As draft picks were being rattled off in the late rounds of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft in Los Angeles, there isn't a lot of activity, other than a few phone calls here and there. Most of the young prospects in the building have already been picked, so a guy like Wild PR man Aaron Sickman doesn't have a lot to do.
Midway through the sixth round, Sickman was caught off guard when was sitting at the Wild's draft table, and a young, well-dressed man walked up to his table.
"Hi guys, I'm Johan Gustafsson
," said the Swedish goaltender, who the Wild had just selected with the 159th overall pick.
The whole table was startled, but none moreso than Sickman, who jumped to alert the media and team website that there was another prospect to talk to.
These are the kinds of stories we can tell on Draft Day, because in a few weeks, most of the Wild's newest members will be names with stats attached to them, as we wait patiently for them to become "NHL-ready."
Prior to being surprised by Gustafsson, the Wild selected three forwards in the second round on Saturday, giving the Wild four picks in the first two rounds. In the previous three Drafts, the Wild had a grand total of four picks in the first two rounds.
The Wild used those picks to grab Brett Bulmer
of the Kelowna Rockets (39th overall), Johan Larsson
of Brynas Jr. (56th overall) and Jason Zucker
of the USDP, who was picked up at 59 after the Wild traded its third round pick (69) and fourth round pick (99) to move up and get Zucker, who is from Las Vegas.
"We're real happy, obviously with the second round," said Wild Assistant GM Brent Flahr immediately following the seventh round.
In all, the Wild leaves Los Angeles with five forwards and a goalie. On Friday, the Wild took Finland's Mikael Granlund
with the ninth overall pick. On Saturday, they also took Dylan McKinlay of Chilliwack of the Western Hockey League.
Other than Gustafsson, Zucker was the only other Wild selection in attendance on Saturday. He also might be the most intriguing, not just because he's the first-ever Draft pick that trained in Nevada, but because he's a rising star on the United States hockey scene.
Zucker was the youngest member of Team USA's gold medal entrant at the 2010 World Junior Championships, where he scored two goals and played on the top line. Prior to that, he won a pair of gold medals at the 2009 and 2010 World Under 18 championships.
"I was lucky enough to be selected to all three of those teams," said Zucker. "I was on a great team with a great group of guys, and we were able to accomplish something great."
Zucker started his hockey career on wheels, before skating on ice for the first time when he was six. His road to the NHL Draft included moving away from home at the age of 10 to Los Angeles (where he was born) to play for a Los Angeles club. He then played for Compuware in Detroit before joining the United States Development Program.
"The more you watch him play, the more you get excited about him," said Flahr. "He's got great speed. He really puts the pressure on opposing defensemen. He's a hard kid not to like. He has speed, character, energy. And he can really shoot the puck off the wing as well."
This fall, he will begin his college career at the University of Denver.
Most of the Wild forwards picked are small in stature, but that's not the case for Bulmer, who stands at 6-foot-3, 185 pounds. Bulmer is termed a "late bloomer" both in stature, and in his hockey skills. He was 5-foot-7 during his Bantam draft year, and wasn't taken in the WHL Draft until the 11th round. Since then, he has grown eight inches and developed a game with an edge.
"Brett is a hard-working, physical player that is a strong skater and has good puck skills," said Wild amateur scout Paul Charles.
Bulmer's stock rose after he blossomed late in the 2009-2010 season.
"The more experience he gets, the better he has been getting," said his junior coach, Ryan Huska.
If there can be a surprise pick in the second round, the Wild probably pulled it when it took Swedish winger, Johan Larsson
. Larsson was the 34th ranked skater among Europeans, but he was stellar at the World Under-18 Championships when the Swedes fell to Zucker and the U.S. in the gold medal game.
Larsson piled up 14 points on six goals and eight assists in five games to rank second among all tournament scorers.
"Larsson, we're extremely high on," said Flahr. "Great combination of speed, grit. We're excited to get him."
Another who has been impressed with him is his countryman and teammate at the same tournament, Gustafsson.
"He's a good center that plays hard and does it all for his team," said the goalie. "He does it all."
But Gustafsson was impressive in his own right. He was 3-1-0 in the tournament with a 2.02 goals against average. Gustafsson has experience in Minnesota, having attended Robb Stauber's goalie camp, and also training with Sweden before the U-18 tourney.
"I like the town," he said with a smile.
At 6-foot-2, 202 pounds Gustafsson is large and in charge between the pipes. But the 18-year-old has a hockey playing brother who is four years younger, and already the same size.
"He's a big D," he said.
Rounding out the Wild's picks was McKinlay, who enjoyed a solid sophomore campaign in the WHL, putting up 20 goals and 22 assists in 72 games. McKinlay is listed at 5-foot-11, 162 pounds.