The Dallas Stars enter the 2014 NHL Draft in a good situation. The team is on an upward trajectory both on and off the ice. It's prospect system is one of the better ones in the NHL and there is no glaring weakness at any position when it comes to their prospect pool. How should they approach the draft?
Should the Dallas Stars be happy with their prospect pool? Maybe, but I think content would be a better way to describe it. Prospects don't always work out and while the Stars have a lot of good talent it isn't all going to make the NHL and become the players we as fans hope them to be.
So what do the Stars need to push themselves over the edge into becoming a top five system in the NHL? Well, it's quite simple really. The Stars need more game changers. Easier said than done.
For example, look at the Dallas Stars defensive prospects. Theres no doubt there are more of them than there were a few short years ago and a lot of them are talented. But then I look at a list of names like: Jamie Oleksiak, Ludwig Bystrom, John Klingberg, Patrick Nemeth, Dmitry Sinitsyn, Niklas Hansson, Jyrki Jokipakka and Esa Lindell. Does it make me want to jump up and down in pure happiness?
Short answer: no.
Sure, the potential there but the problem I see is a problem that the majority of NHL teams face. I look at those names and I think they are a pretty solid group of prospects. Do I think any of them can step into the NHL at some point in the future and become that No.1 defenseman. A cornerstone of the blueline. An Erik Karlsson? A Chris Pronger? A Scott Niedermayer? A Sergei Zubov? No, I don't.
It might be unfair to think like that but the fact of the matter is that the list of defensive prospects the Dallas Stars have is full of players who in reality, if they make the NHL, are likely going to be on the second pairing. I may be being a dark cloud over the shining sun of the Stars' improving prospect system but it is reality.
The Stars, like nearly every team in the league, need that defenseman who can just do it all and be incredible. They aren't easy to find and nigh on impossible to trade for. I know the Dallas Stars could offer sheet P.K Subban but lets be honest here, the Montreal Canadiens are going to match any offer quicker than Usain Bolt running the 100m sprint.
The only way to get those kind of players is through the draft these days. The prospects the Stars have are good, but they aren't that elusive No.1.
The same can be said for most the Dallas Stars forwards as well, though the pressure to find top forwards is less than the pressure to find the No.1 defenseman.
The Stars need those players who when they touch the puck they light up the crowd and get them standing on their feet. This year there was Valeri Nichushkin. He's one of those players. The Stars need more players like him and they can be found in the NHL Draft. They have the potential to completely bust but if they work out, they work out well.
The policy of looking for that special player, even with flaws, may seem obvious but in the past it doesn't feel as if the Dallas Stars have been like that. They've been conservative and gone for the safe pick. If they want to push the system up a little more they need to be willing to change their approach the draft.
The Stars need to find that special defenseman as a top priority. It's the biggest weakness throughout the prospect system and the NHL regulars. Looking around the league the only way to meet that need will be through the draft.