Michael Russo has covered the National Hockey League since 1995. He has covered the Minnesota Wild for the Star Tribune since 2005, after 10 years of covering the Florida Panthers for the Sun-Sentinel. He uses “Russo’s Rants” to feed a wide-ranging hockey-centric discussion with readers, and can be heard weekly on KFAN (100.3 FM) radio and seen weekly on Fox Sports North.

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Modano honored, wears North Stars jersey; Wellman scores first NHL goal; Wild to host 2011 Draft, Winter Classic next?

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild game coverage, Wild news Updated: April 10, 2010 - 11:11 PM

 

Yes, the 2011 Entry Draft will be coming to the Twin Cities. Between NHL and club officials, prospects, their families and media, more than 2,000 guests will arrive and overtake the hotel rooms of Minneapolis, St. Paul and surrounding areas.

The anticipated top picks in 2011 include Sweden’s Adam Larsson, Red Deer’s Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Drummondville’s Sean Couturier and the U.S. Under-18’s Brandon Saad.

The North Stars hosted the 1989 draft at the old Met Center in Bloomington. Mats Sundin was drafted first overall to the Quebec Nordiques. The North Stars drafted Rochester native Doug Zmolek seventh overall. Other notable 1989 draft picks were Nicklas Lidstrom, Sergei Fedorov, Pavel Bure, Bill Guerin and Vladimir Konstantinov.
 
Recent overall No. 1 picks include Alex Ovechkin (Washington, 2004), Sidney Crosby (Pittsburgh, 2005), Erik Johnson (St. Louis, 2006), Patrick Kane (Chicago, 2007), Steven Stamkos (Tampa Bay, 2008) and John Tavares (NY Islanders, 2009). 
 
I asked Leipold where he expects to draft in 2011. Hesaid, “That’s a question for [GM] Chuck Fletcher.”
 
In the past three drafts, there have been 42 players selected from Minnesota, including 12 in the first two rounds.
 
The Wild has selected six Minnesota natives in history: Nick Leddy (2009), Kyle Medvec (2006), Chris Hickey (2006), A.J. Thelen (2004), Michael Erickson (2002) and Jake Riddle (2001). They also drafted Alex Fallstrom and Erik Haula out of Shattuck-St. Mary's last June.
 
Of the team’s 78 total draft picks, 29 have played in a regular season NHL game including 26 with the Wild.
 
Recent overall No. 1 picks include Alex Ovechkin (Washington, 2004), Sidney Crosby (Pittsburgh, 2005), Erik Johnson (St. Louis, 2006), Patrick Kane (Chicago, 2007), Steven Stamkos (Tampa Bay, 2008) and John Tavares (NY Islanders, 2009). 

Next up Leipold says is to get a Winter Classic. I know everyone here wants one badly because Minnesota is hockey, but it won't be that simple. The NHL needs this to be attractive on a national scale to NBC, and you need stars and quality teams. The Wild's not there yet, sorry.

I asked Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly about this:

“I’d be lying if I didn’t say it was a consideration from year to year to look at the teams and look at the matchups and try to almost prognosticate as to what would be an attractive matchup that people would want to watch nationally. Having said that, in a very short period of time, I think this franchise in the way it’s been built and grown has become one of the top-notch franchises because everything they’ve done from day one has been done right."

As for Mike Modano, he may have played his last NHL game tonight. Afterward, he was named first star in a nice gesture and came out wearing a white North Stars jersey. Brian Stensaas transcribed his postgame news conference (transcript below).

Here's the video tribute produced by the Wild game-ops department

Rookie Casey Wellman scored his first NHL goal tonight giving Minnesota a 3-2 lead nine seconds into the third. It tied Brian Rolston's team record for fastest Wild goal from the start of a period. He pounced on Kyle Brodziak's rebound. There was a problem with the clock, so it gave the sixth-largest crowd in history even more time to serenade him. It was a cool moment.

Mikko Koivu registered his ninth multi-goal game and finished the season with a career-high 22 goals and 71 points. Brodziak had a career-high 32 points. Greg Zanon had an assist to establish a career-high 13 assists and 15 points.
 
Zanon finished with 196 blocked shots (i think fourth in the nhl) and Cal Clutterbuck finished with an NHL-high 318 hits. Rookie Cody Almond had his first NHL fight with Mark Fistric.
 
The Wild will have season-ending physicals Sunday and end-of-the-year individual meetings with Todd Richards and Chuck Fletcher on Monday or Tuesday. No access to the team Sunday, so I'll talk to you again at the start of the week.
 
