The Minnesota Wild were never recognized as an elite team until 2016-17, when they finished second in the Central Division. They were either among the worst teams in the Western Conference or a lower-seeded playoff team that failed to embark on lengthy postseason runs.
Ever since their inception in 2000-01, the Wild have struggled in June. NO, we aren't talking about them playing in the Stanley Cup Final. We are talking about a team that can't seem to draft well at the Entry Draft -- which happens to take place in the month of June every year.
With the exception of drafting Marian Gaborik, Minnesota has failed big time on most of their first-round selections. And even when the Wild made some pretty solid selections, they managed to pass up on some ultra stars. With the June entry draft coming up, it's a good time to look at how the Wild should have drafted with their last 15 selections.
15 Jakob Chychrun (2016)
Original Pick: Luke Kunin
As goes with any 2016 re-draft, it is far too early to really know how well these guys will pan out. Perhaps Luke Kunin will blossom into a star for the Wild, but it's hard to ignore the solid rookie season Jakob Chychrun has had on a fairly porous Arizona Coyotes team.
He already has seven goals and 19 points, and let's keep in mind that Arizona really doesn't have any stars outside of Oliver Ekman-Larsson. Chychrun brings plenty of offence to his defence (if you will), having scored 49 points in his final season with the Sarnia Sting in junior a year ago.
Chychrun will eventually become a top-pairing blueliner for Arizona. As the youth around him develops and matures more, so will Chychrun. We can only imagine how much better his rookie year would be if he was in Minnesota -- playing with Zach Parise, Ryan Suter and Devan Dubnyk.
14 Joel Eriksson-Ek (2015)
Original Pick: Joel Eriksson-Ek
Take a look at every selection outside of the top 10 in 2015, and you won't find a lot of guys who've logged many minutes in the NHL. As such, it's tough to see a reason why the Wild should do a re-draft here, as Joel Eriksson-Ek is one of the most promising prospects in hockey. Earlier this year, TSN's Craig Button ranked Eriksson-Ek as the 13th-best prospect in hockey.
He already has seven points in 13 games for Minnesota in 2016-17. He had 16 points in 26 games back in Sweden earlier this season. Eriksson-Ek looks to be the Wild's top-line center for many years to come. It's amazing how he wasn't taken until the 20th selection, but the Wild won't complain. For now, no reason to change this selection. Eriksson-Ek is just getting started.
13 David Pastrnak (2014)
Original Pick: Alex Tuch
Right now, the 2014 NHL Draft looks to be one of the weakest in recent memory if you don't count Aaron Ekblad, Sam Reinhart, Sam Bennett, William Nylander and Nikolaj Ehlers. The Minnesota Wild took Alex Tuch with the 18th-overall selection, and he's only appeared in six NHL games.
The Boston Bruins won the Presidents' Trophy in 2014 and also wound up with the steal of the first round, grabbing Czech star David Pastrnak 25th-overall. He's in the midst of a monster season with 34 goals and 70 points. That's a major improvement from the 15 goals and 26 points he had a year ago.
Minnesota doesn't have any bonafide stars up front, and Pastrnak could have provided them with that. Right now, it looks like the Wild really missed out on selecting a franchise-changing player.
12 Filip Forsberg (2012)
Original Pick: Matthew Dumba
We've been mentioning this a lot, but trust us -- the 2012 NHL Entry Draft really looks to be one of the worst in league history. The top pick in Nail Yakupov is likely heading to the KHL soon, and second-overall selection Ryan Murray hasn't shown much progress yet.
The Wild used their seventh-overall pick on Matthew Dumba, and he's turned out to be a solid top-four blueliner. However, pure scoring machine Filip Forsberg was available and fell to the Washington Capitals at 11th-overall. He was traded to the Nashville Predators, and Forsberg has emerged as a star ever since.
He's close to finishing with 60 points for the third-straight season, and now has a pair of 30-goal campaigns under his belt. Forsberg is one of the few stars to come out of 2012, and the Wild really could have used his offence. It's frustrating for this team to always have to deal with him in the Central Division, too.
11 Brandon Saad (2011)
Original Pick: Zack Phillips
I would like to note that Johnny Gaudreau would have been a logical selection for Minnesota here, but Brandon Saad and the Chicago Blackhawks defeated the Wild three-straight years in the playoffs from 2013-2015. Had it been Minny who selected Saad, the tables could have been turned.
