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2015 NHL Entry Draft: Which lottery pick could fall to the Dallas Stars?

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Jim Nill and the Dallas Stars got lucky in 2013 when Valeri Nichushkin fell to the ten spot in the NHL entry draft. Could Nill and Co. expect draft lightning to strike twice?

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The draft is one of the most exciting experiences in sports. It helps us think, and process the future in a vivid way which in turn gives us a greater appreciation for the players that fulfill the promise we once bestowed upon them. Like the Khaleesi's dragon eggs, it stings when they remain stone pillars of what could be (think Patrik Stefan), but it's all the more enchanting when they're breathing fire and conquering their enemies (think Jamie Benn).

Drafting isn't an exact science. These teams spend countless hours looking at hundreds of potential candidates; candidates that must eventually fit into the team's system. GM's and scouts deal with philosophical differences as well. Do we draft the best player available? Or do we draft from positions of need?

The former may not fit into the team's system while the latter may add depth at the cost of adding talent. But both are equally important in the long run. At a certain point, it's a cost benefit analysis. And within these discussions are legitimate questions about who the 'best player available' actually is.

For now, we can reasonably assume that Jim Nill hasn't learned psychokinesis and can't Professor X his fellow GM's through the draft to get anyone in the top five. Not even the bald wheelchaired mutant could convince an NHL team not to stick an NHL jersey on this kid:

So let's talk the best of the rest, and look at why the teams in front of Dallas may allow certain picks to slide.

As a note, BPA here is determined by the average rank involving North American NHL Central Scouting, International Scouting Services, Red Line Report, TSN, The Hockey News, ESPN, and Future Considerations. If you're interested in each respective ranking for each player, let Mark Stepneski guide you with his always inspired work.

6. New Jersey Devils: Consensus BPA is Ivan Provorov (but)...

Why they might not care about the modest-sized but very polished jack of all trades left handed WHL defenseman who is said to have a Spider sense in both zones...

Bob McKenzie had Lawson Crouse in the Devils spot in his mid-season mock draft. The Devils, like many teams, fancy their real (Eric Lindros) and imagined power forwards (David Clarkson). New Jersey in particular has their history with guys like Ryan Clowe and the aforementioned Clarkson. Crouse is a good bet to go at 6 if New Jersey keeps to this tradition. However, New Jersey needs someone that can score goals who can't remember what was on their microwave tray when Nixon was sworn into office. Crouse is many things, but few predict him to be an elite goal scorer.

They have virtually no right wingers on the farm. Their best prospect, Connor Chatham isn't exactly lighting the OHL world on fire and underwent season ending wrist surgery for the 2015 calendar year. In other words, why wouldn't they go after the top European forward in the draft in Mikko Rantanen? He's a 6-foot-4, 200+ pound left-handed shot who plays right wing and sounds a little like Marian Hossa.

7. Philadelphia Flyers: Consensus BPA is Matthew Barzal (but)...

Why they might not care about the 5-11 center who is considered to be the Dominic Toretto on skates of the WHL...

Philly is traditionally a wild card thanks to the Paul Holmgren effect, but Holmgren was replaced with Ron Hextall. If Hextall treats the draft the way he does Kent Nilsson's legs, then the Holmgren effect is still functionally active.

However, Hextall seems calm and collected about the #7 pick, and has stated he wants a forward. If Provorov drops, the Flyers would theoretically be interested but Philly has picked defensemen in the first round over the last two drafts; Travis Morin in 2013, and Travis Sanheim last year. Without a lot of elite forward prospects on the farm, there's a good chance they pick the actual BPA in Barzal. He'd make an excellent one-two punch behind Claude Giroux. But Lawson Crouse could be an attractive option as well since he's got a mean streak, and could potentially play beside Giroux and Voracek for a franchise that fancies blue collar ethic.

8. Columbus Blue Jackets: Consensus BPA is Lawson Crouse (but)...

Why they might not care about the left wing big bodied, walking talking grart chart of the OHL...

Columbus is another team that would welcome Crouse. They lack size at forward, so Crouse seems like a theoretically good fit. However, rumor (per Elliote Friedman) has it Columbus might be looking to deal Rychel for a defenseman. So it sounds like CLB isn't all that interested in stocking up at forward even if they're a little short on left wingers. With centers like Wennberg, Sonny Milano, and Marko Dano, it's possible they wouldn't be interested in Barzal either if someone like Ivan Provorov fell to #8 (which seems quite likely, all things considered). And so would the next team...

9. San Jose Sharks: Consensus BPA is Mikko Rantanen (but)...

Why they might not care about the towering puck possessive right wing from the Finnish Elite...

San Jose used to be a symbol of stability until they went full Stannis. You never go full Stannis, as we all know, but the Sharks didn't seem to care this season and somehow screwed up a perfectly good roster. So it's hard to know what exactly to expect. Right now they're in the market for a good goalie. Will they be the ones owning the Vancouver/New Jersey moment like in 2013?

Seems unlikely for them to deal the #9 pick. They need defenseman to compliment Vlasic, and if someone like Provorov falls, they be wise to pick him. However, if Provorov is already taken, that leaves the next BPA.

10. Colorado Avalanche: Consensus BPA is Zach Werenski (but)...

Why they might not care about the perfectly sized left handed defenseman who creates offense with solid passes out of the Big Ten and sounds like a tinder match made in heaven with Klingberg...