Make sure you check out the end of the year package in Sunday's Star Tribune or startribune.com/wild...Definitely check out the link that starts off-ice stories for an untold story in the first section about Derek Boogaard.
 
Some other notes:
 
Defenseman Nate Prosser, the Elk River native who’s the eighth Minnesotan to ever wear a Wild sweater, played his first home game.
“I’ll try not to look in the seats too much to see all my family and friends,” Prosser said.
He came close to scoring in the second period.
For years, some Minnesota hockey fans have wanted more Minnesota natives in Wild jerseys. Prosser’s well aware of that notion.
“I’m sure a lot of them were wondering where all the Minnesota guys are,” Prosser said. “For me to put on the jersey for them and for all the fans that have been faithful throughout the existence of the Wild, maybe this is a big moment for them. I’m just glad to take it all in. It’s tough to put into words exactly how much it feels in me to be part of this locker room and being here.” …
 
I put this on Twitter the other day, but that was before coach Todd Richards asked me to hold it until today. But Richards has accepted the position as Scott Gordon’s assistant coach with the United States at the World Championships in Germany …
 
Injured Owen Nolan (knee), Martin Havlat (hamstring), Guillaume Latendresse (back), Marek Zidlicky (arm) and James Sheppard (sprained MCL) missed their final home games. For Nolan, he’s a free agent, meaning he could have played his last game in a Wild jersey. …
 
Pierre-Marc Bouchard sat behind me tonight in the press box. He’s been in Montreal getting alternative treatment for his concussion for a long time. I’ve written about this.
 
He says he’s gotten “a little” better. He does look a year older.
 
I had to cut this out of the paper:
 
Wild coach Todd Richards, a native of Crystal and a former Gopher, skated with Modano during summer skates in the early-90s in Eden Prairie.
“There was one play that I’ll always remember,” Richards said. “I was about four or five feet away from him. And he got the puck and I’d say in about two seconds, he was nowhere to be found. … He humbled me pretty quick.”
 
Here's the MOdano postgame presser:
 
Tons of memories and experiences I’ve had over the course of my time here. I didn’t know what to expect going into tonight. The reception was phenomenal and there’s still tons of big North Stars jerseys out there and fans that still miss us and in some ways we still miss them. It was a great game nonetheless but at times, a little emotional.

(Tears?) The longer it drags on the tougher it was to get through that. I think I used them up the other night in Dallas. But it was touching. It’s really hard to put into words how much you appreciate the fans and the city here – at such a young age taking me in and having some great experiences and great friendships. Some great times the five years I was here. I still see some faces I saw at the Met in the stands. It was nice.

(Made up your mind?) I really struggled with that answer – and I really don’t know. I don’t know what happens over the summer. Our situation with Tom Hicks is certainly up in the air and what holds for Turco and Lehtonen – a lot of personnel things are happening that would have to get worked out. And a contract would need to get worked out. I think a contract would be easy. But I guess what I feel in July and August I think it’s really tough to make a decision right now. I’m kind of exhausted and tired and in some ways I’m glad the season’s over. You need a break and to get away. But you do get the itch at the end of July and August to kind of figure out what you want to do. A lot goes into it. A lot of thinking I think I’m going to do.

(You looked gassed in the third period – was that old age?) There’s been games like that a lot this year. You don’t quite have that separation anymore from people with the puck. Sometimes I really wish I was in my prime playing here – to have that high level of playing in front of the fans here. Once I left it seemed to really take off for those next 16, 17 years. I wish I would have had some years here in the late 20s to kind of really show what we were doing in Dallas and how I was playing. Now, it’s tough. There’s games like that. But then there’s nights like the other night where you think, ‘Maybe there is some hope there left.’

(Could you go through all this emotion again?) It’s kind of been building up. I would probably go through the same deal. We’ve had cameras and video guys following us around the last three, four days. They could just probably keep the same tapes and not go through it again. There’s some big soul searching I have to do this summer to really realize if I have the motivation and the drive to get it going again. It’s a little tough deciding what to do and how to move on and how to let go of the game. It’s been such a part of your life since you were 7, 8 years old and now you’re going to suddenly just stop and wake up the next morning and it’s all over. That’s the hard part.

(Puck seemed to go to you, you shot second in shootout. Did you think it was your night to score?) I figured in the shootout, I scored my one shootout goal for the year the other night. I think that’s it.

(North Stars jersey your idea?) I thought about maybe wearing it in warm-ups and doing that whole number. Some ideas came up, but that was the one, to go out there one last time and a couple last circles to show them I’m still thinking of those times and those experiences.
 

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