For the fourth consecutive season, the NHL hockey season in Texas ended in early April. The Dallas Stars finished with 42-35-5 record, but six spots out of the final playoff spot. With young players such as Jamie Benn and Loui Eriksson becoming the new face of the franchise while veterans such as venerable captain Brendan Morrow approach the twilight of their career, it is safe to say the team is in a state of transition.
Top 10 Prospects:
With a defensive-minded coach at the helm in Glen Gulutzan, the Stars brass could certainly help by giving him a more reliable defense. Some undue hardship has fallen upon Kari Lehtonen at times due to some spotty play on the back line that the Stars would love to address while the next-in-lines get acquainted with the pro game and become further seasoned. The lack of a true number one defenseman is always troubling for an organization and it's unlikely that they have one waiting in the wings either. Acquiring one will be extremely difficult, so the Stars management will need to be clever and/or creative to build a defense that's greater than the sum of its parts.
Depending on who is sent packing this offseason will largely influence what the forward group will need to be supplemented with. The organization as a whole has needed another quality center since Brad Richards left and while Jamie Benn has filled in at center admirably, if Ribeiro leaves town either this year or next, there's a big gap between Benn and the next player on the current depth chart: Tom Wandell. Scott Glennie has been moved to center, but the jury is still out on his future.
For creativity and dynamic strategy purposes, especially on the power play, the Stars could use some right-handed players in the lineup. Among players that played a full season in 2011-12 (70 or more games), only two right-handed players logged 15 or more minutes per night (Michael Ryder and Stephane Robidas). Philip Larsen will help alleviate that concern a bit this coming season, but beyond that, the coaching staff is somewhat handcuffed.
The Stars have versatile forwards in their ranks. In addition to players like Jamie Benn and Steve Ott who can play wing and center, they also have Scott Glennie on the way who can do both as well. Brett Ritchie improved his play late in the season and isn't afraid to get dirty. So long as his effort stays as consistent as it was throughout the OHL playoffs, the Stars have one less question mark to worry about. Alex Chiasson could be in the lineup as soon as next season. Below the projected scorers, they have a slew of potential blue-collar workers and/or bottom-sixers in the pipeline. Colton Sceviour heads that group with Matt Fraser, Austin Smith, and Curtis McKenzie on the way.
The Stars have made it in a point to replenish their once-depleted defensive pipeline in the past two years. With Larsen set to graduate, the Stars prospect group will still feature a couple of gargantuan men in Jamie Oleksiak and Patrik Nemeth. Brenden Dillon, who doesn't give up much in size himself, will probably get a long look at camp again this preseason. Then the more cerebral Jyrki Jokipakka waits over in Finland and in Sweden, John Klingberg acts as a fourth forward on the ice most of the time and could work as a power play specialist one day. The group is quite deep and diverse and may supply the Stars with a healthy amount of depth over the years or valuable trade bait.
In goal, Jack Campbell had a rough go of it once again in his final junior season, but will look for solace in the more structured professional game this year. He's still very much in the Stars future as it stands now. Tyler Beskorowany has an uphill battle ahead of him as the Stars signed Swedish free agent Christopher Nihlstorp. Richard Bachman seems set as the club's backup goalie going forward as he took the job away from Andrew Raycroft last year.
The Stars severely lack true centers, both in terms of elite playmakers and defensive depth players. There is a push from within the organization to enhance the organization's center cache and that may start as soon as draft day. Though they have drafted in the first half of the first round often in recent years, they still can't seem to add a real blue-chip prospect to the system. Jack Campbell had the look of one, but the bloom has worn off of his rose a bit after he failed to light the world on fire the over past two years.
The Stars love to dip into the collection of battle-hardened Western Canadians that populate the WHL and the odds are that they will draft directly from that league for the sixth consecutive draft. With Joe Nieuwendyk at the helm, the Stars will continue to not hesitate to draft collegiate players and always keep a good amount of student-athletes in their ranks. They drafted out of the QMJHL for only the second time since 2003 last year when they took Troy Vance out of Victoriaville – but he was only in the Q as a result of a Stars scout finding him in the lower-level EJHL and suggesting that he move up to the major junior level. The organization does not hesitate to take players out of Europe, namely the Scandinavian countries, and they have treated Dallas well to date. By and large, they seem to favor size.
The Stars own picks: 13th, 43rd, 61st, 74th, 104th, 134rd, 144th, 194th. The extra second round pick came from Los Angeles via Philadelphia in the Nicklas Grossmann trade. There is an extra second round pick (55th) in the pot from the Sharks not signing first round draft choice Patrick White – which will push the Stars second pick in the second round down one place.
The Latvian-born forward can play both center and wing and will attend the University of Vermont in 2012-13. One of the more complete packages available in the 2012 NHL Draft, Girgensons has been a powerful force for Dubuque and he has all the makings of a gritty, two-way competitor that could handle the rigors of the NHL's Western Conference. He has size, at 6'2, and nearly 200 pounds, skill, tenacity, good footwork and a lot of determination. The Stars would love if they can get a center of his quality at 13 and what's more, his CHL rights are owned by a WHL team (Kelowna), if the Stars so choose for him to go that route.