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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Coveting Tuch, Wild resisted trading back

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild off-season news Updated: June 27, 2014 - 10:48 PM

Evening from Philly, where the Wild selected Boston College-bound power forward Alex Tuch, a 6-4, 215-pound right wing, with the 18th selection. (Read more about him on the previous blog)

This is BC coach Jerry York on Tuch to College Hockey Inc.: “Alex has all those prerequisites for a big, strong, power forward. He’s got size, strength, he skates well and he has a real powerful shot. We saw some really good improvement in his game the last two years and are excited about what he’ll bring as a freshman. He’ll get even better as he adjusts to this level and improves on his ability to make plays with the puck.”

GM Chuck Fletcher was on the phone a lot right before the pick, but as it turns out, he says he was doing the answering and not the dialing. He says some late trade offers for a chance to move back and gobble up extra picks came in, and if Tuch wasn’t still on the board, he would have moved down.

But the chance to get a big, skilled power forward who can skate as deep as the Wild was picking was too good an opportunity to pass up, Fletcher said. Went with quality over quantity, he said.

“This guy can skate, he’s big and strong,” Fletcher said. “He can shoot the puck. He’s going to be a handful for people to defend against.”

Read the stories in the paper for most the details, but Tuch will obviously be developing at BC for awhile, so this is a pick for the future. As I wrote earlier in the week and tomorrow’s paper, it’s very clear the Wild the past two or three drafts has gone for size.

Tonight, 25 forwards were taken and no goalies in the first round. No Minnesotans yet either. Tuch said he has watched a lot of Wild hockey because of Minnesotan teammates on the Under-18 team, Jack Dougherty, Jack Glover, Ryan Collins and Shane Gersich.

So, he was excited and offered this scouting report of himself: “Very versatile, highly skilled, heavy shot, use my body, play all three ends on ice.”

Trade-wise, Fletcher says he doesn’t really have anything cooking player wise but will try to shuffle picks if there are players the Wild wants Saturday in Rounds 2-7. He will try hard to trade into the second round, he said. The Wild doesn’t currently have one.

He would like to draft a goalie Saturday, too. “There’s several names we like.”

“We’re going to get good players in the third and fourth round,” Fletcher said. “Brent [Flahr] and his staff have put together a pretty good strategy for things we’re looking at at different parts of the draft.”

Only James Neal was dealt on the draft floor, going from Pittsburgh to Nashville. Ryan Kesler was traded from Vancouver to Anaheim earlier in the day.

“I predicted more,” Fletcher said. “I still think there’s things that teams are working on. I still anticipate more. The cap ceiling is at $69 million. That’s probably a little lower than most of us would have believed a week ago, so it might take some teams out of adding money unless they can move money. I think it’s going to tighten up the market a little more.”

My guess is Fletcher will dive into the free-agent market because if you look at the depth chart I'll post Saturday, from the NHL roster, the only real tradeable commodities are young players and Fletcher doesn't want to trade them.

As I wrote in the paper, Fletcher met with Matt Niskanen’s agent Friday and will talk to him again Saturday. But Niskanen has a chance to get a big, big contract, so it’ll be interesting to see how high the Wild’s willing to go.

As for Thomas Vanek, I’m getting the sense the Wild will offer him a three-year deal.

NOTES FROM FIRST ROUND OF 2014 NHL DRAFT
 

PANTHERS SELECT EKBLAD FIRST OVERALL

The Florida Panthers selected Aaron Ekblad from the Barrie Colts (OHL) with
the first overall pick, marking the 13th time in NHL history – and first
time since 2006 (Erik Johnson, STL) – a defenseman has been taken with the
top choice.

