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Wild get the D-man they wanted

by Brian Compton

OTTAWA -- For the first time in four years, the Minnesota Wild opted not to draft a forward in the first round. In fact, the Wild traded up one spot with the New Jersey Devils to grab defenseman Tyler Cuma at No. 23.

The Wild acquired the Cuma pick from the Devils in exchange for Minnesota’s No. 24 pick in the 2008 NHL Entry and a third-round pick in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft.

The selection of Cuma marked the first time the Wild have taken a defenseman in the first round since selecting A.J. Thelen with the No. 12 pick in 2004. Cuma was one of only four selections made by Minnesota all weekend.

Nonetheless, the Wild are confident with the pick they made on what was a wild Friday night.

“We need a guy like this,” Assistant General Manager Tommy Thompson said. “The need this year was to have a good defense prospect. We’re surprised we got him, but we’re very happy we did.”

Here is a look at Minnesota’s 2008 NHL Entry Draft class:

No. 23 Tyler Cuma, D, Ottawa (OHL)
– This offensive-minded defenseman had four goals, 28 assists and 69 penalty minutes in his second season with the 67’s, which was good enough to finish second on the team in scoring among defensemen. He also was the only Ottawa defenseman to finish with a plus rating (plus-4).

Cuma helped Team Canada win a gold medal at the 2008 IIHF Under-18 World Championships, contributing four points in seven games. He also was named Ottawa’s Rookie of the Year in 2006-07 after tallying 19 points in 63 contests. Cuma was ranked No. 19 among North American skaters by the NHL Central Scouting.

“He is a quality two-way defenseman who hopefully can become a cornerstone of our hockey club as he develops,” Thompson said. “His level of play continued to improve through the year, and he was outstanding in the World Under-18 Championship.”

Cuma is viewed as a shut-down defenseman with offensive upside. Given the amount of firepower in the Northwest Division and Western Conference, he certainly will be relied upon in the future to keep Minnesota’s opponents off the scoreboard.

While that realistically could take a couple of years, Cuma is confident he can be in Minnesota as soon as October.

“My first priority is to make the team right away,” Cuma said. “I’m definitely going to work hard throughout the offseason to try to get bigger and better as much as I can. I’ll come into camp and try to make it.”

No. 50 Marco Scandella, D, Val D’Or (QMJHL) – In his first season of junior hockey, the 6-2, 190-pound defenseman had four goals, 10 assists and 35 penalty minutes in 65 games.  

The Montreal native won a gold medal with Team Canada at the Under-18 IIHF World Championships, posting two points and a plus-7 rating in seven games.

He led Val d’Or rookie defensemen in scoring and was named the QMJHL Prospect of the Month in December 2007. Scandella’s uncle, Sergio Momesso, was drafted No. 27 by the Canadiens in 1983 and played in the NHL from 1985-1997.

No. 115 Sean Lorenz, D, USA Under-18 (NTDP) – From Littleton, Colo., Lorenz appeared in 49 games for the U.S. Under-18 team, notching four goals, five assists and 24 penalty minutes. Lorenz will attend the University of Notre Dame in the fall.

No. 145  Eero Elo, LW, Lukko Jr. (Finland) – Plenty of size (6-3, 198 pounds) on this Finnish forward, who had 27 points and 34 penalty minutes in 42 games for Lukko last season in the Finnish junior league.

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