In about 10 days, like the rest of the National Hockey League, the Dallas Stars will look for their next big thing at the 2012 NHL Draft. The Stars are one of eight teams that has eight picks in this year’s event, which will run seven rounds. Dallas’ first pick will be 13th overall, a spot the Stars have thanks to missing the playoffs for a fourth straight season.
But the club also has two pretty important picks in the second round as Dallas will select 43rd and 61st overall. The Stars took defenseman Jamieson Oleksiak in the first-round of the 2011 draft and the big Canadian-born blueliner showed well for himself last year with Saginaw and Niagara of the Ontario Hockey League. Oleksiak also got some solid experience with the Ice Dogs in the OHL Playoffs as Niagara advanced all the way to the league finals before bowing out against OHL champion London.
And in 2010, the Stars took Jack Campbell, an American-born goaltender, with their top pick. Campbell spent most of last season in the OHL before he was assigned to the Texas Stars of the American Hockey League in March. That’s where he figures to start the 2012 season, likely part of a tandem also featuring fellow youngster Tyler Beskorowany.
In the 2009 draft, the Stars took forward Scott Glennie, who made his NHL debut in last season’s finale with St. Louis. After giving him a sample of what life can be like in the league in early April, the Dallas brass will expect to see more from Glennie this preseason and likely want to see a strong push from him to make this year’s club on opening night.
However, the main focus of this is on the draft and when asked what he feels like the biggest need currently is in the organization, Stars Director of Player Personnel Les Jackson said he felt like the club was a bit thin at center. So, while it wouldn’t be a huge surprise to see Dallas take a center at No. 13 were the right player available, expect them to stick to the tried and true strategy of taking the best player available.
“I think we’re pretty secure in a lot of positions but we’re a little thin at center ice,” Jackson said. “That’s an area that long term and short term that we always have to continue to look at. There are certain types of players at each position that you start to look for at the draft. It’s always about trying to find talent. If you can do that, then you’re doing a pretty good job-that combined with finding players who have a passion to play and a strong element of character.”
While ensuring the right player is taken in the opening round is crucial to the success of any club’s draft strategy, this year’s event might take on some added significance because the Stars also have two picks in the second round at No. 43 and No. 61.
But the organization is downplaying how much more important this year’s proceedings are even with an extra pick in the second round. “Well, I think every draft’s important. You always try to do the best you can,” Jackson said. “I don’t know if it’s any more important than any other draft. You try to enter each draft with the idea that you’re going to find players that will help your team. Drafting is important but finding free agents is important.”
In past years, namely under former owner Tom Hicks, the Stars have often traded out of the first round, using those picks as a way to pull off trades to lure big-name free agents to the club. Well, now that Tom Gaglardi is calling the shots, it doesn’t appear that strategy will make a return when it comes to the organization’s draft strategy.
During a May press conference announcing the return of ex-Stars coach and GM Bob Gainey to the organization as a consultant, Gaglardi basically said as much. He reiterated the club’s commitment to building from within, adding that while free agency was one avenue to improve the Stars’ roster, it was also something that was wrought with considerable pitfalls. Those statements don’t sound like someone who has any thought of trading away any high draft picks, especially with the Stars having three picks in the first 61 of this years’ event.
Still, were the right deal to come along, those who will be making the call on draft night won’t rule out moving up or maybe even moving down provided the right deal is on the table.
“Yeah, we always look at options with each pick as far as what’s available as far as trades. The bottom line is we have to be prepared to take the player that’s sitting in front of us,” Jackson said. “That’s generally something we always do. We try to manage what we have with every pick as well as the options that might be there.”
While the Stars organization might be downplaying how truly important this draft is, for a club that hasn’t made the playoffs in four straight seasons, this draft, especially with it being the first one under new ownership, is most definitely quite important. Not only does the organization have to hit a home run with their first-round pick at No. 13, but getting at least one NHL-ready player at either No. 43 or No. 61 also has to be a top priority.
Dallas has done a solid job of drafting prospects over the last few years, but in an era where many other teams draft guys and send them to the NHL almost right away, getting a few players who could handle that immediate jump would definitely be a huge step in the right direction for an organization that has been lacking something these past few seasons.