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Wild go wild for local player

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MONTREAL (AP) -Minnesota Wild general manager Chuck Fletcher's first draft pick in his new job will make quite an impression with fans in the state.

After trading down from the 12th overall pick to No. 16, Fletcher chose defenseman Nick Leddy, who was Mr. Hockey in Minnesota last season.

Leddy is a puck-moving defenseman who led Eden Prairie high school to the big-school state championship last season.

"It's going to be awesome," Leddy said of joining the team that plays just about 20 minutes from where he grew up. "I've watched those guys my whole life."

Fletcher took over for the fired Doug Risebrough in May. Risebrough was often resistant to drafting Minnesota-born players, something that irked the passionate local fan base.

"We can't worry about where a player is from in terms of decision making, but we should have tremendous local resources here throughout the state and hopefully that will help us identify local players or collegiate players in general," Fletcher said. "And certainly that's an area that I'm going to look into and certainly should be part of the equation."

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BUSINESS AS USUAL: Don Maloney didn't allow himself to be distracted from the job at hand during the first round of the draft. Hours after Jerry Reinsdorf submitted a $148 million bid to purchase the Coyotes and keep them in Arizona, the team's general manager set about improving the roster.

"We have to do our job," he said. "If we do, it's a great sports town - people will show up, people will support us. We have to show them something too.

"We're happy we're still breathing and hopefully we can do some good things."

The Coyotes hope they made a step in that direction by selecting Swedish defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson sixth overall. He played for Leksand in his country's second division last season.

Ekman-Larsson will remain in Sweden next season and hopes to put on some muscle. He's currently 6-foot-2, 176 pounds.

"We've got to fatten him up," Maloney said.

The 18-year-old has no qualms about joining an organization in turmoil. The Coyotes filed for bankruptcy and nearly were sold and moved to Hamilton, Ontario.

"It's the biggest day of my life so far," said Ekman-Larsson.

Maloney was quick to caution that there are still some issues to be worked out before Reinsdorf's offer is accepted. The offer calls for a new Jobing.com Arena lease with the city of Glendale and unspecified new agreements with other creditors, including the NHL, which has been funding the club

Maloney's biggest task is finding a way to get the Coyotes into the playoffs for the first time in seven years.

"We have some holes that we think we can fill with some value players," he said.

Fans chanted "Hamilton! Hamilton!" as the Coyotes delegation went to the podium during the first round. Unlike past years, coach Wayne Gretzky wasn't part of the group on the stage.

Maloney indicated the coach's future with the franchise was no more uncertain than any other employee.

"He's a great hockey mind and we've got to get through this period," said Maloney. "Once the ownership gets here, then everybody will get together and talk and see what the future holds quite frankly for all of us, including Wayne."

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HOMETOWN PICK: Fans at the Bell Centre erupted in cheers as the Canadiens selected local forward Louis Leblanc with the 18th overall pick Friday night.

Leblanc opted to skip major junior hockey and played last season in the U.S. Hockey League with Omaha, where he had 28 goals and 39 assists. He plans to attend Harvard in the fall.

The 6-foot, 178-pound forward is known as a hard worker with offensive skill.

He grew up in the Montreal suburb of Kirkland, and Montreal fans were thrilled to see the team select a French-Canadian in the first round, which they hadn't done since they chose Eric Chouinard in 1998.

"It was impressive," the 18-year-old said, looking nervous in his Canadiens jersey as he was beseiged by reporters. "I had goosebumps.

"They were my team growing up and to get to wear this jersey is unreal."

Leblanc helped Canada's under-18 team win gold at last summer's Ivan Hlinka Memorial tournament in the Czech Republic.

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THE NEXT SAKIC?: During his childhood days, Matt Duchene had a fistful of heroes. Among them was Joe Sakic of the Colorado Avalanche.

"I am a Montreal Canadiens fan, but I grew up really liking Joe Sakic and the Colorado Avalanche as well," Duchene said. "He was kind of the guy that I liked before Sidney Crosby came along.

"Obviously, Sakic is still going strong in the NHL," said Duchene, a native of Haliburton, Ontario. "I think he's probably the biggest class act in the league. He's a great ambassador of the game as well."

The Avalanche took strides to bring the 18-year-old center together with Sakic by making Duchene their first-round choice and third overall pick in the draft.

"You look in my room, and I have the jerseys of Joe Sakic, Patrick Roy and Peter Forsberg and I had an inkling they would draft me," Duchesne said. "When the time came, I started getting excited and my heart started pounding."

Duchene had six winning goals last season and directed the Brampton Battalion to the Ontario Hockey League final.

"If I had one bad game or shift, I didn't get down on myself," he said. "I stayed confident, and that was the key."

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