Stars 2002 draft evaluation

By Glen Jackson

The Dallas Stars accumulated 12 picks leading up to the 2002 NHL Entry Draft in Toronto, including five picks in the second round.  With that many quality picks, that draft should have helped pour the foundation to a strong prospect pool, however they managed to land only one quality NHL player in defenseman Trevor Daley.  Their first-round pick was a disappointment and was never signed by the team, and is now playing in Europe, as are a number of their other selections that year.  Although, four of their 12 picks are still in the system and have the potential to one day play in the NHL.

With Daley having played in 182 regular season NHL games thus far, the average NHL games per pick in 2002 for the Stars is 15.1.

Martin Vagner, D – 1st round, 26th overall
Status: NHL bust
NHL Games Played: 0

After 2001-02 season with the QMJHL Hull Olympiques in which Martin Vagner had six goals and 28 assists as a rookie, the Stars elected to take the two-way defenseman with heaps of promise with their first selection.

That season most of his success came in the first half of the season under coach Guy Lalonde while playing in a system that suited him well, but when Lalonde was replaced the Olympiques changed systems, Vagner began to struggle.  It didn’t appear to be an issue at the time of the draft, and so the Stars pick looked like a good one, but in the two seasons following, Vagner’s game would cease to look like that of an NHL prospect, let alone one taken in the first round.

He had only 31 more points in the two seasons combined while the Stars held his rights, and his penalty minutes began to increase.  He began to be a source of consternation for fans and his coaches alike as he struggled to regain the form of the start of his rookie campaign.  When it came time for Vagner to be signed, talks quickly broke down as would be expected, and Vagner went back into the draft.  In 2004 the Carolina Hurricanes took a chance on the former first rounder with their final selection of that draft.  At the conclusion of the 2004-05 season the two sides did talk about bringing Vagner to the Hurricanes ECHL affiliate but it did not materialize, and Vagner returned to play in his home Czech league, where it appears he will stay.

Janos Vas, LW – 2nd round, 32nd overall
Status: NHL prospect
NHL Games Played: 0

Vas drew the attention of the Stars while playing in Sweden, and the Hungary native was scooped up early in the second round of the 2002 draft due to decent skill and an aggressive brand of game that appeared possible to be a good fit for the North American game.

The NHL lockout during the 2004-05 season forced Vas out of the Swedish Elite League and onto the Division 1 Halmstad Hammers, and the following season the Stars elected to bring Vas over on a two-way contract.  He began the season with the ECHL Idaho Steelheads, but soon found his way to the AHL’s Iowa Stars where he appeared in 35 games and had 11 points in that 2005-06 season.  This past season Vas played 72 games for the AHL Stars in the regular season and was ninth in team scoring with 13 goals and 13 assists, along with 42 minutes in penalties.

The versatile winger has one more year left on his contract with the Stars, so there is still a chance he might play in the NHL one day, but at this point he doesn’t appear to be much of an impact player as a North American pro.

Tobias Stephan, G
– 2nd round, 34th overall
Status: NHL prospect
NHL Games Played: 0

Two picks later the Stars went with a European again and selected goaltender Tobias Stephan from Chur of the Swiss League.  The native of Zurich, Switzerland was signed to a three-year contract in the summer of 2005 but remained in Switzerland with EHC Kloten, where he had played since the 2002-03 season.

This year, however, Stephan was recalled from Switzerland and played his first full season of North American hockey as the backup to Dan Ellis on the AHL Stars.  He appeared in 27 regular season games, winning 10 and losing 15 with a respectable 2.88 goals against average and .900 save percentage.  He saw some minutes in relief in the playoffs but did not start any games for Iowa.

Like Vas, Stephan has one more year on his pro contract and next season he’ll have an opportunity to prove to the Stars that he belongs in their system.

Marius Holtet, RW – 2nd round, 42nd overall
Status: NHL prospect
NHL Games Played: 0

Another second-round pick still with the Stars system, Marius Holtet was signed in May of 2004 to a three-year entry-level contract and he has progressed well with the Iowa Stars.  His skills have developed and adjusted well with the AHL game while his high-energy play has become a valuable asset to his team.  In 2006-07 he had 16 goals and 15 assists in 66 games, good enough for seventh in team scoring.

Now a restricted free agent, it’s expected the Stars will bring back the native of Hamar, Norway next season, although no such announcement has been made thus far.

Trevor Daley, D – 2nd round, 43rd overall
Status: NHL player
NHL Games Played: 182

With the very next pick following Holtet, the Stars finally selected a North American-born player with their fifth pick of the 2002 draft, and the fourth pick in the second round alone.

