Thursday, June 26, 2014

Round One Targets

Photo: @pdecarl
Tomorrow, the Wild hold the 18th overall pick in the NHL Draft. Here are the five most players Minnesota should draft when they are on the clock:

Note: This is taking into consideration that Minnesota picks at 18. If they were to trade back in the first round, the list would obviously change. The below players are also in no particular order and this is assuming they are still available.

LW Sonny Milano,  USNTDP U18 (USHL)
There might not be many better offensive forwards available at 18 than Milano. He is quick, creative, very skilled, and has a knack for finding the scoresheet (75 points in 52 games last year). He is the type of forward Minnesota is lacking in their farm system, and could very well be scooped up by the Wild should he be there when they pick. He is not overly big (6'0", 185 lbs) and is not great defensively, but still a solid player nonetheless.

C Connor Bleackley, Red Deer (WHL)
Bleackley might not be the most talented player on this list, but he seems to have the skills/effort level Minnesota loves to see in a player. He is a good two way center who loves to use the body (6'1", 200 lbs). He brings a good effort (or battle level as Mike Yeo would say) nightly, and finds a way to get the job done. The average mock draft has Bleackley going somewhere between 20-30, but the Wild could stretch andgrab him with the number 18 pick.

RW Josh Ho-Sang, Windsor (OHL)
Skill wise, there might not be a better player in this draft than Ho-Sang. But what keeps him from being drafted higher has been his attitude (which has been highly documented lately). Some teams reportedly are not on board with how Ho-Sang handles himself on and off the ice, and you have to wonder where Minnesota stands on that as they try and continue to build not only a culture of winning, but a culture of good character. If Minnesota truly does stick to their "draft the best player available" philosophy when picking at 18, then Ho-Sang is a slam dunk pick (should he still be available). But again, it comes back to if the front office feels he can fit in with the type of culture they want in the locker room.

C Dylan Larkin, USNTDP U18 (USHL)
Some mock drafts have Larkin falling to the late first round. Should he be there when Minnesota is on the clock, it would not be surprising to see the Wild grab the 6'0" center. Larkin projects to be a solid two way center in the NHL (a poor man's Mikko Koivu, if you will). He averaged nearly a point per game this past year, while providing a solid defensive presence down the middle. He might not project to be a great offensive star in this league, but the Wild do love good two way centers.

RW Alex Tuch, USNTDP U18 (USHL)
At 6'4", 215 lbs, Tuch projects to be the best power forward to come out of the draft. He is a formidable net front presence who has no problem using his big frame to screen the opposing goaltender. In addition to being a force on the offensive side, Tuch is strong on the defensive end as well. If Tuch is still on the board at 18 (most mock drafts have him gone before then), the Wild would have to give him a good long look given the type of game he plays.

Follow Giles on Twitter @gilesferrell

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