Good evening from an emptying Staples Center, where the Wild chose Finnish Elite League rookie of the year Mikael Granlund with the 9th overall pick.
In a way, GM Chuck Fletcher said to everybody, "psyche."
He tried top convince for weeks that he may take a top defenseman if he fell to 9. When two fell surprisingly, he not only took the top-tier centerman, he ignored five calls with a chance to move down and gather more picks.
The chance to take Granlund was too good to pass up, Fletcher said.
You can read the article in the paper, but Kyle Woodlief, the former NHL scout and editor of the Red Line Report, told me, “He’s got the best hockey sense of any player in the entire draft and he’s got the best playmaking skill of any player in the entire draft."
Woodlief rated Granlund as the No. 3 player in the entire draft. Granlund was the top European skater, and when Pavel Routa went to the stage with Fletcher and assistant GM Brent Flahr, it was a clear sign they were taking Granlund. Routa is the Wild's chief European scout.
Granlund averaged nearly a point a game this year as a 17-year-old playing 30-year-old in the pro league, and if he didn't miss 15 games with a groin injury, he could have led the entire pro league in scoring.
The Wild would love to sign him and at least bring him to Minnesota for training camp. But I think he'll wind up back in Helsinki next year, which is not a bad thing. The Finnish League is the best league outside of North America, and he has another year left on his contract and kinda sounded like he wants to go back. It worked in Mikko Koivu's development. In fact, he went back three straight years after being drafted.
Granlund seems like a character kid as most Finns are. He did have some contract dispute issues recently getting out of a deal with Karpat Oulu, but that doesn't sound like a big deal.
If he winds up back in Helsinki, he might wind up being at the Wild's first two regular season games anyway. They play in Helsinki against Carolina. He'll also be in St. Paul at the 2011 draft. His brother Markus is a 1993-born kid, so he's draft eligible.
He's a small kid, but extremely skilled and smart. Very creative.
Other tidbits from NHL.com: He represented his country at the 2010 World Junior Championships where he led his team in points (7) and assists (6) with Finland finishing fifth overall.
• At the 2010 World Under-18 Championship, Granlund helped Finland to a bronze medal, leading the tournament in assists (9) and finishing third in points (13) in six games. He had four points (1-3--4) in the 5-1 bronze medal win over Russia and was named one of Finland’s best three players. He also won bronze at the 2009 World Under-18 Championships.
• His younger brother, Markus, plays for HIFK’s junior team and joined Mikael at the 2010 Under-18 tournament totaling six points (1-5--6). They weren’t linemates, but Markus did assist on Mikael’s game-winning goal in the bronze medal game.
• Granlund first put on skates at the age of two and by the time he was five years old his father was taking him to hockey practices. He credits his parents for having the most influence on his career for their support and dedication to his hockey.
Fletcher considered trading for an extra first-round pick, but in the end he decided to hold on to his two seconds and a third. The Wild has six picks Saturday, and the day can be seen on NHL Network. I'll also have updates on Twitter.
Fletcher didn't make any trades, but that doesn't mean he's done. He traded for Edmonton's Kyle Brodziak on Day 2 last year.
But only one trade was made in the entire league today involving players -- the Keith Ballard trade to Vancouver for the stellar Michael Grabner, and Steve Bernier and a first.
According to my sources, the Wild went hard after Stephen Weiss, but Florida's not trading him. They've also had trade talks with Boston, and my sources say a forward and defenseman would have come to Minnesota for a defenseman. But that trade looks out the window.
I don't think it was ever Marc Savard. My Wild sources say they have no interest. He's 32 with seven years left on his deal and a source close to Savard tells me he wouldn't waive his no-trade clause to come to Minnesota. It couldn't be Patrice Bergeron because he's got one year left on his deal and then he's a free agent. So no way the Wild would give up something substantial unless he was signed to a new deal. And I don't buy it being David Krejci. Maybe Michael Ryder? Maybe Blake Wheeler?
From my article Saturday, "
“It’s amazing,” Fletcher said of the lack of activity. “Every year it seems to show new wrinkles. I haven’t seen a year like this. There’s been a lot of communication, probably more communication than last year in terms of dialogue between managers. At this point there hasn’t been a lot of activity. I still believe there will be some moves leading up to free agency.