Gillies giddy after draft

PATRICK WILLIAMS -- For SLAM! Sports

, Last Updated: 11:01 PM ET

COLUMBUS -- Colton Gillies skipped the playing-it-cool approach.

Some draft gurus rolled their eyes and shredded the Minnesota Wild's decision to select the Saskatoon centreman 16th overall in the NHL Entry Draft, but their skepticism failed to wipe off the monstrous grin on Gillies' face.

"I'm very excited," Gillies admitted. I'm so excited. I'm happy to be a Minnesota Wild. It's hard to talk now because it's so exciting."

Quite a contrast to the mostly cool and polished demeanours of his first-round peers, the very grateful Gillies barely allowed a beaming smile to leave his face for even a split-second during the question-and-answer session with an assembled media group that was limited mainly to Minnesota's beat writers.

"I'm just a happy kid, I guess," Gillies continued.

Pedigree and family name or not -- Gillies is the nephew of former Islanders legend Clarke Gillies -- getting past the decidedly unimpressive offensive output put forth by Gillies proved difficult for his critics, especially with the likes of Alexei Cherepanov and Angelo Esposito still dangling when the Wild made Gillies the 16th-overall selection

After all, Gillies, a still-lanky 18-year-old from White Rock, B.C. who grew up in nearby Surrey, has collected all of 19 goals over his first two WHL seasons with the Blades.

Gillies scored 13 goals as a second-year skater with Saskatoon, a 27-41-2-2 club that collected just 58 points this past season, worst in the WHL's Eastern Conference and fourth-worst overall. Gillies improved upon a six-goal rookie season in 2005-06, his 13 goals this past season placing him fifth on the Blades in goal-scoring.

But Gillies -- 6-4, 192 pounds and projected to be a power forward -- blends excellent speed with an aggressive, punishing approach that earned him 148 penalty minutes this past season. What he lacks in scoring pop, he makes up for elsewhere in his game, and he is a capable penalty-killer.

In a sea of scorers, top-flight defencemen and so forth, Gillies instead offered Canadian-style grit and that attractive size-speed combination.

"I think I offer something different," Gillies humbly agreed.

Gillies estimates that his ideal playing weight will be 210 pounds and agreed with reporters that he may ultimately end up as a winger, as his physical attributes could serve him well along the boards for a Wild team looking to get bigger.

"Whatever they want me to do, I'm going to do," Gillies said.

Minus the gaudy numbers that many of his first-round peers put up this past season, Gillies nonetheless bounded up the draft chart to the Wild. NHL Central Scouting had placed Gillies ranked 30th among North American skaters, placement that would have made Gillies a late first-rounder or an early pick in the second round.

But the Wild are in sympatico with Hockey Canada's braintrust. Nineteen goals or not, Gillies already assembled an impressive international resume with Team Canada.

Twice Gillies has represented Canada in Under-18 competition, winning gold at the 2006 Under-18 World Junior Cup and skating in the 2007 Under-18 World Championship. There is also an appearance in the CHL Top Prospects Game this past season.

Gillies expects to spend the coming season with the Blades but hopes to compete for an NHL job in 2008-09.

Before the WHL season commences, however, Gillies will head to Russia in August to participate in the Canada-Russia Super Series. That competition will shift to North America for games on Canadian ice that will includes stops in Saskatoon and Vancouver.


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