GM Paul Fenton: Wild will draft ‘best player available’ with 24th pick

After being hired as the third general manager in franchise history a month ago, tasked with getting the stagnating Minnesota Wild over the hump, Paul Fenton joked at his introductory news conference last month that he probably wouldn’t be getting much sleep this offseason.

Update: He hasn’t.

Fenton hit the ground running after taking over, traveling to Buffalo for the NHL Draft Combine his first week on the job. That gave him some time to familiarize himself with the prospect pool and where it aligns with the specific needs of the franchise.

And since releasing John Anderson and hiring Dean Evason as the Wild’s top assistant coach two weeks ago, Fenton has focused on the NHL Draft, which begins Friday night at the American Airlines Arena in Dallas.

It will be the first milestone of the Fenton era, and unlike recent years, the Wild actually will have multiple chances for a big draft. They have eight picks, starting with the No. 24 overall pick, providing flexibility to move up or down, while also giving the team a chance to rebuild the farm system.

Fenton has talked a lot about making “tweaks” to the current roster since joining the Wild, but he’s not willing to say much about his offseason plans beyond the weekend draft.

How crazy has the past month been trying to get everything in order in such a short amount of time?

You take it one day at a time. It’s busy. There’s no question. That’s just the nature of the job. I’m trying not to get too far ahead of myself or too far behind myself.

As a longtime assistant GM, you’ve waited a long time for this moment. Have there been any surprises since finally getting to the top?

That’s a hard question. I’d say everything is new, so it’s fun. There’s a lot of challenges, and I’m just looking forward to getting to the draft and then starting to see what we’re gong to build here with the Wild.

You’ve always been lauded for having an eye for talent, especially when it comes to the draft. How important is this draft in laying the foundation for years to come?

You know, every draft is critical. All of us build through the draft now. You get to the point where these kids are being (thrown) into the lineup on entry-level contracts. We have to fill it with assets that are going to be the right fit for the Wild.

How much of a role has the staff from the Chuck Fletcher regime played in your draft process?

Well, I’m really leaning on them because they’re the ones that put the work in this year. I’m looking to them as the guys that are going to be able to give us the information to get the right the players.

Does that mean assistant general manager Brent Flahr will run the draft table?

He’s going to run the draft and I’m going to assist with making sure he knows about the players I’m familiar with.

How fluid does the draft become picking at No. 24? You can’t really plan for who’s going to be there.

We are looking for the best player available that will help us in the future. We aren’t picking in the Top 3 where our expectations are that they can play this season. We are looking for the best player available at No. 24. I’ve always taken that philosophy no matter where I’ve been, and I think that’s the most successful way to build an organization.

Does it take some pressure off knowing that this pick won’t be expected to come in and play right away?

I don’t know if it’s easier. You watch the draft unfold and some years guys are going to fall and some years guys are going to get taken right before we’re up. There’s always the hope that we get the player we really want.

Where does this talent pool rank?

There’s always going to be good players in every round. I’m not getting too high or too low with it. We are going to see who’s available at No. 24 and go from there.


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