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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Wild won't be drafting a goalie in first round; schedule on horizon

Posted by: Michael Russo under Vikings draft, Wild off-season news Updated: June 14, 2012 - 5:17 PM

The Wild held its annual media draft luncheon down at Tom Reid's Hockey City Pub today, and the only thing definitely learned is something we all would have assumed anyway: The Wild will not be selecting a goalie at No. 7 overall in the first round of the NHL draft June 22 in Pittsburgh.

During the news conference today with GM Chuck Fletcher and assistant GM Brent Flahr, a reporter asked Flahr if there's a goalie that could potentially go in the top-10.

Flahr said, "Potentially," before Fletcher cut his right-hand man off and joked, "I’d fall off my chair if we draft a goalie at No. 7." Cracked Flahr: "I’d have to get my resume together probably."

Fletcher said the only way the Wild takes a goalie at 7 is if Flahr beats him to the microphone on stage: "Usually we don’t want to tip our hand, but we’re not drafting a goalie in the first round."

To make clear: Fletcher and Flahr meant absolutely no disrespect to Andrei Vasilevski, a potential top-10 pick and the top-rated goalie in the draft by the NHL's Central Scouting Service.

They were just making clear that the team has pretty good depth at goal with Matt Hackett, Darcy Kuemper, Johan Gustafsson and Stephen Michalek, and forward and defense is the priority.

As for the rest of the afternoon, same talking points as every draft luncheon: Flahr repeated the team's mantra and shared philosophy of most teams -- it drafts the best player available, not necessarily by position. The only exception to that came in 2010 when the Wild literally had no forwards coming down the pike (other than maybe Casey Wellman), had a gigantic need for skill and selected Mikael Granlund at ninth overall even though it was arguably passing over quality defensemen like Cam Fowler.

This summer, six forwards are turning pro -- Granlund, Charlie Coyle, Brett Bulmer, Johan Larsson, Jason Zucker and Zack Phillips. Only one defenseman is perhaps turning pro -- Jonas Brodin, and I say perhaps because if he doesn't make the team, the Wild will have to decide whether to assign him to Houston of the American Hockey League or return him to Farjestad of the Swedish Elite League for the year.

With so many forwards and so few defensemen, one would assume the Wild will be drafting a defenseman, especially with so many highly-rated ones near the top of this year's draft (Moose Jaw's Morgan Reilly, Ottawa's Cody Ceci, London's Olli Maatta, USA Under-18's Jacob Trouba, Edmonton's Griffin Reinhart and Red Deer's Mathew Dumba, to name a few).

But Flahr says that's not necessarily case. The scouts have arranged a draft order, feel strongly about that order and will go by their list. So if the next player on their list happens to be a forward when it chooses at 7, it'll take that forward.

Our draft coverage should begin in Monday's paper, and I'll talk a lot next week about the potential of trades -- or lack thereof, when it comes to the Wild. Fletcher loves making draft-day deals. In fact, he's made five in three years as the Wild GM. But don't expect another Brent Burns for Devin Setoguchi, Charlie Coyle and first-round pick (Zach Phillips) move at this year's draft. I'll explain why next week, although it's fairly obvious. There's no bargaining chip like a Brent Burns and the Wild's not looking to blow a hole through a prospect group it worked so hard and suffered through so much pain to accumulate.

As for other news, no new news: Josh Harding has to decide if he wants to re-sign here or test free agency, Guillaume Latendresse will fly to Minnesota next week to be seen by team doctors and the Wild has to tender qualifying offers by June 25. Of the NHLers, Justin Falk should definitely receive one. I do wonder about Nick Johnson though. He'd probably win a one-way deal in arbitration and the Wild doesn't want to block out all their kids from having a shot to make the team. There's a lot of forwards under contract now, and Johnson had a very tough second half. So we will find out soon.

As for Latendresse, as I've reported -- doubtful he gets a $2.5 million qualifying offer. If the team decides to offer him a deal, it will be a one-year, bonus-laden contract with a lower base salary.

The NHL schedule for next season is expected to be released next week, maybe Wednesday. Of course, that schedule is dependent on the season starting on time.

Similarly, the exhibition schedule should be released Monday. I'm hearing there's a home-and-home with Winnipeg, St. Louis and Dallas, although the Dallas road game will be in Boise, Idaho (I've never been to Idaho!!!). The Wild will also play in Calgary, then likely have a mini-training camp/bonding trip to Banff (in lieu of last year's trip to Duluth).

The regular season is scheduled to open at home Oct. 13. Again, all this is barring a new collective bargaining agreement being in place by Sept. 15.

OK, that's it for me. This was actually take 2 on this blog, so sorry for the delay in posting. The first one disappeared into oblivion. Again, tons of draft coverage will appear in the newspaper next week, so stay tuned.

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