Stars 2007 draft preview

By David A. Rainer

Stars Top 10 prospects

1. Loui Eriksson, LW
2. Matt Niskanen, D
3. Perttu Lindgren, C
4. James Neal, C
5. Niklas Grossman, D
6. Ivan Vishnevskiy, D
7. Vojtech Polak, LW
8. Aaron Snow, LW
9. Mario Scalzo, D
10. Mark Fistric, D

Team Needs

At the age of 37, Mike Modano is not getting any younger and the Stars will need to start looking to bring in youth on the NHL roster.  The Stars were bounced out in the first round of the playoffs for the third straight year after trading away their 2007 and 2008 first round draft choices to bring in Ladislav Nagy and Mattias Nortstrom for the playoff drive.

The Stars have done a tremendous job in recent years of farming talent out of Europe and the group of forwards is beginning to reflect this with the presence of Jussi Jokinen, Antti Miettinen and Loui Eriksson to offset the older guard of Modano, Jere Lehtinen and Stu Barnes.  Brendan Morrow, Jeff Halpern and Mike Ribeiro round out the forward positions of the top three lines.  Eric Lindros and Nagy will be free agents this offseason.  Youngsters Junior Lessard and Vojtech Polak received their first taste of the NHL last season but have not locked themselves in as starters for next season.  Dallas will likely be looking for a forward or two in the offseason to help fill in the gap.

Solid on defense, the Stars will need to add some depth to the blue line this offseason.  Sergei Zubov and Mattias Norstrom are still elite defensemen in the NHL.  Trevor Daley is young and impressive and will only get better as his offense begins to come around.  Philippe Boucher is deadly on the power play and Stephane Robidas is as steady as they come, making this one of the best sets of five defensemen on any roster in the NHL.  With the free agencies of Daryl Sydor and Jon Klemm, Dallas may look to re-sign one or bring in some depth from outside to round out the ranks.  Prospects Niklas Grossman and Matt Niskanen might be ready to be pressed into service should the need arise, but neither is at a level to make up for the lost production of Zubov, Boucher or Norstrom should either fall to injury.

With Marty Turco firmly established in net, there is little need for the Stars to address this position.  As a workhorse in net the last few years, there has not been much opportunity for the backup goaltender to see the ice.  Mike Smith played remarkably well as the backup in 2006-07 and is locked up long term at an affordable price.  Tobias Stephan is sitting in the AHL, so the Stars are adequately set in net.

Organizational Strengths

The Stars have a solid crop of defensive prospects who are near ready to break into the NHL, which is well planned with Zubov, Norstrom and Boucher all over the age of 33 and approaching the twilight of their careers.  Likewise, the Stars are adept at developing forwards drafted out of the European ranks.  With Jokinen, Miettinen and Eriksson already on the NHL roster and Perttu Lindgren and Polak coming down the pipe, this trend should continue.  Top prospect James Neal is only a few years away from also making contributions to the NHL squad.  But outside of Lindgren and maybe Eriksson and Neal, none have true top-six forward potential.  While Dallas may continue to churn out the NHL-caliber forwards that has created the depth on the team, unless they develop several elite players soon, the eventual retirements of players like Modano and Zubov will begin to take their toll.

Organizational Needs

Outside of a handful of prospects with good NHL potential, the Stars really do not have much to speak of in terms of prospects.  And even those prospects with solid potential that have already been named, some will invariable not develop as planned.  The Stars need both high-end talent and depth in their system.  With no first round choice until 2009 and only six picks in this draft, the Stars have their work cut out for them.

Their forward corps is particularly in need of top-end talent.  While Neal and Perttu Lindgren are intriguing at center, neither is likely to be on a level with Modano.  Ribeiro can pick up the slack, but a lack of top-end center prospects will result in the Stars spending top dollar on the free agent market to fill in the gap.  A well-stocked organization has several top prospects at every forward position as history has shown us that most will not develop into NHL players.  The Stars will need to add this depth to their group of forwards soon.

With top defensive prospects like Niskanen, Grossman, and Ivan Vishnevskiy, the group of defensemen is adequate to meet their immediate needs.  However, as these defensemen graduate to the NHL ranks in the next couple of years, the cupboard will be left bare.  Depth is sorely required at this position, but can take a back seat to more pressing needs.

Dallas is woefully thin in young goaltender prospects and needs to start developing a replacement for Turco now so that he will be ready when Turco moves on.  Mike Smith has been a good backup, but it remains to be seen whether he can handle starting duties.  He is also not very young himself.  To cover all bases, it would behoove the Stars to add a top goaltender or two to the pipeline.

Draft Tendencies

Last year notwithstanding, General Manager Doug Armstrong has traditionally stock-piled draft picks in the second and third round, often making trades on draft day to pick up additional picks.  With no first round pick, traded to Phoenix for Nagy, it will be difficult for Armstrong to trade down and pick up additional selections in the middle rounds.  Dallas has proved to be one of the better developers of talent, getting better value out of late-round picks than any other organization.  Expect to see a deal or two out of Armstrong to bring in extra picks either for this draft or for the 2008 draft.

Armstrong has made a living as of late pulling in talent from Europe and it stands to reason that he will find his share in the 2007 draft pool as well, despite it being a down year for Europe generally.

Hockey’s Future’s staff mock draft result: No first round pick.

Copyright 2007 Hockey’s Future.  Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.