The seventh installment in this series has arrived after previously looking at how the Minnesota Wild did in their first six drafts. If you missed any of them or want a refresher, you can find those recaps below:
The Wild finished the 2006-07 NHL season with a 48-26-8 record and 104 points, qualifying for the playoffs for the first time since 2002-03. Unfortunately, their postseason run was a quick one as they were eliminated in the first round by the Anaheim Ducks. Nevertheless, the experience was enough to leave Minnesota fans wanting more. With five picks in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, did the Wild get the help that they needed to take the team to the next level?
Continue reading to find out.
Early Rounds (1st and 2nd)
Round 1, 16th Overall – Colton Gillies, LW (Saskatoon Blades, WHL)
Originally, the Wild were slated to have the No. 19 pick in the draft, but they ended up trading it (along with a 2007 second-round pick) on draft day to the Ducks for the 16th-overall section (originally Tampa Bay Lightning’s first). Minnesota then used its newly acquired pick to draft Colton Gillies from the Saskatoon Blades of the Western Hockey League (WHL). Gillies wasn’t the most skilled player in his junior days, finishing his 2006-07 season with 30 points in 65 games while racking up 148 penalty minutes. After being drafted, he spent one more season with the Blades and even won a gold medal with Team Canada at the World Juniors.
Gillies made his professional debut later that season, playing 11 games for the Houston Aeros in the American Hockey League (AHL). The White Rock, British Columbia-native impressed the team during that stretch, tallying one goal and seven assists in that span. The Wild hoped that he could have that success at the next level, which resulted in them keeping him in the NHL for the entire 2008-09 campaign. Much to everyone’s dismay, Gillies had just seven points in 45 games that campaign and ended up spending the majority of the next two seasons back in the NHL. However, the Wild still had faith in him and signed him to a two-year contract in July 2011.
Gillies didn’t get to spend that much more time in Minnesota. He started the 2011-12 season with just two assists in 37 games before the Wild placed him on waivers. The Columbus Blue Jackets claimed him, resulting in him spending the next season and a half with them. Unfortunately, that was the final stop in his NHL career. He spent the next two seasons in the AHL playing for the Rochester Americans and Bridgeport Sound Tigers before spending the rest of his career overseas. Gillies was last seen playing for Dinamo Riga in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) over in Russia.
Evidently, Gillies’ career didn’t meet the Wild’s expectations for him. He finished his NHL career with just 18 points in 154 games and is, arguably, one of Minnesota’s most underwhelming first-round selections of all time.
Missed Opportunity: Montreal Canadiens Select Max Pacioretty, LW (Sioux City Musketeers, USHL) – 22nd Overall
For the second straight year, the Wild ended up missing out on a player that could’ve helped them more than their actual first-round pick did. In 2006, it was Claude Giroux. In 2007, it was Max Pacioretty. If the Wild truly wanted to take a winger in Round 1, Pacioretty should’ve been the pick. He was coming off of a United States Hockey League (USHL) season that saw him score 21 goals and pile up 42 assists in 60 games. After a slow start to his NHL career, Pacioretty began breaking out in 2011-12, hitting 65 points for the first time in his career. Ironically, that was also Gillies’ last season with the Wild. Nevertheless, once he broke out, Pacioretty never looked back.
Even today as a member of the Vegas Golden Knights organization, Pacioretty is still a valuable piece. The Golden Knights are currently one of the final four remaining teams in the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs and Pacioretty is performing at a point-per-game piece. When you take his overall skill and consistency of being a 50-to-60-point player each season, it’s hard not to imagine that the Wild would’ve rather had him than Gillies on their roster.
Middle Rounds (3rd – 5th)
Round 4, 110th Overall – Justin Falk, D (Spokane Chiefs, WHL)
After watching other teams selecting prospects for nearly 100 picks, the Wild were back on the clock in Round 4. They used their 110th-overall pick to draft defenseman Justin Falk (not to be confused with Justin Faulk). He returned to the Spokane Chiefs the following season, playing an important shutdown role that helped them with both the WHL Championship and the Memorial Cup. Falk found himself with the Aeros in 2008-09, suiting up in 65 games and recording three points. He spent a majority of the following campaign in the AHL again; however, the Wild did call him up for three games.
