The first round of each year’s NHL entry draft is always the most important for teams, but the decisions that each team makes in the following six rounds can also play an enormous role in separating the league’s top contenders from its struggling basement dwellers.
Simply put, the more impact players you find outside of the first round, the better off your organization is as a whole.
We here at Defending Big D have spent the past month introducing our readers to the cream of this season’s draft crop, players who are expected to be top picks, but now it’s time to shift gears a little and start focusing on what happens after the opening round.
Today, we’ll focus on Dallas’ second round pick (44th overall), and over the next week there will be additional articles about the rounds to follow. Below you’ll find quick profiles on six different prospects who could be fits for the organization at 44th overall.
Why were these six particular players chosen for this spotlight? The Dallas Stars currently have the following needs in their prospect system that should be priorities to address in this draft:
- Centers who can reliably produce offense and drive possession
- Pass-first, playmaking forwards who specialize on the power play
- Right-shot defensemen who can kill penalties
For a better idea of which prospects the Stars currently have in their system, feel free to check out the most recent edition of Defending Big D’s Prospect Rankings, from back in March.
Important note: these views are entirely my own. They have been developed through personal scouting, research, and analysis of the team’s prospect pool. I have no firsthand or insider knowledge about which players the Stars are actually targeting for this pick.
While there’s no guarantee that any of these upcoming players will still be available at 44th overall (the draft is always full of surprises), they have ultimately been chosen based on an accumulation of various rankings and recent league-wide draft trends that suggest a high likelihood that they will still be around. It should also be mentioned that high-ranked players who unexpectedly slide down the draft board should be heavily considered in this spot as well, but we won’t know who they are (if anyone) until the picks start going through.
Without further ado, let’s begin.
Jacob Bernard-Docker — Defense — Okotoks Oilers (AJHL)
After Cale Makar absolutely demolished the AJHL last season, scouts paid close attention to Alberta’s Junior A league this year to see what other prospects were being developed there, and it didn’t take long for them to find Bernard-Docker. A steady, reliable blueliner who can do everything and log important minutes in all situations, his best asset is his effortless skating, which allows him to sharply change direction and accelerate with ease. Has what you call “farm boy strength.” He’s headed to a great program at the University of North Dakota, so his development is in good hands.
Cole Fonstad — Left Wing — Prince Albert Raiders (WHL)
What Fonstad lacks in size and high-end skating ability, he makes up for in puck skill, compete level, and vision. He’s at his best working the power play from the half wall and with the puck under his control, keeping a safe gap as he scans the offensive zone for ways to exploit the penalty killers. Twenty-one of his 52 assists this season came on the man advantage. He‘s shifty and hard to contain in tight spaces thanks to a good first couple of steps. Showing a strong drive to win games, he plays with a bit of a chip on his shoulder while also managing to stay out of the penalty box.
Filip Hallander — Center — Timra (Allsvenskan)
Hallander isn’t the type of prospect who makes flashy moves that pull fans out of their seats, but he is someone who simply finds ways to get results for his team. His hockey sense is superb, allowing him the ability to read plays and pick off errant passes. He has a knack for getting underneath opponents and winning pucks from them, and takes great routes, with and without the puck. He could have been a first rounder if his skating was just a step quicker. Was playing injured in the latter part of the year, so perhaps there’s more upside that hasn’t been tapped yet.
Niklas Nordgren — Right Wing — HIFK (Liiga)
Nordgren just got better and better as the season went along, culminating in a stellar performance at the U18s where he helped lead Finland to a gold medal with eight goals and 10 points in seven games. Before that, he produced the best points-per-game in the Jr. A SM-liiga with a whopping 42 points in 28 contests, despite being only 17 years old. He doesn’t have the speed you ideally want to see out of a player of his small stature, but he thinks the game one step ahead of his opponents, he’s dangerous with the puck, and he doesn’t cheat in any of the three zones.
Jay O’Brien — Center — Thayer Academy (USHS)
One of the hardest working prospects in the entire draft, O’Brien seems destined to become a fan favorite in the NHL. Hockey executives who know him rave about his personality, attitude, and commitment to getting better. A buzzsaw out on the ice, he makes a positive difference most shifts, playing with a ton of pace and always applying pressure. With the puck on his stick he isn’t afraid to challenge defenders one-on-one or go hard to the net, often with success. Doesn’t have a lot of experience against top competition yet, so he may need a little extra time to develop.
Jesse Ylonen — Right Wing — Espoo United (Mestis)
The son of former NHLer Juha Ylonen, Jesse perfectly exemplifies the concept of puck-possession hockey. Utilizing quick hands, quick feet, and a quick mind, Ylonen is an absolute treat to watch when he has the puck. He owns some of the softest mitts in the entire draft. He uses a non-stop motor to dart around the neutral and offensive zones looking for chances. He’ll drive wide, make sharp turns laterally or stop and twist to shake off defenders who try to cover him, with routine success. Produces results, too, thanks to crisp passes and a snappy wrist shot.