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Wild Trades Up, Takes Gillies

by Glen Andresen / Minnesota Wild
The Wild moved up three places to take Colton Gillies with the 16th overall pick on Friday night.
The Minnesota Wild swung a deal on Friday night during the first round of the NHL Entry Draft. But Manny Fernandez was not involved.

The Wild jumped up three spots to 16th overall and took Colton Gillies, a center from Saskatoon of the Western Hockey League.

As part of the deal, the Wild gave up the 19th pick overall, as well as its second round pick at number 42. If everything holds as it is, the Wild will have an easy day on Saturday with just four remaining picks and none until the fourth round at 110th overall.

With a couple of highly-skilled forwards still available including Angelo Esposito and Alexei Cherepanov, the Wild may have been thinking about the team that ended its season in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs – the Stanley Cup champion Anaheim Ducks.

"I didn't see it coming. I had two meetings - one in Toronto at the combine," said Gillies, who was thrilled with his future destination. "I had 26 meetings with teams but today's meeting went well and here I am. I've been told that it is an unbelievable hockey city. I'm really excited to be a Wild."

"Colton is a potential power forward who is physically aggressive, very competitive and one of the best skaters in the draft," said Wild Assistant General Manager - Player Development, Tom Thompson.

The Ducks ran over opponents with big, skilled forwards, and it appears Gillies fits that mold. Standing at 6-foot-4, 189 pounds, Gillies possesses outstanding speed. He was ranked 30th among North American skaters by the Central Scouting Service after finishing his third year in the WHL with 13 goals and 17 assists in 65 games. He also accumulated 148 penalty minutes.

While acknowledging his game needs improvement, particularly in finishing, Gillies projects his size as an asset.

"I do see myself as one of those (big, physical) players," said Gillies. "I've always looked up to a player like Jarome Iginla, but I like to pattern my game after (Rick) Nash in Columbus."

Thompson and his scouting staff have never been a group known for picking the top-remaining players according to scouting services. That independent thinking led to picks such as Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Brent Burns and James Sheppard. The Gillies pick could prove to be another

"He's definitely one of the best skaters in the Draft," said Thompson. "He plays with a physical edge and he plays hard. The way the game is going, you have to have some size up front that can play. We feel that is a need in the organization and we feel he fits that need better than anyone in the Draft. You can't just have big guys that can't get there. They have to be able to skate and they have to play with an edge to them."

Gillies is the nephew of former New York Islander and Hall of Famer, Clark Gillies. Clark was a prototypical power forward with toughness and scoring prowess. He was a member  of the Islander team that won four Stanley Cups in the early eighties, prior to Colton's birth.

Said his nephew, "I didn't get to see him play much as a kid, but I know he was a power forward and my dad always told me to 'play like a Gillies.'"

As for the lingering buzz surrounding Fernandez and his possible movement, there was no news to report as of bedtime on Friday night.

"He's one of our goalies and we have three very strong goalies," said Thompson. "In hockey, everybody is available. Wayne Gretzky was traded when he was 27 years old in the prime of his career."

From the Central Scouting Service

A power forward with great size… out muscles his opponents and has the ability to land punishing hits… has great speed and is very consistent… uses his reach to his advantage and is good on the penalty kill… needs to get better around the net and at times to improve his positioning.

Personal Profile: Nephew of former New York Islander Clark Gillies…nickname is Gills… patterns his game after Jarome Iginla because “he is a hard worker, a leader and a nice person off the ice”… credits his parents for having the most influence on his career because “they worked so hard so I could have this chance”… if he could have dinner with any three people he would choose: cyclist Lance Armstrong, actor Mel Gibson and actress Halle Berry.
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