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Wild stockpiles depth on defense and at center on day two of NHL Draft

Grand Rapids native and Mr. Hockey winner Peart highlights second day of festivities

by Dan Myers @mnwildscribe / Wild.com

ST. PAUL -- The Wild continued its run of acquiring value on Saturday, selecting the highest-ranked Minnesota-born skater with its first pick of day two. 

Grand Rapids native Jack Peart, Minnesota's Mr. Hockey this past spring, was the Wild's selection at 54th overall in the second round, making him the 15th State of Hockey native selected by the Wild in the NHL Draft, and first since New Brighton's Sam Hentges was picked in the seventh round in 2018.

"It's always been a dream of mine to play for the Minnesota Wild," Peart said. "That's the NHL team I watched growing up and for me to get drafted by them and to have a chance to play for them, it's been really special for sure."

And like Hentges, Peart will play his collegiate hockey at St. Cloud State University. While Hentges will be a senior there this upcoming season, Peart is expected to join him there as a freshman this fall.

Video: Jack Peart excited to join Wild

The 27th ranked North America skater, Peart was highly thought of by the Wild's scouting staff and Director of Amateur Scouting Judd Brackett.

Brackett presented his final list of his top-39 available players to Wild GM Bill Guerin on Thursday afternoon. Peart was on it, as were the club's first-round selections on Friday, goaltender Jesper Wallstedt and defenseman Carson Lambos.

In fact, Wallstedt, Lambos and Peart were all ranked inside Brackett's top-20 players on his pre-draft list.

Tweet from @mnwild: 📍 Grand Rapids, MN Looking good, @jpeart24! pic.twitter.com/nogXO16Hlf

"He was a player that we targeted and we were really excited to see him there," Brackett said. "We thought there was a possibility [of it], but certainly with the year that he had, it was a bit of a surprise."

Peart's outstanding high school career wrapped up this year when he led Grand Rapids High School in goals (11), assists (24) and points (35) this season, en route to being named the top senior boys hockey player in the state.

"This whole year has been really cool for me," Peart said. "A lot of great experiences that have definitely helped me in my hockey career and this is another one that is hopefully going to help." 

Video: Jack Peart on being drafted by the Minnesota Wild

He sandwiched the high school season with time in Fargo playing for the Fargo Force of the USHL. He was outstanding late in the season, finishing with one goal and 14 assists overall in 24 games during the regular season. But he really picked up his play during the Clark Cup Playoffs, tallying two goals and seven points in nine postseason contests.

As a junior, Peart captained the Thunderhawks and scored 13 goals and 27 points in 25 games, setting the stage for an outstanding final prep campaign.

In the third round, Minnesota selected its first forward of the draft when it picked Kamloops Blazers centerman Caedan Bankier with the 86th overall pick.

Bankier tied for the team lead in goals (11) and power-play goals (five) last season and was third on the club in overall scoring. 

Video: Caedan Bankier on being drafted by Wild

In 77 career games with Kamloops, Bankier has 18 goals and 43 points. 

"Bigger body, and for him, the hockey sense is really good," Brackett said. "High character, works hard. The coaches [in Kamloops] really appreciate him as a low-maintenance guy who does the work. [He has] a really unselfish, team-oriented game and he'll continue to work on his skating and strength. That's the areas he needs to focus on."

With its next pick, the Wild went back to the blueline, selecting defenseman Kyle Masters from Red Deer of the WHL.

A strong-skating, two-way defenseman, Masters had 10 assists in 20 games with Red Deer last season and bolsters the right side of the Wild's defensive prospect cupboard after the club selected lefties Lambos and Peart. 

"He has excellent mobility, but a six-foot frame and he's on the lighter side," Brackett said. "So we'll continue to add strength, which will be an area of focus of his. Great mobility along the offensive blueline laterally, as well as through the neutral zone. Willing puck-rusher, runs a power play there, and at his age, that's pretty exceptional."

Minnesota wasn't done in the fourth round however, trading its fifth and seventh round selections to Montreal for the opportunity to pick another center from Kamloops, Josh Pillar.

Described by Brackett as "a two-way, high energy forward," Pillar averaged more than a point per game with the Blazers last season, scoring 11 goals and 29 points in just 22 games, leading the club in scoring. Listed as a center, Pillar actually moved to the wing and saw his production increase. But the versatility to play either spot made him atrractive to the Wild.

"Great motor on him," Brackett said. "Great attention to detail. He may feel more comfortable on the wing from an offensive standpoint as he saw that growth in his game this year. He tends to move up the lineup when he does."

With no seventh round pick following the trade up for Pillar, Minnesota's final selection of the day again came from the back-end, as the Wild purchased a long-term investment in the form of defenseman Nate Benoit. 

Benoit, who finished high school in Rhode Island last season and played three seasons in Tri-City of the USHL, will head back to that league again this season before enrolling at the University of North Dakota for 2022-23.

Benoit is the first UND player or UND-bound player ever selected by the Wild in the draft.

"Bit of a late-bloomer physically, skates well, really aggressive. Plays with some bite and some jam defensively. Physical," Brackett said. "He'll spend a year in the USHL, so there's no rush with him."


Main photo by Brandon McCauley

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