Many people who do not follow the NHL don't understand the NHL draft. In the NBA and NFL, players selected at the draft have a good chance of being on the big league roster the next season. In the NHL, a player (unless extra special) generally will not see the NHL for anywhere from two to six years.It is a long term, delayed gratification process fraught with more failure than success, and can make or break the careers of an NHL GM.
Since Chuck Fletcher took over the Wild in 2009, he has reinvented the franchise, adding players like Mikael Granlund, Jason Zucker, Johan Larsson, and Brett Bulmer. Last summer, Fletcher drafted Jonas Brodin and Zack Phillips to the stable, along with other picks that are likely farther out in their development. On Friday, Fletcher gets his fourth (third with his own scouting staff) crack at the draft, and looks to add more talent to the second highest rated prospect corps in Hockey's Future's rankings.
Looking at the NHL level team, it is clear they need help almost everywhere. The goalie position is really the only place the team is deep enough that the team may avoid drafting another. The forward corps is bustling with potential goal scorers and talent, but you can never have too many forwards. The defensive depth was exposed as a major weakness, with many of the brightest prospects turning out to be less than exciting.
With the 2012 NHL draft heavy on top-end defensemen, it is likely the Wild will look to shore up the blueline long into the future. However, the Wild's top scout, Brent Flahr, mentioned that this is one of the most unpredictable drafts he has ever been a part of, so locking down one specific candidate that is head and shoulders above the others is difficult. The buzz words in any draft are "best player available," but when you have amassive hole in the depth of your franchise, sometimes you have to try to fill it.
So it's absolutely a defenseman, right? Wrong.
The consensus top pick will be Nail Yakupov. After him, the order could be jumbled, depending on what the teams ahead of the Wild are hoping to do. With players like top rated defenseman Ryan Murray, centers Alex Galchenyuk and Mikhail Grigorenko, wingers Filip Forsberg and Teuvo Teravainen, as well as other highly rated d-men Matt Dumba, Jacob Trouba, Morgan Rielly, and Cody Ceci also in the mix, who will be available at the Wild's seventh overall pick is tough to guess.
Mock drafts around the web have the Wild all over the place, showing evidence of what Flahr was referring to. Over on Hockey Wilderness' draft page, 33 different mock drafts have the Wild taking 8 different players. Mock drafts from April and May do not agree with mock drafts done in June. The experts are guessing as much as anyone else at this point.
The safe bet is that the Wild will be eyeballing a stud defenseman to pair with Jonas Brodin as they head into the next chapter of Wild hockey. However, if one of the few big time forwards available in the draft are still around at seven, don't be surprised to hear Fletcher call their name at the podium.
The Wild currently hold picks: 7, 46, 68, 98, 128, 158, and 188.
Stay tuned to SB Nation Minnesota and Hockey Wilderness on Friday and Saturday for full coverage of the NHL Draft.