Minnetonka’s Hagen Burrows, the 2024 Mr. Hockey, projects to be a mid to late round pick in tonight’s NHL Draft. LPH PHOTO BY BRYAN ZOLLMAN

Wild will choose No. 13 overall in an international-heavy, deep draft

by T.R. Holler/Regional Scout/Let’s Play Hockey Contributor

The Minnesota Wild embark on their silver jubilee draft at the new Las Vegas Sphere tonight, June 28th at 6PM CST (ESPN) and concluding Day 2 on Saturday afternoon.

Barely forty-two hours later, NHL free agency kicks off Monday, July 1, so as the Wild trudge through the final year of buyout misery we advise, barring an unforeseen trade, not betting on much Wild free agency action. With such limited free agency options, the Wild enter the ’24 draft with ever-tightening collars on heels of a non-playoff season, so we present the following ’24 NHL draft primer as if LPH were seated at the Wild draft table tonight.

The ’24 NHL draft carries another Bedard-like superstar in Hobey Baker award winner, Macklin Celebrini-C (BU), undoubtedly San Jose-bound as the #1 overall pick. From there, picks #2 through #224 are as unpredictable as June weather in Minnesota. The first round’s top 12 slots will likely see the top-six ranked defenseman (Levshunov/Buium/Silayev/ Parekh /Dickinson/Yakemchuk) selected with the Wild potentially missing out on their most coveted position of need, an imposing, smooth skating, right-shot defenseman as their recently drafted D-men languish in Iowa. The Wild hold the #13 pick in a deep draft, so taking the ‘best available’ is still the prudent move over a ‘need’ pick. We forecast the first two rounds for the Wild unfolding as follows;

  • Cole Eiserman-LW (USNTDP), the newly minted all-time USNTDP scoring leader, having bypassed Cole Caulfield with his record-breaking laser wrister, will drop to #8-#15,
    Cole Eiserman

    but if Eiserman is available at #13 – the Wild will take the best pure scorer (58-31-89/57) in the draft. He will improve his two-way game next year at BU, but the scoring talent is can’t-miss. If Eiserman is off the books at #13, there might prove to be one of the top-six defensemen available, and could be a gift in  Carter Yakemchuk-D, (Calgary/WHL) – should this scenario occur, you turn in the ticket before you’re even officially on the clock! Yakemchuk (30-41-71/66) is a snarly 6’3”/205 offensive-defenseman with a complete three-zone game, heavy presence, and blistering one-timer. Within two years, Yakemchuk could anchor the Wild’s second D-pair.  A potential pairing with Brock Faber would be absolute Valhalla.

  • As a contingency plan, should both Eiserman and Yakemchuk come off the board prior the Wild slot at #13,  the following checklist could bode well for the Wild: Beckett Sennecke-RW (Oshawa/OHL) a fleet, confident puck driver and deceptive shooter. The 6’2”/181 winger is a 200 ft. playmaker (27-41-68/63) with sublime passing skills and a hard driver below the dots. Next up as solid options are Konsta Helenius-C (Jukurit/Liiga) followed by Michael Brandsegg-Nygard-RW (Mora-IK). Both feisty, high IQ playmakers with upwardly mobile top-six star potential taking the pressure off Kap and Bolds.

To recap, here are solid options for the Wild at pick #13;

1A. Cole Eiserman-LW (USNTDP)

1B. Carter Yakemchuk-D (Calgary/WHL)

  1. Beckett Sennecke-RW (Oshawa/OHL)
  2. Konsta Helenius-C (Jukurit/Liiga)
  3. Michael Brandsegg-Nygard-RW (Mora-IK)

On the draft’s second day, the Wild carry the 45th overall pick where a manna from heaven scenario would be snagging the late rising, quiet assassin, John Mustard-LW (Waterloo/USHL). Mustard is an absolute burner with a dynamic power stride and change of pace deception that fueled a 29-27-56/60 season as a 17yr old who projects to 6’1”/190, upon full physical maturation. Mustard has the vertical speed the Wild covet. Thus, the Wild ’24 NHL dream draft plays out as follows;

John Mustard/Waterloo Black Hawks

#13 – 1A. Cole Eiserman-LW  /  1B. Carter Yakemchuk-D

#45 – John Mustard-LW

On the local Minnesota landscape, in as much as the NTDP program has local products in Will Skahan-D, Brodie Ziemer-RW, and Max Plante-RW, we do not project any of the three to be scooped in the first two rounds. However, they will fly in round 3 to be sure, so theoretically between #65-#97. Sprinkled in-between, and potentially above the local NTDPers will be the likes of Colin Ralph-D and Will Zellers-L/RW (both of Shattuck), Adam Kleber-D, (Lincoln/Chaska) and finally, Minnesota’s current Mr. Hockey, Hagen Burrows-RW (Mtka/Sx City). Burrows latest news finds him pioneering west a year earlier than projected, joining Denver this fall ’24 after a stellar USHL run.

Safe to say, rounds three through five will provide strong Minnesota representation in this internationally heavy draft. Perhaps most intriguing, is tracking the back end of the draft in rounds six and seven to see the dreams of Carson Pilgrim-RW (Warroad), Nolan Roed-C (WBL) and Javon Moore-LW (Mtka) come to fruition. Any of these players could surprise as an early 4th rd selection or as late as a 7th rd selection. We also will keep a keen eye on Gavin Uhlenkamp-C (Chan) as one of our favorite sparkplugs.

Best wishes to all and enjoy the draft.

T.R. Holler is a regional amateur scout covering the Upper Midwest

UND commit and Warroad star Carson Pilgrim is one of several Minnesotans who could hear their name called this weekend at the NHL Draft. LET’S PLAY HOCKEY PHOTO BY JACKSON BOLINE.