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Wild selects seven players on eventful day two of 2019 NHL Draft

Minnesota adds four forwards, two goalies and a defenseman to round out eight-man draft class

by Dan Myers @mnwildscribe / Wild.com

VANCOUVER -- After selecting in the second round one time in its past five trips to the NHL Draft, the Wild made a pair of picks in round two on Saturday.

The selections of forward Vladisav Firstov and goaltender Hunter Jones doubled the number of second-round players Minnesota has picked since 2013 and kickstarted an eventful day two of the draft that saw Minnesota select seven additional players -- four forwards, two goaltenders and a defenseman -- to a draft class highlighted by the selection of first-round pick Matt Boldy on Friday.

Wild General Manager Paul Fenton hinted after Friday's first round that he believed there were a number of players that would be of interest to the Wild with the 42nd pick. One of them was Vladislav Firstov, a Russian-born left wing who came to North America last year and scored 26 goals and 58 points for Waterloo of the United States Hockey League.

Firstov joined Roman Voloshenko -- also drafted 42nd overall in 2004 -- as the highest drafted Russian-born player in franchise history. He will head to the University of Connecticut in the fall.

Tweet from @mnwild: "I'm so happy. This is a very good organization. Yesterday nervous, today nervous." ��� Vladislav Firstov #mnwild | #NHLDraft pic.twitter.com/gFwYqOw7wt

"He's a high-skilled guy. He didn't play a ton at times. Had a little bit of a minor role, but he produced a lot of points," said Wild amateur scout Darren Yopyk. "He's got good hockey sense. He's got good skill, pretty good speed and quickness. He played the wing a lot but we do believe he can be a center down the road as well. We think he's a distributor of the puck. We think he sees the ice very well. Passes well forehand and backhand and we think he has a lot of upside as well."

Without a pick again until the third round, the Wild made a trade back into the end of the second round to select Jones, who becomes the highest drafted goaltender by Minnesota since it picked Josh Harding 38th overall in the 2002 Draft. 

At 6-foot-4 and 200 pounds, Jones looks a bit like Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk. Ranked third among North American goaltenders by NHL Central Scouting, Jones assumed the starter's crease in Peterborough and played in 57 games, posting a 3.31 goals-against average and a .902 save percentage. His 3,156 minutes played were third-most in the OHL while his goals-against and save percentage numbers ranked in the top-10 in the league amongst starting goaltenders.

Tweet from @OHLHockey: WATCH THIS: The @mnwild traded up to select @PetesOHLhockey workhorse @ShutoutsJones, a 6-foot-4 puckstopper who raised his game in his second #OHL season. #NHLDraft pic.twitter.com/6GNYFXGRoy

"I was getting pretty anxious as the round went on and I had just seen my teammate get picked by Toronto," Jones said. "It was great to see him go, but I heard 'the Peterborough Petes' when he got picked and I got super anxious. 

"But when I heard my name, it was just unbelievable. I'm sure my dad is a wreck, just crying. But honestly, I don't even have words. I think I screwed up half the greetings with the team because I didn't know what to say."

The fact the Wild traded up to get him was a clear sign of just how the organization feels about Jones, who is expected to head back to Peterborough in the fall.

Video: Fenton, Yopyk talk Draft Day 2

"That was one of our targets was trying to get a goaltender. I think that's one thing we need to work on is getting some goaltending depth," Yopyk said. "He's got good size, all the things you want to work within a goalie. He had a tough year with a team of a little bit of a lesser quality at times, so his numbers weren't necessarily where they want to be. But I think that's part of the reason why he may have fell a little bit. 

"But again, a big athlete with a good compete. He too has pretty good hockey sense for a goaltender so we're excited he's there. We think he's a good part of our organization and we think he'll continue to grow as a player and continue to develop."

All of that maneuvering left the Wild without its own third-rounder (73rd overall) and fourth-rounder (99th overall), but that didn't stop Minnesota from moving up again, this time dealing its 2020 third-round pick to Nashville for the 75th pick.

There, the Wild selected forward Adam Beckman, a 6-foot, 170-pound left winger with plenty of experience also playing center, Beckman had an outstanding first season in the Western Hockey League, scoring 32 goals and 60 points for the Spokane Chiefs. 

Tweet from @mnwild: "I'm just so happy. I've got a really good ability to score goals. I just really love the game and being around the rink." ��� @AdamBeckman9 #mnwild | #NHLDraft pic.twitter.com/ia0osC8SCN

Beckman's 32 goals ranked second among all WHL rookies, and the Wild believes with a couple of development years and some time in the weight room, it has a player who can make an impact in the NHL. 

