Dallas Stars 2002 Post-Draft Review

By Keith Riskey

The Stars snatched up quite a few excellent second tier prospects in the 2002 draft. Many of these prospects, while not in the “sure thing” category, have a good shot at the NHL.

The Stars garnered five top-43 picks in this draft, as a result of some moderate wheeling and dealing. First, the Stars traded down (twice) in the draft because – according to General Manager Doug Armstrong – the Stars scouts believed that this year’s draft was somewhat weak with a great deal of parity after the first ten or so picks. So the Stars claimed it was better to have more picks, since the 10th through 50th or so picks seemed roughly equivalent (the more horseshoes you toss, the more likely you get a ringer). After two trades moving down in the draft (Dallas’s 1st for Washington’s 1st and 2nd, and Dallas’s other 1st for veteran goalie Tugnutt and a 2nd rounder), the Stars next traded defenseman Brad Lukowich to the Tampa Bay Lightning for their 2nd rounder to complete the stockpiling.

The end result of all this movement was probably the strongest Dallas Stars draft in half a decade. While it’s possible to question the decision not to draft in that 13th position, Dallas was left with an abundance of great picks and for the most part drafted sagely.

Martin Vagner (1st round, 26th overall)
Natural Position: Offensive Defenseman
Size: 6’1”, 214 lbs
Previous League: Hull (QMJHL)

For their first pick in the NHL Entry Draft (26th overall), the Dallas Stars selected hulking but mobile Czech defenseman Martin Vagner. Vagner is a steal at 26th overall, as he was earmarked to go much earlier. According to the Stars directory of hockey operations, Les Jackson, Vagner may have slid in the draft because he struggled a bit in the second half of the season. But this publication believes he is an excellent choice, and he has all the tools to make the NHL as a solid defenseman.

Martin Vagner is a physical, offensive defensemen who is billied as an extremely proficient and mobile skater. Though large-framed, Vagner can effectively lead an attack from behind the blueline either by skating (which he does well) or by utilizing his crisp, very accurate passing (scouts remark that his outlet passing is nearly always well-placed). A thinking defenseman, Vanger also commands an excellent mastery and vision of the game. He knows when and where to put the puck responsibly, when to lead a charge, when to make a quick, outlet pass, when to shoot, how to clear the front of the net, how to direct a shooter to a harmless scoring position, when taking the big hit would leave him out of position, etc. And Vagner has the talent to make use of this understanding. At minimum, the Stars hope he will emerge as a tough, semi-offensive defenseman in a Richard Matvichuk mold, but he may be able to bring even more offense when he reaches the NHL level. The biggest complaint with Vagner’s game is that he doesn’t shoot enough, and his point totals would probably be higher if he wasn’t so disciplined and careful in his own end.

Vagner played for Hull in the QMJHL last season, compiling 6 goals, 28 assists and 81 penalty minutes in 64 games.

Janos Vas (2nd round, 32nd overall)
Natural Position: Left Wing
Size: 6’1”, 183 lbs
Previous League: Malmo (Swedish Junior)

Janos Vas, a Hungarian-born left wing who plays in Sweden, was ranked 55th among European forwards and defensemen by Central Scouting. Though most experts had Vas going lower in the draft, the Stars view him as perhaps their biggest sleeper pick this time around. Vas is physical, but offensively talented and notched a respectable 13 goals and 17 assists in 33 games in Sweden’s junior league last season.

Though extremely young, Vas has the frame to likely develop into a nice-sized player. He is not averse to physical hockey, but also commands a terrific range of offensive skills (puckhandling, fancy moves, nice shot, etc.). In fact, he has a range of fakes and moves in the offensive zone that would outdo many great NHL’ers. It’s not a stretch to imagine Vas as a potentially great one-one-one goal scorer at a higher level of play. Many great things (and few negative things) can be said of Vas: he’s physical, he’s talented, he’s got great moves, he commands all the right offensive skills, and he works hard. At this stage, however, he’s just still too undeveloped to make him a more than a “theoretical” candidate for an NHL scoring line someday. We’ll follow him as he develops, of course. He could be dandy, but we’ll see how well he performs as he matures.

