With the dust of the 2015 NHL Draft finally beginning to settle now that it's all said and done, it's now time to take the logical next step in the process: analysis.
Amidst all the craziness over the past two days, with 210 names filling out the draft boards of 30 teams and all the trades (and rumors of trades) interspersed throughout, the Dallas Stars added five new young, promising players to their organization.
Who are these players? Where do they fit into the prospect pool? Did general manager Jim Nill and his scouting staff make good decisions with each of their five picks in relation to all the other players that were available at the time?
Although the answers to these questions won't be fully answered for years, after all the players in the draft have grown and developed further, we can still begin to take a deeper look now, which I'm going to be doing with this article.
As a primer, take a look at this article that I wrote a couple of weeks ago that explored the state of the Stars' prospect system immediately before the draft to help get a better understanding of the impact of today's moves.
Let's jump right into it:
1st Round, 12th Overall - RW Denis Gurianov
The first pick that a team makes in any draft is, naturally, going to be the one that gets talked about the most, but this is especially going to be the case with the Dallas Stars' 12th overall selection of right wing Denis Gurianov on Friday.
Nobody saw this one coming. Through months and months of speculation regarding this pick Gurianov's name rarely, if ever, popped up in consideration for it. With the majority of scouting services predicting the skilled Russian to go somewhere in the 20s of the draft, it came as quite a shocker to everyone to see him go as high as 12th.
Yet, there's good reason to believe that this pick might have indeed been the best one to make.
There's certainly a lot to like about Gurianov: he's big at 6'3", he's an excellent skater, he has one of the best shots of any player in the draft, and he's not afraid to play with an edge to his game. Combine all of those attributes and you have the recipe for a premier power forward in the NHL.
Adding to the intrigue, Nill and Stars director of amateur scouting Joe McDonnell spoke semi-candidly after their selection about the relatively uncharted scouting waters of Russia's U20 league, the MHL, and the negative perception of the "Russian Factor" around the league. Could a Top 3 or Top 5 overall talent, as Nill and his staff believe that Gurianov is, have flown under the radar this draft season because of the country listed in his passport?
The Stars seemingly took a big risk by choosing Gurianov over available highly-ranked pre-draft favorites like Mathew Barzal and Kyle Connor, but it's a move that could pay off huge dividends in the future.
2nd Round, 49th Overall - C/LW Roope Hintz
The Stars stayed "on the board" with their 49th pick, taking a player that was projected all along to go somewhere in that range, but it still turned out to be quite an interesting move.
Similar to Gurianov in many ways, Finnish forward Roope Hintz brings a lot of very appealing intangibles to the table. He's also 6'3" and an excellent skater, but instead of a lethal shot and an imposing physical game he builds his style around excellent hockey IQ, superb two-way play and quality puck control. Hintz will never be a specialist in any specific areas, but his ability to play in all three zones and at both the center and left wing positions makes him an incredibly versatile player to have around.
Hintz is still fairly raw at this point, but the Stars' prospect depth allows them the luxury of taking the time to develop him fully and properly. Has the potential to be a perfect complementary player on a powerful roster at some point in the future and is well worth the draft pick here.
4th Round, 103rd Overall - D Chris Martenet
As I mentioned a few weeks ago in the article that I linked above, one organizational area that the Stars were lacking prospects in was stay-at-home defensemen. Well, to counter this deficiency the Stars drafted not just one, but two of these types of players on Saturday.
The first one is Martenet, a towering 6'7" defender that plays a smart, simple game as opposed to the rough-and-tumble, penalty-filled style that a lot of blueliners of his size specialize in. His offensive contributions are limited and his mobility is something of a concern, but Martenet is a defensive specialist first and foremost, and he fits that particular role quite well.
This year he worked his way up to a Top 4 defensive role with the OHL's London Knights and performed admirably. The Knights are one of, if not the best, developmental organizations in all of Canadian junior hockey, so he's going to benefit a lot by playing big minutes for them for one or two more seasons.
There are certainly going to be a few enormous steals that come out of the later rounds of the 2015 draft, and while Martenet probably won't be one of them, he has all the makings of becoming a steady, reliable defender at the NHL level.
5th Round, 133rd Overall - D Joseph Cecconi
Cecconi doesn't have the same gigantic size of his draft brethren Martenet, but he does possess the same potential to develop into a solid Bottom 4 stay-at-home defender in the NHL.
Now, that being said, Cecconi is no small player, standing at about 6'3" and weighing in around 210 pounds. That's more than enough size to work with. His hockey IQ is high and his skating is above average for a player of his size, both of which help to overcome his underdeveloped offensive game.
Cecconi was an anchor on the blueline of the USHL's Muskegon Lumberjacks this season and will have plenty of time to refine his game in the NCAA next year.
6th Round, 163rd Overall - G Markus Ruusu
One other specific area that the Stars needed to address in this year's draft was to add a goaltender in the later rounds, and they did exactly that with the selection of Ruusu in the 6th round.
There's not much written about the Finnish stopper, but the numbers look good: a .918 save percentage in 12 games in the Finnish Junior A U20 league, and a .920 save percentage in 34 games in the Finnish Junior B league. And by playing over in Finland the Stars will have tons of time to develop Ruusu until he's ready to make the jump to North America.
The only issue I have with this pick currently is whether or not Ruusu was the best European goaltender still available. In an interesting twist, Ruusu's own teammate, prospect Veini Vehvilainen, was rated higher by all scouting services and was selected to play for the Finland team at the World U18 Championship, where he shone with an excellent .949 save percentage in seven games. Ruusu wasn't invited at all. For some reason or another, the Stars and their scouts seem to believe that Ruusu is the better goalie of the two.
Either way, this was the right type of pick that the Stars needed to make in the 6th round as it helps shore up the organization's depth at the goalie position.
At the end of my Stars draft preview article, I finished with this conclusion:
Overall, however, the Stars' future is in pretty darn good shape. There are high end young players with NHL potential, as well as a solid level of depth, at all positions, but especially center, left wing and defense. Outside of a couple of picks of necessity, the Stars will have a lot of freedom to pursue the best player available with each selection, or swing for the fences with some high-risk, high-reward prospects.
I'm quite happy to say now that the Stars appeared to share my same assessment of their prospect system and spent their five draft picks along the same lines.
With the Gurianov pick the Stars "swung for the fences" while also filling in their thinnest position gap at right wing. With Hintz they took a prospect that arguably could have been the best player available at the time. And with Martenet, Cecconi and Ruusu they grabbed those "picks of necessity" nad helped to further round out what is already an impressive prospect pool for the organization.
It may not have been the draft that a lot of Stars fans were hoping for, but it was still a pretty good one, and one that might be exactly what the Stars needed for the sake of the franchise's future.