Minnesota bills itself as the "State of Hockey," and for decades its minor hockey programs have been fertile ground for future NHL stars. So it's no surprise that when the League was looking for a host for the 2011 Entry Draft, it chose the Minnesota Wild
NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly was on hand for Saturday's announcement, which came prior to the Wild's season-closing game against the Dallas Stars
"We are extremely excited to host the 2011 NHL Entry Draft at Xcel Energy Center," Wild owner Craig Leipold said. "The event will be a great opportunity for the 'State of Hockey' to see the future stars of the NHL and to support the drafted players that were developed in Minnesota's youth hockey associations and high schools. Hockey's international spotlight will shine brightly on Xcel Energy Center and the city of Saint Paul."
"The Draft is a signature event, and, as our League gets younger and younger, it offers a preview of the NHL's future," NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said. "The great fans in Minnesota will get a first-hand view of tomorrow's stars."
"We are extremely excited to host the 2011 NHL Entry Draft at Xcel Energy Center. The event will be a great opportunity for the 'State of Hockey' to see the future stars of the NHL and to support the drafted players that were developed in Minnesota's youth hockey associations and high schools. Hockey's international spotlight will shine brightly on Xcel Energy Center and the city of Saint Paul." -- Wild owner Craig Leipold
There has been a player with Minnesota ties taken in the first round of every draft since 2002, including Sidney Crosby
, the first pick of the 2005 draft, who played at Shattuck-St. Mary's Prep in Faribault, and Bloomington native Erik Johnson
, the first pick of the 2006 draft. Last year, Eden Prairie High School defenseman Nick Leddy
was taken No. 16 by the Wild (he was traded to the Blackhawks this season) and University of Minnesota center Jordan Schroeder
was taken No. 22 by the Canucks.
"I think there's many reasons why the Minnesota Wild
and the 'State of Hockey' wants to hold the NHL Entry Draft," Bill Robertson, the Wild's vice president of communications and broadcasting, told NHL.com. "The main reason is we encompass all of hockey here in the state of Minnesota, amateur and professional. This is a great way to link amateur hockey to the Wild and the NHL."
Robertson spearheaded the club's bid to bring the draft back to Minnesota for the first time since 1989, when the Minnesota North Stars hosted the event at the Met Center in Bloomington.
For the 2010 draft, top prospects include defenseman U.S. National Team Developmental Program defenseman Derek Forbort
, a Duluth native; Blaine High School center Nick Bjugstad
; Minnesota State center Tyler Pitlick
; and Warroad High School center Brock Nelson
"There's going to be a lot of interest in Minnesota and U.S. players in that draft," Robertson said. "It will add an additional element to have as many Minnesota and U.S. elements in this draft in 2011."
Robertson said hosting the draft is part of the organization's plan to build the Wild as a global brand.
"One of the missions by our owner, Craig Leipold, is he wants our organization to be viewed more globally across North America and internationally," Robertson said. "This event helps us with that goal. We are heading to Finland this fall to play Carolina to open the NHL regular season. In 2011 we are going to host the NHL Entry Draft. It's our hope in 2012 or 2013 to host the Winter Classic."
Possible venues for an outdoor game in the Twin Cities include Target Field, the new home of the Minnesota Twins, which opens next week, and TCF Bank Stadium, home of the Minnesota Golden Gophers football team.
Contact Adam Kimelman at email@example.com