Who'll be standing in the middle this year?
The more Dallas Stars fans learn about GM Joe Nieuwendyk, the more they come to appreciate just how important the 24 hours encompassing the 2011 NHL Entry Draft are to him. The Stars will, out of necessity to reach the cap floor, be active in free agency next week, but it is the draft that Joe believes builds contenders in today's NHL. It all starts with building from within and growing your own product, and that process continues tonight on Versus at 6:00pm CDT.
Dallas will pick, as it currently stands, a total of six times including tonight's first round and subsequent rounds tomorrow morning. They have the following picks:
- 1st round: 14th overall
- 2nd round: 44th overall
- 4th round: 105 overall
- 5th round: 135th overall
- 6th round: 165th overall
- 7th round: 195th overall
Their third round pick will be used by the New Jersey Devils as a consequence of acquiring Jamie Langenbrunner this January, but not making the playoffs or re-signing him (yet), in which case they would have taken the Stars second rounder instead.
Last year there was an emphasis on drafting defense that came from the fan base as much as anywhere else, but the Stars themselves admitted it when Tim Bernhardt (director of amateur scouting) said they would lean toward defense whenever players on their board were close, as so many are in the later rounds. The result was a defense heavy draft that re-stocked the cupboard a little, so to speak.
There is no clear-cut need this year and the Stars are free to take the best player available on their board, which of course everyone says they'd do regardless...
"Things always change in our game," said Nieuwendyk. "The game is always evolving. If you take the best players available it leaves you with the best opportunity to move forward."
"If you draft on need, I think you are looking for trouble."
Dallas had hoped to get an extra pick for the rights to negotiate with Brad Richards, reportedly asking him yesterday to move his "NTC" (no trade/movement clause) and he declined. His agent made it known that he will not for any team, preferring instead to listen to all comers on July 1st.
The possibility of getting an additional pick lives on in the scenario of trading down out of #14, something the Stars are considering should the interest be there tonight. Nieuwendyk told the DMN earlier this week that it's something they're certainly talking about.
"Our guys feel that after a certain point in this draft there are a number of good players and you'd be happy with acquiring any one of them. We don't have our third round pick, so trying to get an additional pick is something that will definitely be discussed."
However many picks they have, it's clear after talking to the Stars that what they value the off-ice qualities of these young men just as much as the on-ice ones.
Continued after the jump...
Les Jackson spoke on Monday after the Glen Gulutzan press conference about how the Stars approach the draft and what some of the things they look for are in young players/potential picks...
"Character is always the most important thing because...the game has evolved since the new CBA, there's new rules, One thing that never changes is the quality of the people and the guys who care, and work, so that's always your number one criteria."
One of the ways the Stars judge that character, outside of interviews there at the draft and sharing some meals and some chats with some of the players as they often do, is to have their team psychologist evaluate the kids one-on-one. It's not often talked about, but this psychologist has been with the team for a long, long time.
"He's able to get information that the normal eye can't connect to. He's been with us for 14 years and he's really a great resource for us. We know how he works, we have a history with him, and he's able to give us information that is beneficial to our selections."
The culture and attitude in the locker room is so important to GM Joe Nieuwendyk, and may have played a role, however small, in players that have been moved or otherwise let go in his brief tenure, while additions like Adam Burish have made positive strides in that area. To Joe the psychological evaluations might be just as important as skill and physical attributes.
For months we heard that this draft was not nearly as good as some in recent years, but those perceptions are usually based on the sexiness of the top-10 talent and the big names out front. Les Jackson was asked about the overall quality of the draft and mentioned what Nieuwendyk said about potentially moving down.
"It's hard to tell, but I think it's got good depth and I find that the teams who do their work and do a thorough job throughout the season find players. I think this draft has good depth all the way through and that's one of the reasons we talk about moving back."
Trading down does little to fire up a fan base but since the days of Doug Armstrong, wild free agency spending and a lean prospect system, we're starting to see the importance of having lots of options coming up through juniors, universities, the ECHL and AHL levels.
The Texas Stars in Cedar Park have done wonders in alerting the hockey consuming public in Texas to the importance of having top quality guys working their way up. 12 years ago no one gave a rip about what the Stars 5th rounder was doing in whatever Canadian junior league he was toiling and as long as the Stars were wooing the Brett Hull's of the world with wads of cash no one ever would, but that's not the way it is any more, and it's all part of the growth of hockey in Texas. Not to mention blogs like this one raising awareness.
If the Stars feel the quality in the latter part of the first round is similar to where they are at #14 then moving down makes sense to pick up an extra guy, even if it makes for boring television tonight.
Most mock drafts have the Stars picking C Mark McNeill, D Jamieson Oleksiak, or RW Joel Armia, so knowing the wisdom of the internet and our efforts in each of the last two drafts, it won't be any of those guys. Who are you hoping for?
Some notable #14's from Stars PR:
2007 D Kevin Shattenkirk (Colorado)
2006 RW Michael Grabner (Vancouver)
2003 D Brent Seabrook (Chicago)
1996 C Marty Reasoner (St. Louis)
1995 D Jay McKee (Buffalo)
1994 LW Ethan Moreau (Chicago)
1993 RW Adam Deadmarsh (Quebec)
1992 D Sergei Gonchar (Washington)
1990 LW Brad May
Tune in tonight at 6:00pm on Versus and join us for our open draft thread for a fun discussion lead up to, and continuing after, the Stars first round pick at #14.