After a brief hiatus, the 14th installment in this series has arrived after looking at how the Minnesota Wild did in their first 13 NHL Entry Drafts. If you missed any of them or want a refresher, you can find those recaps below:
- 2000: Franchise’s Inaugural Draft
- 2001: Minnesota Gets Its Captain
- 2002: Late Round Woes
- 2003: Most Disappointing Draft Yet
- 2004: A Draft With No Standouts
- 2005: Starting the New Era Off with a Whimper
- 2006: More Missed Opportunities
- 2007: Prospect Cupboards Continue Being Empty
- 2008: Another First-Round Bust
- 2009: O.K. Draft to Finish the Decade
- 2010: Best Draft in a Long Time
- 2011: Wild Draft an All-Time Great Defenseman
- 2012: Minnesota Adds Another Key Defender
The Wild finally snapped their four-year playoff drought during a lockout-shortened 2012-13 NHL season, finishing with a 26-19-3 record and 55 points. Unfortunately, Minnesota’s postseason run didn’t bring any success as the team was eliminated in five guys in the first round by the Chicago Blackhawks. Following their exit, the Wild turn their attention to the 2013 NHL Entry Draft without a first-round pick after trading theirs away, along with other pieces, to the Buffalo Sabres for Jason Pominville and a fourth-rounder.
Without a first-round selection, did the Wild find anyone who’d help them in the future? Or was it another disappointing draft day for the organization? Read on and find out.
Early Rounds (1st and 2nd)
Round 2, 46th Overall – Gustav Olofsson, Defense (Green Bay Gamblers, USHL)
The Wild stayed off the clock until the 46th overall pick of the night, selecting defenseman Gustav Olofsson from the Green Bay Gamblers of the United States Hockey League (USHL). The selection marked the fifth time in six drafts that Minnesota used their first pick on a blueliner. Nevertheless, Olofsson was coming off of an impressive USHL season that saw him record two goals and 21 assists in 63 games for the Gamblers and was. even named to the All-Rookie team.
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Olofsson decided to take the collegiate route for the 2013-14 season, playing for Colorado College. While he didn’t have the same offensive success that he did in the USHL, the Swedish defenseman still finished the year with four goals and assists apiece in 30 games. That was all the Wild needed to see for him because they signed him to his three-year entry-level deal as soon as the NCAA season was over. He ended up playing eight games for Minnesota that same season, scoring a goal.
Unfortunately, injuries plagued Olofsson from reaching his full potential with the Wild organization. For example, he played just one game in the 2014-15 American Hockey League (AHL) campaign due to a season-ending shoulder injury. He spent a majority of the next two seasons with Iowa, tallying 41 points in 111 games. His success in the minors earned him a total of 56 career games with the Wild, however, his play was never good enough to warrant a permanent spot (just 11 assists during that span).
While the Wild did re-sign Olofsson to a two-year contract in June 2017, they went on to trade him to the Montreal Canadiens one year later in exchange for forward prospect William Bitten. Olofsson is still with the Canadiens organization today, but his injury history has limited him to three NHL and 93 AHL games in three seasons.
Middle Rounds (3rd — 4th)
Round 3, 81st Overall – Kurtis Gabriel, Right Wing (Owen Sound Attack, OHL)
The Owen Sound Attack’s Kurtis Gabriel was the Wild’s next pick in the 2013 draft, having been selected 81st overall. The Newmarket, ON native was known for his grit in the Ontario Hockey League after registering nearly 200 penalty minutes (PIMs) in his first three seasons. Not only that, but Minnesota was hoping that his 6-foot-4 frame could come in handy when it came to giving them a bigger forward core in the future.
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After spending another season in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL), Gabriel made his professional debut with Iowa at the end of the 2013-14 campaign. He performed decently, potting a pair of goals and adding two assists in the eight games he played. It didn’t take long for Gabriel to become Iowa’s top tough guy in the coming years. After all, none of his AHL teammates came close to matching the 262 PIMs he registered in just 133 games across the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons.
The Wild called Gabriel up a few times during his time with the organization, amounting to 16 games played in which he recorded an assist and 39 penalty minutes. The call-ups ended in 2017-18, leading to him hitting free agency in the following offseason. Since then, Gabriel has played for four different organizations, spending most of that time in the AHL. At the end of the day, he’s just another example of another earlier Wild draft pick who didn’t turn into an impact player.
Round 4, 107th Overall – Dylan Labbe, Defenseman (Shawinigan Cataractes, QMJHL)
With a defense-first identity for most of the organization’s history, it’s unsurprising that the Wild selected another D-man in the 2013 draft. This time they used their fourth-round selection on the Shawinigan Cataractes’ Dylan Labbe. After registering 28 points in 61 games in his Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) rookie season, it was clear that Minnesota saw Labbe as someone who could fit in as a potential bottom-four defenseman one day. The NHL club was so high on him that they gave him 13 AHL games after the 2013-14 QMJHL season had concluded. He finished with three points during that opportunity and was sent to the juniors for the following campaign.
