Wild finds more local players can be good fits

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO
  • Star Tribune
  • June 27, 2011 - 6:52 AM

It's becoming increasingly evident that the Wild is focusing more on scouting the local high schools and colleges.

In April, the Wild signed Minnesota Duluth's Justin Fontaine and North Dakota's Chay Genoway. Saturday, the Wild traded its third- and fourth-round picks to select Wayzata's Mario Lucia with the 60th overall pick, then used its fifth-round pick to take Eden Prairie's Nick Seeler at 131.

"On other teams I've worked on, it's hard to spend enough time, especially at the high school level," assistant General Manager Brent Flahr said. "For us, we have a number of [scouts] here that know the guys inside and out. That helps a lot."

Seeler, 18, a defenseman who won a state championship with the Eagles, was overjoyed. "To get my name called, just to start the journey, is a great feeling," he said. "I couldn't have asked for any more, especially getting picked by your hometown [team], it's an incredible feeling growing up and going to the games and wanting to be a Wild player one day.

"Now I have an opportunity to be one."

Seeler, who will play in Muskegon of the United States Hockey League in the fall before eventually going to Nebraska-Omaha, calls himself an offensive defenseman with a "nasty disposition." One sister, Ashley, played soccer for the Gophers; another sister, Kelly, currently plays hockey there.

Flahr said the Wild brought Seeler to St. Paul last week to "remeasure" him and found he grew almost three inches since Central Scouting's original height to nearly 6-2.

Owner approves

Right before the Wild made the trade to draft Lucia, Wild owner Craig Leipold was trying to run back to the team's draft table.

He missed the pick but got back in time to shake Lucia's hand.

"I knew he was high on our list. That's why I was coming down," a delighted Leipold said. "I knew these guys were itching to get a hold of Mario, and it happened. It's good stuff."

No word on assistants

Wild coach Mike Yeo said he met this weekend with assistant coach Darby Hendrickson, whose contract expires Thursday.

Yeo called it a "great conversation," but Yeo said he's in the early stages of his decision-making. Yeo wants to have his coaching staff in place by the July 11-17 development camp.

It's likely that Yeo brings his assistant coach in Houston of the AHL, Darryl Sydor, to Minnesota. That could work against Hendrickson from an experience standpoint because Sydor and Hendrickson have been coaches for only one year.

Candidates for Houston

According to sources, the finalists to replace Yeo as Houston's head coach are Montreal Canadiens assistant Kirk Muller, former Syracuse head coach and Columbus assistant coach Gary Agnew, former Chicago head coach and San Jose assistant Trent Yawney and Ryan McGill, a former Calgary assistant and Quad City and Omaha head coach.

Fletcher, Coyle talk

Flahr said General Manager Chuck Fletcher talked Saturday morning with Boston University's Charlie Coyle, who came to the Wild in the Brent Burns trade. Many scouts believe he's ready to turn pro now, but Flahr said Fletcher will talk to him again to determine a game plan.

Fletcher doesn't like persuading players to leave college.

"Physically, he's a lot further ahead [than many Wild prospects]. He's a strong horse of a kid," Flahr said.

'Big Buff' comes home

Dustin Byfuglien has turned into a tour guide.

The hulking defenseman grew up in Roseau, Minn., a 120-mile drive from Winnipeg -- home to the Jets, who relocated there from Atlanta.

"I don't think half of [my teammates] have ever been to Winnipeg," Byfuglien said Saturday while attending the draft. "But I told everyone it will be just fine. There's everything to do. And they better like the outdoors."

Sibling rivalry?

Calgary selected forward Markus Granlund in the second round. His brother, Mikael, the Wild's first-round pick last year, was right there for a big hug after the selection was announced.

But will that love become a sibling rivalry on the ice?

"It's nice if I can someday play against him, of course," Markus Granlund said. "It's a great honor just to be drafted."

Staff writer Brian Stensaas contributed to this report.

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