With nine selections in hand, the Dallas Stars went to work and did not step too far out of their comfort zone. An organizational need was addressed in the first round, and nearly every subsequent round after, as the Stars selected seven defensemen, one goaltender and one forward.
The talent level ranges from potential top pairing to potential ruffian, but the Stars’ simple approach of “BPA” was featured indiscriminately.
With the high amount of major junior prospects selected, Jim Nill and his staff will be under the gun to quickly determine who will be an asset to the organization and who will not be retained two years from now.
With a limited amount of first-round caliber defensemen available in the 2014 NHL Draft, it is no surprise that some blueliners slid up a little further than some rankings may have initially suggested. The Stars nabbed an excellent defenseman in the middle of the first round when they selected Finnish import Julius Honka from the Swift Current Broncos. The Stars wasted little time extending their streak of selecting a player from the WHL to eight drafts. The organization has made it a point to augment their defense corps that has struggled to find a consistent foundation for a number of years.
Honka instantly brings something to the pipeline that it did not have previously. He is in constant control of the game with his intelligence, poise and high panic threshold. His skating is very good in all facets. He can carry the puck with confidence and make an excellent first pass. In fact, he may well have the best outlet pass ability in the entire draft class. Additionally, he is just about the smartest player in the draft class. His hockey intelligence jumps off the page both offensively and defensively. The smarts and sense easily make up for not being a big, hulking defenseman.
Honka told Hockey’s Future how excited he was to be picked so high in the first round and go to a team with a history of quality Finnish players like Dallas. “It feels awesome to get drafted in the first round by the Dallas Stars… it’s every boy’s dream and it came true,” Honka said following his selection.
Like many young blueliners, he is probably not ready out of the box. He is likely to leave Swift Current and move to the Finnish League to play against men for a season before his future is re-evaluated. Honka will need to gain some strength but he cannot afford to compromise his slipperiness in the process. Strength will help him absorb the hits that will be tougher for him to dodge on retrievals in the NHL and it will help him improve his shot. All young defensemen can improve defensively, but Honka is going to evolve into much more than a power play specialist. The Stars have a potential Tobias Enstrom clone on their hands.
Honka met with the media after being chosen by the Stars, with some of his comments being captured in this HF video.
Brett Pollock, C/LW, Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL)
2nd round, 45th overall
Height: 6-2 Weight 182
With their second selection, the Stars took a swing at a big-upside, modern power forward type. Modern power forward is the operative term, as he is not a strong, brooding, physical force. While this may develop in time, he is more likely to be the Rick Nash type than the Cam Neely type. Brett Pollock has grown by leaps and bounds as a player in 2013-14. After just two goals and two assists as a rookie, Pollock exploded for 25 goals and 55 points last season. His 11 goals and 19 points in 21 playoff contests helped propel the Oil Kings to the Memorial Cup.
Pollock can play center and wing, but the way he comes off the wall with his puck protection skills, he looks more like a winger. He can cut to the net hard and shield off would-be defenders despite not filling out his frame yet. His shooting release really sets him apart from some other big men that do not receive as much fanfare. His snappy shot is deceiving and accurate. The vision he possesses is impressive as well. Pollock uses his big reach and smooth hands to swashbuckler his way past overwhelmed defensemen.
The Alberta native has improved his skating and it is now fitting his frame better. The strides are not long and exaggerated, but stubbier with more toe than heel. It is not a negative, but it is still a work in progress. Like many big men, he wore down over the course of his 90+ game season in 2014. He will need to improve his stamina, consistency and game-to-game craftsmanship. Some periods, or even games, Pollock appears to be playing in a dense fog. He is a young player though, not so much in terms of age, but in terms of experience. He was thrown into the fire in 2013-14 and responded very well. The major upside is evident and given the open nature of this draft, it would not have been at all obscene if Pollock was taken late in the first round.
