Minnesota Wild General Manager Chuck Fletcher told reporters Monday that the team will take the best player available when they pick at No. 18 during the first round of this weekend's NHL Draft. Michael Russo of the Star Tribune said he believes Fletcher may actually be telling the truth this time.
Russo wrote that because of the team's low draft position, the Wild is at the mercy of what the teams ahead of them do and which players fall, so they most likely have to draft based on who is available, not based on what the team needs.
Russo also said that Wild management, including Fletcher, has said the team will take the best player available before past drafts, but their draft behavior has pointed to the team looking to fill a need.
In 2010, the Wild took four forwards, Mikael Granlund, Brett Bulmer, Johan Larsson and Jason Zucker, in the first two rounds of the draft. In 2011 and 2012, Russo said the Wild were obviously looking to make up for their lack of defensive depth in the organization. The Wild took Jonas Brodin with the No. 10 pick in 2011 and took Matt Dumba with the No. 7 pick in 2012.
Fletcher also said the team is interested in moving down in the draft via a trade to acquire more picks in the later rounds of the draft. The Wild traded away their second round pick when they acquired Matt Moulson at the trade deadline, and Fletcher and the Wild would like to pick up a second round pick to capitalize on the depth of this year's draft class.
Goaltending is one area where the Wild would like to add some depth, according to Russo. Fletcher said, however, that he does not anticipate the Wild drafting a goalie at No. 18.
NHL.com's mock drafts seem to disagree with Fletcher's assertion. Two of the three mock drafts on NHL.com have the Wild taking Boston College goalie Thatcher Demko at No. 18. Demko is only 18, but is the top goalie in this year's draft, according to Russo.