MINNEAPOLIS, MN - JUNE 23: The Top Prospects for the 2011 NHL Entry Draft take part in a Media Opportunity at the Walker Art Center on June 23, 2011 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Editor's Note: Consider this an open thread to start Day 2 as well. Round two kicks off at 10am CST.
Last year Joe Nieuwendyk and the Dallas Stars very nearly created a mass heart attack when they passed up Derek Forbort and Cam Fowler in favor of goaltender Jack Campbell. The ensuing debates on the merits of such a pick are behind us and every Stars fan agrees that all we are capable of now is to cheer for Campbell and hope for the best.
Based on discussion by Nieuwendyk the past few weeks and the talent available this year, I was 90% certain the same situation would not happen once more. With the Stars at #14 and a vast array of talent sitting at their feet, Nieuwendyk would have had to consciously try to get screwy with us. He spoke of the importance of following your draft board and not falling in love with a player - a bit of a contrast when compared to last year's "Campbell-or-Bust" campaign.
With Mark McNeill and Joel Armia still available, along with a few other talented defensemen the Stars went on the clock with their pick of the litter, so to speak. Nieuwendyk had it easy, as nearly any player picked at that point would have been a welcome addition to the organization. He still made it a bit interesting, however.
Instead of addressing a very apparent organizational need (something Nieuwendyk warned about that high in the draft), the Stars stuck to their draft board and picked the 18-year old giant of a young man Jamieson Oleksiak. I was not surprised by the pick at all, especially since Oleksiak is a player unlike any other currently in the Dallas Stars system. In fact, he's unlike any other defenseman in the draft with a rare combination of size, agility and potential.
Oleksiak is never going to be a big-point, "offensive" defenseman. While he possesses great passing ability and sees the ice exceptionally well, his focus is purely on defense. Stars fans have been clamoring for that big shutdown defenseman who can punish players around the net - well, here he is. When you watch him out on the ice, there's no doubting he stands out not just because of his size but because he already appears to be very polished for a player with apparently nothing but raw potential.
Make no mistake; Oleksiak is more than just a big dude on ice skates. He's a great thinker on the ice and the potential for greatness is certainly there. It's going to take some time, some maturing and some - indeed - growth until he's ready for the NHL, but exciting times are certainly ahead. Unlike Brad, I feel as if he's probably going to need just two more years before he's ready for the NHL - and perhaps he'll be in Austin as soon as next year. We shall see.
One selection in the first does not a draft make, and Nieuwendyk is now entering territory where he has excelled the first two years of his tenure. Debates about Jack Campbell and Scott Glennie aside, the Stars have been very adept at finding talent later in the draft under Les Jackson and Nieuwendyk.
After the jump, a look at who's available and where the Stars might be looking in the 2nd round - as well as more thoughts on yesterday's first round of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.
#44 - 2nd Round
#105 - 4th Round
#135 - 5th Round
#165 - 6th Round
#195 - 7th Round
The Stars will be picking 14th today in the 2nd round, but might try to trade down in order to pick up an extra draft pick. Also, be on the lookout for a trade that might net the Stars a few picks as well.
With the Stars grabbing the BPA in the first round, I expect Nieuwendyk to address some system needs in the 2nd round and beyond. He did the same thing last year with defensemen and with the talent at the forward position still available, there's no reason that the Stars' system couldn't receive a nice injection of top-six potential talent.
