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Wild Selects Three Players On Day Two Of Draft

by Evan Sporer / Minnesota Wild

BUFFALO -- A prospect on the rise, one that fell in the ranks, and a less-polished project was how Assistant General Manager Brent Flahr described Minnesota's three selections on day two of the NHL Draft.

The Wild added Brandon Duhaime, a left wing, in the fourth round, and forward Dmitry Sokolov and defenseman Braydyn Chizen in the seventh.

Duhaime is a player whom Flahr said impressed the Wild from start-to-finish this season with the Tri-City Storm of the United States Hockey League. Duhaime is committed to play at Providence College this fall.

"He's come a long way," Flahr said. "He's a Florida kid who has come up, and worked his way into the USHL. He won a championship in Tri-City this year. He's a competitive, two-way winger. He's a smart player, and a kid that rose up our draft board from start to finish of the year. He's going to a real good program in Providence, and he has a chance to develop there well."

Flahr said Duhaime was a riser on the Wild's draft board after his season in Tri-City, and the strides he showed.

"He just does a lot of things right when he's on the ice, whether it's puck management — he goes to the hard areas, he's hard to play against, and he'll fight if he has to," Flahr said. "He has a good understanding of the game at both ends of the rink, and we feel his strength and skating will shift well."

Perhaps the most intriguing selection of the Wild's draft class was seventh round pick Sokolov. A Russian-born forward who played last year for the Sudbury Wolves of the Ontario Hockey League, Sokolov entered the season a projected top-15 pick, according to Flahr.

"This year, due to injury and conditioning, he fell," Flahr said. "So he's a kid that, we think if we can get him on the right track, and get him committed to the conditioning side of the game, he's a top talent."

Sokolov is represented by Mikael Granlund's agent, and the Wild brass said it felt it could have been snagging a diamond-in-the-rough in Sokolov, who scored 30 goals and had 52 points in 68 games in what was characterized as a down year.

"We're obviously hoping that we're buying a quality stock at a low price," General Manager Chuck Fletcher said. "Time will tell, but at that part of the draft it was, to me, a very logical gamble to make.

"He's a young man with great talent, a talent certainly worthy of a selection much higher than when he was selected."

Sokolov has played in international competitions with 2015 Wild draft pick Kirill Kaprizov. His best friend is another Minnesota prospect, Pavel Jenys, who just finished his second year playing for Niagara in the Ontario Hockey League.

"It's very exciting. I'm very happy," Sokolov said of being drafted. "I like scoring goals."

Sokolov, who moved to Sudbury this year after spending all of his amateur career in Russia, has eyes on a professional career in North America.

"The OHL is better than the Russian league," Sokolov said. "It's a small rink, and I want to play in the NHL."

The third and final Minnesota pick of the day was used to select Chizen, a defenseman who plays for the Kelowna Rockets.

"He's a project," Flahr said. "He's close to 6-foot-8. He can skate, he's got basic tools, he's got an edge to his game, and we know he's still growing into his body."

Kelowna has gained a reputation for churning out sterling NHL defenseman. It's the alma mater of Duncan Keith, Shea Weber, Tyler Myers, and the current team of 2016 first round pick Lucas Johansen, brother of Ryan of the Nashville Predators.

"It's going to take some time, but plays in a real good program in Kelowna that produces hockey players, and especially defenseman," Flahr said. "We thought it was a good pick at the time."

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