DEFENSEMEN DRAFTED NO. 1 OVERALL, NHL HISTORY

Year    Player  NHL Team        Amateur Team
1966    Barry Gibbs     Boston Bruins   Estevan Bruins
1967    Rick Pagnutti   Los Angeles Kings       Garson Native Sons
1973    Denis Potvin    New York Islanders      Ottawa 67’s
1974    Greg Joly       Washington Capitals     Regina Pats
1976    Rick Green      Washington Capitals     London Knights
1979    Rob Ramage      Colorado Rockies        London Knights
1982    Gord Kluzak     Boston Bruins   Nanaimo Islanders
1992    Roman Hamrlik   Tampa Bay Lightning     ZPS Zlin (Czech.)
1994    Ed Jovanovski   Florida Panthers        Windsor Spitfires
1995    Bryan Berard    Ottawa Senators Detroit Jr. Red Wings
1996    Chris Phillips  Ottawa Senators Prince Albert Raiders
2006    Erik Johnson    St. Louis Blues U.S. National U-18
2014    Aaron Ekblad    Florida Panthers        Barrie Colts

* Ekblad became the second No. 1 overall selection in Panthers history,
following Ed Jovanovski in 1994. The franchise also held the top pick in
2002 and 2003, but traded it on both occasions.

* Both of Florida’s top picks – Ekblad and Jovanovski – are defensemen who
were born in Windsor, Ont.

* Ekblad became the sixth OHL player drafted with the No. 1 overall
selection in the past eight years, following Patrick Kane in 2007 (London
Knights), Steven Stamkos in 2008 (Sarnia Sting), John Tavares in 2009
(London Knights), Taylor Hall in 2010 (Windsor Spitfires) and Nail Yakupov
in 2012 (Sarnia Sting).

FIRST-ROUND PICKS BY BIRTHPLACE

The 30 players selected in the first round were born in 10 different
countries: Canada (14), United States (five), Czech Republic (two), Finland
(two), Russia (two), Denmark (one), England (one), Germany (one), Sweden
(one) and Switzerland (one).

TRENDS

* Forward Leon Draisaitl, who went third overall to Edmonton, became the
highest-drafted German-born player in NHL history. The previous distinction
was held by Marcel Goc, who was selected 20th overall by San Jose in 2001.

* Forward Nikolaj Ehlers, who was selected ninth overall by Winnipeg,
became the second-highest drafted Danish-born player in NHL history. That
distinction belongs to Mikkel Boedker, who was picked eighth overall by
Phoenix in 2008.

* Eight of the first 10 overall picks, including each of the first seven,
came from the Ontario Hockey League or Western Hockey League.

* Eleven of the first 13 picks were forwards (D Aaron Ekblad at No. 1 and D
Haydn Fleury at No. 7 were the only non-forwards selected in that span).

* Forward Sam Reinhart, who was picked second overall by Buffalo, became
the highest-drafted member of his family. His brother Max was selected 63rd
overall by Calgary in 2010, while his brother Griffin was taken fourth
overall by NY Islanders in 2012. Their father, Paul, was drafted 12th
overall by Atlanta in 1979.

FAMILY TIES

F Leon Draisaitl (selected 3rd overall by Edmonton): His father, Peter, was
a Czech-born, German professional hockey player who participated in
numerous international tournaments for Germany as a member of their men’s
national team, including the 1988, 1992 and 1998 Olympic Winter Games. He
also has coached professionally in both Germany and the Czech Republic.

F Nikolaj Ehlers (selected 9th overall by Winnipeg): His father, Heinz, was
selected 188th overall by the New York Rangers in the 1984 NHL Draft and
played in various European professional leagues from 1981-2004.

F Kasperi Kapanen (selected 22nd overall by Pittsburgh): His father, Sami,
was selected by the Hartford Whalers in the fourth round (87th overall) of
the 1995 NHL Draft, and totaled 458 points (189-269—458) in 831 games with
the Whalers, Carolina Hurricanes and Philadelphia Flyers.

F William Nylander (selected 8th overall by Toronto): His father, Michael,
registered 679 points (209-470—679) in a 920-game, 15-season NHL career
with the Hartford Whalers, Calgary Flames, Tampa Bay Lightning, Chicago
Blackhawks, Washington Capitals, Boston Bruins and New York Rangers.

F Brendan Perlini (selected 12th overall by Arizona): His father, Fred,
played eight games with the Toronto Maple Leafs after being drafted by the
team 158th overall in 1980. Brendan began his hockey career in the United
Kingdom, where Fred worked as the director of a hockey program after his
playing career ended in 1997 with the Guildford Flames of the British
Hockey League.

F John Quenneville (selected 30th overall by New Jersey): His older
brother, Peter, was selected 195th overall by the Columbus Blue Jackets in
the 2013 NHL Draft and his younger brother, David, made his WHL debut this
season with the Medicine Hat Tigers. His uncle by marriage is current
Boston Bruins defenseman Johnny Boychuk and his second cousin is former NHL
player and current Chicago Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville.

