Chuck Fletcher took the helm of the Minnesota Wild on May 22, 2009 and ran the club for just shy of a full decade when he was let go on April 23, 2018. He was responsible for nine drafts and pulled a mixed bag to say the least. A common theme of early success and next-to-no depth in the later rounds. Outside trades also limited the success his picks found in Minnesota, which became a real mess for their development system for most of his tenure.
2009 was Chuck Fletcher’s first draft he oversaw as the GM of the Minnesota Wild, but he only held the position 35 days before the draft took place. Considering he only had about a month to assess their scout’s findings to make the selections, who knows how much of a say he ultimately had this season, but it didn’t turn out that well. Nick Leddy was packaged in a trade eight months after the draft for famous draft bust Cam Barker. Kuemper spent four seasons with the Wild, but played second fiddle to Nicklas Backstrom and later Devan Dubynk before leaving in free agency in 2017. Haula was a fine depth player for the Wild before he was selected by the Golden Knights in the 2017 expansion draft in another famous flub by Fletcher. There isn’t much talent in the rest of the draft and all three players that are seeing successful careers are doing so outside Minnesota.
This was Fletcher’s first full draft with plenty of time to invest and carefully mull over their selections. This one actually started off well as Mikael Granlund was a key piece for the Wild for seven seasons. Larsson played one game in Minnesota before being dealt to the Sabres in 2013 in a trade that landed them Jason Pominville. Zucker was a quality selection at 59th overall and played parts of nine seasons with the Wild before a trade sent him to Pittsburgh.
2011 was the first year of a pattern that emerged under Chuck Fletcher, a successful first round pick with little to no success to speak of later in the draft. Jonas Brodin has been a cornerstone for the Wild’s defense since the 2012-13 season, but only two of the other five picks even made the NHL at all.
The pattern sticks around for year two as Dumba has become one of their top defenseman and five of their other six picks never even made the NHL.
|7||Nolan De Jong||0||0||0||0|
This ended up being a complete disaster of a draft. Olofsson has been mainly a minor league player who is currently in the Canadiens system, Gabriel has played for three other teams since his draft year, again mainly in the AHL, and Soucy has started to see regular NHL minutes since the 2019-20 season as the Wild’s seventh defenseman.
A whole lotta zeros in 2014. Alex Tuch has actually developed into a good player for the Golden Knights, but his Wild tenure came to an end after just six games as part of the infamous flub at the 2017 expansion draft when Fletcher offered Tuch to Vegas in exchange for them selecting Erik Haula. It ended up being one of the dumbest moves made during the expansion draft. Goalie Kaapo Kahkonen did make the jump to the NHL during the 2021 season and looks like he has plenty of potential for the future, and let’s hope he does because it’s the only saving grace in 2014.
|1||Joel Eriksson Ek||266||43||53||96|
This draft played the long game in terms of development, but it may be the year that goes down as the best of Fletcher’s time in Minnesota. Eriksson Ek has developed into a sneaky good two-way forward, Greenway’s game is still developing but he’s been a solid playmaker who hasn’t been afraid to get physical, and Kaprizov is a Russian rookie sensation that could very well be on his way to winning the Calder Trophy after posting 51 points in his rookie season and could be the biggest star the Wild have seen since the heyday of Marian Gaborik.
Holding the second wild card spot for the 2016 playoffs, the Wild decided to be buyers at the deadline and their draft picks were the main casualty. Their second, third and sixth picks were dealt for Matt Moulson, Sean Bergenheim, and David Jones respectively. That fifth round pick was swapped with the Bruins the previous summer and allowed the Wild to take Kaprizov. Kunin was the lone worthwhile player they walked away with, and as the theme of this story goes, was later traded to Nashville, though that wasn’t under Fletcher’s watch.
Not often you see a board of complete zeros, but so far that’s what the 2017 has to show for Fletcher’s last draft at the helm. Lodina and Shaw are both in the the Wild’s development system.
Chuck Fletcher has an interesting track record with the Wild. He drafted well in the early round, but outside trades took away the ability to reap the benefits of the players he selected. Seven of his nine first round picks have been successes, but the later picks not so much. Outside of Kaprizov, Kuemper, Zucker and Haula, there’s no NHL talent to speak of past the third round.
There are some similarities comparing his run in Minnesota to his first two drafts in Philly. In 2019 he picked Cam York in the first round, a kid who seeming has unlimited potential in the NHL, and the rest of the draft is a murky mess. Egor Serdyuk and Roddy Ross were not handed contracts, Ronnie Attard’s stock has fallen since his draft year, Mason Millman did sign an ELC and is currently playing with the Phantoms, and Bobby Brink is still unsigned while he plays in college. A first round success and so far a rather bleak outlook for the later rounds.
He did change his tune in 2020 when he only made five selections but traded up for two of them. Those picks ended up being Zayde Wisdom and Elliot Desnoyers, both have signed ELCs and look to be prospects with potential.
Maybe he turned a new leaf and decided to take the advice of his scouts and opt for quality over quantity? That’s certainly how 2020 turned out and seems like a viable approach most seasons. Time will tell how Fletcher’s Flyers picks turn out, but if his track record in Minnesota means anything, it may not be the best news for the development system for years to come.
By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)
photo credit: hockeywilderness.com