We'll be kicking off our live coverage of the NHL Draft in just a few hours. In the meantime, here's a look at the players most likely targeted by the Stars.
With the #8 pick in the first round, the Dallas Stars will have their choice from a group of players who are all on the same talent level and who all have about the same potential for long-term impact for the team. The Stars have stated that they will pick the best player available and will not draft just based on a need. The big mystery now becomes what the Stars draft board looks like, and who is rated above whom.
Here are the five players I believe to have the best chance to be atop the Stars' board when the number eight selection comes up.
D Jared Cowen, Spokane: He's the second best defensemen in the draft and there's a good chance he goes to Phoenix at #6. But there's some trade rumors floating around that could really shake things up in front of the Stars, opening up the possibility that Cowen could fall. There is also some concern about Cowen's knee injury that ended his season in January and that it would affect how high he's picked. Cowen is a huge (6-5, 218) defenseman who has dominated in the WHL the past two seasons. He has great skating ability for a player of his stature, has a long reach and knows how to use his size to his advantage. He's also a potentially above average player offensively, and has seen his numbers improve each season he's played. Cowen is the future cornerstone for the blue line of whichever team picks him, and the Stars would be insane to pass him up.
LW Magnus Paajarvi-Svenssen, Timra IK: Easily in the top six among forwards in this year's draft, the Stars could benefit from having several defenseman picked ahead of them and see MSP drop to them in the eighth spot. Forget the fact that the Stars are already heavy with left-handed left-wingers; the Stars would have a top six forward potentially as soon as 2010 with MSP. His speed, determination and incredible hands make him an electrifying presence on the wing and he's worked hard to go from one-dimensional scoring winger to a solid two-way player. He loves to drive the net and the hands and skill necessary to find the puck around the net and finish the play.
D Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Leksand IF: An incredibly smooth skater and sensational lateral ability, skilled hands and great hockey intelligence, Ekman-Larsson has the potential to become a #1 defenseman at the NHL level in a short amount of time. He still has room to grow and develop, but his natural abilities and talent have propelled him to the top of the list of defenseman in this year's draft. It's easy to say that he has yet to play above the SWE-2 level and won't be worth such a high pick, yet team's will be hard pressed to pass up on a player with such incredibly high potential.
D Dmitry Kulikov, Drummondville: An extremely gifted defenseman with the puck, Kulikov has worked hard to become just as skilled in his own zone as well. He is a leader in the locker room and plays with intensity and heart and is the exact type of player Dallas Stars fans love to see play for their team. He's a great skater with tremendous passing skill as well as deadly shot; he can be either a power play QB or the defenseman burying the puck in the net from the point. His agility and speed allow him to keep up with skilled forwards and he's one of the toughest defenseman to beat on the rush. Perhaps the most complete defenseman in the draft.
RW Jordan Schoeder, Univ. of Minnesota: A dynamic playmaker, Schroeder was the best freshman in all of hockey this past season while playing at Minnesota. Has worked incredible hard to progress faster than normal to the level he's already at and shows no signs of stopping. While his size is a bit concerning his skill, speed and determintation more than make up for any lack in stature he might have. He's an imaginative offensive player with an incrediblly deadly snap shot, and has proven to be a skilled passer from along the boards. He will only get better from where he is already, and the Stars would have a chance to draft perhaps the most exciting player in American hockey.