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 drafts seven more players; Tyler Cuma's Wild tenure ends; Odds and ends

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild off-season news Updated: June 28, 2014 - 3:20 PM

My 19th NHL draft is complete, and this one was uneventful at least from the trade component. I'll have some free agency advances in the coming days as the market opens Tuesday. I'll also toss up a Wild depth chart Sunday on my blog.

I will also be filling in for Paul Allen on KFAN Monday from 9-noon.

The only move the Wild made came in the third round when Tampa Bay GM Steve Yzerman, who I think used to play in the NHL, sprinted over to assistant GM Brent Flahr and GM Chuck Fletcher. The Wild was content to take one of two guys, so the Wild traded the 79th pick to Tampa for the 80th and a seventh-rounder next year originally owned by Vancouver.

The Wild, which took USA Under-18 power forward Alex Tuch in the first round Friday, selected USA Under-18 captain Louis Belpedio, a defenseman, with that third-round pick.

Miami University coach Enrico Blasi told College Hockey Inc. on Belpedio: “There’s not anything he doesn’t do well. He’s got a pretty good offensive knack, although he probably isn’t the most offensive defenseman out there. He’s not overly physical, but he can play that way when he wants to. He’s pretty responsible defensively, but not afraid to jump in the play. Bottom line is he’s a great person, a great kid, who will fit our culture perfectly. Our job will be to help him build on all those skills he has right now, both emotionally and physically, so he can eventually make that transition, hopefully to the NHL.”

The Wild took seven guys today and eight in the draft – four forwards, three D and a goalie, Finnish goalie Kaapo Kahkonen, a 17-year-old who may play on Espoo’s pro team this year after being on their junior team last year. The guy is big. He’s built more like a power forward. Nine percent body fat, his European agent told me.

The Wild had a deal done for a second-round pick that would have involved trading its 2015 second-rounder and a later pick today.

“But there were three or four players we were keying in on and unfortunately all four of them literally went right before that pick,” Fletcher said, chuckling. “We had the trade done to move in, but the last player had to be there, and he got picked the pick before. That was a little disappointing, but on the other hand, it would have involved moving next year’s second, so I guess we paid our price this year in the second and we have ours still for next year. … Next year’s draft’s supposed to be good.”

I was calling a bunch of teams and I couldn’t get anybody and finally the team bit.

On the draft, Fletcher said, “We weren’t trying to be overly cute or creative. We just kind of took what came to us and we didn’t give up any picks going forward.

“We took a chance on a couple kids that were banged up last year and didn’t play a lot. We were able to get a goaltender we liked a lot in the fourth round, Belpedio was captain of that Under-18 team and he’s a high character player, a very good player, very skilled, puck moving, good skater, going to Miami, so we’re pretty happy to get him. So you could see we took some defensemen, we took some forwards, so we weren’t really fixated on position. We were looking for opportunities to find some players that slipped for various reasons. We took some chances. The Tanner Faith kid [in the fifth round] was a kid who missed a lot of time last year (shoulder), a big right-shot defenseman. But we felt if had he been healthy, he may have been selected a lot higher this year, so there’s a little bit of a leap of faith there. The scouts were pleased with the players we got.”

Wild news:

-- As suspected, the Wild will not tender a qualifying offer to defenseman Tyler Cuma, the 2008 first-round pick that just had a lot of bad luck with injuries and only played one game for the Wild in 2011-12. Fletcher wants to give him a chance to move on and try to get a job elsewhere because he’s just way back on the depth chart now with guys like Matt Dumba, Christian Folin, Gustav Olofsson, etc. in the organization.

-- I would suspect the Wild will try to meet with Thomas Vanek in the next day or two. My guess is the team wants to get in front of him, talk about a potential contract, a potential fit and make sure each side is comfortable with what he could potentially bring and mean to the Wild. I’ll write more about this in my Insider in Sunday’s newspaper, and I’ll also put in there another big name I have learned the Wild has inquired about.

-- Most the RFA’s and UFA’s in Iowa will be gone. Said Fletcher, “I think we’ll still speak to a couple of them. With the times down there, you’ve got to cycle through. After a certain amount of time if it hasn’t worked out, it’s in everybody’s best interest for the player to go somewhere else, try something new, try something different. And after last season, to be honest with you, there wasn’t enough positives to promote the status quo.”

-- On Cody McCormick, Fletcher said, “I’ve had some ongoing dialogue. And I think the whole league is
talking to everybody now. It’s not really realistic for players to agree now when they can wait a couple more days at this point. I think Cody liked his situation here and we certainly liked him. But you never know. It only takes one team to do something that we would consider out of the norm to swing it the wrong way. I’m comfortable we’ve made a very good representation to him with what we can do and
we’ll talk.”