"Good hockey sense, good hands, skill, sees the ice pretty well. Can finish," Yopyk said. "Did play center his whole career until the junior league. We see him probably as a winger. But he can score and again we talk about the hockey sense and compete he has a lot of that. Some qualities we were looking for."

Minnesota didn't pick in the fourth round but found solid value in round five when it selected forward Matvey Guskov from London of the Ontario Hockey League.

The Russian-born Guskov scored 12 goals and had 30 points in 59 games, but as one of the youngest players on a veteran-laden London club, Guskov played a majority of his minutes on the third and fourth lines. 

Tweet from @GoLondonKnights: Welcome to the Guskov show, @mnwild pic.twitter.com/x1fg3eKekG

He's expected to take on a much bigger workload this fall when he becomes one of the Knights' veteran players. 

"I have time to make myself better," Guskov said. "Next season will be good and I will work harder than [than I ever have worked]."

Fenton and the Wild went back to the Boston College well in the sixth round, picking puck-moving defenseman Marshall Warren from the U.S. National Team Development Program. 

Warren went to high school with Wild first round pick Matt Boldy, then played with him with the USNTDP. He'll also join him at BC in the fall, and now, as draft picks of Minnesota.

Tweet from @PR_NHL: Marshall Warren (166th overall, @mnwild) was the 17th and final member of the @USAHockeyNTDP selected in the 2019 #NHLDraft, establishing a new record.The previous benchmark of 13 was shared by the @OHLRangers (1974) and @usahockey U-18 NTDP (2006, 2007). #NHLStats pic.twitter.com/bXt9eYDmqV

"It's neat. Our moms are best friends, so they travel together all over," Warren said. "It's really important to keep your good friends close, so I'm gonna keep him, hopefully, the whole way [to the NHL]."

Like it did with Guskov, the Wild feels it got good value in Warren. Both players were projected by many outlets to go earlier in the draft, but for one reason or another, slipped to Minnesota.

The Wild certainly feels it was the beneficiary.

"Sometimes that's just how the draft falls and you're taking the best player that's on your list. That's the way it worked out," Yopyk said. "Those are two players that we were excited that were there and hopefully they develop and become really good players for us."

Six picks after selecting Warren, the Wild picked its only high school player of the draft when it took New Jersey forward Nikita Nesterenko.

Born overseas, Nesterenko grew up in Brooklyn, New York and was nearly a goal-per-game player for The Lawrenceville School last season. Nesterenko will play for Chilliwack of the British Columbia Hockey League next year, and eventually will play collegiately at Brown University.

Tweet from @_nester_8: Dreams do come true. Extremely honored to be drafted by the Minnesota Wild! Thank you to the entire Wild organization and can���t wait for the future. #GoWild https://t.co/hgDxR4ezUl

Nesterenko doesn't turn 18 until September, so the Wild can afford to be patient and let him develop the next few years.

"He produces everywhere he's been. He's a two-point per game guy. He's got good skill. He sees the ice pretty well. He's probably a pass first guy more than a shoot first guy. He has talent," Yopyk said. "[But] he's a long ways away. He's probably going to have a longer curve than a lot of people. Just another prospect we're happy to have and we'll see where he goes and how he develops."

With its final selection in the draft, Minnesota doubled down in the crease, selecting goaltender Filip Lindberg from the University of Massachusetts. 

As a freshman, Lindberg helped the Minutemen to the NCAA national championship game in April, posting an 11-4-0 record in 17 games with a minuscule 1.60 goals-against average and a .934 save percentage. Both numbers ranked second in the country among collegiate netminders. 

Tweet from @UMassHockey: Hey @mnwild fans, this guy was SO CLUTCH this postseason 🙅���������🚫 Great late round pick!#NHLDraft2019 #NewMass | #Flagship 🚩 pic.twitter.com/YBNCsKwOht

Lindberg also won a gold medal for Team Finland at the World Junior Championship in January.
 
"He has a winning pedigree," Yopyk said. "He's a competitive guy with good athleticism and quickness. He's calm in the crease. We just thought we'd take a chance on him. He's got more years to develop at UMass there. He's learned how to win and we'll see how he turns out."

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With the exception of Firstov, the other seven players in the Wild's eight-man draft class are expected to take part in the team's Development Camp, which begins Monday at TRIA Rink at Treasure Island Center in St. Paul. Fans can get a first-hand look at the club's newest draft picks -- and more than two dozen of the Wild's other prospects -- at a pair of open practices on Tuesday and Thursday, as well as a 3-on-3 tournament on Friday. The practices, as well as the 3-on-3 tournament, are free of charge to enter.


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