Dallas finds itself in both the unenviable, and exciting, position of having the No. 3 overall pick in the 2017 NHL Draft on June 22.
Depending on which mock draft is out there, the top-four picks are a mix of the following players: Nolan Patrick, Nico Hischier, Gabriel Vilardi, and Casey Middlestadt, with Patrick and Hischier considered a slight step above the rest of the draft class this year.
All four play the same position - center - and, are around the same age - 18.
Vilardi and Patrick are your prototype center - big, strong, and skilled. Hischier and Middlestadt are the playmakers. Silky smooth, tremendous speed, and high skill.
After those four, though, the field gets muddled.
According to the Hockey News, the highest-ranked defensemen are Timothy Liljergren of the SHL and Miro Heiskanen from the Finnish Junior League.
Adding more confusion and headaches for Stars General Manager Jim Nill and head coach Ken Hitchcock is the expansion draft slated to begin June 18th, with the announcement of the drafted players coming on June 21st in the NHL Awards/Expansion Draft/Jersey Reveal/Schedule Announcement bonanza.
What does Nill do with Antoine Roussel, Cody Eakin, Stephen Johns, and Jamie Oleksiak? What will he do about the cavalcade of goalies that are on the roster?
Teams will be interested in making deals. Dallas should be one of them as they have the wiggle room, and pieces (both on the current NHL roster and in the prospect system), to do so.
Hitchcock’s hire changes the game for the Stars. No longer will Dallas be a frenetic mess over 200-feet of ice. Dallas will have a plan. It will be structured.
Does that fit what Middlestadt or Hischier can do? What if Vilardi is available and the organization believes he has a higher ceiling but are uncertain that he fits the style of play they’re implementing in Dallas?
And, fair or not, there is an expectation set by recent experiences that whoever you draft at 3rd overall should impact the NHL roster almost immediately.
A whole host of previous early-first round picks have produced nearly immediately for their teams the last few seasons:
2016 NHL Draft
- No. 1 Auston Matthews, Toronto
- No. 2 Patrick Laine, Winnipeg
- No. 6 Matthew Tkachuk, Calgary
- No. 14 Charles McAvoy, Boston,
2015 NHL Draft (which is stacked, by the way)
- No. 1 Connor McDavid, Edmonton
- No. 2 Jack Eichel, Buffalo
- No. 3 Dylan Strome, Arizona
- No. 4 Mitch Marner, Toronto
- No. 8 Zach Werenski, Columbus
All of those name are either All-Stars or players who found success in their first season.
The crop of players available for Dallas, and the rest of the NHL for that matter, in the 2017 NHL draft lacks that “generational talent” that previous drafts had. There is no McDavid. There is no Eichel. There is no Marner. That is not to say a Patrick or Vilardi couldn’t turn into one. But right now, the buzz over those players isn’t there.
So, if Nill and Hitchcock are looking at their big board, which I assume they’re doing at this very moment, and find they are not in love, or a top-end player doesn’t fit, they should trade the pick for pieces to help the NHL club today.
Would Colorado be willing to move Matt Duchene for the No. 3 pick? Could you entice Edmonton and Jordan Eberle with that pick? Maybe more? Dallas would still have the No. 29 pick (thanks Anaheim!) to take a solid player that fits the system later in the first round.
The Stars, while reloading after a disastrous season, still see themselves in a “win-now” window. Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, and Bishop are in their prime. Jason Spezza will be ready to redeem himself after an inconsistent 2016-17 (15 goals, 68 games, and a minus-18). A full season with young blueliners like Esa Lindell and Julius Honka could be beneficial, but they’ll still likely want to add a defensive piece if they can.
The pieces are in place for a wild next 10 days. And it all begins with the No. 3 overall pick in just a few more days.