A much different brand of defenseman was selected at pick 75 by Dallas. Alex Peters, unlike Honka, is a hulking, defensive defenseman who is a tremendous physical specimen. Peters patrolled the Plymouth blue line for 50 games in the 2013-14 season, netting the first three goals of his OHL career and nine points in all for the campaign. He ended up leading the club in plus-minus at minus-3. Not bad, as Plymouth was one of just two teams not to eclipse the 200-goal mark on the regular season. Peters was a middle-pairing player on a defensive-minded, tough club.
Peters is big but not at all immobile. He could improve his skating certainly, but he moves well laterally and he possesses good leverage and balance. Peters can move the puck with mild effectiveness, but he does not possess any sort of exciting offensive upside. He can bring some physicality to the table but sometimes his hits carry him well out of position. Peters is a raw player who is still learning the game. His timing needs work and he makes poor reads on layered plays, which prompts him to leave his feet often and unnecessarily. Overall, his hockey sense is on the low side and it may affect his long-term growth.
Michael Prapavessis, D, Toronto Lakeshore Patriots (OJHL)
4th round, 105th overall
Height: 6-1 Weight: 173
For the third time in four selections, the Stars went with a defenseman – clearly outlining an organizational need. Jim Nill and his group dipped into the Junior A ranks and selected Michael Prapavessis from the Toronto Lakeshore Patriots. The OJHL champions had an excellent season and it seemed as if Prapavessis seldom left the ice. The lean defenseman led the entire circuit in points by a rearguard with 54 – 49 of them assists. All this en route to being named the best defenseman in the OJHL.
Prapavessis is right to have attracted the attention that he did. Though very small and quite raw, he exhibits terrific potential. His skating should develop very nicely, though his stride is a bit awkward – reminiscent of someone who has had a recent growth spurt – he has great speed and a nimble cross-over step that should allow him to cover a ton of ice at any level soon enough. The biggest draw to the Mississauga native is his hockey IQ. He reads the game very well, makes smart decisions with the puck and is tough to get around one-on-one. His vision with the puck is unique for his current level of play. He can look off anyone in Junior A and slide a pass backdoor through the seam. Another potential big advantage for Prapavessis is that he can play his off-side comfortably, which could make him a major asset at the next levels.
The heady defenseman is likely off to RPI in the fall and that is a grand idea for his development. He is physically weak and he could probably skate past his own shot attempts if he got a good first step. With the limited amount of games in the college schedule, Prapavessis can smooth out his skating stride and fill out a manageable frame. He may not have elite upside in terms of physical tools, but the way he thinks the game makes him extremely promising.
Brent Moran, G, Niagara IceDogs (OHL)
4th round, 115th overall
Height: 6-4 Weight: 186
Gigantic goaltender Brent Moran took over the throne in Niagara late in the season and started to find his rhythm. It was a rebuilding season for Niagara and the roster was not strong. Moran helped the IceDogs eek into the playoffs and then made for a very interesting series against a conservative North Bay club. Niagara forced the series to go the distance and Moran was largely stellar and stopped over 92-percent of the shots he faced in the series. Moran will be the full-time starter for the first time in his career to start the 2014-15 season.
Moran is a massive goaltender who plays a lot of the game from his knees. He competes well and battles for a chance to get a piece of every puck. He shuffles pretty well in the crease and his movement is good. Moran is about as raw as can be at this point in his development. The tools are strong but they lack polish for sure. Every strength is counteracted with a weakness. When he relies too heavily on his butterfly foundation, he is prone to dipping his shoulders early and getting beat high when he does not drop. When he plays it straight up, he seems less fluid and gets beat through the wickets aplenty. He makes good reflex saves, even from his knees – but how many of those saves are a result of a sloppy rebound?
Moran is a work in progress and with the quality of goaltending ahead of him, the Stars do not have to be in any hurry to get him in the pros. This is a long-term project, but good value deep in the fourth round.
After having his name called by the Stars on Day 2 of the draft, Moran met with the media, with some of his comments included in this HF video.
Miro Karjalainen, D, Jokerit Helsinki U18 (Fin Jr. B)
5th round, 135th overall
Height 6-5 Weight 182
Dallas has never been shy about going deep into the Finnish or Swedish junior ranks to pluck potential gems. While the Stars might not have a diamond, they did get the rough. Miro Karjalainen spent most of the season with Jokerit’s U18 team. With Jokerit heading for the KHL, Karjalainen signed on with HIFK for three years and will join the U20 team in the organization and, in turn, the highest level of junior hockey in Finland.
