So I'd offer my non-expert opinion on the 2009 draft picks of the Minnesota Wild and the Pittsburgh Penguins but it makes no sense to do so. Few players in this year's draft class were projected to have an immediate impact on any of their new teams, and no player the Wild or Penguins selected in the first round would have been one of those - unless either team traded up for a top two or three pick.
But here are the first-rounders. The Wild selected local kid and offensive defenseman Nick Leddy from Eden Prairie H.S. with the 16th pick after turning the No. 12 selection into three other draft picks, which was a wise move. Unwilling to take a chance that Leddy would be available later in the first round, Chuck Fletcher chose to grab Leddy at 16. Pittsburgh sort of lucked into big defenseman Simon Despres, a defensive defenseman with some offensive upside who TSN had ranked 18th, with the 30th and final selection of the first round.
A good portion of the Penguins fan base seems accepting of Pittsburgh's pick, though more than a few people wanted a winger. Nearly all of Minnesota's followers seem to feel the Wild either a) took the wrong Minnesota player, b) shouldn't have taken a Minnesota player period, or c) didn't need a defenseman.
Given the fact that the two organizations can combine for about two or three forwards who might make an impact in the next couple of years, the selections of a defenseman by both clubs might seem strange. But look: At that stage of the first round, whoever was selected was going to need some time - two or three years at least - to develop into an NHL-ready player.
In that time, either Fletcher or Ray Shero could acquire a forward via free agency or a trade. That's the basis of the "take the best player available" strategy instead of "drafting for a need." You might need a certain player now but what if you end up signing a player who fills that need to a long-term contract less than a week after the draft? Then suddenly the guy you drafted to fill that hole isn't as necessary, and you'd be left wishing you had other assets in the system.
Which leads me to another point. The Wild lacks talent in its system. Sorry, but it's true. Take it from someone who's going through a similar experience with a baseball team. When there's little talent in the minor leagues, the first goal is likely to put talent into that system, no matter what position a guy plays. Yes, the Wild lacks forwards in a significant way, but it also lacks gifted players with NHL futures.
First increase the numbers of players who can have an impact in the NHL, then worry about where they actually play. Once the system is stocked, then it's easier to put together a competitive big league team each season.
Fletcher is not going to turn the Wild into a perennial contender over night. He'll try to win now as much as he can, but he won't be shortsighted enough to mortgage what future Minnesota has in a desperate attempt to make his mark right away. He's going to build up the system from the bottom, and that's going to take time. It might be unpleasant for fans over the next few seasons, but in the long run, if Fletcher makes the correct decisions, it'll be worth it.
So it's entirely too early to analyze any draft picks. Plus it's unfair to the players involved, and Leddy is already being lumped by some people into A.J. Thelen territory. Fletcher barely finished saying the kid's name before an uproar started over the selection. At least give the guy a chance before condemning him.
(Update, Saturday, 4:42 p.m. EDT: I changed the title to encompass the entire draft. Far too early to pass judgment on anyone selected this weekend. Only time will tell how they fare.)
I agree with the write about the Wild's draft.
Except for one part, I am one of those people who feel that Leddy will be another BUST. HE is too small, and He just didn't dominate in HS hockey like a 1st round pick should. I watched this kid play in about 6 games last year, including 2 in person at the state tournament, and he did not stand out to me at all. Considering I was a defenseman myself in my playing years, I tend to focus on the play of other D-men, and I just don't see what the Wild see in Leddy.
That said, I sure hope I'm wrong. Because the Wild cannot afford another Thelen or Pouliot bust with their 1st pick of a draft.
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