Stars see multiple picks as key to draft
The Dallas Stars arrived in Los Angeles on Wednesday in preparation for this weekend's NHL draft with just four picks in their pocket.
Stars' Six Pack
It's difficult to predict what may happen even this early in the first round for the Dallas Stars, but we'll give it a try. Note that we are assuming Brett Connolly and Brandon Gormley won't slip to the Stars. Here are six players the Stars could pick:
D Derek Forbort (Duluth, Minn.): He's big -- listed as tall as 6-foot-5 and 200 pounds -- and has good quickness. He can move the puck and help on offense but also has the skating ability to get back and play solid defense.
C/W Jeff Skinner (Markham, Ontario): Scored 50 goals for Kitchener in the OHL, and scouts have noted his skating ability and good two-way play. He's only 5-10, 187 pounds.
C Ryan Johansen (North Vancouver, B.C.): He's been making his way up many mock drafts as scouts rave about his scoring touch in his rookie season in the WHL. He had 69 points in 71 games and was a plus-17. He's a big center at 6-3, 195 pounds, so his size is appealing too. But he may not fall to No. 11.
D Dylan McIlrath (Winnipeg, Manitoba): He's a tough defenseman who isn't afraid to get physical. McIlrath performed well against skilled forwards this season in the WHL, but he isn't a guy that will add as much on offense as some of the other top defensive prospects in the draft.
D Jonathan Merrill (Bighton, Mich.): ESPN.com notes that some scouts really like the 18-year-old Merrill's offensive potential over others in the draft, though it may take him time to develop. He's got good size at 6-3, 198 pounds, and he can skate.
G Jack Campbell (Port Huron, Mich.): Considered the top goalie prospect, and mock drafts have him going somewhere around the Stars' pick. Scouts feel he has the potential to become an elite goalie. He could be difficult to pass up if other, more intriguing defensemen are already off the board.
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."
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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."