Minnesota drafted Zack Phillips 28th-overall, and he's yet to appear in an NHL game. Chicago drafted Saad 43rd-overall, and he has 105 goals and 230 points in 365 career games. Saad also has 15 goals and 34 points in 67 playoff games, and was a key reason Chicago ended Minnesota's season in 2013, 2014 and 2015.
He's a high-energy player who plays with a lot of grit and can score the big goals. He could have been a huge difference maker for Minnesota in those three playoff series against their arch rivals. Too bad they let him fall to Chicago.
10 Nikita Kucherov (2011)
Original Pick: Jonas Brodin
Minnesota drafted defenceman Jonas Brodin 10th-overall in 2011, and he hasn't been a bust by any means. He's among their top defenceman and is a key reason they're in the playoffs for the fifth-straight year. But the Wild are rich in quality blueliners, and they could have used the talents of Russian star Nikita Kucherov instead.
Kucherov wasn't drafted until the 58th selection by Tampa, and he's emerged as one of the top-three players from this draft. As of this writing, he has 38 goals and 81 points on the season -- a career high. That's now three-straight seasons of scoring over 25 goals and 60 points. Could you imagine if the Wild had Kucherov to complement Suter and Parise? He could have turned the tide in the Central Division.
9 Vladimir Tarasenko (2010)
Original Pick: Mikael Granlund
Minnesota drafted Mikael Granlund with the ninth selection, but it took him a while to get things started. He's in the midst of a breakout season nearly seven years after being drafted, with 25 goals and 68 points. Granlund is finally emerging as the sniper the Wild needed all this time, but they could have done much better if they had selected Vladimir Tarasenko, whom the St. Louis Blues drafted with the 16th selection.
Tarasenko has hit the 30-goal and 70-point marks for three-straight years now. What doesn't help Minny is that Tarasenko is the key reason his Blues are among the top teams in the Central. Had the Wild drafted him, it would have been a double-whammy -- Minnesota would have a true sniper and St. Louis would be devoid of one.
8 Tyson Barrie (2009)
Original Pick: Nick Leddy
The Wild used their first-round selection on Nick Leddy, but he was never able to develop into a reliable top-pairing blueliner. They traded him to the Chicago Blackhawks, but even he was never able to blossom there despite playing on a star-studded team. Leddy finally found his ground with the New York Islanders, reaching the 40-point mark in his last two seasons.
But what if Minnesota had Tyson Barrie to play with Ryan Suter? That could have been something else. Barrie was taken 64th-overall by the Colorado Avalanche and is among the top two-way blueliners in hockey. He had 53 points in 2014-15 and 49 last year. Barrie and Suter are both great in their own ends and can lead a power play as well. If they drafted him, Minnesota would have arguably the best defensive pairing in hockey.
7 Roman Josi (2008)
Original Pick: Tyler Cuma
The Wild drafted Tyler Cuma with their first-round selection, and he only played in one NHL game. He is now playing overseas in Austria. It was the Nashville Predators who selected him 38th-overall in 2008, and they were rewarded with a Norris-caliber defenceman.
As of this writing, Roman Josi has 63 goals and 238 points in 405 NHL games. The Predators missed the playoffs in 2013 and 2014, but the rise of Josi has helped them reach the postseason for three-straight years now.
He's now scored double-digit goals in his last four seasons and twice hit 50 points. Josi is going to be a thorn in the side of the Minnesota Wild for years to come, instead of being among their top players. Not exactly how the Wild planned this out...
6 Max Pacioretty (2007)
Original Pick: Colton Gillies
Colton Gillies only managed to score six goals and 18 points in 154 games, and he's now playing in the KHL. Gillies never played more than 45 games in a season for the Wild, so you can consider him one of the biggest draft busts in recent memory. Meanwhile, the Montreal Canadiens landed Max Pacioretty with the 22nd pick -- a selection they acquired from the San Jose Sharks in the Craig Rivet trade.
Pacioretty is now captain of the Canadiens and just reached 30 goals and 60 points for the fourth-straight season. Despite not having a bonafide star centre to feed him the puck, Pacioretty keeps finding ways to score aplenty. The Wild could really use a constant 30-goal scorer, since Zach Parise has been the only player to do that for them in recent memory.
