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Wild Aims High at 2017 NHL Draft

Without picks in the first two rounds, Minnesota selects six with big potential

by Dan Myers @1DanMyers /

CHICAGO -- Without the benefit of a first- or second-round pick in this weekend's NHL Draft at United Center, the Minnesota Wild went about its business with one goal in mind: Swing for the fences. 

Wild General Manager Chuck Fletcher and Senior Vice President of Hockey Operations Brent Flahr leave the Windy City confident they have accomplished that objective.

"I think we felt this year in the draft, you take a few more chances on upside players and skilled players," Fletcher said. "We tried to maximize our darts for higher skill and weren't as concerned about size -- just trying to find really good hockey players. I think Brent and his staff found a few good ones. But when you don't have a first and second round pick, it's not as easy."

Video: 2017 NHL Draft Recap

Armed with one selection in the third round, two in the fourth and one in each the fifth, sixth and seventh, Minnesota flooded its prospect pipeline with players that have offensive upside. 

But as any good scout will tell you, finding players later in drafts often means overlooking some sort of deficiency. For the Wild, especially with its first two selections, it was size.

Each of its first two picks, third-rounder Ivan Lodnia and fourth-rounder Mason Shaw, lack the prototypical frame scouts and coaches crave. 

Flahr feels, however, that each makes up for it with their skill and energy.

"At the point we were picking in the third and fourth round, they're not going to have every asset compared to a pick in the first round or something," Flahr said. "A lot of these guys have assets that we think will give them a chance to play." 

Lodnia, who hails from Los Angeles, is the son of a Ukrainian immigrant who came to the United States with 100 bucks in his pocket and only the dream of a new life keeping him going.

Lodnia's father, Konstantin, played professionally in Ukraine before taking his family state side, he coached teams and gave private lessons, earning enough to eventually buy his own rink in Anaheim.

Video: Ivan Lodnia shares Draft experience 

"He's the reason why I'm here today, why I'm talking to you guys," Lodnia said. "Literally, he's done everything for me. If it wasn't for him, I wouldn't be where I am today."

Tweet from @ivan_lodnia: What a day! Honored to have been drafted by the @mnwild would like to thank everyone who has helped me along the way!

Lodnia scored 24 goals among 57 points in 66 games with the Erie Otters of the Ontario Hockey League last season, and NHL Central Scouting rated him as the 36th best North American skater in the draft, providing the Wild with solid value in round three.

The same can be said of Shaw, whom Minnesota picked four spots into the fourth round in a selection acquired from the Arizona Coyotes in the Martin Hanzal trade.

Shaw, who played junior hockey with Medicine Hat, ranked second on the Tigers with 94 points in 71 games, including 67 assists. 

"He's a ball of energy, high character," Flahr said. "He's one of those guys that our guys think has the chance to beat the odds. He'll run through a wall for his teammates and play in any situation. Just a character kid."

Shaw will join the same organization as good friend and fellow Lloydminster, Albertan Carson Soucy, who signed his first professional contract this spring after a four-year career at Minnesota Duluth.

Both Soucy and Shaw played midget hockey for the Lloydminster Bobcats AAA team, with Soucy playing his last year there in 2011-12 and Shaw suiting up two years later.

The two train together in Lloydminster in the summer.

Video: Mason Shaw on Being Drafted by Wild

"[I've known him] since I was real young," Shaw said. "He's been a guy that's just 15 minutes down the road from me and I've followed the trail that he has with hockey. I know we have some skates next week that he's got us rigged up with, so I can pick his brain about the Wild."

With its second pick in the fourth round, the Wild added some size in centerman Bryce Misley. 

At 6-foot-1 and 185 pounds, Misley had a nice offensive season for Oakville of the Ontario Junior Hockey League, scoring 26 goals and 36 assists in 46 games. 

He will continue his development beginning this fall at the University of Vermont, where the Hockey East competition will provide Misley with a good measuring stick of what he will need to reach the next level.

Video: Bryce Misley on Being Drafted by Wild

"He's got a very good skillset. He's got good hands and can see the ice," Flahr said. "Physically, he'll need time to develop but he's going to a college program where he'll get that opportunity. He had a strong year at the tier-two league. He played well in the tournaments when he had the chance."

While he certainly had other options for his development, Misley said he's looking forward to getting on campus this fall to continue his build.

Tweet from @Misley_18: Honoured to be drafted by @mnwild ! Incredible organization and hockey city. Dream come true. Thanks to everyone who's helped me get here!

"I think the extra years of development you get in college, I think it will be good for me and beneficial," Misley said. "I'm excited for the academic challenge as well. Academics are important to me, but hockey is definitely number one to me, so the extra years of development is why I chose college."

Of the six players the Wild drafted on Saturday, defenseman Jacob Golden was the only player that isn't a forward. Picked in the fifth round, 147th overall, Golden is another player on the shorter side, but brings tremendous speed to the back end. 

While he didn't play a lot for the London Knights of the OHL this past season, he could see his role increase next year.

"He's an elite skater. He really moves the puck well," Flahr said. "A couple of our guys that got to see him when he was playing early were really high on him. For where we got him we think it's a good pick at that point." 

Targeting Russians has been a recent trend for the Wild, and it nabbed another one in Andrei Svetlakov in Round 6. After not drafting a Russian in 10 consecutive drafts, Minnesota has now picked one in three straight. 

"A guy with tremendous ability," Fletcher said. "I'm not sure when we'll be able to get him over here, he's already an older player. But if he does come, he has a very good chance of playing."

Like the Wild has been with 2015 fifth rounder Kirill Kaprizov, Minnesota will be forced to be patient with the skill Svetlakov can bring. The two were teammates and played on the same line for Team Russia at the World Junior Championships two years ago and will be teammates again this upcoming season with CSKA Russia. 

"He's a competitive kid, but he's also a very smart player both offensively and on the defensive side of the puck," Flahr said. "For a young player, he's already playing on the men's national team, which says a lot about what they think of him over there. He's under contact for a couple more years. We'll have to find out all the details, [but] he's a guy at that point we wanted to throw in the hopper." 

Minnesota concluded its draft with a State of Hockey native and one local fans will be able to keep a close eye on when it selected Nick Swaney with its seventh-round selection.

A former Lakeville South Cougar and future UMD Bulldog, Swaney has spent the past two seasons with Waterloo of the USHL.

His numbers in that league have been solid, but Flahr said he believes some time in Duluth, with a coaching staff the team trusts, could provide the Wild with a future bargain.

"He's gotta get stronger, probably a step quicker," Flahr said. "We talked when we were going through names at the end, we were talking about a kid, if you don't draft him, you're going to be chasing him as a free agent in a couple years. We can get him to camps and help work with him. We know he's going to a good Duluth program that we have a lot of respect for."

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