The Wild are figuring out who their first-round draft pick could be — and other teams', too.

Before the action kicks off Friday from the Sphere in Las Vegas, the Wild will conduct mock drafts, assigning teams to staff members and studying needs, trends and past habits to try to predict what will happen.

Such planning makes sense from the Wild's perch: after failing to make the playoffs for just the second time in 12 years, the Wild hold the No. 13 selection. They're just out of the top 10, but still close enough to have a chance to make a splash.

"We're in a good spot," Director of Amateur Scouting Judd Brackett said. "We've identified players that I think we'd be thrilled with. Now, we'll see how it unfolds."

Boston University's Macklin Celebrini is the consensus No. 1 after the dynamic center received the Hobey Baker Award as a 17-year-old freshman; last-place San Jose won the draft lottery to choose first.

Michigan State defenseman Artyom Levshunov is likely to go second to Chicago, but from there the draft could veer in various directions with Anaheim's pick. Russian winger Ivan Demidov, KHL defenseman Anton Silayev and Western Hockey League scorer Cayden Lindstrom probably round out the first five, but the order doesn't seem set in stone.

Five players the Wild could grab at No. 13

This unpredictability could benefit the Wild since someone they pegged to be off the board earlier could still be available at No. 13.

Team brass has brainstormed about trading the pick, but Brackett believes moving up into the top 10 would be tough to do.

"Teams are very happy with their options," he said.

Compared to other recent drafts, this year's class has more defensive talent at the top and more depth overall.

After Levshunov and Silayev, there's Zeev Buium, who won a national championship with Denver at the Xcel Energy Center in April. Zayne Parekh was a 30-goal scorer who finished just shy of 100 points in the Ontario Hockey League last season. His OHL rival Sam Dickinson is 6-3 and performed at a point-per-game pace.

Chaska's Adam Kleber, who's listed at 6-6, is one of the tallest defensemen in the draft. The Minnesota Duluth commit played the past two seasons for Lincoln in the USHL.

"It's a really exciting group and accomplished group," Brackett said.

Top-ranked Minnesotans for the NHL draft

A year ago, the Wild loaded up on centers, beginning with Rosemount's Charlie Stramel in the first round. The stockpile addressed an organizational need, but the team doesn't see a glaring objective this go-around.

After No. 13, the Wild have single picks in the second and fourth rounds, two in the fifth and one in the sixth. The first round of the draft is Friday, and the other six rounds Saturday.

What they're looking for are players who have the rugged edge the Wild want to play with, but not at the expense of skill. They're looking for hockey sense, which they feel is the most translatable trait.

"Hockey sense is an innate ability," Brackett said. "It's reading and reacting. It's inserting yourself into the play. It's understanding where others are. Some of it is hard to quantify but when you talk about it and you talk about a player's ability to perform night in, night out and in all situations, that's the ability to insert themselves in the game."

Just last season, the Wild had some of their draft picks graduate to the NHL and have that impact.

Marat Khusnutdinov finally arrived from Russia after the Wild selected him in the second round in 2020 and previewed the two-way repertoire that made him one of the organization's most prized prospects.

Liam Öhgren, a 2022 first-rounder, suited up for only four games, but that was enough time for him to notch his first NHL goal and assist.

Goaltender Jesper Wallstedt's impressive response from a dud of a debut will force the Wild to decide if he's ready for a full-time promotion from the minors. Wallstedt was a first-round acquisition in 2021.

Then there's Marco Rossi, who didn't get demoted after once again making the team out of training camp. Instead, he appeared in all 82 games as a 20-goal scorer. Rossi was drafted ninth overall in 2020.

"He's a leader for other young guys right now," Brackett said. "He's a model for them: This is what you need to do. This is the commitment level you need to be at in order to be an NHL regular."

With the Wild roster almost at capacity, the team might not have anyone make a similar transition next season.

But after the draft, they'll have more possibilities to consider in the future.

"We want high-character players that can think the game," Brackett said, "and then also have a heaviness and abrasiveness to their style that is going to make them a welcome addition to the Wild."


1. San Jose Sharks

2. Chicago Blackhawks

3. Anaheim Ducks

4. Columbus Blue Jackets

5. Montreal Canadiens

6. Utah Hockey Club

7. Ottawa Senators

8. Seattle Kraken

9. Calgary Flames

10. New Jersey Devils

11. San Jose Sharks (from Buffalo)

12. Philadelphia Flyers

13. Wild

14. Buffalo Sabres (from Pittsburgh via San Jose)

15. Detroit Red Wings

16. St. Louis Blues

17. Washington Capitals

18. Chicago Blackhawks (from Islanders)

19. Vegas Golden Knights

20. New York Islanders (from Chicago via Tampa Bay)

21. Los Angeles Kings

22. Nashville Predators

23. Toronto Maple Leafs

24. Colorado Avalanche

25. Boston Bruins (from Ottawa via Detroit via Boston)

26. Montreal Canadiens (from Winnipeg)

27. Carolina Hurricanes

28. Calgary Flames (from Vancouver)

29. Dallas Stars

30. New York Rangers

31. Anaheim Ducks (from Edmonton)

32. Philadelphia Flyers (from Florida)