Firstly I'd like to say how honoured I am to join the Defending Big D Staff. It's a great blog and to be able to write for them is great. To begin with I will focus on the broad outline of this year's draft and what the Dallas Stars can do in order to get the most out of the draft.
This piece is going to examine how our prospect system in relative depth. Analysing our depth at each position and what action needs to be taken, if any, to rectify anyway weaknesses in the system. This depth of position is focused only at the prospect level, it doesn't look at our depth in Dallas itself. It's purely prospect based.
I will then examine what position the Stars are entering the draft. Looking at our draft picks and doing some basic analysis on the first two rounds. These are basic ideas which will probably be looked at in further depth in posts to come. The Stars enter this draft in a relatively good position in terms of our first two rounds, and also within our 'lucky' fifth round.
The final section will look at what we can hope the Stars do. Who, as fans, do we want them to draft? What do we feel needs to be addressed and how we hope they will go about this. How should we address the weaknesses in our prospect system in order to make sure that in the years to come we have a steady stream of talented and hard working players putting on the Stars uniform?
All this after the jump...
What is the state of the Dallas Stars Prospect System?
As Brandon has already gone over the depth of the entire Stars system by position I will go over the prospect side briefly.
Firstly the Dallas Stars have an excellent depth on the right wing with prospects such as Chiasson, R.Smith, A. Smith, Ritchie and Stransky. There isn't a huge need to draft more right wings as we are very well stocked on the right wing. In my opinion its quite possible that we could see some of these be traded or moved to the opposite wing if possible. Having too much depth in one area isn't a huge problem and could be useful for trades in the offseason.
Secondly I believe there are three areas where the Dallas Stars need to address as a matter of urgency. These need to be addressed through the draft or undrafted free agents over the next few years. These three areas are our center, left wing and goaltender positions.
We lack elite prospects at center. When Hockey's Future ranks Scott Winkler and Emil Molin as our top two center prospects it's clear that we need to improve at the position. We have moved Scott Glennie to the center in Cedar Park but he isn't a natural center. In my opinion the best way to deal with this issue is to draft a center with our first round pick. There are a number of players who we could pick, for example Radek Faksa, Brendan Gaunce and Zemgus Girgensons. These are the best centers who are likely to be available for us when we pick. In an ideal world we will want to draft at least 2 centers throughout the entire draft.
There are several players on the left wing that could end up getting to the NHL, in particular Alex Guptill, Matt Fraser and Curtis McKenzie. None of these appear to be truly ‘elite' players yet. However these players, in particular, are closer to reaching the NHL than most of our center prospects. It would be a good idea to pick at least one or maybe two left wingers either through the draft or free agency in the next year or so.
I've been talking about our goaltender situation for a reasonable amount of time. We lack depth in net and we have the joint lowest number of goalies in the system, even before the likely departure of Andrew Raycroft. We will only have 4 goaltenders signed within our system: Kari Lehtonen, Richard Bachman, Tyler Beskorowany and Jack Campbell. In order to have a good depth in net we will need to draft another goaltender or sign an undrafted free agent. This situation will become critical in the next two or three years when Campbell challenges for the backup spot and when Beskorowany might want to move elsewhere if he can't crack the NHL lineup in Dallas.
I'm less worried on the defensive front as our blueline has been strengthened over the past two years both through the draft and signing undrafted free agents (Brendan Dillon for example). However our depth could be better and with a draft that is getting a lot of buzz over its depth of good defensemen I hope that we pick at least one defenseman in the first two rounds.
· The Stars need elite centers. There is a significant lack of elite talent at center and it needs to be improved as a matter of urgency.
· The Stars need to get their hands on at least one young goaltender. If we don't we will very quickly be facing a depth problem in net.
· Getting a defenseman in the first two rounds will definitely help improve our already growing blueline strength
· It would be good to get another left winger, its not urgent but it would be nice.
· Right wingers are not necessary, we have good depth and the only reason I see us drafting a right wing is if we are picking the best player available.
What can the Stars do at the draft?
Currently we have 8 picks throughout all 7 rounds. At the moment we have these picks: 13th (1st round) 43rd (2nd round) LA Kings pick TBD (2nd round), 74th (3rd round), 104th (4th round), 134th (5th round), Florida Panthers pick TBD (5th round), 194th (7th round).
The Stars are in good shape for the first two rounds with three picks. This draft has seen numerous injuries to players that have caused them to drop in the rankings. This means that players with first round potential could be dropping to the second round. An example of this happening recently was Brendan Saad who was touted as a high first round pick in 2011 but dropped because of injury to the second round.
Another positive for the Stars is that it's generally accepted that this draft has a depth of quality defensive prospects. There could be potential top 4 defenseman available all the way until the late second round/early third round. This means that it's quite possible for the Stars to add to their growing blueline.
What can we hope for the Stars to do at the draft?
Ideally the Stars will pick a center with our first round pick. It won't be disastrous if we don't; it's just the most ideal situation. I think the best center that might be available by the time we pick is Radek Faksa. If not Faksa it's likely that Brendan Gaunce will still be available and he would be another good pick. There are plenty of good players available at the 13th pick so whoever we draft will likely be a good prospect. If no center prospects are available then there are several very good looking offensive defensemen that could be available (Cody Ceci, Derrick Pouliet and Matt Finn).
In my opinion the best thing we can do with our two second round picks is to pick one defenseman and one forward. There is such depth of good defensemen that the Stars will probably want to try and pick at least one within the first two rounds. There are two names in particular that stick out: Jarrod Maidens and Jordan Schmaltz. Both considered first round talent early in the season but have dropped to the second round. Maidens dropped due to injury and Schmaltz has spent this season focusing on his defensive game and therefore his offensive game has suffered. This has meant that Schmaltz has dropped significantly from the mid first round pick projection from the beginning of the season.
I hope that we will see the Stars draft another goaltender. Not within the first two rounds but I think that we might pick one in a later rounds. There is generally very little difference between a goaltender picked in a mid round to one drafted in a late round. Only goaltenders considered to be elite get drafted in the first or early second rounds. However some of the best current goalies were drafted in the late rounds (Mike Smith - 5th, Pekka Rinne - 8th, Henrik Lundqvuist 7th). We can always find good goaltenders in the late rounds.
A note of warning
The draft is a very fickle thing. There is no guarantee that's players drafted will meet their potential, there's no guarantee that they will even reach the NHL. Every draft will have disappointments and surprises. Not every player we pick will end up playing in a Stars uniform or, if they do, play the role we envisioned them playing.