In wide-open draft, Wild ready for anything at No. 7

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 22, 2012 - 6:48 AM

Assistant GM Brent Flahr, who will run the team's draft table, will have plenty of talent to choose from, especially on defense.

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Jacob Trouba

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PITTSBURGH - Every NHL draft has its DNA. And the DNA of the first round Friday is defensemen.

The Wild, picking seventh, should have its pick of four or five high-end defensemen, and they are all very different.

Griffin Reinhart has all the tools. Mathew Dumba: a big hitter with the big shot. Morgan Rielly: great skater. Cody Ceci: offensive whiz.

And Jacob Trouba will put you right through the glass.

"He reminds me of [former NHL defenseman] Adam Foote," said former NHL General Manager Craig Button. "If you want to win, you need guys like Adam Foote on your team. It was never any fun playing against Adam Foote."

A defense-heavy draft is pretty good timing for the Wild.

Since last year's draft, the Wild overhauled its back end by trading veterans Brent Burns, Marek Zidlicky, Nick Schultz and Greg Zanon. And with Jonas Brodin, the No. 10 pick in last year's draft, and Marco Scandella, a second-round pick in 2008, considered the Wild's only blue-chip defensemen, one could argue the team should think long and hard about taking another quality one Friday.

Not so fast, says Brent Flahr, the assistant general manager who will be running the Wild's draft table.

"If you look at the [Mikael] Granlund draft in 2010, that was the one time where we clearly needed skill up front and we were aggressive on that," Flahr said. "We knew even if we went by a defenseman, we had to get skill for the organization at forward.

"Now we're at a point where you can say we need defensemen, but you still have to take the best player. A lot of these players are a year or two away, sometimes three or four, from being impactful players."

Many options

Things change quickly and dramatically in the NHL. So if a forward such as Teuvo Teravainen or Radek Faksa or Mikhail Grigorenko happens to be the top name when the seventh pick comes around, Flahr says he will have no hesitation going that route.

And that wouldn't be such a bad thing.

Teravainen reminds many of Hall of Famer Igor Larionov. He is a puck magician and happens to be flying up the draft charts despite being undersized at 5-11 and 165 pounds.

And ... the Wild loves Finnish players.

Said Button: "I seriously can make the argument that he's as good [2011 No. 1 pick] Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was last year at this time. I think somebody's going to get an absolute steal with Teravainen."

Faksa reminds some scouts of San Jose budding star Logan Couture, while Grigorenko has been compared to former NHL goal scorer Alex Kovalev.

Ryan Murray will almost assuredly be the top defenseman chosen. Reinhart, son of former NHLer Paul Reinhart, is likely to be gone at No. 7, so if the Wild wants him, it will have to trade up.

Value at D

The Wild has met multiple times with all the defensemen at the top of the draft, and Dumba, Reinhart and Trouba met again with the team Thursday. The 6-2 Trouba played for the U.S. national team program and doesn't bring much offense, but he has a great shot, he's tough and he's a competitor.

"I love watching Shea Weber," said Trouba, heading to Michigan in the fall. "He's a big, mean, physical guy like I want to be."

Dumba, although he stands under 6 feet, plays the game like Drew Doughty, the Los Angeles Kings star.

"I want to play [in the NHL] next year," said the confident Dumba, Canada's captain at the Under-18 world championships, where he led the tournament in scoring. "I'm the type of guy, my will is strong and I want to go somewhere and compete for a position next year.

"I think my game is very versatile. I do believe in my skills where I can do it all almost."

Murray is considered the safest pick in the draft, but Wild scouts say he might not have as much upside as some of the defensemen that could be on the board at No. 7.

Flahr has talked glowingly about Rielly ("superb skater") and Ceci ("tons of offense"), too, while lately, Finnish defenseman Olli Maatta, a huge Wild fan, and Hampus Lindholm have rocketed up the charts.

So who's coming to Minnesota in the first round?

It's anybody's guess. Flahr has kept everything close to the vest.

"The top of the draft is so unpredictable this year, I just don't want to tip our hand," Flahr said. "I'll just say, there are seven or eight guys we'd be very happy with. We'll get a good player."

  • NHL ENTRY DRAFT • When: Round 1, 6 p.m. today, TV: NBC Sports Network • Rounds 2-7, 9 a.m. Saturday, TV: NHL Network

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