Some odds and ends beyond the Ryan Collins, Jack Dougherty notes on the previous blog:

-- Tyler Nanne, the grandson of former North Stars GM Lou Nanne, son of Wild scout Marty Nanne and brother of Wild prospect Louie Nanne, was taken 142nd overall by the Rangers. …

-- Frederik Olofsson, the brother of Wild prospect Gustav Olofsson, was taken 98th overall by the Blackhawks. …

-- Former Wild assistant coach Mike Ramsey’s son, Jack, was drafted 208th overall by Chicago. …

-- Former Wild forward Richard Park was in Pittsburgh meeting with teams about jobs and has talked to Fletcher about a potential player development role with the Wild. …

-- Moments after the Wild drafted Tuch on Friday, Zach Parise texted a USA Hockey official asking for Tuch’s number so he could welcome him to the Wild.

-- Here is snippets of future Gopher Jack Glover’s Q and A after going 69th overall to Winnipeg:

on joining the rivalry.

“Definitely a Wild fan growing up. With the new divisions, the Wild are going to be seeing Winnipeg a lot, which adds a lot of excitement for me. Maybe some day getting to be a part of that rivalry is something that I’m definitely looking forward to.”
 

“Coming into the week, I tried not to come in with too many expectations. Seeing all of my buddies getting drafted definitely built up the excitement for me,” said Glover. “My heart was definitely racing. Getting picked was the best moment of my life so far It was awesome.”

“Growing up in Minnesota, it’s kind of religion there, much like it is in Winnipeg I’m sure, so kid kind of picks it up. My brother played, he’s the one that kind of got me into i to begin with and it it just kind of took off from there. I stuck with it  ever since. I didn’t excel in anything else. I couldn’t be happier with the way it turned out for me.”

 

I have to write my Insider, but here is a cut and paste of the Wild’s press release on all of its 2014 draft picks:

Minnesota selected forward Alex Tuch, 18th overall, during the Draft’s first round Friday night. The 18-year-old (5/10/96) spent the past two seasons with the U.S. National Team Development Program (USNTDP) in Ann Arbor, Mich. The 6-foot-3.5, 218-pound native of Syracuse, N.Y., posted 64 points (29-35=64) in 61 games with the U.S. Under-18 Team in 2013-14, tying for the team lead with seven game-winning goals and a plus-35 rating. He is committed to Boston College for the fall of 2014.

    Minnesota started Saturday by acquiring the 80th overall selection in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft and a seventh-round selection in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft from Tampa Bay in exchange for the Wild’s 79th overall selection in the 2014 Draft. With the 80th pick, the Wild selected defenseman Louie Belpedio in the third round. The 18-year-old (5/14/96) native of Skokie, Ill., spent the past two seasons alongside Tuch at the USNTDP. A 5-foot-10, 193-pound blueliner, Belpedio posted 20 points (7-13=20) in 53 games with the U.S. Under-18 program in 2013-14. He is committed to Miami University (Ohio) for the fall of 2014.

    The Wild selected goaltender Kaapo Kahkonen in the fourth round with the 109th overall selection. The 17-year-old (8/16/96) native of Helsinki, Finland, posted a .912 SV% in 38 games with the Espoo Blues in Finland’s Junior League. The 6-foot-1, 209-pound netminder catches with his left glove and plays in a butterfly style.

    Minnesota selected 18-year-old (10/5/95) defenseman Tanner Faith in the fifth round (139th overall). The 6-foot-3, 211-pound native of Terrace, B.C., posted one assist in 10 games with Kootenay of the Western Hockey League (WHL) in 2013-14, missing most of the season with an upper-body injury. He posted eight points (2-6=8) in 55 games with Kootenay in 2012-13.

    With a sixth-round selection previously acquired from Ottawa, the Wild drafted defenseman Pontus Sjalin 160th overall. The 6-foot, 168-pound native of Ostersund, Sweden, totaled 31 games (21 at Division 1, six at U-18, four in U-20) for Ostersunds IK in 2013-14. The 18-year-old (6/12/96) blueliner totaled nine points (4-5=9) and a plus-21 rating.

   Minnesota selected 17-year-old (9/13/96) center Chase Lang 167th overall with a sixth-round selection previously acquired from the New York Rangers. The 6-foot-1, 176-pound native of Nanaimo, B.C., totaled 25 points (10-15=25) in 68 games with Calgary (WHL) in 2013-14.

    The Wild drafted center Reid Duke with its third, sixth-round selection, 169th overall. The 18-year-old (1/28/96) Calgary, Alta., native totaled 40 points (15-25=40) in 62 games with Lethbridge (WHL) in 2013-14. The 6-foot, 189-pound centerman posted 24 points (8-16=24) in 57 games with Lethbridge in 2012-13.

    With its final selection in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, Minnesota claimed center Pavel Jenys in the seventh round (199th overall). The 6-foot-2, 189-pound native of Brno, Czech Republic, totaled 21 points (15-6=21) in 55 games with Brno in 2013-14 (29 in senior division, 26 in junior division). The 18-year-old (4/2/96) added two goals in four games with Czech Republic at the 2013 World Junior A Challenge.

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