My favorite Eero Elo memory is when I googled him after the Wild chose him 145th overall at the 2008 Draft in Ottawa and discovered he was really a hotel.

Yes, I couldn't find any evidence of a hockey player named Eero Elo, but I was able to find a hotel.

Tom Jones, the old Lightning beat writer for the St. Pete Times and coincidentally the first Wild writer here at the Star Tribune, once told me probably 12 years ago, "Ever notice how we write most late-round draft pick names twice -- once when they're drafted and once when they're not signed two or three years later?"

It's so true.

According to sources, the Wild has put out notice to the 29 other NHL teams that right wing Eero Elo, goalie Niko Hovinen (132nd overall, 2006) and defenseman Harri Ilvonen (170th overall, 2007) can be had for any draft pick before the June 1 signing deadline. If the Wild's unable to trade their rights, which is probably doubtful, the Wild doesn't plan to sign the three by June 1 and they'll be able to re-enter the Draft next month in Los Angeles.

My favorite Ilvonen memory is he actually came to the 2007 Draft. On Day 2 of the Draft, very rarely do post third- or fourth-round picks attend. So typically as a beat writer, you stay on the draft risers and continue writing without pause when your team selects players late. Ten minutes after the Wild took Ilvonen though, my phone rang and it read, "Aaron Sickman," the Wild P.R. guy.

Sickman: "You're not going to believe this? Ilvonen's here. Want to talk to him?"

Russo: "Are you kidding me? Uhhhhhhhh. Uhhhhhhhh. Uhhhhhhh. OK."

Here's the only thing I've ever written about Ilvonen:

Ilvonen goes deep: Saturday was a long, nerve-racking day for Harri Ilvonen, the Wild's sixth-round pick. The 21st-ranked European skater by the NHL's Central Scouting Service, Ilvonen was sitting in Nationwide Arena for four hours freaking out that he had flown 4,400 miles from Helsinki, Finland, only to go undrafted.

But finally the Wild took him with the 170th pick.

"I started to think, what if I don't get drafted," said Ilvonen, an offensive defenseman who used to be a forward for Tappara's junior team in Finland. "I was very nervous and very happy when I heard my name."
 

The Wild only had five draft picks in 2007 and has signed four of them -- Colton Gillies (1st round), Justin Falk (4th round), Cody Almond (5th round) and Carson McMillan (7th round).

Also, the Wild plans to qualify 2009 draft picks Kris Foucault (4th round, 103rd overall) and Darcy Kuemper (6th round, 163rd overall) by Friday to retain their rights for another year. If they're unsigned by June 1, 2011, they can re-enter the draft in Minnesota.

Foucault, by the way, was the first star of the Calgary Hitmen's 5-1 win over the Brandon Wheat Kings in Wednesday's Memorial Cup final round-robin game. Foucault scored two goals and two assists in the first period alone. The Hitmen will play Brandon again in the semifinals Friday.

Lastly, I've got a sensational, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for any college or pro athletes or coaches in town:

Tonight at 7 p.m., Star Tribune sports columnist Jim Souhan and his band, the Beat Writers, will be playing Ogaras in St. Paul.

I invite any college or pro athletes or coaches in town to attend the concert, watch Souhan's every move, dissect his every move and then guest blog right here on Russo's Rants a complete analysis of Souhan's musical prowess. As the saying goes, turnabout is fair play.  :)

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