Despite missing playoffs, Wild likely to get only slight draft boost

18 April 2024

The Wild’s season will be over on Friday, an anomaly for a team that had made the postseason in 10 of the previous 11 seasons. Yet Minnesota managed to keep one thing consistent this season:

They weren’t bad enough to earn a chance at the No. 1 overall pick in this summer’s entry draft.

Despite a 5-10-4 start that cost Dean Evason his job, the Wild made a run at a playoff spot that didn’t officially end until last week in Colorado and in fact went 34-23-5 under head coach John Hynes.

That’s promising news for next season, but it also perpetuated what has been a general knock on a franchise that has advanced past the second round of the postseason only once: They’re never good enough to do anything in the playoffs, never bad enough to draft a slam-dunk superstar.

In their 24-season existence, the Wild have never held the No. 1 pick in the entry draft and have picked in the Top 5 only twice, taking wing Marian Gaborik with the third overall pick in 2000 and center Benoit Pouliot fourth overall in 2005.

Left wing Kirill Kaprizov, the only Wild player to score 40 or more goals in more than one season — three straight after reaching 45 through 81 games this year — was a fifth-round pick in 2015.

One of 16 teams that missed the 2023-24 postseason, the Wild were in line for the 13th overall pick. They will participate in the draft lottery when it takes place sometime early next month, but under NHL rules enacted before the 2022 draft, they can’t rise any higher in the order than 10 points off their final total.

With 87 points before Thursday’s game against Seattle — 13th in the NHL — the Wild could rise no higher than sixth, and that would fall further if they were to beat Seattle at Xcel Energy Center. The final order will be determined after Thursday night’s games.

After making the playoffs last season, the Wild picked 21st overall.

Minnesota fan

Marc-Andre Fleury and the Wild announced Wednesday they had agreed on a one-year, $2.5 million contract extension, officially ending the veteran goaltender’s flirtation with retirement.

Playing for his fourth organization, Fleury said he only would have returned to play in Minnesota.

“I think it speaks volumes to the way we do things here, that a guy like Flower would want to stay here and only here,” general manager Bill Guerin said.


“I think first and foremost, my kids, they were in school in Vegas, they went to Chicago and then we came here and I’m going to retire and move again to another school,” Fleury said. “I didn’t want to move them again somewhere else.”

That being said, he added, he believes in the team, which should return in large part intact next fall.

“Obviously, very disappointed for the season to miss the playoffs,” Fleury said, “but I believe the group of guys that we have, staying healthy all season, better start maybe … I’m confident we can come back and make the playoffs here.”

Role model

After failing to make the NHL roster out of camp and subsequently playing his second full season at the Wild’s AHL affiliate in Des Moines, Marco Rossi spent the majority of his summer in Minnesota working with Wild staff and players.

After adding 15 pounds of muscle, Rossi, 22, looked like a different player in training camp, made the team and scored 21 goals in 81 games, second only to Chicago center Connor Bedard’s 22.

But that isn’t all it did for the young center. The decision not to return to his native Austria after last season showed the organization that he’s a serious person with serious goals.

“It’s nice to see him get rewarded for it because he made, as a young player, the type of professional commitment that you need to make in the offseason,” Hynes said.

Hynes, in fact, said he’d like to see Rossi’s teammates follow his lead this summer.

“I think the big thing is he made a big commitment,” Hynes said, adding, “You know, he wasn’t traveling all over the place. It wasn’t a trip here, a trip there. He was here, training four or five days a week, training consistently, and that’s how you can really improve in the summer.”


Fleury was honored Thursday with the Tom Kurvers Humanitarian Award, given annually “to the player who best exemplifies leadership qualities on and off the ice and has made a noteworthy humanitarian contribution in his community.”

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