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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Collins, Dougherty become the first two Minnesotans; Wild takes defenseman, goalie

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild off-season news Updated: June 28, 2014 - 11:08 AM

UPDATED

Defenseman Ryan Collins, a Bloomington native, will join Gophers teammate Mikey Reilly in the Blue Jackets organization. Columbus made Collins the first Minnesotan selected in the 2014 draft when it chose him 47th overall.

“I’m very proud,” Collins said. “I love Minnesota, and it’s great to be selected from there. I can’t wait to congratulate the other Minnesotans taken.”

Four picks later, Nashville took Collins’ USA Under-18 teammate, Jack Dougherty, 51st overall.

“We’ve been great friends for years, so going in the draft close kind of represents our relationship pretty close,” said Dougherty, who will head to University of Wisconsin.

Dougherty is a huge Wild fan and his favorite player is Wild defenseman and now detested former Predator Ryan Suter: “I guess not anymore.”

Dougherty congratulated his former USA teammate Alex Tuch on Friday when he went 18th overall to the Wild.

“I said he’ll look real good in green and red and he’ll make a long career in the State of Hockey,” Dougherty said.

Dougherty is a pretty funny kid. He was cracking jokes left and right. His best line? Taken by Nashville nine picks after the Preds also took Russian Vladislav Kamenev, who speaks no English, Dougherty said, "We're speechless right now, especially him."

-- The Wild, which tried to trade for a second-round pick to no avail, traded the No. 79 pick to Tampa Bay to move down one spot and also picked up Vancouver's seventh-rounder next year. With the 80th pick, the Wild took Skokie, Illinois' Louis Belpedio from the USA Under-18 team. He's a 5-10 defenseman who has 20 points in 53 games last year.

On what he knew about the Wild? "Rivals with the Blackhawks being a Chicago kid. Definitely switched to the other side already."

Quick scouting report from Future Considerations Draft Guide:

The top U.S. defenseman at the U18 tournament in April, Belpedio’s
game really solidified in the second half of the season and he is a riser for it. Belpedio is a very
strong two-way player, with excellent offensive skills and awareness, as well as the ability to
work as a shutdown player in his own end. Belpedio is a superb skater with tremendous footwork
and fluidity in his stride. He is powerful and balanced on his edges, and is superb when it
comes to stopping and starting to quickly edge his way around pressure or to work his way in
from the point with the puck. He is intelligent and cerebral at both ends of the ice, and is able
to make strong plays with and without the puck. He does a great job at cutting the ice in half on
forwards coming down the wing, and he steps up effectively to take away time, space and options.
He closes players out with his physicality and can easily force a man off the puck with his
strength. He also uses an effective defensive stick and takes away the slot on the PK. Belpedio
handles the puck well on offense with above-average stick skills and good hockey sense. He
makes a good first pass out of his zone and supports the offense well from the point, pinching
at good times and getting involved. He has a hard wrist shot, but needs to work on getting it
through to the net. Pretty solid on the PP as he is more of a shooter than puck mover.

-- In the fourth round, at 109, the Wild took Espoo, Finland, goalie Kaapo Kahkonen, the fourth-ranked European goalie in the draft and the fourth-ranked goalie in the draft by Future Considerations. He'll play on the pro team after playing on the junior team last year. He expects he'll need a couple years before he can turn pro with Minnesota.

What's he know about Minnesota besides all the Finns on the Wild? "I heard it’s like Finland. There’s some trees and mosquitos and lakes, too."

From Future Considerations: Kahkonen has good a natural size and build, and he displays impressive
speed and mobility in net. He has an explosive push in goal and gets side to side very
quickly to take away the bottom of the net. He anticipates the play well in goal, and is able to
react to cross passes quickly and effectively. His rebound control is strong, either eating shots
or deflecting them out of harm’s way. He is able to handle pucks through screens and through
traffic. He handled his higher shots well, and he is strong down low. He is poised in net and communicates
actively with his teammates. He has quick reflexes and a good, active blocker with
a quick glove hand. Kahkonen’s positioning in goal is above average, but there are times when
he gets a little lazy and leaves his post too soon. His focus seems to be an issue too. He allows
some weak goals against that it looks like he should be able to handle. Kahkonen showed very
good agility and balance. He was quite aggressive and he knows when to challenge shooters.
Kahkonen already has NHL size, as well as solid technical skills. His game suffers from bouts
of inconsistent play. Struggled through a very inconsistent U18 tournament and his draft stock
took a bit of a hit.

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