Plenty of options for Stars in NHL draft

The offseason officially begins for Joe Nieuwendyk, Bob Gainey, Glen Gulutzan, and Tom Gaglardi today. All of the talk, speculation, and expectations will have to head to the back-burner in exchange for some actual actions. We knew, after watching the Stars for the last several seasons that they are in desperate need of some fresh talent. And now, they go about trying to find it at a reasonable cost.

In the weeks ahead, there will be plenty of time to speculate about the veterans that will be added. Earlier in the week, I spent time discussing the possibilities that could emerge as early as this weekend in the form of trades. The Stars are not necessarily flush with talent to trade away, but from talking to the principle members of the staff over the last several months, it is clear that anyone over the age of 27 that can be moved and can help the group below the age of 27 grow moving forward will be considered. That is not to say that those players would bring a king’s ransom, but let us all expect that the boldest moves of the summer may come in the form of trades. And those trades could happen on draft weekend.

However, assuming the Stars will not make our jaw drop this weekend by pushing in all of Gaglardi’s chips into the middle of the table on Rick Nash or Jordan Staal, Brandon Dubinsky or someone else who might not be on the radar, let’s spend our time this morning trying to figure out who the 1st Round pick of the Stars will be by the end of the night.

They have the 13th pick in the 1st Round as of this moment. I say that because with an additional 2nd rounder, it is conceivable that they could move up if the right players starts dropping, and the team has also suggested that they might not be against heading the other direction if they think they can aid their farm system with an additional 2nd rounder by moving back if they think there is not much left to pick through when they are picking.

Nail Yakupov will most likely go 1st. It seems in the past few days, Columbus and defenseman Ryan Murray have looked like a fit at #2. Milwaukee-born Alex Galchenyuk, Yakupov’s junior teammate at Sarnia, looks like he will go #3 to Montreal. And after that, there doesn’t seem to be much consensus that can be found.

The only sure thing about the NHL draft in 2012 is this: After the top 3 picks, there are no sure things. We have some idea who might go where, but if you are the Stars at #13, you have to plan for any and all scenarios. Then, provided that you have 13 players that you like and have them ranked against each other in mock drafts in your own war-room in the days before the big day, you are prepared to have whoever is left on that list.

Now, everyone can talk about taking the best player available, but that generally is more of a cliche than a practice. Because when push comes to shove, a team has to look at what they currently have in their system and adjust accordingly. And that is why this year, the Stars are very aware of the fact that they have many capable wingers coming along and a decent supply of defensemen. But, there is a major shallow area at center ice for the organization from the top of the Stars’ roster all the way down to the bottom of the organization. If all things are equal, the team wants a center. The trouble is, there are not many centers in this draft. Those that are there are in most cases not considered cinches to be “Top 6” centers. So, just because you need centers doesn’t mean you should reach rather than get one of the many defensemen who appear to be the deepest supply at the top of the draft.

If the Stars are to look at the odds, they should figure out which defenseman they like the best. Because odds are that a few of those Top 13 will fall to them, and of those, odds suggest they will be blue-liners. Good news there, because while the Stars have plenty of defensemen, they can always use more candidates for the “Top 4” slots on their roster. It would be a pick that makes plenty of sense, especially if there are some power play QBs available or big men who can play 25 minutes as a potential shutdown partner with last year’s 1st rounder, Jamie Oleksiak.

As for wingers, there is one winger in particular I think they could potentially go with at #13, but otherwise, I don’t expect they will look there. The exception is big Thomas Wilson. Since every organization in the NHL is looking for the next Milan Lucic — a giant winger who destroys defensemen and drives the net — Wilson could fill a spot nicely. But, beyond Wilson, I fully expect that we can merely sift through the defensemen and centers and build our own scenarios for how things play out.

Let’s do it:

Top Tier (This group has no chance of getting to #13 — So let’s not spend much time on them):

The list of players that will go here include winger Nail Yakupov, defenseman Ryan Murray, winger Filip Forsberg, center Alex Galchenyuk, and most likely, defenseman Jacob Trouba. Trouba may or may not fit in the top 5, but the odds of him getting to #13 are remote. I think Dallas would happily accept any of these players with open arms into their organization, but that is a rather irrelevant conversation so let’s allow the really poor teams to enjoy their new hopes of the franchise and move on.

