PHILADELPHIA – It didn’t take long for Louis Belpedio to switch allegiances.
Being a Skokie, Ill., native, the biggest thing the defenseman knows about the Wild is it’s “rivals with the Blackhawks,” the divisional foe that has knocked Minnesota out of the playoffs the past two years. “I definitely switched to the other side already.”
After drafting power forward Alex Tuch in the first round Friday, the Wild picked up seven more players Saturday in Rounds 2-7 of the 2014 draft. It was highlighted by Tuch’s teammate, Belpedio, a 5-10 two-way, puck-moving blue-liner who captained the USA Under-18 team to a couple of gold medals last season.
Originally holding the 79th pick, the Wild moved one spot back in the third round by flipping picks with Tampa Bay and scooping up Vancouver’s seventh-round pick next year in the process. Afterward, the Wild took Belpedio, a former Culver Military Academy player (Ryan Suter went there for a year) who will head to Miami in the fall. His other college option was Yale.
“So you’re smart,” a reporter asked. “Depends on the day,” he deadpanned.
Belpedio was one of 67 U.S.-born players and 11 from the Under-18 program taken in the two-day draft. Three of his teammates taken in the second or third rounds were from Minnesota.
Defenseman Ryan Collins, a Bloomington native, will join Gophers teammate Mike Reilly in the Blue Jackets organization. Columbus made Collins the first Minnesotan selected when it chose him 47th overall.
“I’m very proud,” Collins said. “I love Minnesota, and it’s great to be selected from there.”
Four picks later, Nashville took Collins’ pal, Cottage Grove’s Jack Dougherty.
“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.
Golden Valley’s Jack Glover, a future Gopher, was taken 69th overall by Winnipeg.
“Winnipeg’s not too far from Minnesota. I think he’s happy regardless,” Belpedio said of Glover.
Dougherty, by the way, is a huge Wild fan and his favorite player is Suter, a former Predator: “I guess not any more.”
Dougherty said he congratulated Tuch on Friday, telling him he would “look real good in green and red and he’ll make a long career in the State of Hockey.”
Hard to get in
General Manager Chuck Fletcher, who dealt his second-round picks this year to Buffalo in the Jason Pominville and Matt Moulson trades, tried to trade back in Saturday.
“We actually had a team that was giving us a second, 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.”
A pick for the long run
The Wild tries to take at least one goalie per draft, and with only three goalies in the organization besides NHLers Niklas Backstrom, Josh Harding and Darcy Kuemper, the Wild tried to upgrade its depth by taking Finland’s Kaapo Kahkonen, 17. He played for Espoo’s junior team last year and could play pro there this year.
The big butterfly goalie with 9 percent body fat models his game after Kari Lehtonen. He’ll probably need a couple of years of development before he’s ready to come to North America.
On what he knows about Minnesota? “I heard that it’s like Finland,” he said. “There’s some trees and mosquitoes and lakes, too.”
Comings and goings
The Wild has decided not to tender a qualifying offer to defenseman Tyler Cuma, meaning the end of the line in Minnesota for the 2008 first-round pick. He played one game with the Wild in 2011-12. Kris Foucault also won’t receive a qualifying offer.
“It’s time for them to have an opportunity to try a new situation,” Fletcher said.
The Wild continues to have ongoing dialogue with potential free agent Cody McCormick. “I think Cody liked his situation here, and we certainly liked him,” Fletcher said. “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.”
• 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. Chicago also drafted former Wild assistant coach Mike Ramsey’s son, Jack, 208th overall.
• 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.