Wednesday, June 23, 2010

NHL Draft Features on the Dallas Stars Website: Looking for an impact Player

John Tranchina writes about the Dallas Stars quest to find an impact player for the NHL Draft's 1st Round on Friday Night. Could somebody like Nino Niederreiter could be available, or an under ratted player by some could be the Dallas Stars Ticket to success from this year's draft. Here's John Tranchina's take on the

From John Tranchina of the Dallas Stars Website:

When Dallas Stars management heads up to the podium at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Friday Night to make their first pick in the 2010 NHL Draft, they will likely be plenty of tantalizing options available for them to choose from.

Selecting 11th overall, the Stars should get a player who will eventually make an impact at the NHL Level, although he will probably still need at least a couple more years of development before he's ready for the rigors of the planet's top hockey league.

A look back at some recent 11th overall selections demonstrates that a key piece can be secured at that point in the draft. Here's a sampling of past number 11's.

2006: Los Angeles selected goaltender Jonathan Bernier, who lead the AHL's Manchester Monarchs to the Conference Finals in 2010 and expected to step into the Kings crease next season.

2005: The Kings selected dynamic center Anze Kopitar, who has averaged 28 goals and 71 points in LA over the past four years, scorching the Stars multiple in the process. A verifiable star who scored 34 goals and 81 points this past season for the Kings.

2003: The Flyers snagged center Jeff Carter, who has a key component of the 2010 Eastern Conference Champions, scoring 46 goals and 84 points in 2009 and another 33 goals and 61 points in 74 games this year.

2002: Buffalo picked defensemen Keith Ballard, who has gone to a solid career in Phoenix and Florida as a slick, puck-moving blueliner who added 28 points this past year for the Panthers.

1995: Dallas choose future Superstar Jarome Igilina who they subsequently gone to Calgary for Joe Nieuwendyk, the Stars current GM. Of course, Joe Nieuwendyk went on to win the 1999 Stanley Cup Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP as the Stars won their only Stanley Cup. Oh, and Iginla has been a long top-tier talent for the Flames.

Because the Stars own a league low 4 draft picks for the seven round draft, they need to make them count. Dallas retains their selections in the first round (11th overall), the second (41st), third (71st) and fifth (131), but have always traded away their fourth rounder (Part of the trade with Atlanta for Goaltender Kari Lethonen in February), their sixth round choice (part of the trade that brought center Brian Sutherby from Anaheim in December 2008) and seventh rounder (Which was dealt to Chicago in October 08 for defensemen Doug Janik).

As for the top prospects available in the draft, it is generally agreed upon that the first two overall selections will be left winger Taylor Hall, who lead the OHL's Windsor Spitfires to their 2nd straight Memorial Cup championship (defeating Dallas 2009 First Rounder Scott Glennie's Brandon Wheat Kings in the 2010 Memorial Cup Final), and Plymouth Whalers Center (OHL) Tyler Seguin.

While Boston and Edmonton haven't indicated which one prefers which player, the consensus is that both will be off the board by the time Florida picks third.

At what point, opinions already start to diverge regarding who will likely go next, but it appears that pretty much everyone agrees that by the time Dallas arrives at the podium, the following high end talents will have already chosen: OHL Windsor Defensemen Cam Fowler, OHL Kingston defensemen Erik Gudbranson, defensemen Brandon Gormley of QMJHL Moncton, and left winger Nino Niederreiter.

A couple of mock drafts have the Stars picking offensive wizard Brett Connoly from Prince George (WHL) or skilled Russian Centers Alex Burmistrov from the OHL's Barrie Colts, but both of those players are consensus top 10 selections and probably won't still be available at 11.

Going with the rest of the varying opinions out there, several show Dallas selecting 6'5" defensemen Derek Forbort from the U.S. National Team Developmental Program, which others predict the Stars will choose one of the following: gritty 6'4" blue-liner Dylan Mcllrath of the WHL's Moose Jaw Warriors, shifty Finnish Center Mikael Granlund, playmaking center Ryan Johansen of the WHL's Portland Winterhawks, all around right winger Austin Watson from the Peterborough Petes or Forbot's teammate of the USNTDP, Jonathan Merrill.

That such a wide range of players are slotted to go 11th in the various mock drafts just go to show how unpredictable the draft is. And that's where the value the Stars place in the hands of their own scouts who have worked hard all season to evaluate upwards of a thousand players in preparation for this event comes into play.

After all, this is exactly why they employ their own staff, to apply their own team specific judging criteria to determine which players posses the characteristics the Stars prize most, instead of just going with what everyone says.

"The lists, everybody has lists out there," noted Les Jackson, the Stars President of Scouting and Player Development. "One lesson I've learned is that you've got to by the work that your people do out int he field."

The Stars also hope that they can snag a future impact player in the second and third rounds, at number 41 and number 71 overall respectively, and maybe another 5th round gem at 131. Being able to hit on those selections is what usually separates the perennial playoff contenders from the rest of the NHL.

It bodes well that the Stars have had a pretty good track record in that respect, with fifth round choices (129th overall in 2007) and Tom Wandell (146th in 2005) turning into important contributors this past season, while highly touted defensemen Philip Larsen (149th overall in 2008) made his NHL Debut in April and looks to claim a permanent roster spot next season.

Conventional wisdom would suggest that the Stars would select at least a few defensemen after picking just 3 of 23 choices over the previous three drafts (and one of those, Ivan Vishnevskiy, was also part of the Atlanta trade for Lehtonen). Most of the org. depth is at forward, so injecting a couple of blue chip blue-liners into to a prospect talent pool would be probably be a good idea, but you never know who will be available when your turn comes up.

A closer look at the most likely Dallas Selections at #11

Forbort: A big, puck-moving defensemen that some scouts believe can become the next Tyler Myers (The Star Defensemen for the Colorado Avalanche) who's up for the Calder Trophy. He might be a bit of a raw talent, but has impressive upside, as they say in scout speak.

Derek Forbort Stats:

Granlund: The 5'10", 180 pound Granlund reminds some scouts of Saku Koviu, thinks to his smaller stature and high skill level. Granlund played the entire season in the Finnish Elite League for HIFK Helsinki, registering impressive totals of 13 goals and 40 points in 43 games.

Johansen: Tall and lanky, the 6'3", 194 pound Johansen will have to get stronger to compete at the NHL level. A skilled passer, Johansen recorded 25 goals and 69 points in 71 games for the Portland Winterhawks (WHL).

Ryan Johansen Stats:

Mcllrath: A tough, bruising defensemen, Mcllrath is a punishing hitter in the WHL for the Moose Jaw Warriors, posting 24 points in 65 games, while also piling up 169 penalty minutes. He's tough and has some skills as well as a hard shot from the point.

Dyan Mcllarth Stats:

Watson: A solid two way winger, Watson flourished after a mid season trade from the defending Memorial Cup Champion Windsor Spitfires to the Peterborough Petes, where he amazed 9 goals and 20 points in just 10 games to help his team make the OHL Playoffs

Austin Watson Stats:

Merrill: A solid, physical defensemen who has speed and moves the puck well, the 6'3", 198 pound Merrill will be attending the University of Michigan next fall is considered fairly similar to his teammates with the USNTDP.

Jon Merrill Stats:

Of course, it very well could end up being none of these guys who joins the org. on Friday Night. Really, it's anybodies guess who will be left on the board when Dallas goes to the podium, judging by the differing viewpoints on the available players, but no matter whose name they call, the Stars will very likely wind up with an important part of the club's future.

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