F Sam Reinhart (selected 2nd overall by Buffalo): His brother, Max, was
selected by the Calgary Flames in the third round (63rd overall) of the
2010 NHL Draft, while his brother, Griffin, was drafted fourth overall by
the New York Islanders in 2012. Their father, Paul, was selected 12th
overall by the Atlanta Flames in 1979 and played 11 NHL seasons with the
Flames and Vancouver Canucks.

F Nicholas Ritchie (selected 10th overall by Anaheim): His brother, Brett,
was selected 44th overall by the Dallas Stars in 2011 and won a Calder Cup
championship with the Texas Stars of the American Hockey League in 2013-14.

F Nick Schmaltz (selected 20th overall by Chicago): His brother, Jordan,
was selected 25th overall by the St. Louis Blues in the 2012 NHL Draft and
currently plays defense for the University of North Dakota.

TRADES ANNOUNCED

Anaheim traded Nick Bonino, Luca Sbisa, its 1st-round pick in the 2014 NHL
Draft (24th overall) and 3rd-round pick in 2014 (85th overall) to Vancouver
for Ryan Kesler and Vancouver's 3rd-round pick in 2015.

Vancouver traded Jason Garrison, the rights to Jeff Costello and its
7th-round pick in the 2015 NHL Draft to Tampa Bay for Tampa Bay's 2nd-round
pick in 2014 (50th overall).

Vancouver traded Anaheim's 3rd-round pick in the 2014 NHL Draft (previously
acquired, 85th overall) to NY Rangers for Derek Dorsett.

Pittsburgh traded James Neal to Nashville for Patric Hornqvist and Nick
Spaling.

San Jose traded its 1st-round pick in the 2014 NHL Draft (20th overall) and
NY Rangers' 6th-round pick in 2014 (previously acquired, 179th overall) to
Chicago for Chicago's 1st-round pick in 2014 (27th overall) and Florida's
3rd-round pick in 2014 (previously acquired, 62nd overall).

Tampa Bay traded NY Rangers' 1st-round pick in the 2014 NHL Draft
(previously acquired, 28th overall) to NY Islanders for the Islanders'
2nd-round pick in 2014 (35th overall) and Montreal's 2nd-round pick in 2014
(previously acquired, 57th overall).

Like I mentioned, read the stories in the paper for insight and quotes. And I’ll talk to you Saturday. The draft starts 9 a.m. CT.

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NY Rangers 0 Postponed
Buffalo 0
NY Islanders 5 FINAL(SO)
Pittsburgh 4
Boston 4 FINAL(SO)
Columbus 3
New Jersey 2 FINAL
Edmonton 0
Texas A&M 59 FINAL
Coll of Charleston 50
USC 72 FINAL
Drexel 70
Clemson 70 FINAL
Gardner-Webb 72
Dayton 64 FINAL
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Akron 51 FINAL
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Nevada 60
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Ark-Pine Bluff 46
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Longwood 81
Syracuse 66 FINAL
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Towson 58
Boston College 66 FINAL
West Virginia 70
Ill-Chicago 58 FINAL
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Buffalo 0
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Youngstown St 62 FINAL
Eastern Mich 71
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Fairfield 36
Troy 60 FINAL
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Loyola-Chicago 52 FINAL
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Colorado State 80
Marshall 67 FINAL
Louisville 85
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Oregon State 55
UC Riverside 42 FINAL
Utah 88
Idaho State 68 FINAL
Washington St 80
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Hawaii 74
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West Virginia 20
North Carolina 45 FINAL
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Texas State 45
Kent State 0 Cancelled
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Rice 31
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Bryant 71
USC 90 FINAL
Long Beach St 85
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SE Missouri St 56
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Texas Tech 57
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Wyoming 82
(24) Gonzaga 89 FINAL
Montana State 60
Boise State 64 FINAL
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Georgetown 58
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UNLV 60
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Loyola Marymount 79
Montana 50 FINAL
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Portland 41 FINAL
CS-Northridge 45
Villanova 50 FINAL
Cal State Fullerton 43
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(14) California 79 FINAL
Hawaii 72
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