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Stars look to add to prospect pool this weekend in Buffalo

by Mark Stepneski / Dallas Stars

The Dallas Stars are expected to inject some youth into their roster in 2016-17. It’s nothing new. The Stars have been working young players into the lineup the past three seasons.

Players who qualify as rookies under NHL guidelines have suited up for 597 games for the Stars in 2013-14, 2014-15, and 2015-16. That’s in the top half of the league during that span, 12th among the 30 NHL teams to be specific and third among Central Division teams.

And of those 597 rookie games, 458 have been logged by 14 players drafted by the Stars from 2007 to 2013. They are important in helping build rosters and providing depth in today’s NHL salary cap era, where team’s lock up good players long-term and filling holes in free agency has become tougher.

“It’s the lifeblood of our team, the drafting and developing,” Dallas Stars GM Jim Nill said. “You have to have it.”

And the Stars will be looking to add more players to the prospect pool this weekend at the 2016 NHL Draft this weekend in Buffalo.

The Stars currently have six picks in this year’s draft, including the 25th overall selection in the first round. None on this year’s picks is expected to make an immediate impact, but like with any draft the goal is to land some help for down the road.

“They may not be a player right away. Once you get past that top ten the development is more likely to be the three or four-year plan instead of one to three years,” Nill said.

Forwards Auston Matthews, Patrik Laine, and Jesse Puljujarvi are considered the big three in this year’s draft. After that, there is some debate on how things will shake out as far as the order.

“It’s really good at the top end of the draft,” said Stars Director of Amateur Scouting Joe McDonnell. “Maybe the guys we would have rated the top 20 can be interchangeable other than the top three. They are probably going to go as slated. But after that, it is a real crapshoot. It’s pretty good at the top end.”

The Stars believe they can grab one of the guys in their top 20 with the 25th pick because their list likely isn’t the same as the other 29 NHL teams and it isn’t the same as the lists fans see published by the independent scouting services and media. There is no master list. Each team has its own rankings.

“Everybody looks at players different. We all evaluate different,” Nill said. “We are going to get a good player at 25.”

Said McDonnell: “We’ll have somebody that is rated ahead of 25, so we’ll be pretty excited about that.”

An example of how much lists can differ is the case of Roope Hintz, the Finnish forward the Stars selected in the second round (49th overall) in 2015. The various independent scouting services and media lists had Hintz going anywhere from 50th to 110th heading into last year’s draft. The Stars had him ranked much higher.

“We had him around the 20 range,” said Nill.

The Stars are likely to go with best player available when it comes to making their selections. McDonnell believes the Stars have pretty good depth in the prospect pool. There are some priorities, though.

“We’ll have our list and go right off that, and we’ll see who falls to us. It will be the best player at whatever position,” McDonnell said. “We definitely have good depth. You’d like to get a scoring forward, but everybody is looking for those type of players. If anything, you’d like to get somebody that could score.”

The Stars have about 180 players on their list heading into the draft. There’s nothing fancy in how they evaluate players as they scout the various junior leagues around the globe, colleges, and the European pro leagues. It is pretty straight forward and what you would expect.

“Skill level. Skill, size, and skating that you would be looking at, and your hockey sense,” McDonnell said.

There was also some evaluation done at the recent NHL combine in Buffalo. The Stars are less interested in the physical testing and more interested in meeting the prospects.

“Having a little conversation with him, learning a little bit about his background and his family,” said McDonnell. “Some of the kids surprise. You think they look small on the ice, and then you meet them in person and they look a lot bigger. It’s just a matter of meeting the player face to face.”

Scouting and drafting 17 and 18-year-olds isn’t an exact science. The Stars will make their picks this weekend and hope that in a few years down the road a few of them will turn into NHL players.

How does the decision to trade down at the draft to get more picks work? Stars Director of Amateur Scouting Joe McDonnell explained how the Stars might consider it as the team approaches the 25th overall pick in the first round of this weekend’s draft in Buffalo.

“It depends on who is there at 25. If we really like the kid, we’ll take him. If we are hesitant a little bit we’d love to trade down and get a couple of second rounds,” McDonnell said. “The only problem with that is you’d like to stay in that top 45 if you could with one of those seconds. That will be the thing at the table, just wing it and see how it shakes out.”

If the decision is to trade down, McDonnell would turn to GM Jim Nill to make a deal.

“And then it will be up to Jim to get on the phone and try to acquire some picks from somebody,” McDonnell said. “Jim surveys it, and I’ll tell him let’s move down if we can move down.”

When: Friday, June 24 (Round 1), 6:00 p.m. (CT); Saturday, June 25 (Rounds 2-7), 9:00 a.m. (CT)

Where: First Niagara Center, Buffalo, New York

TV: TV: June 26 – NBC Sports Network; June 27 – NHL Network

25th overall (First round)

90th overall (Third round)

116th overall (Fourth round)

128th overall (Fifth round)

146th overall (Fifth round)

176th overall (Sixth round)

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club. Mark Stepneski is an independent writer whose posts on reflect his own opinions and do not represent official statements from the Dallas Stars. You can follow Mark on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.

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