DALLAS – The best player, regardless of position, is who the Wild targeted when it came time to announce its picks over the weekend at the NHL draft.
So the team’s exiting American Airlines Center on Saturday with a center-heavy haul was a coincidence, albeit an encouraging one, considering how valuable the role is in today’s game.
“You can’t have enough is probably the best way to describe it,” General Manager Paul Fenton said.
Of the Wild’s eight selections, five were centers, with Jack McBain headlining the pack. McBain racked up 58 points, including 21 goals, in 48 games last season with Toronto in the Ontario Junior Hockey League.
At 6-foot-3 and 201 pounds, McBain has a frame that enables him to hold onto the puck around the net.
“He has a knack for scoring goals,” said Brent Flahr, Wild senior vice president of hockey operations. “We’re excited about him.”
McBain was a familiar face to Fenton, who watched him before the World Junior Championship. But Fenton also knows McBain’s dad, Andrew, who was a teammate of Fenton’s when the two played for the Jets in 1988-89.
“I’m sure they’re thrilled to be coming to Minnesota,” Fenton said.
Andrew McBain logged more than 600 NHL games after being drafted eighth overall in 1983, and he told his son to relax and enjoy the process.
“It’s been awesome picking up little things in my game,” Jack McBain said. “As I’ve gotten older, a lot of it’s more what kind of person you are off the ice. Just little pieces that he can help me with my game just has always been great.”
The 18-year-old hopes he will be ready for the NHL in a year or two. Improving his acceleration is on his radar; he will play next season at Boston College.
“They have produced a lot of high quality NHL players,” McBain said. “So I thought that’d be a great way for me to get to the NHL.”
Summer of strength
Alexander Khovanov didn’t play much last season, missing a chunk of time while he was sick because of hepatitis A, but that didn’t discourage the Wild from using a third-round pick to add the Russian center.
“He a kid coming into the season we ranked highly,” Flahr said. “He’s a skilled kid.”
In just 29 games with Moncton of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, Khovanov tallied nine goals and 28 points. Since he was idle for so long, Khovanov dropped weight; getting stronger will be key this summer.
“It’s great emotions,” Khovanov said of getting drafted. “Best day of my life. I’m so happy. It’s very good for me.”
Grand Rapids’ Blake McLaughlin was told he might get drafted late in the first round or early in the second. But when that didn’t happen, he started to wonder if he would ever get selected and whether he should stick around the arena.
“You got a lot of crazy thoughts running through your head, just a lot of things,” McLaughlin said. “But once you hear your name called, it’s a really big relief.”
McLaughlin ended up going in the third round, 79th overall, to the Anaheim Ducks. He entered the draft as the second-highest Minnesotan rated by NHL Central Scouting, behind only K’Andre Miller, who was taken 22nd overall by the Rangers after switching to defense just two years ago — a change made when his Minnetonka High School team was short a defender.
“All in all, it’s a really cool experience,” McLaughlin said.
• Simon Johansson, a Swedish defenseman the Wild drafted Saturday in the fifth round, is not related to Filip Johansson, the Swedish defenseman the Wild picked in the first round Friday.
• Fenton doesn’t believe forward Jordan Greenway will attend development camp in July. “I think he’s had a long enough year, with the Olympics and turning pro,” Fenton said.