The Minnesota Wild bolstered their defensive depth over the weekend with four of the team’s seven selections in the NHL Entry Draft being blueliners.
The haul consisted of first-rounder Carson Lambos (26th overall), Grand Rapids-native Jack Peart in the second round (54th) and Kyle Masters (118th) and Nate Benoit (182nd) in the fourth and sixth round, respectively.
“It’s just really special,” Peart said in a NHL Network interview on Saturday. “Getting drafted by your hometown team, the team I grew up watching, it definitely is special for me. I knew (getting selected by the Wild) was a possibility. I had really good (pre-draft) calls with them and I thought they really liked me.”
It was the first time the Wild have picked that many D-men in eight years. The selections come after the Wild have suffered some key losses at the position over the past few weeks. Ryan Suter received a buyout and Carson Soucy was selected by the Seattle Kraken in the NHL Expansion Draft.
The Wild also focused on the back end with their first pick of the draft. The team picked Jesper Wallstedt at No. 20. It was the first time Minnesota selected a netminder in the opening round of the draft.
“These guys were all available to us and we’re extremely happy with it,” Wild general manager Bill Guerin said in a media availability session on Saturday. “Now the work starts. The work starts for our development guys and the work starts for these players.”
The 18-year-old Lambos played the majority of this past year with JYP of the Finnish Junior League where he had two goals and 11 points in 13 games. He also had 32 points in 57 games with the Winnipeg ice in Western Hockey Leagiue play the previous season 2019-20 to lead all rookie defensemen in scoring.
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“I think I’m a twp-way defenseman,” Lambos said during a video conference with the media on Friday. “I think I can play a strong defensive game against other team’s top players . I pride myself on my defense first but I think I can add a layer of offense as well with a good shot and good vision. I’m not necessarily a flashy player. I don’t see myself as that. More of a steady, two-way defenseman.”
Peart, who is headed to St. Cloud State, had 11 goals and 35 points this past year as a senior at Grand Rapids High School and received the state’s Mr. Hockey Award. He also had 15 points In 24 regular-season games with the Fargo Force of the United States Hockey League, He added seven points in nine playoff games as the Force advanced to the Clark Cup Final.
“Where he excels is puck retrievals (and) exits.” Brackett, the Wild’s director of amateur scouting said of Peart in a media session Saturday. . “Great hockey sense and he plays with real mature awareness and poise. I think his offensive game will continue to grow. His game is really tailored to his ability to move the puck.”
Masters had 10 assists in 20 games this past season with Red Deer of the WHL.
“Great mobility along the offensive blue line lateraly as well as through the neutral zone,” Brackett said of Masters.
Benoit had 32 points in 33 games as the captain of Mount St. Charles Academy prorgram in Rhode Island this past season and also played three games in the USHL with Tri-City/
Brackett called Benoit, “a somewhat of a late bloomer, even physically”
“He is a two-way defenseman, great skater and plays with a little bite,” Brackett said. “He is an aggressive defender.”