Wild’s 5 Worst Draft Picks

Drafting in any sport is an inexact science mastered by none. Each year, hundreds of 18-year-old prospects enter the NHL’s talent pipeline in hopes of one day signing a life-altering contract. The reality is that the majority never fulfil their dream of playing in the NHL for one reason or another. Injuries, attitudes and other issues often get in the way and before long they are nothing but a name on a Wikipedia page alongside many others.

For all of the great Minnesota Wild draft picks, there are four that sit at the opposite end of the spectrum. The draft was possibly the first and last time that you heard their name, due to injuries or an overvaluation of their talent. Here they are:

Colton Gillies

Gillies was drafted 16th overall in 2007 and had a brief and forgetful NHL career with the Wild and Columbus Blue Jackets. At 6’4, Gillies had NHL size and was projected to be a hulking power forward, much like the Wild are banking on Jordan Greenway to be.

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Gillies was given opportunities, but a lack of skating ability and a spattering of injuries led to his demise before he was able to make any significant strides. He spent more time in the AHL with the Houston Aeros, only playing 89 games and scoring a meager 10 points with the Wild over four seasons. He was waived in 2012 and claimed by the Blue Jackets.

Gillies spent the next few years bouncing around the AHL and now plays for Dinamo Riga of the KHL.

Players Chosen After

Max Pacioretty (22nd), PK Subban (43rd)

Tyler Cuma

The Wild followed up the 2007 draft clunker by selecting Cuma 23rd overall in 2008. Similar to Gillies, injuries stood in the way of any progress the defenseman was able to make. It wasn’t long before he was surpassed on the depth chart by Marco Scandella, a second-rounder that same year.

When it was all said and done, Cuma played exactly one NHL game with the Wild before moving on to play professionally in Austria.

Players Chosen After

John Carlson (27th), Roman Josi (38th), Derek Stepan (51st)

Benoit Pouliot

With the lockout claiming the entirety of the 2004 season, the NHL returned in the summer of 2005 with the Sidney Crosby draft. Of course, the Pittsburgh Penguins are still reaping the rewards of that stroke of luck, and the Wild wasted its best draft selection since expansion on Pouliot at fourth overall.

In 65 uneventful games in a Wild sweater, Pouliot had nine goals and nine assists before being shipped to the Montreal Canadiens for Guillaume Latendresse in 2010. To his credit, he has transformed into a serviceable NHL player since leaving Minnesota.

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After proving himself with three consecutive one-year deals with three different teams, he secured a five-year, $20 million deal with the Edmonton Oilers, although he’s struggled this year.

Players Chosen After

Carey Price (5th), Anze Kopitar (11th), TJ Oshie (24th)

James Sheppard

James Sheppard
After being traded by the Wild to the Sharks, Sheppard bounced back and forth between the AHL and NHL. (Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports)

After making the jump from Canadian Juniors to the NHL in 2007, expectations were high for Sheppard, the ninth overall choice in the 2006 draft. He set a then-team record by playing 78 games in his rookie season and followed that up by playing all 82 the following season.

Despite securing a regular spot in the lineup, Jacques Lemaire buried Sheppard on the fourth line and gave him few opportunities in a scoring role despite the Wild’s weak offense.

The real nail in the coffin for Sheppard came when he broke his kneecap while riding an ATV in Colorado prior to the start of the 2010-11 season. He missed the entire season and was traded to the San Jose Sharks for a third rounder during the offseason.

Players Chosen After

Bryan Little (12th), Claude Giroux (22nd), Nick Foligno (28th)

AJ Thelen

Thelen is a prime example of a guy who was drafted and basically never heard from again.

Selected 12th overall in 2004, the Minnesota-native had just come off a monster freshman season at Michigan State. Everything from that point on went downhill in Thelen’s career. He was dismissed in the middle of his sophomore season for a violation of team rules and began his Juniors career in response.

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Shortly after leaving college, injuries, namely concussions, slowly derailed his career. He spent the majority of the next few years in the East Coast Hockey League before being forced to give up his hockey career at the age of 25 as a result of his ailments.

Players Chosen After

Devan Dubnyk (14th), Alexander Radulov (15th), Cory Schneider (26th)