With the Dallas Stars out of the playoffs and the 2016 NHL Entry Draft coming up in the near future there will soon be no shortage of speculation about what the team will be looking to accomplish come draft day.
As recently touched on by Defending Big D's own Huw Wales, the Stars will have a few picks this year to work with, the most notable of them being in the 1st round, 25th overall.
The question posed by this article is pretty straightforward: what do the Stars need to focus on at this year's draft?
When discussing this question it's always important to try to frame it around what the team will likely need in the future, opposed moreso to what they need right now. After all, drafting and developing prospects is a long process, one that often takes years for the majority of players. What the Dallas Stars need right now might not necessarily be what the team needs in the future.
To that end, it's essential to take stock of which younger players are currently in the organization and are probable to stick around well in the future. The immediate names that come to mind are players like Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin and John Klingberg, but it's also important to place guys like Julius Honka, Esa Lindell, Jason Dickinson and many others into this category as well.
In the near future both Huw and myself will have a series of prospect profiles coming that will highlight specific individuals that we feel can (and should) be draft targets for the Stars, but for now, let's take a much broader look at what areas the franchise is set in and which ones that they need to address:
What The Stars Have A Sufficient Supply Of
- Right-handed puck-moving defensemen: John Klingberg, Julius Honka, Niklas Hansson...yeah, the Stars are completely set in this specific area. No need to really touch on this any further.
- Scoring wingers with size: Jamie Benn is obviously the highlight of this group, but you can also lump in Brett Ritchie, Denis Guryanov and maybe even Matej Stransky, who had a nice breakout season in the AHL.
- Two-way centers: Cody Eakin has been with the Stars for a few seasons and is still growing as a player, while both Radek Faksa and Mattias Janmark had fantastic rookie debuts in Dallas. Behind them, Jason Dickinson and Devin Shore were great in the AHL and also got brief cups of coffee in the NHL. Talk about incredible depth in a specific area.
- Project shutdown defensemen: These are players that are playing defensive shutdown roles for their current teams, but seem like long-shots to be impact NHLers. This group includes Alex Peters, Aaron Haydon, Patrick Sanvido, Joseph Cecconi and Miro Karjalainen. Considering the depth in this area it seems unnecessary for Dallas to target these kinds of players with their later selections.
What The Stars Should Focus On Adding
- An elite playmaking forward: While the Stars do have a number of forwards that are good passers and playmakers, they don't really have a jaw-dropping, "stickhandle in a phone booth" kind of player that can quarterback a powerplay. This is one of the main reasons why it was so hard to see the team pass up on Mathew Barzal last year. Normally this kind of player lines up at center, but a winger could do the trick as well as long as they can work some magic from the half-wall on the PP. Unfortunately, unless Dallas finds a way to trade up in the first round this type of player probably won't be available at 25th overall.
- Smaller, yet offensively dynamic forward projects: The Stars have focused a lot of attention on large forwards in recent drafts but haven't really gone after smaller players that put up huge numbers in junior leagues. Cole Ully, a 5'11" former WHL standout, fits this bill but he's pretty much alone. In a league that is increasingly accessible for players like Tyler Johnson, Johnny Gaudreau and other small dynamos, it would be worthwhile for Dallas to invest a little more attention into these kinds of players. Picks in the 6th and 7th round would be smart gambles here.
- A goalie, at some point: The undrafted Maxime Lagace came out of nowhere to seize the #1 job with the Texas Stars and 2013 2nd rounder Philippe Desrosiers continues to stay on track in his development, but Jack Campbell's time in the organization is probably up and both Henri Kiviaho and Brent Moran aren't showing very much potential. While this likely isn't a need worthy of spending a 1st round selection on, it will be worth keeping an eye on in the later rounds.
- The best players available: While there are indeed areas that the Stars could stand to shore up, and those that they don't need to, overall the team is in a very strong, very balanced position with their future. Current general manager Jim Nill, former general manager Joe Nieuwendyk and the rest of the organization's scouting staff have done an excellent job of setting up an impressive prospect pipeline with plenty of depth and talent. With no especially significant concerns, the Stars will have a lot of freedom at the draft to snag the best players available or to gamble and make a "swing for the fences" kind of pick. All of this will make the team's actions at the 2016 NHL Entry Draft harder to predict, but at the same time, a little more interesting.