5 Claude Giroux (2006)
Original Pick: James Sheppard
After an extremely disappointing 2005-06 campaign, the Wild had the chance to make up for it by drafting a franchise-changing star. They wound up selecting forward James Sheppard at ninth-overall, but he only played in 394 NHL games and finished with 23 goals and 91 points.
But the Philadelphia Flyers didn't waste their selection, taking slick cente Claude Giroux with the 22nd selection. Giroux has become the heart of the Flyers franchise with 180 goals and 574 points in just 654 games. Giroux had 28 goals and 93 points in 2011-12 plus an 86-point campaign in 2013-14.
Giroux is among the top playmaking centres in the NHL and could helped the Wild become a juggernaut in the Western Conference. The thought of him and Zach Parise playing on the same line? Sounds pretty exciting, doesn't it?
4 Carey Price (2005)
Original Pick: Benoit Pouliot
The Wild held the fourth selection and opted to go with big power forward Benoit Pouliot. He never played more than 37 points in a season with Minnesota and failed to develop into the scoring sensation they had hoped for. He was traded to the Montreal Canadiens during the 2009-10 season.
Meanwhile, the Canadiens selected Carey Price right after Minnesota took Pouliot. Price is arguably the best goalie in the NHL, with 270 wins and a .920 save percentage...and counting. He backstopped Team Canada to Olympic gold in 2014 and won both the Hart and Vezina Trophies in 2015.
The Wild didn't have a franchise goalie to build around until Devan Dubnyk joined them during the 2014-15 season. We can only guess where the Wild could have been in the standings all those years if they wound up with Price.
3 Ryan Callahan (2004)
Original Pick: A.J. Thelen
The Wild had a disastrous year in 2003-04 after reaching the Western Conference Final in 2014. They at least had a high draft selection and took defenceman A.J. Thelen with the 12th-overall pick. Thelen never played an NHL game and last played hockey for the Kalamazoo Kings of the ECHL.
This team surely could have used Ryan Callahan, whom the New York Rangers got in the fourth round at 127th-overall. Callahan is one of the best two-way forwards in hockey and would have been an excellent fit on a Wild team that always emphasizes defence first. Callahan has four 20-goal seasons under his belt, as well as a pair of 50-point campaigns.
Callahan has 174 goals and 351 points in 638 NHL games. Minnesota really could have used the talents of Callahan, but they wound up with a bust in Thelen.
2 Corey Perry (2003)
Original Pick: Brent Burns
The 2003 NHL Draft is widely recognized as the greatest in NHL history. It featured the likes of Marc-Andre Fleury, Nathan Horton, Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf, Ryan Kesler, Patrice Bergeron, Jeff Carter, Shea Weber, Loui Eriksson, Zach Parise and others. Though the Wild wound up selecting Brent Burns -- who is the highest-scoring defenceman in the NHL this year -- he wasn't exactly a star during his seven seasons in Minnesota.
He was traded to the San Jose Sharks in 2011, and that's when Burns became the elite blueliner we all know today. Minnesota would have been better off selecting sniper Corey Perry, one of the best pure scorers of his era.
Perry has eight 20-goal and and six 30-goal seasons under his belt. He won the 'Rocket' Richard and Art Ross Trophy in 2011 -- scoring 50 goals and 98 points. Minnesota often lacked a true sniper with Marian Gaborik struggling to stay healthy. Perry would have been a major franchise-changing selection for them.
1 Duncan Keith (2002)
Original Pick: Pierre-Marc Bouchard
The 2002 NHL Entry Draft was easily one of the most in recent memory, and Pierre-March Bouchard was actually one of the better selections. Taken eighth-overall, Bouchard had three 50-point seasons in Minnesota, but he never blossomed into a star. Imagine what would have happened if the Wild selected world class defenceman Duncan Keith instead?
What can we say about Keith? He has three Stanley Cups, two Norris Trophies, a Conn Smythe and two Olympic gold medals. Keith has been the best defenceman since the lockout and has 90 goals and 509 points in his career. The Blackhawks would not be a dynasty without him. Minnesota could have definitely won a Stanley Cup by now if they had Keith, who was a huge helping hand in eliminating the Wild every year from 2013-2015.
History would have been different if Minnesota had Keith...