The Dallas Stars arrived in Los Angeles on Wednesday in preparation for this weekend's NHL draft with just four picks in their pocket.
But that doesn't mean they won't find room for a few more before the 2010 draft is over. The first round takes place Friday night, starting at 6 p.m. CDT from the Staples Center. Rounds 2 through 7 are Saturday.
General manager Joe Nieuwendyk could have an opportunity to deal his most tradable commodity -- center Mike Ribeiro -- to add a defenseman and acquire additional draft picks. You can expect him to be working the phones in an effort to do that.
The club could also grab extra picks by trading down. That may be more likely to happen with their second-round pick, No. 41 overall.
"If someone is willing to move up and give us a couple of picks back, that can be a good option," said Les Jackson, the Stars' director of scouting and player development. "As you work through the draft over the years, there's a real emphasis on the first or second picks, but the teams that do really well have a number of picks and they work the draft right through the end. We'll put just as much important on that first pick as we will the last one."
Jackson and his staff have spent months scouting players in various parts of the world and putting together the team's draft board. Outside of the first handful of selections, mock drafts are scattered about as to how the remaining teams may pick in the first round. The Stars have the 11th overall selection.
"There's two or three players that have separated themselves from the group at the top end, but after that it has good depth," Jackson said. "You always want to be mindful of taking the best player available at the time you pick."
Jackson cautions that if you spend too much time looking at the NHL club's needs for the upcoming season, you might pass on a player you shouldn't. Not to mention that the holes the club is trying to fill in 2010-11 might change dramatically by the time any of these drafted players are ready to compete at the NHL level.
But in this particular draft, the Stars' needs within the organization coincide with those on NHL ice. They could have an opportunity to draft a big, puck-moving defenseman. The club could use more of those within the system, especially after trading one top defensive prospect -- Ivan Vishnevskiy -- to obtain goalie Kari Lehtonen.
Beyond that, the Stars will continue to do what they've done during most of Jackson's 22-year tenure (much of it spent running the club's scouting program and the draft): Take the best player regardless of position.
Last year, the Stars had five picks and weren't afraid to take all forwards, many of them the same type of player.
That doesn't mean they don't have a pecking order when they face two players they rate the same who play different positions. For example, if the choice came down to a defenseman or a forward that they rate the same, they'd take the defenseman.
"It would be easy to break that tie," Jackson said. "Finding defensemen is always the hardest part of our game. If we've got two guys really close, if one's a defensive and one isn't, there's a good chance we'll take the defenseman. You just can't have too many of those."
Jackson feels good about his staff's preparation and is ready to see how the draft unfolds. And he notes that the later rounds can produce some true gems. Jamie Benn was a fifth-round pick (No. 129 overall) in 2007. Philip Larsen, who might have a chance to make the Stars as early as this upcoming season, was also taken in the fifth round (No. 149 overall).
"You can get good players all over the draft," Jackson said. "We'll work hard and keep at it."