Ty Rattie (C) - Portland; WHL - 5'11", 163 - 76GP; 28G, 51A, 79P
Boone Jenner (C) - Oshawa; OHL - 6'1", 204 - 63GP; 25G, 41A, 66P
Brandon Saad (LW) - Saginaw - OHL - 6'1", 208 - 59GP, 27G, 28A, 55P
Shane Prince (C) - Ottawa, OHL - 5'10", 174 - 59GP; 25G, 63A, 88P
Alexander Khokhlachev (C,LW) - Windsor, OHL - 5'10", 188 - 67GP, 34G, 42A, 76P
Rocco Grimaldi (C)-USA U-18 - 5'6", 164 - 50GP, 34G, 28A, 62P
Markus Granlund (C) - HIFK, JR (Finland) - 5'11", 169 - 40GP, 20G, 32A, 52P
Joachim Nermark (C) - Linkoping, JR (Sweden) - 6'1", 187 - 37GP, 8G, 18A, 26P
Victor Rask (C) - Leksand (Sweden) - 6'2", 194 - 37GP, 5G, 6A, 11P
William Karlsson (C) - Vasteras, Jr (Sweden) - 6'0", 163 - 38GP, 20G, 34A, 54P
Nikita Kucherov (C) - CSKA 2 (Russia) 5'10", 163 - 41GP, 27G, 31A, 58P
The above are some of the top forwards - namely centers - remaining in the draft. Some are right near the top of the NHL Central Scouting rankings yet made it out of the first round, especially with players like Stefan Noeson, Tyler Biggs, and Phillip Danault going in the first round.
I was targeting Danault for the Stars in the 2nd round in particular.
There's still some very good talent available. Ty Rattie stands out as perhaps the best all around center left in the draft and if he falls to midway through the second then he's a prime candidate for the Stars. Boone Jenner should also be on the radar for the Stars, although his combination of size and speed - and finishing ability - might make him very valuable early in the round.
Shane Prince is very interesting as he is a proven playmaker. He's not a goal-scoring machine and prefers to dish the puck - and his size is a bit concerning - but for a 2nd round center he could be great value as well.
The two North American centers that intrigue me the most, however, are Rocco Grimaldi and Alex Khokhlachev. Grimaldi is going to fall because he's coming from the U-18 US Development program and because he's likely the smallest player in the draft. At 5'6" and just over 160 lbs, he's going to have a lot of proving to do before his ready to take on the behemoths in the AHL and the NHL.
Khokhlachev put up great numbers in Windsor, also scoring 9 goals with 11 assists in 18 playoff games for the Spitfires. He possesses an incredible work ethic and has proven that he is going to have no problem adjusting to the North American game - already he's one of the more physical forwards driving to the net in the OHL. He finished 3rd in the OHL's Rookie Of The Year voting and there's no reason he won't continue to improve.
He's falling because of a lack of considerable size, and he plays like an even smaller forward sometimes. He's been inconsistent in Windsor, but with the Stars paying a lot of attention to Jack Campbell this year I bet they've seen a lot of Khokhlachev and know just what he's about.
There are some good options coming from Europe as well, most notable being Markus Granlud and Victor Rask. Nikita Kucherov is a player to pay attention to as well, but there's always worry about players in the Russian junior leagues being drafted high because of uncertainty on whether they'll head to the U.S. or not.
Something else to keep in mind: The Stars draft mostly from the NCAA and US Dev programs, as well as the WHL. They'll draft from the OHL some and very, very rarely will the Stars draft from the QMJHL. The Stars will also no hesitate to draft from Finland or Sweden. Unlike some other teams they spread their selections out a bit, but the Stars still have some favorite spots they like to pull from -- especially later in the draft, when they have to rely on the scouts more than ever.
Who are you looking for the Stars to pick in the 2nd? Will it even be a center?
Other Random Thoughts:
- I found it interesting that when TSN would show a scouting report for players as they were picked, there's be a "comparable to" section as well. More than a few Dallas Stars were used as comparisons, including Sergei Zubov, Loui Eriksson and Brenden Morrow.
- Is it just me or was that the most boring first round of an NHL draft we've ever sat through? The amount of commercial breaks was beyond ridiculous and completely upset the excitement of the event.
- All 13 of the first 13 draft picks were interviewed by TSN. The Dallas Stars were skipped. That was disappointing.
- Nice of Bob McKenzie to drop a bombshell of a news report in the middle of the Stars selecting Oleksiak. "Oh, by the way, Kirk Muller may coach the Texas Stars...la di da da...."
- I'll admit it now because I didn't want to last night: I secretly was hoping and wishing for Mark McNeill. I think he'll be in the NHL this season and I think he'll be a very, very good 2nd line center soon in his career. But I'm still happy with the selection that was made.