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Small haul, but Stars 'happy' with picks to end Draft

Dallas adds long-term assets on Day 2 that should mix well with its previous acquisitions

by Mike Heika @MikeHeika / Senior Staff Writer

VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- The Stars had a quiet day Saturday at the NHL Entry Draft. Yet, they got done what they wanted to do.

Left with just three picks in six rounds because of previous trades, Dallas collected two more defensemen and a winger, and selected the players they said they wanted.

"We're happy," said Stars general manager Jim Nill. "We knew we didn't have a lot of picks going in, but we thought the scouts did a great job with what we had. We love our first-round pick, and I thought who we picked from the fourth round down, we did a good job."


[COMPLETE COVERAGE: Get to know Stars' 2019 draft class | Videos, latest news and more at Stars Draft Central]


The Stars on Friday took skilled left-handed defenseman Thomas Harley with the 18th overall pick and hope that he is a player who can move forward in a couple of seasons. On Saturday, they added two more left-handed defenseman and a skilled winger. Dallas took Swedish defenseman Samuel Sjoland in the fourth round, winger Nicholas Porco in the fifth round, and defenseman Ben Brinkman in the sixth round.

By pure numbers, the four-man group is the franchise's smallest draft class since 1968, but it also is a symbol of how Nill is trying to balance all of the needs of the organization. The team gave up the lost draft picks to help add Mats Zuccarello, Ben Lovejoy and Connor Carrick last season. Zuccarello was a boost to the offense late in the year, while Carrick and Lovejoy were needed after the defense suffered several injuries.

"That's the cost for making those moves, but we felt the cost was worth it at the time and now we just have to deal with it as best we can," Nill said.

Part of dealing with it is the fact the team added three key free agents who will immediately improve the team's depth in Tye Felhaber, Joel Kiviranta and Emil Djuse. Felhaber tallied 109 points (59 goals, 50 assists) in 68 games with the Ottawa 67s. He added 28 points (17 goals, 11 assists) in 17 playoff games. And at age 20, Felhaber will be able to step right into the AHL and possibly push up to the NHL next season.

Video: After NHL Draft, all eyes now turn toward free agency

Kiviranta is 23 and brings steady experience as a two-way forward from Finland, while Djuse is a 25-year-old defenseman who should be able to battle for a spot in the NHL immediately.

Add that to players like Joel L'Esperance and Ben Gleason, who were signed before last season, and the Stars have some wiggle room to trade away draft picks if they need to make midseason moves.

"That's how we compensate for losing these picks," Nill said. "You have to find a way to supplement it, and that's what we did. We sent our scouts out and said, 'Are there some free agents out there and can we get lucky with somebody?' You get one or two guys that come out of nowhere, and that's what we're looking for."

That allows the Stars to not panic on a day like Saturday. Nill had the chance to move back and gain an extra draft pick or two, but he said the slide was too much in each offer. By sticking where they were, the Stars were able to get the players the scouts wanted.

Sjolund, 18, has to grow into his 6-foot-1 frame and put weight on his 172-pound body, but he will have that time in Sweden.

"He's a highly-skilled kid. We're very high on his overall ability," said Joe McDonnell, the Stars director of amateur scouting. "I think he's built for today's game. Really good skater, moves the puck well. He has your typical Swedish skillset, so we are excited about him."

Porco, 18, is a skilled winger who is playing with Saginaw of the Ontario Hockey League. He has great raw skill and might develop into a scorer.

Video: Harley's first hours after being picked by Stars

"I guess if I was going to compare him to someone it would be like a (Nick) Caamano we have in Texas," McDonnell said. "Very good speed, very good skater. Has good puck skill. May surprise some people in the end."

And Brinkman, 18, is a thicker more North American-style defenseman. He is 6-feet, 215 pounds and hails from Edina, Minn. He is playing at the University of Minnesota and should get plenty of time before he has to think about the NHL.

"For his age, to be able to play college hockey, he did a very good job," McDonnell said. "I think he would have been a much higher pick, he was rated real high at the start of the year, and I think with his age, you are playing against guys that a four or five years older. We're excited for him to see where he's going to end up.

"He's still got three, four years down the road where he's going to grow into his body."

Which is exactly what the Stars were expecting they were going to get Saturday with just three picks. So they focused on that task and now will move on to Development Camp this week in Frisco. There, the long-term projects will share the ice with the acquisitions who might bring more immediate help this coming season.

And it all will make a little more sense.

"In a perfect world, you want to just keep the assets coming," Nill said. "That's what we're hoping for."

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club.

Mike Heika is a Senior Staff Writer for and has covered the Stars since 1994. Follow him on Twitter @MikeHeika, and listen to his podcast.

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