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Draft Thoughts

by Seamus O'Callahan / Dallas Stars

Greetings from the location of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft -- beautiful Ottawa, Ontario. Wow, what a city!

We’ve had a wonderful stay here in Canada’s capital, including a marvelous tour of the Canadian Parliament (it helps when one of our own – Stars Asst. GM Frank Provenzano – has a cousin who works in the building and was able to arrange a private tour). We also had a chance to check out the Canadian War Museum, which was very nice as well.

But it hasn’t been all fun and games here. There have been meetings and discussion behind the scenes, and those have led to trades. Lots of trades. In fact, I’m not so sure that by the time this document is posted on that we will have missed a few.

Seamus O'Callahan
While it was a quiet night for the Dallas Stars, it was a busy evening at the first round of the draft for the league as a whole. In addition to 30 talented prospects being drafted, there were a total of 13 trades made, and a few of them included some familiar names.

Olli Jokinen, Alex Tanguay, Mike Cammalleri, Keith Ballard and R.J. Umberger were all moved in draft day deals. Such is life in the new NHL. Salary caps, budgets and the overall need to add young players to teams’ systems have been the catalyst to why so many more veterans are moved at the draft.

The Pacific Division saw a lot of movement. Jokinen is now in Phoenix while Cammalleri is now a Calgary Flame. Anaheim was active too, but their moves involved only draft picks (with the Kings, who seem to have 6,432 picks in this year’s draft).

What does that mean for the Stars? Well, for one, a very good center has been added to the division in Jokinen, who will bring Phoenix some leadership to go with quality offense.

And then there’s the Kings, who no doubt will be a good club in a few years with the quantity of good young talent that they have stockpiled. San Jose was quiet and of course, your Stars were quiet, having traded this year’s number one to Los Angeles as part of the Mattias Norstom deal.

“We didn’t have much of a choice in not having a number one pick and that’s how it goes,” said Stars co-General Manager Brett Hull. “But there are a lot of good players and it’s a deep draft and we’ll find some (Saturday).”

What was Hull’s reaction to some of the wheeling and dealing going on with veterans moving?

“All you can do is concentrate on your team and how to make it better,” he said. “I like our team, we’re a very good team. Jokinen is a good player but Phoenix had to give up two good young players to get him. We’re in a good position of not needing to go out and try and make a deal for a good player like that. Instead, we have other teams calling us about our young players. But we’re happy with our team and we like how we will look next season.”

Dallas has the 59th overall pick (in the second round) and have their eyes on some good quality kids to take as the team’s first selection in this year’s draft. Rounds two through seven of the draft take place on Saturday.

What do the Stars need? Well, it doesn’t come down to that. The Stars’ scouting staff – starting with long-time scout and now co-GM Les Jackson – has always had the same philosophy in which players to pick.

“Our philosophy has always been take the best player available when our pick comes up,” said Jackson. “We’ve made our list and we are comfortable with our draft board.”

That said, I would be surprised if we don’t possibly see a goalie drafted at some point by Dallas on Saturday, along with some defensemen. The team needs to fill the blueline cupboard back up with Matt Niskanen, Nicklas Grossman and Mark Fistric all showing the ability to play in the NHL full-time this past season.

“(Saturday) is another day and we have some picks to work with,” said Jackson. “We’ll be a little more active and we look forward to that.”

Parliament Buildings, Ottawa Canada

I ran into former Star Bill Guerin, who is sitting at the draft table with his NY Islanders. An even nicer sight was his youngest son, Liam, who was acting as the “runner” for their table (every team has a kid assigned to act as a runner and assist). Bill is doing very well and wanted us to pass along his “hellos” to everyone back in Dallas. Billy truly enjoyed his time as a Dallas Star, especially the friends he and his family made while living there.

On the plane flight up from Dallas, we connected in Chicago and I had the pleasure to sit next to young Nick Larson, a left wing from Waterloo (USHL) who is expected to be drafted sometime in round two or three. What a great kid. I was totally impressed with how he carried himself. He was heading to the draft by himself, as the plane ticket to Ottawa was a little pricey for his whole family to come up. Nick will play hockey for Notre Dame next season and is very excited about his future (hockey and otherwise). Keep your eyes open for this young man – I expect him to be a success in whatever he pursues. And I got that impression just from a plane ride from Chicago to Ottawa.

It may have been quiet for the Stars on Friday in the first round, but that all changes on Saturday as the Stars have five picks on day two of the draft.
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