Colorado employs Matt Duchene, Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog, Ryan O'Reilly, and Jarome Iginla in their top six. It's probably safe to say that they won't be looking to draft a forward. While their prospect system is low on wingers, there's no reason to avoid picking a high quality defenseman. This is a team that has Brad Stuart and Nate Guenin in their top 4, after all.

There's a good chance that Werenski, who is described as having excellent IQ and a great puck mover, will be there where Colorado is picking. But Patrick Roy has stated he doesn't like picking defensemen too early, which is pretty vague but still indicative of their potential reticence. This makes Colorado a bit of a wild card regardless; they have a solid offensive core, and good goaltending. Might they use the pick to trade for an NHL ready defenseman?

11. Florida Panthers: Consensus BPA is Pavel Zacha (but)...

Why they might not care about the 6-3 smooth skating all three zone battling center from the OHL...

Florida boasts one of the better prospect systems in hockey, so they'll probably just go BPA and call it a day. But this is a team that fought Boston and Ottawa red in tooth and claw down the stretch for a potential playoff spot. Part of their problem was a lack of scoring. So it's no wonder Florida has been attached to Phil Kessel trade rumors. They can afford his cap hit, and Kyle Dubas has stated Toronto's urgency in acquiring "as many assets" as they can.

Trade or no trade, they're most likely wanting a goal scorer to compliment their stud centers like Barkov. Florida is probably looking for someone with a little more poetry. Though Zacha has plenty of high end skill, there are concerns about his two way game, as this massive, picture abundant Madden-like scribbly Tolstoy breakdown on the hfboards articulates.

12. Dallas Stars: Consensus BPA is Timo Meier (but)...

Why they might not care about the stout right wing skater who is said to be effective in snout to snout situations (per Dan Marr)...

I've deliberately avoided talking about McDavid and Eichel because both going at #1 and #2 are facts of life that make even death and taxes jealous of its certainty. Hanifan isn't falling either. Not after plays like this:

But everything after McDavid, Eichel, Marner, Hanifan, and Strome is much more open than I think fans and observers are anticipating. Enter the butterfly effect:

This is where things get interesting. A lot of Dallas fans would be happy to see Nill call either Connor or Meier, but these guys are no longer the best kept secrets. Hockeyprospect has Kyle Connor going at #5 above Dylan Strome. Absurd, sure, but indicative of how contested the talent is right now.

There are only six teams ahead of Dallas to pick between eight really solid prospects in Ivan Provorov, Matthew Barzal, Lawson Crouse, Mikko Rantanen, Zach Werenski, Kyle Connor, Timo Meier, and Pavel Zacha.

Why it'll be Ivan Provorov

Leave aside the belabored "Russian factor" for a second (still a component of Ivan potentially falling). There are a slew of good defenders in this year's draft, but there is no Seth Jones, or Aaron Ekblad. This means teams might be a little gunshy to pick a defender who projects to be a good to maybe great complimentary piece but not that "number one" defender every team looks for.

A lot of the teams ahead of Dallas need offense, and four of them are coming off seasons in which they made the playoffs the year before which means instead of concentrating on pure talent, they may be more interested in loading up at positions that are near vacant. However, Dallas is still in need of a few good (defense)men. Fans might balk at the notion we'd need more of them, as if last year's draft wasn't blue line drunk enough.

But it seems silly to avoid picking one just because there are already a lot of defenders in the system. After all, there is no guarantee that Jamie Oleksiak, Jyrki Jokipakka, or Patrik Nemeth will be able to endure. Just like there is no guarantee that Esa Lindell, Julius Honka, or Ludwig Bystrom can eventually break through. In addition, it's useful to think of what Provorov means asset management wise. Picking him means potentially being able to pull the trigger on a trade involving another prospect a rival team needs or wants. There's also the fact that there's no such thing as playing with house money when it comes to good defenseman. The more depth you can acquire, the better.

For more on Ivan Provorov, check out Derek's profile of him.

Why it'll be Lawson Crouse

A lot of Dallas fans are probably rolling their eyes at this one. Isn't Crouse supposed to be the next Tyler Biggs??? Well, not really. You'd be hard pressed to find a more polarizing prospect. And yet scouts seem unanimous when it comes to his overall quality; a great, big bodied two way player who can chip in offense when called upon. Jonathan Willis over at Sportsnet raises the most ardent defense:

One critical item worth noting is that there are massive chunks of the game not captured by point totals, particularly over a span of 50-odd games. We can likely all think of exceptional two-way NHLers who play tough opponents and start lots of shifts in the defensive end of the rink and yet somehow manage to generate more scoring chances than they surrender. Point totals don't always do a good job of capturing two-way play, and they don't show us context at all. Given the number of scouts who have praised Crouse's two-way ability, this point shouldn't be ignored.

The other factor allowing Crouse to fall from #8 to #12 is that teams may no longer be treating size as a premium. With the emergence of players like Johnny Gaudreau and Tyler Johnson, NHL GM's may be feel influenced by the success of both players to find their own versions.

For more on Lawson Crouse, check out Huw's profile on him here.

Dallas is in a really good spot regardless. New Jersey, and Philly are locks to go forward. Florida is the wild card. Columbus, San Jose, and Colorado are the teams in front of Dallas most likely to go after defensemen. But they could balk if names like Crouse, Barzal, Zacha, or Rantanen are still there. And at least one of them may be the team that believes, as many do, that Kyle Connor belongs in the top 10. After all, defense doesn't only exist behind the blue line, as there are plenty of two way forwards in the draft. In other words, hold on to your butts...