Draft moves get Yeo excited for the coming season
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We're still several months from the first time the Minnesota Wild players will don sweaters and Mike Yeo will stand behind them on the team bench, directing traffic as they face live fire from a hostile enemy. But on Saturday during the second day of the NHL draft, the new Wild head coach admitted that the team's moved had him itching for the season to start.
Already, visions of pairing the passing ability of Pierre-Marc Bouchard with the "shoot first" mentality of newly-acquired forward Devin Setoguchi are dancing in the young coach's head.
"It's going to be fun planning that stuff," Yeo said. "I'm excited about the group we have. We're ready to get going and I know there's been a big statement made here."
The statements of day one (when the Wild used picks and trades to get what they characterized as the equivalent of four first-round picks) spilled over into day two, when the Wild traded up to select local product Mario Lucia. Yeo admitted he hasn't seen Lucia play, but he likes what he's heard about the former Wayzata High School star.
"Everybody is really excited that we could find a way to get him into our organization," he said. "I know that he comes from a good hockey family and that's something that is sometimes overlooked - to be around the game and know what it takes."
Lucia's father, Gophers coach Don Lucia, said that the Gophers were always Mario's team, but he follows the Wild and all of the NHL closely, watching for ex-Gophers he knows.
"He's a guy that constantly turns on the NHL Network, and I'm the guy who has to turn it off and tell him to do his homework," joked the elder Lucia.
The Wild stayed local in the fifth round, grabbing Eden Prairie High School defenseman Nick Seeler, who is bound for college hockey at Nebraska-Omaha next season. They rounded out the draft with selections of Connecticut high school goalie Stephen Michalek, who will play collegiate hockey at Harvard next season and Canadian center Tyler Graovac who was grabbed in the seventh round.
All of those are prospects to be considered for NHL jobs two or three years from now. But the immediate impact from this weekend will come from Setoguchi.
"With Devin we're getting a goal-scorer," Yeo said. "We're getting a guy who loves to shoot the puck and when he shoots it, he shoots it really hard and really accurately. I've always been a got that I want to see a lot of shots taken. I believe in shooting the puck on net as many times as you can."
That's a sharp contrast from the previous regimes of Jacques Lemaire and Todd Richards, for who shots on goal were seemingly unimportant. If that sharp contrast also means a trip to the playoffs 10 months from now, all of the promise of these summer days in St. Paul will be fulfilled.