Thoughts on Wild taking Eden Prairie’s Nick Leddy; Quotes from Chuck Fletcher, Tommy Thompson, Jordan Schroeder

Posted on June 26th, 2009 – 11:32 PM
By Michael Russo

Ha. There are always people unhappy. Open my email box now and subject “Wild cave in to Gophers pressure.” Next one: “Wild take wrong Gopher.”

First, I genuinely believe the Wild did not do the P.R. thing here and take the Minnesotan because some alienated Minnesotans wanted them to. That’d be absolutely absurd, and if something like that did happen, everybody should be fired tonight. Thompson did say other Minnesotans are in their “gun sights” Saturday, but it’s only because they’re very, very good…Guys Thompson mentioned are Budish, Mike Lee and Birkholz are available.

First-round picks are too precious, as proven by the steps back the Wild took when it blew its 2004 and 2005 first-rounders.

As I’ve been telling you for a few days, the Wild absolutely love Nick Leddy. They’ve seen him more than any draft-eligible player arguably — Tommy Thompson alone 12 times — and they wanted this dynamic player whom Chuck Fletcher called the typical “new-rules defenseman.”

I knew they valued him more than Jordan Schroeder, who as I think I mentioned yesterday, another team’s scout predicted this because they “already have Pierre-Marc Bouchard.” Unfortunately Schroeder’s size (5-8) clearly hurt as he slipped to 22.

But, there is no doubt, taking Leddy over Schroeder will create years of comparisons of their development and debates, ESPECIALLY now that Schroeder landed with the bitter Vancouver Canucks. Oh my, if Schroeder goes there and develops into a star, …

In hope you enjoyed the Twitters tonight. It was actually fun, although I probably went overboard. But it was kind of cool to break the Pronger story, predict Leddy coming to the Wild and give you play by play of the trade being made. Chuck Fletcher was working hard to trade 16, too, but he wouldn’t take the risk to drop more than five spots and everybody that offered him something was too far. As I mentioned on Twitter, Columbus GM Scott Howson sprinted to Fletcher because the Jackets wanted John Moore, but Fletcher didn’t want to drop 10 spots and risk losing Leddy.

The Jackets got Moore anyway.

Fletcher did say he was offered a player at one point for 12, but the team called back when the guy they wanted was taken. Only one trade was made in the entire league, showing it is awfully difficult making trades in this salary-cap world. A lot of teams are in lots and lots of trouble, although Fletcher hopes to commit highway robbery this summer when these overstuffed teams with cap issues look to dump guys.

Fletcher did achieve one thing. He added a third-rounder and another seventh, giving the Wild eight picks Saturday and nine total — the amount of picks the Wild had the previous two drafts.

Does this change free agency strategy now that the Wild didn’t pick up any NHLers? I’ll write about that Sunday. By the way, Fletcher would not comment on Marian Gaborik’s situation.

You can read more on Leddy in Saturday’s paper. His uncle actually was Todd Richards’ defense partner at Armstrong. I talked to Steve Leddy, whose brother Mike is Steve’s brother, and I’ll put those quotes up tomorrow.

Here’s some quotes:

Jordan Schroeder

On dropping: “My parents were very positive. They kept saying, ‘You’re going to go. We have faith in you. We love you very much, so don’t worry about it.’ The draft is just a number. It’s what you do after the draft that counts. But I’m more than excited right now. Once I was finally called, I was very relieved.”

On the Wild passing him up for Leddy: “They probably wanted a defenseman, they wanted more picks. I’m happy for Nick. He’s a great player, a great kid. Minnesota-Vancouver has a little rivalry there and I’m more than glad I’m with Vancouver.”

On Luongo calling him to the stage: ”That was an amazing experience. Him welcoming me to the team and the organization, just amazing. He’s a star in the NHL and hopefully we’ll be future teammates.”

On NJ trading to 21 and did he think American-fan Lou Lamoriello would take him: “When they traded up, I had a pretty good feeling. But it didn’t happen, so you’ve got to move on and I’m glad I’m in Vancouver.”

Tommy Thompson

Thompson

On Leddy: “I think perhaps the most difficult thing in hockey to find is a defenseman who can legitimately generate offense. And what you have to watch at the lower level of hockey to me are the guys that just try to beat people one-on-one and outskate people. They look good there but it’s hard to translate that into a higher level. This guy has hockey sense, he can move the puck, he was a winner, he competed hard. First half of the year when I was out there, there weren’t any scouts. By the Finals, there were. … He’s a later developer physically, his dad is an inch taller than him and a thick man. We’re delighted to have him.The best part of my job is watching hockey games. I like to be entertained and this guy’s fun to watch.

Schroeder? My concern from about halfway through the year is what happens if we take one of the Minnesota guys and people say it’s a public relations exercise. The one thing I was trying to assure these people and their families is if we took the player, we legitimately thought he was the best prospect in the world. … It’s a disaster if you don’t pick the best player. We’re delighted that there were some there. theyre not the two only ones that are good prospects. There’s a few more in our gun sights tomorrow. We’ll see what happens. It’s not an indictment on Jordan Schroeder at all. We like Jordan Schroeder. He was in our top group of people we would have been excited to get. I think what you look at really is it comes down to it with two really good hockey players is the job that one does, the role he can fill, is it harder to find? i think what leddy provides is the hardest thing to find … It’s not just Jordan. There were other good players on the board. We still had four other guys we were excited about were still there. that’s the essence of this job is making choices.

Chuck Fletcher

On lack of trades: There was a lot of talk and a lot of tire kicking and at the end of the day I just found it difficult to complete any, and obviously most of the teams experienced the same feeling.

Do you think there will be more later? “I was wrong with my initial prediction that there would be a lot of trades here; maybe there will be some tomorrow. That’s hard to say. I know we’ve had a lot of conversations — a lot of teams have had a lot of conversations. You would assume there would still be the possibility of some trades even going into the first few weeks of free agency. But, again, in a cap system, it seems a little bit more difficult to make trades than it was before.

Change game plan for free agency? No, not really. I thought it was really important to explore what may be out there before we go into free agency because if you make a trade, then obviously you control the asset coming back. When you get into free agency, you’re in a market where you’re bidding, so you never know whether you’ll get the player or not. But certainly there are still players available, and there will be players available in free agency. We’ll just go about trying to identify the guys we need and see how many we can get.

On Gaborik: That’s a hard question to answer. I prefer just not to comment on that right now.

On moving down: There were a lot of teams that had contacted me all week about moving up to 12 depending who was there. At the end of the day we decided to move back and take a couple additional picks. The last two years we’ve had nine picks combined, and now we have nine this year. I felt it was very important to us to add more picks so we could restock the cupboards and restock our talent pool. This will give us a chance to draft a lot of kids tomorrow.

Could you have gotten player for 12th? There was one scenario where a team had discussed moving us a player for the pick outright, but they called back after one of the earlier picks and said their player had been taken. There was a lot of teams interested depending on who fell to 12, but the majority of talks were all centered around draft picks.

On trying to move 16: “We had calls, but the teams that were calling were a little too far back. Nick was the guy we had identified, and we decided, ‘Why take the risk?’

Did you take leddy because he’s from minnesota? “Not at all. Again, first-round picks are so precious; you have to take the best asset available and Nick is a prototypical new-rules defenseman. He can skate, he can handle the puck, he’s going to have the ability to play on the power play, he’s a competitive kid. He’s going to have to get a little stronger, but the great thing is that going to the University of Minnesota, he’ll have that ability to get stronger over the next couple of seasons. But the things he does well, you can’t teach — intelligence and skill. Those are the type of defenseman that every contending team needs.

Good night.

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