Next Tier (This group is likely to be gone before #13 — but there are a few the Stars might target):

Here we find D Matt Dumba. Dumba is very unlikely to be in the mix at #13, but I sense that if he were to fall into range of the Stars, perhaps he would be worth a move up. He really brings a skill set that excites many teams and has those intangibles as well. Around #8, if he makes it that far, the phone call might be worth making. Also in this group is the very talented Mikhail Grigorenko, the Russian center who lit up the Quebec league last season. His motor is a big question and the KHL is another, but if you want a center who could come back to haunt you if you pass him by, this would be the guy. He seems too cliche to end up in Washington, but if he gets to the right spot, it could make all sorts of sense. I am just not sure Dallas is that place. Either way, Grigorenko is the guy with the widest range in this draft. He could be in the Top 5 and he could slide to #20. He is a fascinating study that must be the proper fit.

Tuevo Teravainen is a Finnish winger and wil likely be in this next group, as is D Morgan Reilly and D Griffin Reinhart. It is important to note that putting this group together consisted of 5 names. The Stars would be quite excited about Reinhart or Reilly, I imagine, and some people think Reinhart will be there when #13 arrives, but in the last few weeks, I have seen him as high as #4 in mocks from experts. Reilly is coming off a shortened season with ACL issues, but by many reports, like Galchenyuk, it doesn’t look like a 2011-12 injury is going to affect their position much. If Reilly or Reinhart slide, the Stars would dance.

The Stars Tier (Players that could be in the mix at #13 — stacked in the order of preference):

C Radek Faksa
D Cody Ceci
D Derrick Pouliot
W Thomas Wilson
D Hampus Lindholm

As you can see, I don’t believe the Stars will dig much deeper than this. I know there are other names that will be available such as the Finnish Dman Olli Maatta, the Latvian center Zemgus Girgensons, or center Brendan Gaunce, but I don’t get the feel that the team agrees that they are of the caliber of the 5 players above. If they end up with any of those 3 players, I think it would be in a trade back in the draft.

So let’s briefly discuss the 5 players that are in play.

C Radek Faksa — 6-3, 203 — Czech Republic — 2 Way center who played at Kitchner last season. He appears to be a player who can really be what the Stars need at center, and unlike Grigorenko, does not have questions about his drive or his motor. In fact, he has been pursuing his NHL dreams since he left home at 11 years old. And with Gainey and Nieuwendyk looking for 2-way centers who can handle both ends of the ice, this might be the type #2 center who anchors your roster for years to come. Not sure he will be around at #13, but if he is, this is the guy.

D Cody Ceci — 6-1, 205 — Canada — All scenario defenseman who played in Ottawa for the 67’s. His offensive potential is special as well as his ability to skate with size. He can get physical and he can play on both special teams. He could conceivably be ready to play in the show in 2012 and has tremendous upside. Maybe a tier below the best in this draft at the position like Murray, Trouba, and Dumba, but there would be nothing wrong with leaving the draft with Ceci (Pronounced “C.C.”)

D Derrick Pouliot — 6-0, 181 — Canada — Played very well for the Portland Winterhawks last season with 59 points and is the type of offensive defenseman that everyone is looking for. Seems like an ideal QB for the Power Play and will take a bit of time with development, but could really be another blue chipper to get excited about. Just as slick as it gets with the puck. I don’t think he is quite the total player Ceci is, but the depth of this draft is on the blue line in the first 15 picks, and there would be no issues with adding Pouliot to the stable.

D Hampus Lindholm — 6-2, 185 — Sweden — This guy shot up the boards with an absurd performance at the NHL Combine with endurance recovery levels that were off the charts. He is a very talented and has a complete game that would make him a very low risk gamble at #13. You can sleep rather easy that he will be a regular for you and solid in many areas.

W Thomas Wilson — 6-4, 195 — Canada — Ah, yes, the attraction like bugs to light of hockey teams to a true power forward. It makes us occasionally squint and wonder about a player who could help the team physically impose their will on the opponent. When is the last true punishing forward the Stars had? Bigger, stronger, and willing to throw the body around? I am waiting. The point is that Wilson is still growing into his body. His skating is a work in progress. But, the feeling that he has a chance to be that type of player is why he is a fast riser as draft day approaches. Lucic? Bertuzzi? These are bold names to throw around, but I believe he is very much on the radar and perhaps the one winger that the Stars would consider jumping on if he gets to #13. Buffalo is a likely spot for him at #12.

Basically, in summary, if the Stars leave with Ceci, Faksa, Reinhart, Reilly, or even Pouliot I would be excited. If they somehow work their way to Trouba or Dumba, I would be over the moon. Wilson and Grigorenko would be interesting but a wait and see.

Now, let’s see how it all goes tonight. It will be most interesting what the Stars do with their first bold strike of the summer.