No draft picks? No problem.
Dallas Stars General Manager Jim Nill has been aggressive in the trade market over the past two seasons, especially when it comes to his draft picks. The Stars are currently down to just four selections apiece in the 2019 and 2020 drafts, and the status of two of those picks — both from the Mats Zuccarello trade — are conditional (you can check out the top of the Stars page on CapFriendly to learn more about the picks and their conditions).
So, how does an NHL GM refill an organization’s prospect pipeline with a dearth of draft picks?
The easiest way is to hit up the market for undrafted prospects, as Nill and his staff have done over the past few seasons. And boy, have they been active on this front.
Of all of their prospects currently under contract, the following players were never drafted: Gavin Bayreuther, Joel L’Esperance, Ben Gleason, Landon Bow, Tony Calderone, Ondrej Vala, Josh Melnick and Tye Felhaber.
As of Monday, you can add another name to that list: Emil Djuse.
To say that the Stars are familiar with the 25-year-old left-shooting Swedish defenseman would be an understatement.
He played on Frolunda in the SHL with John Klingberg in 2013-14 and then Mattias Janmark and prospect John Nyberg in 2014-15, and for the past two seasons played for Skelleftea with prospect Albin Eriksson. He also suited up alongside former Stars prospect Emil Molin at the 2013 World Juniors.
The book that Nill and his scouts have on Djuse might be the size of a novel by this point.
Djuse is certainly on the older side of the “prospect” category, but there’s no denying his playing abilities. A quick puck-moving blueliner, he’s been playing pro in Sweden since he was 16, starting in their third-tier league before working his way up to the Allsvenskan and eventually the SHL, so maybe he’s something of a late-bloomer. This past season he had 22 points in 49 games and, most impressive, led Skelleftea in ice time with 20:57 per game.
Highlights of a couple of his goals can be watched here and also here, while footage of a game where he picked up two primary assists and showed off his wonderful skating ability is here at the 0:59 mark.
Djuse will most likely play for the Texas Stars next season on a blue line that includes Gleason, Nyberg, Dillon Heatherington, Joe Cecconi, Joel Hanley, maybe Bayreuther (if he’s not in the NHL) ,and/or Vala (if he’s not the in the ECHL).
Going back to an earlier train of thought, signing undrafted prospects to entry-level contracts certainly isn’t a proper replacement for traded away draft picks, as most of the best prospects get identified and scooped up by other teams via the draft. That being said, however, the Stars have done quite a good job in finding real talent with this Plan B method, with Bayruether, L’Esperance, Gleason and Bow having all made their NHL debuts already.
If the Stars want to continue trading away draft picks for veteran roster players, regularly finding NHL talent through other means will make that burden a lot easier to bear.
North American Juniors
It looks like we’re going to see something of a Stars prospect showdown in the OHL finals this year, as Felhaber and his Ottawa 67s team will face off against Liam Hawel and the Guelph Storm.
Last week I wrote about how Felhaber and the 67s were a perfect 11-0 on the season. Well, they officially made it 12-0 on Wednesday when they pulled off their third consecutive sweep. As he has been many times this season, Felhaber was the hero for Ottawa, scoring the game-tying goal late and then the game-winning (and series-winning) goal early in overtime.
From a :33 remaining game-tying goal to a :20 into first OT winning goal ... here’s how the clutch performance of @Ottawa67sHockey overager & @DallasStars prospect Tye Felhaber went down in less than 60 minutes. #67s #GoStars pic.twitter.com/j8XaDV2WBM— Kathryn Jean (@msconduct) April 25, 2019
The team’s postgame celebration was something else as well.
For Hawel and Guelph, the playoffs have been almost the opposite kind of story.
They climbed out of a 3-0 hole versus the London Knights in the second round and then fought back from a 3-1 series deficit in the third round against the Saginaw Spirit, pulling off a tight 3-2 win in Game 7 on Monday. They’ve now played 18 games in these playoffs, an entire series worth of games more than Ottawa’s 12.
For his part, Hawel has been pretty quiet for Guelph. He has 10 points and 33 shots in 18 games thus far, but had no goals and just three assists in his past 10 games.
Game 1 of the OHL finals comes on Thursday.
Swedish forward Jacob Peterson and his Frolunda club are currently tied 2-2 against Djurgarden in the SHL finals. Peterson was held off the score sheet over the past two games. He has six points in 14 contests while averaging 10:13 of ice time on the team’s fourth line.