it is rumored that he will be loaned to a Swedish Elite team for the 2008-09 season. The last defensive prospect is an undrafted prospect from the 2007 draft in Sebastien Erixon. The Wild are still able to hold his rights as he was draft eligible in 2007 but was not selected in the NHL Draft. Erixon had a good season between the Elite League and Second Division in Sweden.
Possible defensemen picks at #2: Drew Doughty, Zach Bogosian, and Alex Pietrangelo. With the loss of Luc Bourdon the Wild lost their best overall defensive prospect and could choose between Doughty and Bogosian to fill gap created by the loss of Bourdon.
The Wild have eleven forward prospects. If the Wild are strong anywhere it's up front. According to the 2008 Future Watch the Wild have three of the top ten prospects, all forwards, Kyle Turris (2), Patrik Berglund (5), and Bobby Ryan (10). Monster forward Brian Boyle was listed at number 72. Petr Kalus, Danny Irmen, Nicklas Bergfors, and Nico Saccheti were all listed as top 10 prospects of their respective teams. Only Mattias Ritola, Kris Newbury, and recently signed Justin Azevedo were not listed. Many question the Wild signing of Azevedo, however there have only been two CHL scoring champions who have never played an NHL game, the Wild are sure Justin will not be number 3.
Possible forward picks at #2: Steven Stamkos, Nikita Filatov, and Mikkel Boedker. Unless something goes wrong in the Coyotes camp Stamkos will be off the board. Filatov and Boedker are slated to have unbelievable offensive potential and as another GM put it "the Best way to move back up towards the top is only by offense".
There have been rumors that the Wild may trade the #2 pick to acquire more draft picks as this draft is believed to be relativity deep in talent. After mulling over a few offers GM Willgress felt it was best to keep his one pick instead of acquiring three to four now and have to figure out which players to release at camp. With the players above GM Willgress believes it would be a pretty tough decision. The Wild also have the 2nd pick in the 4th Round in which they may be able to snag a late 1st rounder or early 2nd rounder that was overlooked in the first two days of the draft.
In other UFHL Draft news the Wild have exposed forwards Justin Azevedo, Stanislav Chistov, Kris Newbury, and John Pohl along with defensemen Simon Danis-Pepin.