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Minnesota Wild select six players in 2024 NHL entry draft

The Minnesota Wild selected six players during the 2024 Upper Deck NHL Draft on Friday and Saturday at Sphere in Las Vegas, Nev., including five players in rounds two through six today. Minnesota selected four defensemen, one forward and one goaltender, including three Canadians, two Finns and one American.

On Friday evening, Minnesota selected defenseman Zeev Buium with the 12th overall selection in the first round of the 2024 Upper Deck NHL Draft. Buium, 18 (12/7/05), played his first season of collegiate hockey at the University of Denver last season, totaling 50 points (11-39=50), 20 penalty minutes (PIM), 41 blocked shots and a plus-34 rating in 42 games as the second-youngest player in college hockey. His 50-point season was the first by a freshman NCAA defenseman in over 20 years. He led the Pioneers in assists and plus/minus, ranked second in points and third in blocked shots. Buium was named National Collegiate Hockey Conference (NCHC) Rookie of the Year and the Best Offensive Defensemen, and was named to the NCHC All-Rookie Team, First All-Star Team and All-Tournament Team. He was also named to the USCHO First Team, NCAA First All-American Team and was a Hobey Baker Award Nominee. The left-shot blueliner helped lead the Pioneers to an NCHC championship and an NCAA Frozen Four National Championship, both played at Xcel Energy Center in Saint Paul, Minn.

“Buium is a smooth skating, puck mover with championship pedigree,” said Judd Brackett, Minnesota Wild Director of Amateur Scouting. “We are very excited to add him to our organization.”

The Wild began Saturday by selecting right-wing Ryder Ritchie in the second round (45th overall). Ritchie, 17 (8/3/06), played in 47 games for the Prince Albert Raiders of the Western Hockey League (WHL) during the 2023-24 season, recording 44 points (19-25=44), second-most among team skaters, and 24 PIM. He was named WHL Rookie of the Year for the 2022-23 season where he posted 55 points (20-35=55), ranking third among WHL rookies in assists and fourth in points. The 6-foot-1, 175-pound native of Calgary, Alberta, represented Canada at the 2024 IIHF Under-18 World Championship, where he posted eight points (4-4=8), two PIM and a plus-three rating in seven games to help Canada win the gold medal. He also took home the gold medal with Canada in the 2023 Hlinka Gretzky Cup, finishing the tournament with nine points (3-6=9), his point and assist totals ranked second in the tournament. The right-shot forward scored four goals in the 2022 Under-17 World Hockey Challenge with Team Canada White. His father, Byron, skated in 324 games over nine NHL seasons (1998-08) with Carolina, Florida, Calgary and Vancouver.

“Ryder is a skilled offensive threat with good speed and a terrific release,” said Brackett.

Minnesota selected defenseman Aron Kiviharju in the fourth round (122nd overall), after acquiring the pick from the Boston Bruins along with right wing Jakub Lauko in exchange for forward Vinni Lettieri and the 110th pick in this year’s draft. Kiviharju, 18 (1/25/06), tallied two points (1-1=2) in seven games with HIFK in Finland’s top professional league. He missed most of the season due to injury. The 5-foot-10, 185-pound native of Turku, Finland, spent the 2022-23 season with the TPS Under-20 team and recorded 20 points (2-18=20), eight PIM and a plus-11 rating in 20 games. His point total was third-most among team defensemen. He also skated in 21 professional games with TPS and recorded three assists. Kiviharju served as Finland’s team captain at the 2024 IIHF Under-18 World Championship and tallied three assists in five games. The left-shot blueliner collected seven assists in five games and served as an alternate captain to help Finland win a bronze medal at the 2023 IIHF Under-18 World Championship. He won a bronze medal with Finland at the 2022 IIHF Under-18 World Championship and collected six points (0-6=6) in six games. He also claimed a bronze medal at the 2023 Hlinka Gretzky Cup, where he posted a team-leading six points (1-5=6).

“Kiviharju is an offensive puck mover with excellent deception and quickness along the blueline,” said Brackett.

Minnesota selected defenseman Sebastian Soini in the fifth round (140th overall). Soini, 18 (6/10/06), collected eight points (0-8=8) and 12 PIM in 32 games with Koovee of the Mestis league in Finland last season. His assist total is tied for third-most all-time by a defenseman 17 years or younger, and his point total is tied for fourth-most in a single season. He also skated in six games with Ilves in Finland’s top professional league. The 6-foot-2, 187-pound native of Tampere, Finland, recorded 10 points (3-7=10) in 28 games with Ilves top junior men’s league during the 2022-23 season, and posted nine points (1-8=9) in 17 games with Ilves Under-18 team. Soini earned a bronze medal with Finland at the 2022 Under-17 World Hockey Challenge, tallying four points (1-3=4) in seven games.

“Sebastian is a two-way defender with an excellent combination of size and skating,” said Brackett.

The Wild selected goaltender Chase Wutzke in the fifth round (142nd overall). Wutzke, 17 (6/26/06), posted a 19-10-2 record with a 2.82 goals-against average (GAA), a .904 save percentage (SV%) and one shutout in 36 games with the Red Deer Rebels in the WHL last season, ranking ninth in the WHL in GAA and 13th in SV%. He also played in seven WHL Playoff games, tallying a 4-3-0 record with a 2.48 GAA and a .924 SV%. The 6-foot-2, 161-pound native of Dedben, Sask., owns a 23-10-3 record, 3.00 GAA, a .898 SV% and one shutout in 43 games over three seasons with Red Deer (2021-24).

“Chase is an athletic and quick goalie with good length and compete,” said Brackett.

Minnesota closed out its draft by selecting defenseman Stevie Leskovar in the sixth round (174th overall). Leskovar, 19 (9/9/04), recorded 12 points (2-10=12), 113 PIM, a plus-11 rating and 96 shots in 61 games with the Mississauga Steelheads in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) last season. His PIM total led the Steelheads and ranked 13th in the OHL. The 6-foot-4, 207-pound native of Cambridge, Ontario, owns 15 points (3-12=15), 167 PIM and 151 shots in 125 OHL games over three seasons with Mississauga and Peterborough (2021-24). He also recorded 18 points (10-8=18) and 22 PIM in 16 games with the Lakefield Chiefs of the Provincial Junior Hockey League (PJHL) during the 2021-22 season.

“Leskovar brings a big, heavy, physical presence on the back end,” said Brackett.

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