Stars 2003 draft review

By Geoffrey Ussery

Dallas came into the 2003 NHL Entry Draft
with
ten selections, half of which were fifth and sixth round selections. With
the
draft being viewed as a talent rich draft, it was a great chance to select
some
players that could be key to the Stars future as their core
ages. 

As the first round wound down, and the Stars
pick approached; it looked like
the Stars were going to be able to snag one of the players they had as
potential
first round picks. However, in the last few picks before the Stars
selection,
one by one these players were snapped up by other teams. With no players
that
the Stars were willing to select that high, they traded their first pick, no. 28
overall, two tables over
to Anaheim for the no. 36 pick and no. 54 pick. This deal gave Dallas three
picks
in the second round of this talent deep draft.

The Stars first pick in the second round was
very early at no. 33 overall,
which was obtained from Columbus for Grant Marshall. With this pick, Dallas
selected skilled forward Loui Eriksson from Frölunda’s junior club in
Sweden. Eriksson, at 6-1 and 183 lb., has a good sized frame, but lacks
physical
development at this time. On the positive side, Eriksson has outstanding
speed,
acceleration, and agility. Also, Eriksson’s decision making in offensive
play is
quite good. He will play in the dirty areas of the ice and can protect the
puck
well. In the area of intangibles, Eriksson has shown a clutch scoring
ability
coupled with a strong work ethic. This pick may have been a bit of a stretch
at
this time but given time to develop in Europe to work on his strength,
consistency, which is a minor disappointment, and defensive coverage should
give
another quality prospect with admirable offensive abilities.

Shortly after, Dallas was on the clock again
at the no. 36 pick. This turned
out to be a tough decision for Dallas as their time expired, and this
necessitated
the calling of their time out. Even this time was stretched to its limit,
and
eventually Dallas settled on Vojtech Polak from Karlovy Vary of the
Czech
Extraliga. Polak is a potential sniper, which is something the Stars did
lack.
He has an excellent array of shots and likes to go to the net with the puck
on
his stick. Offensively, his awareness and play with the puck is top-notch
making
him a dangerous fixture on the power play. He has speed and acceleration
that he
can use to beat defensemen and will play in traffic, but if the game gets
too
physical; he tends to stay on the perimeter. Polak has had some reported
attitude issues, mostly in putting himself before the team. While this is
not
exactly common in Stars selections, it is a pretty common vein among
snipers.
Thus, whether there is need for lots of worry is yet to really be
determined.

The Stars third selection in the second
round
came at no. 54 with Patrick O’Sullivan still on the board. For the third
time,
Dallas passed on the ultra-skilled forward, whom they had interviewed, and
instead pick B. J. Crombeen from Barrie of the OHL. Crombeen has a
lot of
the things Dallas looks for in prospects. He is aggressive, tough, and oozes
character. While not the most skilled player in the draft, Crombeen has good
size and a bit of untapped offensive potential. The forward has already been
selected to the Canadian U-18 squad twice at age 18. Crombeen looks like one
of
those players that will go through walls for their team but have enough
talent
to be able to produce in key situations. He is, however, a
project.

In the third round, Dallas owned only their own pick at No. 99. With this pick, Dallas stayed close to home, selecting
Matt Nickerson
from Texas of the NAHL. Nickerson is a hulking physical specimen with a mean
streak as wide as the Grand Canyon. He loves to punish opposing forwards
with
hard hits, and he was also viewed as the best fighter in the draft, quite
the
true heavyweight. There were a few times during the season where he
absolutely
took people that called on him apart. He has gone a bit far at times,
earning
some suspensions during the year. Nickerson will be moving to Michigan in
the
NCAA next year, where he should be in great hands. With his raw abilities,
refinement in the college game could add dimensions to his game. Right now,
he
looks like he could be a physically dominating force from the blue line in a
few
years. He should be a solid, but dangerous, defensive defenseman, but there
is a
chance that time in college can improve his offensive abilities. As a right handed
defenseman, he could be important in the future. 

Again, in the fourth round, Dallas only had
their
own selection, this time at no. 134. This selection turned out to be
Alexander Naurov
from Yaroslavl’s junior team in Russia. Naurov has the potential to be a
major steal down the line as he has a strong mix of talent and work ethic, but his stock suffered due to very limited ice time. Naurov has excellent
quickness,
being able to change directions nearly on a dime, and speed though his
stride is a bit awkward. He is also very tough to knock off the puck as he is built very
low to the ground and has great strength. He uses this strength to go
through
players, even ones larger than him, if need be. Along the boards, his
strength
and quickness make him invaluable. Naurov forechecks hard, often forcing
turnovers. He is also very competent in defensive coverage. To go along with
this, he thinks the game very well and has a good package of offensive
skills.
His speed makes him dangerous because it allows him to turn the corner on
defensemen and create chances for his team. Everything looks to be in place
for
this forward, so now he just needs some playing time to progress.