Daley was selected from the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds of the OHL where he had a strong junior career where he would captain the Greyhounds.  After the 2002-03 season he transitioned to the AHL with the Utah Grizzlies and would even appear in 27 games for the Dallas Stars that season.  He dressed for the Hamilton Bulldogs during the NHL lockout season and has stuck with the NHL Stars since then.  He has appeared in 182 regular season NHL games and has eight goals and 24 assists.  Daley had his first NHL playoff goal this year and the skilled two-way defender has a small frame but is strong on his skates and continues to show he belongs in the NHL.  He has one year remaining on his current contract.

Geoff Waugh, D – 3rd round, 78th overall
Status: NHL bust
NHL Games Played: 0

A good defensive defenseman, Waugh finished his college career with Northern Michigan following the 2005-06 season but the Stars elected to pass on the native of Winnipeg, Manitoba.  Last summer he attended the Tampa Bay Lightning camp.  Although he didn’t impress them enough to get signed by the NHL club, they encouraged him to attend the camp of their ECHL affiliate Johnstown Chiefs where he fared well enough to land a minor league contract. 

In the first half of the season Waugh bounced between the AHL Springfield Falcons and ECHL Chiefs, but the bulk of his play time was with the latter. He played in 56 games for the Chiefs, scoring a goal and adding 12 assists, and for the Falcons he had 10 games under his belt and 25 penalty minutes.

Although no longer an NHL prospect, Waugh still has a chance to eventually work his way up to being an AHL regular.

Jarkko A. Immonen, C – 4th round, 110th overall
Status: NHL bust
NHL Games Played: 0

Another European pick for the Stars in 2002, Jarkko Immonen has remained in Finland to play hockey, and in 2006-07 he was fifth in scoring for SaiPa Lappeenranta , collecting 13 goals and 16 assists in 56 games played.  It’s unknown if Immonen will ever transition to North America, but he’s developed into a fine two-way forward in Europe.

David Bararuk, LW
– 5th round, 147th overall
Status: NHL bust
NHL Games Played: 0

Following a good junior career with the WHL’s Moose Jaw Warriors, it appeared that Bararuk might become a solid pro.  In his rookie season of 2003-04 he played 52 games for the AHL Utah Grizzlies and 16 more for the Idaho Steelheads, and in subsequent seasons he continued to play on various Dallas Stars’ AHL and ECHL affiliates.  However the balance between AHL and ECHL play began to sway towards much more ECHL play, and in 2005-06 he had 65 games for the Steelheads, scoring 25 goals and adding 46 helpers. 

Despite this ECHL productivity, the Stars elected to pass on keeping unrestricted free agent Bararuk last off-season.  He tried to land with the San Jose Sharks but was released from Sharks camp September 15th.  Bararuk then landed in Finland when he was signed by Ilves Tampere of the SM-Liiga where he played only a handful of games in 2006-07.  Bararuk’s pro hockey future looks hazy at the moment.

Kirill Sidorenko, LW – 6th round, 180th overall
Status: NHL bust
NHL Games Played: 0

Since being selected in the sixth round of the NHL Entry Draft in 2002 by the Stars, Sidorenko has remained in Russia without ever dipping his toe in North American waters.  In 2006-07 he played for Krylja Sovetov and appeared in 35 games, scoring five goals and four assists.  The Stars no longer hold the right to Sidorenko and it is doubtful he will ever play in North America.

Bryan Hamm, LW
– 7th round, 210th overall
Status: NHL bust
NHL Games Played: 0

Hamm is the only one of the Stars’ picks in 2002 to no longer be a professional player.  Following his OHL career with the Peterborough Petes and Erie Otters, the Hamilton, Ontario native’s hockey career came to an end.  Although never a skilled player, Hamm was liked and had a reputation for being a good mentor for kids.  He’s parlayed that gift into a career teaching kids at hockey camps.

Tuomas Mikkonen, LW – 8th round, 243rd overall
Status: NHL prospect
NHL Games Played: 0

A late pick who still holds promise, this native of Finland finally came to North America in 2006-07 to play with both the Stars’ AHL and ECHL affiliates, although he only played one game for the AHL Iowa Stars.  With the ECHL Steelheads, Mikkonen appeared in 66 regular season games and scored 21 goals and 16 assists with a plus/minus rating of a +10.  He contributed three goals and three assists and was a +4 in 22 playoff games on the Steelheads’ championship run as they won the Kelly Cup in 2006-07.  Mikkonen is still under contract to the Stars system for next season.

Ned Havern, LW – 9th round, 273rd overall
Status: NHL bust
NHL Games Played: 0

Following his Boston College career, Havern has bounced around the ECHL and AHL, and ended up splitting his 2006-07 with the ECHL Wheeling Nailers and the AHL Providence Bruins after a tryout last off-season with the Boston Bruins organization. Havern had seven games and no points with the AHL Bruins, but fared better with the Nailers, scoring 19 goals and 21 assists in 37 games.

Although he hasn’t had much opportunity at the AHL level, Havern looks to be a career minor-league player at this point.

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