The Dallas Stars have been slumping lately and for many that has put the chance of fulfilling playoff dreams on hold for another year. It might be an overly pessimistic mindset to believe the Stars have little chance to nip into the top 8 in the Western Conference, but they are not making things easier on themselves.
Once again, the prospect of a top 14 pick at the NHL Draft looms large. So based on where the Stars are as of writing this (21st in the league), who is in the range for the Stars first round pick in 2014? That pick would be around the 8-10 pick overall in the draft.
So who is potentially in the range for this pick? Using a variety of sources, which I will link to in a second, I'll use my own instincts to say the candidates I think the Stars could be looking at with that pick if the draft were held tomorrow.
My sources: NHL Central Scouting Services (CSS) North America Skaters Rankings, CSS European Skaters Rankings, International Scouting Service, Future Considerations, Hockey Prospect and TSN's Craig Button List.
If players were to fall, and they always do, then there is one player that there is a realistic chance that they drop and I'd hope the Stars would select him if they do. That would be William Nylander, son of Michael Nylander. He is a smallish, 5'-foot-11, 170 pound, center who has been doing the rounds in the Swedish professional leagues this season. He has played with MODO in the SHL, Rogle and Sodertajle in the Allsvenksa.
He is an offensive dynamo and highly impressive young player. He is fast, he skates well and he has the offensive instincts to make the plays that lead to goals. He was thought to challenge for the top spot in this draft but he has been slowly slipping down the rankings to the point where he will likely get picked at the top end of the 5-10 spot.
If he is there when the Stars pick then they should take him. They need all the talented centers they can get, and Nylander would be a very welcome addition. He might have some defensive concerns, but he is a young player and aspects of the defensive game can be taught. His natural offensive talents can't.
Another player that should be around when the Stars are drafting is Niagara IceDog Brendan Perlini. He's a big left wing who would make a nice addition to the Stars propsect pool, and I'm not just saying that because he was born in Guildford, UK. He uses his large 6-3 frame, though he still needs to add some muscle, to be a powerful forward. He can crash the net but also has an impressive shot. There's work to be done, but he has a lot of potential to be a decent player in the NHL.
Finally, if the Stars decide that a blueliner would be preferable, the best shot is Haydn Fleury. He's floating around the low end of the top 10 picks but is a physically intimidating defenseman from the WHL. He is big at 6-3, 203 pounds and throws his weight around a lot. He has 33 points in 46 games so far this season for the Red Deer Rebels, good enough for fourth overall on the team.
He is one of the youngest players in the draft and is beginning to find his offensive touch this season. Despite his size, he has some pretty impressive mobility.
Interesting, and completely coincidently, two of these three players I've mentioned in this article I spoke about back in November. Here is the link if you don't remember.
I find it highly unlikely that the Stars will be able to select a player who can make an immediate impact straight away. In fact, I'm very sure (but I'm willing to be proved wrong) but Valeri Nichushkin is the first player picked by this franchise in the first round and play the next season with the team while they've been in Dallas.
The draft is still far off though, and the Stars could still make the playoffs. Maybe.