new CBA bringing forth a new-look NHL, the high-spending Dallas Stars will need to focus more on
player development. The team could benefit from more offensive talent and
players with strong playmaking abilities. With their seven choices in the 2005
NHL Entry Draft the Stars selected five forwards, one defenseman and one
goaltender. Three of their selections were Canadian, two American and two
Matt Niskanen, D
Round 1, 28th overall
With their first
selection, Dallas chose Matt Niskanen, a defenseman from
Virginia/Mountain Iron-Buhl. He was instrumental in the Blue
Devils success, helping them to the Class A state tournament. The Minnesota
native was a Mr.
Hockey finalist, named to the AP All-State first team, and was a member of
the 2003 US U-18 Select team and was one to watch at the Minnesota Ted Brill
Great 8 Festival. Niskanen is an all-round athlete; he was a four-time
all-conference pitcher and infielder for the baseball team and was the first
player to double as the Duluth News-Tribune’s player of the year for hockey and
football, where he played as a quarterback.
Niskanen is a smooth two-way player
who is quick on his skates and can move well with the puck. He has a hard shot
and is experienced in controlling the flow of the game. His experience has made
him a very poised player who knows when to jump into the play and he is a solid
hitter who can be utilized in all situations.
committed to the University of Minnesota-Duluth for the fall.
James Neal, LW
Round 2, 33rd overall
Plymouth Whalers (OHL)
Five selections after their first
pick the Stars chose James Neal at 33rd overall. He made his debut with the
Plymouth Whalers of the OHL in 2003-04 where he had an impressive showing with
six points in nine games. He continued his strong play in his rookie season with
the Whalers in 2004-05 where he had 18 goals and 44 points. Neal started the
season strong and had 36 points by the end of January, but he struggled down the
stretch and only added eight more points to his total. Despite his lack of
production in the second half of the season, Neal was invited to play with Team
Canada at the U-18 world championships where he had a goal and an assist in six
Neal has the potential to be a power
forward at the next level with his size and offensive skills. He is a physical
player who will go hard to the net. He sees the ice well and will compete for
the puck down low.
Richard Clune, LW
Round 3, 71st overall
Sarnia Sting (OHL)
The Stars third choice in the draft
was Richard Clune from the Sarnia Sting in the OHL. In his rookie season with
the Sting, he was limited in his playing time because of the number of veteran
forwards the team had, but despite that he was chosen to play for Team Ontario
in the Under 17 tournament in 2003 where he had one goal and eight assists in
six games en route to the gold medal. He then played for Team Canada at the Under 18
tournament in 2004 where he had one goal in five games in another gold medal
winning effort. His second season with the Sting saw him get more ice time as
the team was rebuilding and had traded away some veterans. Clune spent time on
the top two lines and on the special teams and had a solid year statistically.
A gritty, aggressive player, Clune
plays hard every night. He skates well and is not afraid to go into the corners
hard. He could benefit from adding muscle, which would help him put up big
numbers. His experience internationally shows that he is able to compete well
with his peers with a short amount of preparation time. Clune should be able to
increase his point production in the future. He has the potential of developing
into a checking or power forward at the next level and could progress to a
second line forward, depending on his physical progression.
Perttu Lindgren, C
Round 3, 75th overall
Ilves Jr. (FNL)
selections later Dallas had their fourth pick and they chose Perttu Lindgren out
of Finland. He was a top scorer for his nation at the Under 17 level and he
helped his Finnish Jr. A team Ilves win the championship by setting a new
scoring record. Lindgren was a disappointment during the Under 18 world
championships in 2005 where he failed to produce until the relegation series.
player with good vision, Lindgren is a strong skater and stickhandler in his
native Finland. A solid playmaker, he is now going to the net more and
developing sniper instincts. He has good size and can take care of himself on
the ice, but he isn’t a physical force. Lindgren’s two-way game consists of
cutting passing lines and directing transitions in the play. He could use a little more control in the offensive side of his game,
but is still quite strong in this area. Lindgren could benefit from spending more time in Finland to
hone his skills and lead his team in production.
Tom Wandell, C
Round 5, 146th overall
Sodertalje Jr. (Sweden)
their fifth choice the Stars took a gamble on Tom Wandell from Sodertalje Jr. in
Sweden. Wandell missed most of the 2004-05 season recovering from an ACL injury.
A technically skilled player, when healthy he is one to watch with his strong
future will depend on how he recovers from his injury and if he can regain the
offensive skill he has displayed in the past.
Matt Watkins, RW
Round 5, 160th overall
Vernon Vipers (BCHL)
their second pick in the fifth round the Stars selected Matt Watkins. The
Saskatchewan native was the 2003-04 Midget AAA offensive player of the year in
his home province and also the top scorer. The sniper moved on to the Vernon
Vipers of the BCHL and continued his strong offensive production with 74 points
in 60 games. He also played in the 2004-05 BCHL All-Star game.
player with good vision, Watkins has good speed and skill. Patient with the
puck, he sees the ice well and is also strong on the power play. He has
committed to play for the University of North Dakota this fall.
Pat McGann, G
Round 7, 223rd overall
seventh round, with their last selection, the Stars picked goaltender Pat McGann
from Illinois. McGann will be moving from midget hockey to the USHL. Beyond
that, he will likely attend an NCAA program, which will give him plenty of
time to develop.
Eric Vegoe, Jason Ahrens, Pekka Lampinen,
Jesse Gill and Johan Nilsson contributed to this report. Copyright 2005 Hockey’s
Future. Do not duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.