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Wild Turns its Attention to NHL Entry Draft

Offseason continues this weekend in Chicago as club seeks to replenish its prospect pool

by Dan Myers @1DanMyers /

CHICAGO -- After a busy few days of Expansion Draft wheeling and dealing in Las Vegas, the Minnesota Wild will now turn its attention to the NHL Entry Draft portion of its offseason, one that, on the surface, seems like it should be much more low-key.

Wild General Manager Chuck Fletcher, Senior Vice President of Hockey Operations Brent Flahr and the club's scouting staff will go to work at the United Center this weekend without the benefit of a first- or second-round pick because of previous trades to supplement their club.

At least that's the plan going in.

Flahr, who runs the Wild's draft table, has said in recent weeks that he and the scouts have prepared for this draft like they would any other, meaning that if something happens, and Minnesota finds itself making a selection sooner that it could have predicted, it will be prepared to do so.

Video: Brent Flahr 2017 NHL Draft Preview

Round 1 of the Draft takes place Friday evening while rounds 2-7 continue on Saturday.

After finding a way to secure a bulk of its NHL roster at the Expansion Draft, including its stable of highly sought after defensemen, it's possible Fletcher could make a deal of some sort this weekend, including one that could net the Wild an extra draft pick or two. 

"Absolutely, I mean, we'll see. Again, we're trying to improve our team if we can, and we're certainly speaking to a lot of teams. We'll see," Fletcher said in Las Vegas on Wednesday night. "I wouldn't say we're actively shopping anybody but again, we're getting a lot of calls; we have been for a while. With [the Expansion Draft] process now completed, I think it'll clear things up and probably simplify the process going forward, in terms of getting some offers, evaluating them and seeing if they improve our team."

Vegas signed forward Erik Haula, a pending restricted free agent, to a multi-year contract, a move that counted as the Golden Knights' pick of a Wild player in the Expansion Draft. To complete the deal, and to keep it from poaching a quality defenseman or veteran center Eric Staal, Fletcher also traded prospect Alex Tuch to Vegas in exchange for a conditional third-round pick, a selection that will occur either this weekend or in 2018. 

For now, the Wild heads to the Windy City armed with a third-round pick, a pair of fourth rounders and one selection in each the fifth, sixth and seventh rounds. 

Whether that remains the case over the next 24 hours, only time will tell.

Minnesotans to watch

By all accounts, the 2017 draft class is considered one of the weaker ones in recent memory. But while there are no Connor McDavids available this time around, the Draft will certainly produce its fair share of quality NHLers.

Even though the class on the whole is considered shallow, both in depth and in top-end talent, that's not the case for this year's crop of draft-eligible Minnesotans, led by Eden Prairie forward Casey Mittelstadt.

The 18-year-old Mittelstadt, who will play at the University of Minnesota in the fall, is a consensus first-round talent that seems certain to be picked in the top half of the round, and perhaps as high as the top five. 

A prodigious offensive talent, Mittelstadt scored 21 goals and had 43 assists in 25 games with Eden Prairie as a senior, adding 13 goals and 17 assists in 24 games with the Green Bay Gamblers of the USHL.

Other Minnesotans that could hear their names called Friday or early in the day on Saturday include Lakeville forward Ryan Poehling, forward Grant Mismash of Brooklyn Park, forward Scott Reedy from Prior Lake and defenseman Michael Anderson from Fridley.

Jake Oettinger, also from Lakeville, is the No. 1-ranked North American goaltender, according to NHL Central Scouting. 

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