Equipped with draft capital, Wild ready to take big swing on top prospects

Jean Pieri/Pioneer Press/TNS
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In the wake of the Zach Parise and Ryan Suter contract buyouts, the Wild will spend the next few years trying to build a Stanley Cup contender on a budget. In total, the Wild will carry roughly $12.7 million in dead cap for the 2022-23 season with that figure jumping to $14.7 million in dead cap for both the 2023-24 and 2024-25 seasons.

That puts a lot of pressure on the scouting department to bring in talent that can contribute at a fraction of the cost. As general manager Bill Guerin has reiterated, the Wild are going to need young players to step up sooner rather than later.

For director of amateur scouting Judd Brackett, the pursuit of those top prospects continues this week at the 2022 NHL Draft, which starts Thursday night in Montreal.

“This draft has a little bit of everything,” Brackett said. “You’ve got high skill. You’ve got elite skaters. You’ve got puck movers. You’ve got power-play defensemen. It’s exciting. And for us, I think we’re going to get two quality players in the first round. We’re just going to have be patient and see how it unfolds.”

After trading star winger Kevin Fiala in a blockbuster move, the Wild now have two picks in the first round (No. 19 and No. 24) and two picks in the second (No. 47 and No. 56).

“When you’ve got a little extra ammo, you’re maybe a little less averse to risk, so you might take a bigger swing knowing that you have some backup picks,” said Brackett, who also acknowledged that the draft board is pretty much set in stone. “We won’t make any big changes just because we have another first-round pick.”

As far as draft philosophy, the Wild will more than likely still opt for best player available this week regardless of position. Never mind that the farm system is currently loaded with young defensemen. Because a majority of these top prospects are still at least a couple of years away from contributing in the NHL, there’s no reason to focus on a specific need.

“We’re talking about 17-year-old players, so there’s still a maturation process,” Brackett said. “The roster composition is something we’re obviously aware of, just less so when it comes to drafting. We want to try and find the best player available. It could be a forward. It could be a defenseman. At that stage of the draft it’s going to be dictated a little bit by what others do in front of us.”

Though he’s well aware of the financial crunch the Wild are facing, Brackett made it clear that the organization won’t rush their top prospects.

“We want our players to arrive as prepared as possible as opposed to being there the quickest,” Brackett said. “Whether it’s Marco Rossi or a player from this draft, we want to give them the most resources available and make them the best player and most prepared to be when they arrive and they can help the Wild.”

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