CHICAGO – Wild coach Bruce Boudreau looked bored.
So did the rest of the Wild draft table. For three hours Friday night scouts fiddled with their phones, stared into the stands, used their hand to keep their heads propped up and once in a while stood to stretch their backs.
Not only did the Wild not have a first-round pick because of February’s Martin Hanzal trade, the team didn’t pull off a headline-making trade on Day 1 of the NHL draft at the United Center.
With Chuck Fletcher openly admitting he might trade a defenseman and the team seriously considering parting with specifically Marco Scandella, the Wild general manager didn’t pull the trigger … yet. Offers were made from teams including the Boston Bruins, who are believed to have pitched the No. 18 overall pick in a package.
But the Bruins proceeded with their pick, so the Wild will have to wait until Saturday to spring to action, with six picks in Rounds 2-7, barring trades or Vegas choosing to send the Wild a third-rounder this draft instead of next.
While it may have been an uneventful day for the Wild, it wasn’t for Minnesotans Casey Mittelstadt, Ryan Poehling and Jake Oettinger.
Mittelstadt, the Minnesota Mr. Hockey from Eden Prairie High School, was drafted eighth overall by the Buffalo Sabres. And then, in a cool 10-minute span, Lakeville pals Poehling and Oettinger went back-to-back late in the first round.
Poehling, the St. Cloud State underage freshman a season ago, was drafted 25th by the Montreal Canadiens. Just after Oettinger got done cheering, the Dallas Stars moved up three spots and made the Boston University freshman the highest-drafted Minnesota-born goalie in history, at 26th overall.
Oettinger said the two wouldn’t have envisioned this “in our wildest dreams. The fact that my best friend goes one pick before me in the first round of the NHL draft is ridiculous. It’s so cool. I was just so proud to see him go. The fact I went right after is unbelievable.”
Mittelstadt called being chosen a dream come true after sitting behind the stage with his parents, Dede and Tom, and a couple of TVs, bottles of water and bags of chips.
“It’s a long buildup,” said the future University of Minnesota center. “It’s kind of a stressful day, to be honest with you. You’re in the room for a while and you start to get a little stressed. But it’s a big relief when you’re picked. Lots of tension in there. All the guys were pretty nervous.”
Mittelstadt is the highest-drafted Minnesotan since Erik Johnson was taken first overall in 2006 by the St. Louis Blues and tied for the seventh-highest-drafted Minnesotan in history.
One of the seven could someday become his Sabres coach, Hall of Fame defenseman Phil Housley, who went sixth overall to the Sabres in 1982.
“I just met him for the first time,” Mittelstadt said. “To be able to meet him was an honor. He’s done pretty much everything you can in hockey. And being from Minny is the cherry on top.”
Mittelstadt moved to Dinkytown June 12 and has already begun classes and hit the weight room “to get bigger and stronger.” He scored 106 points his first two years of high school, then scored 22 goals and garnered 59 points in only 25 games this past year. His state championship hopes came up just short.
“The speed he plays at, the skill he has, he’s a dynamic offensive player,” Sabres GM Jason Botterill said.
Poehling, a center, joked that the Canadiens’ logo looks a lot like the Huskies’ and that he’ll now have to learn French. Oettinger said he’ll now make it his goal to one day be the Stars’ No. 1 goalie.
Poehling and Oettinger have been best friends since they were kids, playing together for one year as freshmen at Lakeville North. Oettinger left for the U.S. national program while Poehling won a state title his sophomore year.
“I bet Lakeville’s going crazy right now,” Poehling said.
The Wild was silent, at least for now. Fletcher didn’t comment regarding Friday’s inactivity. He left the arena without talking to reporters.
But with only $13 million of cap space and Mikael Granlund and Nino Niederreiter needing to be re-signed amid other business needed to fill its roster, something has to give.