The bad news is that Falk couldn’t keep a hold on an NHL roster spot for long, spending most of his time bouncing between Minnesota and Houston while never playing more than 47 games in a season for the Wild. Eventually, he was traded in June 2013 to the New York Rangers for Ben Ferriero and a 2014 sixth-round pick (Chase Lang).
Falk’s professional career continued, but so did his time bouncing around both the NHL and AHL. He did return to the Wild as a free agent in 2014-15, but he was gone again in March of that season as Minnesota traded him and a 2015 fifth-round pick to the Blue Jackets for Jordan Leopold. As of today, Falk has played in 279 career NHL games and last played for the Ottawa Senators organization in the 2018-19 season. Considering how he was a fourth-round selection, it’s hard to be too disappointed with how Falk’s career turned out. Still, it’s a shame that he couldn’t find more consistency with the Wild.
Round 5, 140th Overall – Cody Almond, C (Kelowna Rockets, WHL)
With their third pick of the draft, the Wild selected another player out of the WHL. This time, it was Kelowna Rockets center Cody Almond. The Calgary, Alberta-native spent another three seasons with the Rockets before making his professional debut during 2009-10 with the Aeros. While he played a majority of the season in the AHL, Almond was called up by the Wild that season. Unfortunately, he managed to record just one point in seven games. Things didn’t get much better as time went on, though. He played a total of 18 more games over the next two NHL seasons, finishing with just one goal during that span.
As the NHL entered the 2012-13 lockout, Almond went overseas to continue his hockey career in Switzerland. His stint there didn’t last long as Minnesota signed him back to a one-year contract ahead of the 2014-15 season. However, he only lasted just five games with the team’s new AHL affiliate in Iowa before returning to Switzerland. He most recently played for Lausanne HC during the 2020-21 campaign, registering 14 points in 42 games. He’s slated to return to the team again next season.
Late Rounds (6th – 7th)
Round 6, 170th Overall – Harri Ilvonen, D (Tappara Jrs., Finland)
The first non-WHL Wild pick of the draft, Finnish defenseman Harri Ilvonen was selected 170th overall by Minnesota. While he was labelled a defensive defenseman, he showed some offensive potential with Tappara’s under-20 team in the 2006-07 season, finishing with 30 points in 39 games. Taking him in the sixth round was a low-risk, high-reward situation for the Wild if everything panned out. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case as Ilvonen never signed a contract with Minnesota, staying in Finland until retiring in 2013.
Round 7, 200th Overall – Carson McMillan, RW (Calgary Hitmen, WHL)
To the surprise of few people, the Wild returned to the WHL with their last pick of the draft to select Calgary Hitmen right-winger Carson McMillan. As a seventh-round selection, Minnesota felt that he could’ve used some extra seasoning, leaving him in the WHL for a few more seasons. From the looks of things, the idea was paying off as McMillan reached the 70-point mark for the first time during his final season with the Hitmen in 2008-09. That development didn’t continue into the AHL the following season, as he finished his first Aeros season with just four goals and four assists in 56 games.
Over the following seasons, McMillan spent most of his time being called up and sent down again, playing just 16 NHL games between 2010 and 2014. Eventually, the Wild figured that he’d never pan out and walked away from him. McMillan continued spending the next few seasons playing in the AHL and ECHL before continuing his career in Denmark. He still plays there to this day, having played for the Fischtown Penguins in the Deutsche Eishockey League in 2020-21.
Overall Grade: F
When Falk is the best player that a team drafts in any given year, things definitely didn’t go as planned. In total, the Wild’s 2007 Draft picks combined to play 251 games with the organization. At the end of the day, it seems like the Gillies selection set the tone for the rest of the draft and the organization just couldn’t recover. We obviously have the ability of hindsight today, but, even back then, it was hard to figure out what Minnesota was trying to accomplish with this draft.
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