Would it be a reach at number 26 to take Roseau's Aaron Ness? Yes. Would the team be accused of picking hometown talent over better, higher-ranked Canadiens? Again yes. A public relations move to keep Minnesotans happy? Yes, yes and yes. But I say do it. Although drafting high school kids in the first round is risky(*), the payoff here would be enormous. Ness skates like he's got rockets on his feet and is also a supreme puck handler. I firmly believe that if he were 2 inches taller he'd be a top 5 pick, but at 5'10" teams are shying away from him.
He is EXACTLY what the Wild need. A fast defenseman who can carry the puck. Think Mike Crowley without the injuries. Think Petteri Nummelin with defensive ability. Think Keith Ballard without the prickness (this should be a word if it isn't). This kid is going to be a star, albeit we're going to have to wait a few years, but at least we can watch him develop at Mariucci under the fine tutelage of Don Lucia and Mike Guentzel, oh wait, strike that.
The Wild's main need at the draft is back on the blueline. Why not take a chance on Ness?
(*) Remember when Lou Nanne took Doug Zmolek with the 7th overall pick in 1989? Our how about Wayne Gretzky selecting "Big Bust" Blake Wheeler with the 5th pick in 2004? And I didn't even want to bring up Brian Lawton(**), Lou.
(**) I guess I did bring him up, didn't I? Lawton was selected with the number 1 overall pick ahead of Stevie Yzerman (#4), Tom Barasso (#5) and Cam Neely (#10). I love Lou Nanne -- pretty good hockey player, shrewd businessman and world traveler, terrific radio show guest -- but a terrible GM.