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NHL Draft

Stars reminded of failed season by picking third in draft

Will be making highest choice since team moved to Dallas in 1993

by Mike G. Morreale @mikemorrealeNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

Dallas Stars director of amateur scouting Joe McDonnell isn't a big fan of choosing No. 3 in the 2017 NHL Draft presented by adidas.

It's not because he won't be able to get a very talented prospect at that spot, but because it's a reminder that the Stars failed at their ultimate goal of winning the Stanley Cup this season.

"It's exciting in the fact we're looking at a ton of great hockey players but really none of us like it," McDonnell said. "We want to get back to being in the Stanley Cup Playoffs and making some easier decisions."

 

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The Stars will be making their highest pick since moving to Dallas in 1993 after moving from No. 8 to No. 3 through the NHL Draft Lottery, but nothing is guaranteed with that choice.

Maybe that's why Stars general manager Jim Nill made public that he'd be willing to trade the third pick for the right price.

"I'm not giving the pick away, but if there's something there where I can get a marquee player that can help us, I definitely have to look at that," Nill said. "I know I have an asset and my job is to see what's out there."

The Stars have eight picks in the draft, including two in the first round. In addition to No. 3, they have the 29th pick, acquired in the trade that sent forward Patrick Eaves to the Anaheim Ducks.

The first round of the draft at United Center in Chicago is Friday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN). Rounds 2-7 are Saturday (10 a.m. ET; NHLN, SN).

"With regard to this draft class, we all look at players differently and all know there's a group of probably 10-12 very good players and I might like something about a certain player that somebody else doesn't quite see," Nill said.

Video: Mike Morreale on the top prospects in the Draft

The Stars have a talented prospect pool that includes forwards Denis Gurianov (2015 Draft, No. 12), Riley Tufte (2016, No. 25) and Radek Faksa (2012, No. 13), and defenseman Julius Honka (2014, No. 14). Gurianov and Honka are close to becoming full-time NHL players

They also hope forward Valeri Nichushkin, the 10th pick of the 2013 Draft, returns to North America after playing with CSKA of the Kontinental Hockey League this season. Nichushkin has one year left on a two-year contract he signed Sept. 20.

Nichushkin, 22, had 34 points (14 goals, 20 assists) in 79 games as a rookie in 2013-14 but missed all but eight games in 2014-15 because of hip surgery. He had 29 points (nine goals, 20 assists) in 79 games in 2015-16.

The Stars, who retain Nichushkin's NHL rights until he can become an unrestricted free agent at age 27, would need to protect him in the NHL Expansion Draft. If they leave him unprotected, the Vegas Golden Knights could select him even if he decides to play in the KHL for another season.

Nill hired Ken Hitchcock for his second stint as coach of the Stars on April 12. Hitchcock replaced Lindy Ruff, who was not retained after his four-year contract expired. The Stars failed to make the playoffs this season after they were the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference last season.

"Look at [Hitchcock's] resume, and the structure he puts into a team," Nill said. "He's had success and a winning record."

Hitchcock coached Dallas to the Stanley Cup in 1999, to the Cup Final in 2000, and is its all-time leader in wins with 277.

"We added goalie Ben Bishop, and we think [Hitchcock] will be able to help our young defense," Nill said. "He has a pedigree and defensive stability that we need in our organization. We have a young group of players who need to learn that part of the game and he's the guy that could do that."

The Stars signed Bishop to a six-year, $29.5 million contract May 12, three days after he had been acquired in a trade with the Los Angeles Kings.

McDonnell provided no hint to which direction the Stars would go with the third pick. With Hitchcock now coach, would they opt to develop another young defenseman? The projected top two defensemen of this draft class are Cale Makar of Brooks in the Alberta Junior Hockey League, and Miro Heiskanen of HIFK in Liiga, the top professional league in Finland. They also could target one of several options at center, including Gabriel Vilardi of Windsor in the Ontario Hockey League, Casey Mittelstadt of Eden Prairie (Minnesota) High School, or Cody Glass of Portland in the Western Hockey League.

"Sometimes it might come down to a positional need if you have a couple of players that you feel are close to being the best prospect in your teams' mind," McDonnell said. "I think the top 15-20 picks are interchangeable and it might be a case of the beauty is in the eye of the beholder."

Video: Friedman discusses the Stars signing of Bishop

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