With the pick obtained in the summer deal
that
sent Ed Belfour and Cameron Mann to Nashville, the Stars selected Finnish
goalie
Eero Kilpelainen with the no. 144 overall selection in the fifth
round. A
small goaltender with good agility, Kilpelainen played for Kalpa Jr. in the
Finnish junior system and did not exactly post the most awe inspiring
numbers
there. Despite that, he was the among the best goalies under-18 in Finland
as he
was the backstop for Finland at the U-18 Championships. As Finland is being
recognized as a good source for goalies now, this pick, while seemingly
excessive with the goalies in the system, may turn out to look better down
the
line as he develops and works his way through the ranks in
Finland.  

With their own pick at no. 165, Dallas
selected Gino Guyer
from the NCAA champion University of Minnesota. Guyer is a player who
has
enough talent to play in the NHL, but at the moment, has not really shown a
lot
of NHL potential. In that respect, he may be very similar to last year’s
late
round college selection, Ned Havern. Blessed with a good work ethic,
Guyer has been a good role player for Minnesota. His future should be more
clear
as his college career ends. 

With the first of the three picks in the
sixth
round, Dallas picked Francis Wathier from Hull of the QMJHL with the
no.
185 overall selection. Wathier has good size and toughness but did not put
up
very good numbers for a forward in the QMJHL. He looks mostly like a strong
physical presence and a role player at this point.

With their next pick in the sixth round at no.
195 overall, Dallas selected defenseman Drew Bagnall from the SJHL.
Bagnall has decent size but also showed admirable offensive ability and a
mean
streak in the Junior A league. Bagnall was selected as the SJHL’s best
defenseman for this season, so there is some promise there. Attending St.
Lawrence of the NCAA next year, Bagnall will probably be left to develop by
Dallas. Whether his offensive production will carry on to higher levels of
competition is yet unknown, but at the very least, he should be a tough
physical
defenseman in college. 

Dallas’s final selection in the sixth round
at
no. 196 overall was Elias Granath from Leskand’s junior team out of
Sweden. Granath has a decent size frame that he has to fill out before he
even
has a hope at the NHL. He plays a steady defensive game and couples it with
a
smart offensive game in the junior system, but he still has to improve all
facets of his game. At the U-18 Championships, he scored only a goal for
Sweden
and was a minus player. Steady progression should make him a more
NHL-caliber
prospect in a few years, but it looks doubtful that he has a future with the
Stars, especially with him being one of four defensive prospects selected
this
year.

With their seventh round pick in Tampa Bay’s
possession
from last year’s Brad Lukowich trade at the draft, Dallas had to wait until
the
eight round to pick again as Chicago opted to take Dallas’s seventh round
pick
next year instead of the eighth round selection. With what turned out to be
their final pick, Dallas selected Niko Vainio, a defenseman from
Jokerit’s junior system. Vainio possesses a good sized frame that he has yet
to
fill out and has good offensive instincts that he must learn to use better
against better competition. As a defenseman for Finland’s U-18 squad, he was
much more of a defensive presence and did not produce any points. Much like
Granath, he will be left to develop in Finland and needs quite a bit of
improvement before being considered a true NHL prospect. The Vainio
selection
turned out to be Dallas’s last pick as they swapped their ninth round
selection
for Phoenix’s eighth round pick in next year’s draft.

Dallas’s draft this year was somewhat
discouraging as they again came out of the draft without any defensive
prospects
having promising offensive talent and passed on very talented players in
favor
of hard workers. However, the Stars organization has stated repeatedly that
they
do not select for needs. They did finally add a prospect with terrific
offensive
upside to their stable though, which was a nice change. It also
appears that they may have hit on a gem in Naurov if he can get the playing
time
to progress.  

PlayerDOBHt.Wt.ShootsTeamLge.GPG

MIN

A

AVG

P

SO

PIM

SV%

Loui
Eriksson
7/17/856-1183LFrölunda,
Jr.
Swe.,
Jr.
3619203910
Vojtech
Polak
6/27/856-0183LKarlovy
Vary
Cze.
Extrl.
41791651
B. J.
Crombeen
7/10/856-1.5200RBarrieOHL63222446133
Matt
Nickerson
1/11/856-4230RTexasNAHL4762329277
Alexander
Naurov
3/4/855-11191LYaroslavl,
Jr.
Rus.,
Jr.
937100
Eero
Kilpelainen
5/7/855-11152LKalpa,
Jr.
Fin.,
Jr.
199303.480
Gino
Guyer
10/14/835-10184LU. of
Minn.
NCAA33109198
Francis
Wathier
12/7/846-3198LHullQMJHL7291827143
Drew
Bagnall
10/26/836-3205LBattlefords’SJHL59174764252
Elias
Granath
9/6/856-1174LLeskand,
Jr.
Swe,
Jr.
2904449
Niko
Vainio
1/24/856-1180LJokerit,
Jr.
Fin,
Jr.
351128