With their abundance of second round picks, Vas seems like an interesting chance for the Stars. The decision to draft him could pay nice dividends for Dallas somewhere down the line.

Tobias Stephan (2nd round, 34th overall)
Natural Position: Goaltender
Size: 6’3”, 178 lbs
Previous League: Chur (Swiss League)

Swiss goalie Tobias Stephan is another nice steal by the Dallas Stars. Stephan was ranked second among European goalies by Central Scouting and ranked 19th overall by the Red Line Report, and many expected him to go earlier in the draft. Though the Stars are knee-deep in goalies, Stephan was just too irresistible to pass up. A tall, lanky netminder, Tobias is known for his ninja-like reflexes, great composure, and winning attitude. Stephan, a classic, butterfly-goaltender pick has already earned a nice reputation outside of the NHL. He was outstanding in World Juniors all the way into the medal round (especially against Canada). Remarked Stephan, “I really want to go to the NHL and prove Swiss players can compete at that level”.

Perhaps Stephan can someday do just that with the Stars. If not, the Stars – who have compiled one of the most impressive groups of young goalies in the NHL – can surely find a use for him.

Marius Holtet (2nd round, 42nd overall)
Natural Position: Center
Size: 6’0”, 183 lbs
Previous League: Farjestad (Swiss Junior)

Holtet, a medium-sized center from Sweden, was ranked 76th among European forwards and defensemen by Central Scouting. He currently looks to be more of a goal-scorer than a playmaker, and Holtet notched a respectable but not spectacular 12 goals and eight assists in 32 games playing junior hockey in Sweden. Holtet was a bit of a stretch at 42nd overall, but it’s known that Holtet was also being pursued by five other teams (the Leafs, Wings, Capitals, Islanders, and Predatorss). Perhaps the Stars scouts saw something they really liked during his great play for Norway at the World Under-18 championships. Holtet played spectactularly there — thriving with increased ice time — and scored 5 goals and 3 assists in 8 games.

Holtet is billed as an intensely hard-working scoring center. He plays physically, he is difficult to knock off the puck, and he has a great shot. Perhaps, this is the other big reach for the Stars in the first 5 picks, as Holtet just hasn’t proven much yet, except in glimpses.

Trevor Daley (2nd round, 43rd overall)
Natural Position: Offensive Defenseman
Size: 5’10”, 210 lbs
Previous League: Sault Ste. Marie (Ontario Hockey League)

Dynamic defenseman Trevor Daley has spent the last three seasons with Sault Ste. Marie of the Ontario Hockey League. Playing for Sault Ste. Marie, Daley had 16 goals in 54 games this season, many attributed to his powerful cannon from the point, and he was selected the top skater in the Western Division. Daley was ranked 24th overall by the Red Line Report — a report which had this (truly awesome stuff) to say about him: “Probably the best pure skater in the draft at any position. Dynamic speed, rocket acceleration, and always keeps his feet moving. Stops and starts are excellent. Uses foot speed to close gaps well. Very difficult to knock off the puck because he absorbs hits well and is quick enough to spin away from checks. Magic when the puck is on his stick. Offensively he is very skilled and makes a great quarterback on the power play.”

Though some argue Daley is below average in size for an NHL defenseman these days, he is stocky and uses his body well anyway. If he can utilize that phenomenal speed of his, he could make the NHL.

Naturally, you would expect Daley to go much higher than this in the draft with such a glowing scouting report. In fact, Daley was originally slated to be a top 15 pick. But Daley struggled with numerous personal and attitude problems last season that saw his stock plummet. Though he seemed to pull it together at the end of the season, NHL teams are still concerned about his past amoral behavior and irresponsibility. Regardless, the Stars take another gamble with Daley, but it’s a gamble that could pay off big dividends, as this kid is immensely talented.

Geoff Waugh (3rd round, 78th overall)
Natural Position: Defenseman
Size: 6’3”, 210 lbs
Previous League: Kindersley (Saskatchewan Juniors)

Third rounders are rather anticlimatic when you have so many second rounders, but we’ll just point this Canadian blueliner is already huge (6’3″, 210 lbs) and was named a first time all-star playing for Kindersley of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League last year during a truly wonderful season defensively. He’s not an offensive talent, but he’s very big.

