BUFFALO, N.Y. – The Wild hopes it landed a seventh-round steal.

Dmitry Sokolov, considered by most experts to be a top-15 or even top-10 draft pick heading into this past season, fell all the way to the Wild at 196th overall Saturday.

The reason? Conditioning. He was overweight all season, yet despite an off year with Ontario Hockey League Sudbury, he still scored 30 goals.

"He's a kid we think if we can get on the right track and get him committed to the conditioning side of the game, he's a top talent," assistant GM Brent Flahr said.

Flahr said Sokolov, the second Russian drafted in the Chuck Fletcher era, has the same agent as Mikael Granlund, so the Wild will work with Todd Diamond to try to get Sokolov focused. Flahr said it'll be a good project for director of player development Brad Bombardir.

The good news is Sokolov playing in the Canadian Hockey League shows he's committed to wanting to be an NHLer.

"The OHL is better than the Russian League," he said. "Small rink. I want to play in the NHL."

Sokolov had lofty junior numbers playing at times alongside 2015 Wild fifth-rounder Kirill Kaprizov.

As an Under-16 playing for Avangard Omsk, he scored 51 goals and 93 points. As an Under-17 player, he scored 40 goals and 60 points. He has 14 goals in 14 games playing internationally.

"I like to score goals," Sokolov said.

Eriksson Ek update

The Wild is hoping to bring 2015 first-round pick Joel Eriksson Ek to training camp if for no other reason than the experience.

"It'd be a value for him to come to the rookie tournament or main camp or both and being around the veteran guys and being on the ice with [Mikko] Koivu and [Zach] Parise just to see where he is," Flahr said. "He's a pretty mature kid. He may be able to play sooner rather than later, so I just want to see what he's up against."

If Eriksson Ek, 19, doesn't make the team, he could be loaned back to Farjestad in the Swedish Elite League, sent to Iowa or even get a nine-game NHL trial.

The forward scored nine goals in the Elite League last season, the most by any junior in the league.

Growth of the game

There were 52 Americans taken in the NHL draft, including a record 12 in the first round.

"Hockey has really grown in the U.S.," Flahr said. "You're getting top players from all kinds of markets, like this year especially [first overall pick Auston] Matthews. He didn't just move out of Arizona at 10 years old. He played a lot of his minor hockey right there. He's an elite talent. You've got guys from Dallas and California and all over the place.

"Look at St. Louis this year, it's crazy. Canada's had an off year at the draft, but they'll rebound again. I think it's a little cyclical, but I think other countries are catching up. It's clear. Look at Finland and what they're doing lately. You've got a lot of different players coming from everywhere now."


• The Wild tendered qualifying offers to restricted free agents Jason Zucker, Matt Dumba, Darcy Kuemper, Tyler Graovac, Jordan Schroeder, Zac Dalpe and Zach Palmquist. It cut loose 2010 second-round pick Brett Bulmer and 2012 second-round pick Raphael Bussieres, as well as Brody Hoffman, Jared Knight and Scott Sabourin.

• Coach Bruce Boudreau said he has no intention of changing the Wild captaincy. Koivu has been captain since 2009.

• Reid Duke, the 2014 sixth-rounder the Wild didn't sign by June 1, was not selected despite re-entering the draft.