Surrounded by a flurry of activity and transactions, with NHL teams swapping picks with each other to move up or down, the Dallas Stars patiently sat tight and held their ground on Day 2 of the 2019 NHL Entry Draft.
The Stars entered Day 2 with just three draft picks on hands, and despite some conversations between general manager Jim Nill and other unnamed teams, the Stars exited the afternoon with four new prospects.
“We’re happy considering the picks,” Nill said from the draft floor. “We knew we didn’t have a lot of picks going in, but we felt that the scouts did a great job with what we had. I love our first round pick. And then where we picked from the fourth round on, we did a good job.”
“We had a couple calls to make some moves, but in the end they would have pushed us back too far. I didn’t want to miss the chance of having some better players that we liked.”
So, just who were those picks?
After a long wait, the Dallas staff kicked off their Day 2 by taking defenseman Samuel Sjolund in the 4th round, 111th overall. Sjolund — a mobile two-way blueliner with puck skill — was rated a little lower than where he got picked (163rd overall at Future Considerations), but the Stars put a lot of faith in their longtime Swedish scout, Rickard Oquist, so this pick has his fingerprints all over it.
“A highly skilled kid. We’re very high on his overall ability,” said Joe McDonnell, the Stars’ director of amateur scouting. “He’s built, again, for today’s game — he’s a really good skater, he moves the puck well, he has your typical Swedish skillset. We’re excited about him.”
After grabbing someone who wasn’t very widely known in the 4th round, the Stars went the opposite direction in the 5th round.
Nicholas Porco, who was taken by the Stars at 142, was the 4th-overall pick in the 2017 OHL Priority Selection, ahead of prospects who went in the 1st round on Friday night such as Thomas Harley, Philip Tomasino and Connor McMichael. Despite that high profile, however, Porco has taken time to adjust to the OHL, and then got caught playing down the lineup a bit this past season with his Saginaw Spirit team.
That being said, Porco is a prospect with some very interesting tools who has the potential to take huge strides in his game and develop into a new-age power forward if given a bigger role.
“Very good speed, very good skater, has good puck skill — may surprise some people,” McDonnell said of Porco.
In Nicholas Porco, the Dallas Stars are getting a very good skating, north/south winger with good puck skill. Effective when the game has pace, not as much so when things slow down. But former high OHL pick with a lot of offensive potential. @dylangalloway_ is a fan. #NHLDraft— OHL Prospects (@BrockOtten) June 22, 2019
Dallas wrapped up their 2019 draft with a prospect in a similar situation as Porco in defenseman Ben Brinkman, who went in the 6th round at 173rd overall.
A formerly highly touted defender coming out of Minnesota high school hockey (Future Considerations had him 38th in their 2019 rankings at this time last year), Brinkman fell down a lot of draft boards this season because he played a limited role as a rookie in the NCAA (although Elite Prospects had him 80th on their list).
“For his age, to be able to play college hockey — and did a very good job — I think he would have been a higher pick, a much higher pick,” McDonnell said. “I think he was rated real high at the start of the year and I think, just his age, putting him into college, that’s tough. You’re playing against kids that are four, five years older. We’re excited for him, just to see where he’s going to end up. He still has three, four years down the road where he’s going to grow into his body.”
Edina's Ben Brinkman scores at 12:12 in period 2 pic.twitter.com/noxoGriM5V— CCX Sports (@CCXSports) November 27, 2016
The strong, physical, two-way defender certainly isn’t without his fair share of fans and defenders.
Ben Brinkman goes to @DallasStars at 173 overall.... 2-Way defenseman, sheltered for much of the year being the youngest player in college hockey! Was gophers best defenseman down the stretch, eventually found his game as the season progressed! Athletic, physical dman— Dusten Braaksma (@Braaksma_D14) June 22, 2019
It wasn’t a busy day for Dallas on Saturday, but if the quality of these picks significantly outweighs the quantity — as the Stars believe — then that’s what’s going to be the most important thing down the road.
Check back on Defending Big D tomorrow for a longer article with more thoughts and observations about the Stars’ 2019 draft.