Not much of an offensive package on Karjalainen, but he is growing into his body and filling out nicely at a young age. He has a stride that can be sharpened to the point that mobility will become a plus. The important thing for Karjalainen is to be a rugged competitor as the players will begin to match him strength-wise as he moves up the ladder. He is tough not to notice at his level and that might explain how word got out after he was barely on any radar just six or so months before the draft. The big Finn plays a simple game and has a great attitude according to his coaches.
Aaron Haydon, D, Niagara IceDogs (OHL)
6th round, 154th overall
Height 6-3 Weight 197
Dallas went back to Niagara for their sixth round selection, defenseman Aaron Haydon. The American-born right-handed shooting defenseman was drafted in the first round of the OHL Draft from the Belle Tire program. Thankfully for Haydon, NHL teams do not use box score statistics to make selections. In 61 games, Haydon notched just 16 points and by far a team-worst minus-39 rating. Hard to believe he found so much time to be out for goals against considering he crossed the century mark in penalty minutes. That said, Haydon is certainly worthy of a selection and probably deserved a better fate than some of the numbers might suggest.
He is a big player that skates extremely well for his size. The 6’3″ blueliner is very smooth on his blades, especially laterally. His puck skills are negligible and he often makes hair-graying turnovers in his own zone because of a lack of polish, timing and confidence. He defends well one-on-one but too often he expects the game to come to him. He improved a lot over the course of the season, namely with his in-zone coverage, but he is a ways from glimmering. Besides lacking proper timing, Haydon has trouble finishing plays off. He identifies the play, identifies his man, saddles up with him for a moment and then loses focus and lets him tap home a gift-wrapped goal. He is frustratingly inconsistent, but tracking in the right direction. Given his size, skating ability, willingness to compete and desire to be better, it is a worthwhile use of a sixth round pick. He is about two tick marks away from really taking his defensive game to the next level, but the question lingers as to whether he can put it together in a timely manner.
John Nyberg, D, Vastra Frolunda J20 (J20 SuperElit)
6th round, 165th overall
Height 6-2 Weight 180
From the prestigious Frolunda program, Dallas selected defenseman John Nyberg from Sweden’s junior circuit. The rangy defenseman worked his way up the ranks quickly in 2013-14 and, in the process, led his J18 Elit team in scoring. As a 17-year-old, Nyberg already joined forces with the U20 team and projects to start the season there in 2014-15. Before leaving the J18 ranks, Nyberg scored twice in his final match to capture the bronze medal for Frolunda.
Nyberg is considered an offensive-minded defenseman who has a big shot and can quarterback a power play effectively. As Nyberg emerges from the depths of Swedish junior hockey, more about his game will be pieced together.
Patrick Sanvido, D, Windsor Spitfires (OHL)
7th round, 195th overall
Height 6-5 Weight 218
Sticking to the main theme of the Stars’ 2014 NHL Draft class, the final selection was invested into gargantuan CHL defender Patrick Sanvido. This strong-as-an-ox rearguard is going to have a hard time getting his goal total to exceed the number of bouts he partakes in for a given year though. Even at the OHL level, just a single goal in 124 games – 14 points in all – and 122 penalty minutes sum it up pretty easily. Sanvido is an old school defenseman who is going to try to defend his own turf rather than invade enemy territory every night.
There is a lot to Sanvido himself, but not a lot to his game. He is an average skater, maybe above the mark when size is considered. He has no discernible puck skills and his defensive play is raw and one-and-a-half or two steps behind. Many plays are finished off with Sanvido struggling to get stick on his man in front of the net. At a glance, it would appear that the hockey sense and skillset are too limited for him to become an NHL regular unless he has a niche. He is still learning how to apply his body, physicality, and strength into something useful. The easiest route for Sanvido to make it to the pros probably starts with a boxing lesson and then later trying to craft himself into a more serviceable player like John Erskine or Deryk Engelland.