The Stars were impressed by this defenseman’s consistent and physical play (not to mention his Hatcher proportions) at a very early stage in his career. Waugh will play for Northern Michigan next season, and he will likely have many long years to develop as a defenseman. This is a definite long-term pick for the Stars.

Jarkko Immonen (4th round, 110th overall)
Natural Position: Center
Size: 5’11”, 180 lbs
Previous League: Espoo Blues (Finnish Juniors)

These days, the Stars just love drafting Finns. Perhaps they believe that if they draft enough of them they’ll land another Jere Lehtinen. In any case, the Stars have a lot of confidence in their Finnish scouts and they think the Finnish system promotes a combination of skill and defensive responsibility that has always suited them well. So, yet another fine Finnish forward comes on board.

Though Immonen is somewhat small, he has the natural instincts of a goal scorer. He lurks, he finds seams in coverage, and he shoots with alacrity. With more practice on the strength and speed of his shot, scouts believe he could be an extremely dangerous sniper. His game is still somewhat unfocused, but he has no significant weaknesses in ability (agile skating, good stickhandling). Occasionally, Immonen is late getting back on coverage because he loves to score, but this weakness is more mental, and it isn’t that pronounced.

David Bararuk (5th round, 147th overall)
Natural Position: Center/Left Wing
Size: 6’0”, 175 lbs
Previous League: Moose Jaw (WHL)

David Bararuk is a pretty slick forward and the Stars no doubt had their eye on him for his keen offensive prowess. Bararuk averaged around a point/game playing for Moose Jaw last year, and he lead is team in goal scoring with 33 in 72 games.

Naturally, Bararuk is an opportunistic, intelligent shooter. Secondarily, he has enough offensive instinct and passing ability to generate great chemistry with linemates, and he has engineered a number of highlight-reel goals passing to teammates this season. He’s just a naturally great offensive player who needs to become a little larger and more physical. Already, he’s begun turning the corner this season, as he’s started scoring more frequently in clutch situations and notched some very big goals.

As you might expect, Bararuk’s smallish size means he’s some distance away from breaking into the NHL. He just needs to continue developing, gaining strength, becoming a leader, and scoring those big goals. He is a selfless, hard-working player.

Kirill Sidorenko (6th round, 187th overall)
Natural Position: Center
Size: 6’3”, 183 lbs
Previous League: Kurgan (Russia)

Sidorenko is an extremely raw talent with a natural frame large enough to produce a well-proportioned NHL’er someday. Sidorenko was not even ranked by the Central Scouting Bureau, so the Stars must believe they know something no one else does.

Bryan Hamm (7th round, 213th overall)
Natural Position: Defenseman
Size: 6’4”, 225 lbs
Previous League: Peterborough (OHL)

Hamm is definitely your standard stay-at-home defensive pick. In fact, if Hamm scores any offense it’s usually by accident. He is quite large, however, and a consistent rock on his own blue line.

Tuomas Mikkonen (8th round, 243rd overall)
Natural Position: Left Wing
Size: 6’1”, 183 lbs
Previous League: Jyvaskla (Finland)

Mikkonen is pretty much all you’d want in an 8th round pick. He’s great defensively, he’s good-sized, and has a nice collection of your standard hockey tools (skating, stickhandling, and smarts). Mikkonen was eventually promoted to the Finnish Elite League this season, and he played well – scoring one goal and two assists in 12 goals.

Obviously, Mikkonen needs much more development and looking over before he is considered possible NHL material.

Ned Havern (9th round, 273rd overall)
Natural Position: Left Wing
Size: 6’1”, 190 lbs
Previous League: Boston College

Havern is a freshman left wing at Boston College who garnered at least one Rookie of the Week this season playing for the Hockey East. As a freshman, Havern didn’t get enough ice time, but he did show some offensive savvy (6 goals, 6 assists in 38 games), and he was a phenomenal player in high school where he got a great deal of press. Like most late picks, Havern has a lot of tools, but he has proven very little.

Sources: The Dallas Morning News, TSN.CA, The Hockey News