ST. PAUL -- The roar of those Minnesotans in attendance was almost deafening when Mario Lucia of Wayzata High School not only became the first local boy off the board at the NHL Entry Draft, but also the player of choice of the hometown Minnesota Wild.
"It's an honor … you can't write a better story than this," said Lucia, who was chosen in the second round by the Wild at Xcel Energy Center on the final day of the draft. "Just growing up in Minnesota and being selected by the hometown team, it's incredible. It's not only great for myself, but for my family to be drafted by the organization."
The Wild actually traded up to select Lucia -- sending third (No. 71 overall) and fourth-round (No. 101 overall) choices to the Vancouver Canucks prior to the start of the second round on Saturday. He was selected to a standing ovation with the 60th choice.
"We talked last week and they said they're going to try and get me," Lucia said. "Once that deal went down, I had high hopes. I didn't know they had the trade coming, but once they traded, I thought I could hear my name called … they said they would pick me."
Lucia was one of two local scholastic players to be picked by the Wild -- Nick Seeler of Eden Prairie was chosen in the fifth round (No. 131). Seeler, incidentally, becomes the first player from the Muskegon Lumberjacks of the United States Hockey League to be selected in the draft. The defenseman is committed to play collegiately at the University of Nebraska-Omaha, but will play for the Lumberjacks in 2011-12.
The 2011 Entry Draft marked the first time in 10 years that not one Minnesota native was chosen in the opening round. There were 18 Minnesotans -- including first-round picks Derek Forbort of Duluth, Nick Bjugstad of Blaine and Brock Nelson of Warroad -- selected in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft. There were 18 Minnesota natives rated by NHL Central Scouting for this year's draft and 11 were selected.
Other highlights on Day 2 of the Entry Draft included the first goalie off the board going to the Nashville Predators with the selection of Sweden's Magnus Hellberg (No. 38). The Quebec Major Junior Hockey League's Saint John Sea Dogs had five players selected (including three in the first round), while the Ontario Hockey League's Oshawa Generals also had five players selected, to lead all clubs in the Canadian Hockey League.
The U.S. Under-18 National Team Development Program produced the highest number of drafted players from one team with 11, including first round selections Jonathan Miller (Rangers, No. 15), Connor Murphy (Phoenix, No. 20) and Tyler Biggs (Toronto, No. 22).
After hearing his son's name, Don Lucia, who happens to be the head coach at the University of Minnesota, became emotional.
"He told me congratulations and had tears in his eyes … it was a great moment for me and my family," Lucia said.
The young Lucia, who is debating whether or not to join the Des Moines Buccaneers of the USHL or the Penticton Vees of the BCHL next season, was the first of 18 high school players drafted. Of those players, 13 are from Minnesota.
"It was a lot more stressful in the first round, just because I wanted it to be over with," Lucia said. "It was a long and stressful process and happy to be done with it. It was like a weight lifted from my shoulders; it's something you look forward to your whole life. But now I know the hard work has to start and the marathon begins."
He had 15 goals, 25 assists, 40 points and a plus-25 rating in 25 games in 2009-10.
"I think there's going to be more pressure for me than other players just because I'm the hometown kid," Lucia said. "But the fans will have your back and whenever you play the game, they're going to be rooting for you really hard."
There were 79 Canadian-born hockey players drafted this year, following by 64 Americans and 28 Swedes. There were 46 players chosen from the OHL, 33 from the Western Hockey League, 28 from the USHL and 22 from the QMJHL. Every NHL team, with the exception of the Washington Capitals, selected at least one CHL player. The Detroit Red Wings and Ottawa Senators led the way by each drafting six CHL players.
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