The move paid off at first because Labbe scored a career-high 51 points in 63 games in the regular season before adding another eight points in seven postseason contests. Much to the Wild’s dismay, the young defenseman never translated that performance into professional success. He mustered a disappointing eight points in his next 73 games with Iowa, even having a stint in the ECHL during the 2016-17 season. He remained in the ECHL for the next two seasons before switching to the Ligue Nord-Américaine de Hockey in 2018-19 where he continues to play to this day.
Late Rounds (5th — 7th)
Round 5, 137th Overall – Carson Soucy, Defenseman (Spruce Grove Saints, AJHL)
Carson Soucy is one of the few players who played in the Alberta Junior Hockey League to reach his NHL dreams. He played 42 games over two years for the Spruce Grove Saints, recording five goals and 10 assists. His two-way talents convinced the Wild to make him their third defender in four picks with the 137th overall pick.
Soucy gained points from the local fanbase when it was announced that he was continuing his hockey journey with the University of Minnesota Duluth. While some players may stay a year or two in the NCAA, he stayed for the full four-year experience, amassing 47 points in 147 games. Once his collegiate tenure was over, Soucy found an immediate role in Iowa during the 2017-18 season. He played 67 games that season, scoring a goal and adding 14 assists while leading the team with a +12 plus/minus rating. That momentum continued into the following season with a 20-point AHL campaign in one fewer game.
Soucy finally became a full-time NHLer in the 2019-20 season, playing 55 games for Minnesota. At 6-foot-5, he added size to the Wild’s bottom pairing while playing just over 15 minutes per game. Even though he didn’t play the most minutes, he still contributed on both ends of the ice. His seven goals and seven assists were impressive, however, so was the fact that he had 69 hits, 50 blocked shots and 17 takeaways while being a +16. Ultimately, his efforts awarded him with a three-year, $8.25 million extension on Oct. 5, 2020. Fortunately, Soucy proved that his performance wasn’t a fluke, upping his point total to 17 (in five fewer games) and leading all Wild players with a +22 rating.
Just as Soucy was becoming a fan favorite, his time with the Wild came to an end because of the 2021 Expansion Draft. His name was certainly the most attractive of the players that Minnesota left exposed to the Seattle Kraken, making him an easy choice for the NHL’s newest franchise. He’s signed with them until the end of the 2022-23 season, so only time will tell if he can find an everyday spot on Seattle’s blue line.
Round 6, 167th Overall – Avery Peterson, Center (Grand Rapids High School, Minnesota)
After a brief USHL stint in the following season, Peterson spent the next four years between the Universities of Nebraska Omaha and Minnesota Duluth. He showed some glimmers of potential at times, but he never could perform in the NCAA like he could in the lower leagues. There wasn’t anything about his game that warranted a serious look from the Wild, leaving the Grand Rapids, MN native spending the next three seasons in the ECHL. He currently plays for the AHL’s Milwaukee Admirals in the 2021-22 season, going pointless in his first five games.
Round 7, 167th Overall – Nolan De Jong, Defenseman (Victoria Grizzlies, BCHL)
It didn’t take long for Minnesota to go back to its old ways, using its first of two seventh-round draft picks on another defenseman. This time it was Nolan De Jong, who committed to the University of Michigan for the 2013-14 NCAA hockey season. In total, he spent four seasons with the Wolverines, however, it was his 2015-16 campaign that was his best. He was arguably one of his team’s best defensive d-men, leading Michigan defenders with a +22 rating while chipping in offensively with 11 assists. His season got even better from there when the Wolverines won the 2016 Big Ten Men’s Ice Hockey Tournament.
Like Peterson, De Jong didn’t get a shot at playing with the Wild. Instead, he became a minor-league journeyman, playing for six different AHL and ECHL teams between 2017 and 2019. He has since retired from the sport, electing to enrol at the Michigan State University College of Law.
Round 7, 200th Overall – Alexandre Belanger, Goaltender (Rouyn-Noranda Huskies, QMJHL)
The Wild returned to the QMJHL for their final pick of the weekend, selecting Rouyn-Noranda Huskies goaltender Alexandre Belanger with pick No. 200. Needless to say, there wasn’t a lot of hype around his selection. Despite going 24-13-4 in the 2012-13 QMJHL season, Belanger’s 3.46 goals-against average (GAA) and .875 save percentage (SV%) left a lot to be desired. He never made any large developmental leaps, only getting marginally better each year.
Beginning in 2016, Belanger continued his career at the Université du Québec-Trois-Rivières. At the time, it looked like a move that benefited him, proven by the fact that he never had a sub-.900 SV% or GAA worse than 2.99 during his three-year stay. Unfortunately, he was relegated to splitting starts or in a backup role throughout his tenure so he never stood out. The Wild never gave him a look, which led to him joining the Ligue de Hockey Sénior AAA du Québec, where he played as recently as 2019-20.
Overall Wild Draft Grade: D
There’s no way to cut it: this wasn’t a good draft showing for the Wild. Aside from Soucy, none of the prospects from this class has amounted to much. Even then, it’s saying something that Minnesota’s best selection was its fifth-round pick. Yes, the Wild didn’t have their first-round pick and not every selection can be a hit, but 226 combined NHL games between seven players since 2013 is more than underwhelming.