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Stars take three defensemen, including one in 2nd round, to finish 2010 NHL Entry Draft

by John Tranchina / Dallas Stars

Los Angeles – Many observers expected them to take a defenseman in the first round, but the Dallas Stars ended up selecting three overall, including one in the second round, choosing Swedish blueliner Patrick Nemeth 41st overall.

A tough, physical defenseman who skates well for his size (6-foot-3, 201 pounds), Nemeth split the 2009-10 season between AIK Stockholm’s junior squad and their pro team in Sweden’s second division.  

Patrik Nemeth
He’s a good skater for his size,” said Stars European scout Rickard Oquist. “He brings leadership to his club. Nemeth brings a physical edge and is a solid defensive player.”

A solid defender and a good penalty killer, Nemeth registered one goal and 20 points in 38 junior games, while racking up 120 penalty minutes. In the pro second division, he skated in 16 contests, contributing three assists.

Dallas ended up trading down in the third round, dealing the 71st overall choice to Colorado for the 77th pick, where they chose left winger Alexander Guptill while also adding a fourth-rounder, at 109 overall, who turned out to be defenseman Alex Theriau.

“We liked Guptill, so we moved back, got what we wanted and added a pick,” explained Stars Director of Scouting and Player Development Les Jackson. “It worked out for our scouts who had a chance to exercise their work. We only moved back six spots and got a pick for that.”

In Guptill, the Stars get a big (6-foot-3, 175 pounds), physical forward who also has some offensive skill, as the native of Newmarket, Ontario totaled 19 goals and 37 points in 29 games for Orangeville in the CCHL and notched six goals and 11 points in 10 contests for Brampton of the OJAHL, both second-level Junior A leagues.  

Guptill, who missed some time early in the season with a broken wrist, is slated to play for Waterloo of the USHL (Tier 1 Junior) next season before heading to the University of Michigan in the fall of 2011, so he will have plenty of time to grow into an NHLer.

“He is a big winger with a lot of natural skill,” Stars Director of Amateur Scouting Tim Bernhardt said of Guptill. “He is a young guy and needs some time to develop but he will get that time at Michigan.”

“Guptill is big and strong, one of the most talented guys that comes out of Tier II,” added Stars scout Jimmy Johnston. “He has good hands. Alex really does not lack anything, he just needs to continue to play games. He was injured a bit last year.”

As for Theriau, the 6-foot-2, 189-pound native of Duncan, BC, is a solid, smooth-skating blueliner who notched four goals and 24 points in 70 games this past season for WHL Everett. As he continues to fill out his big frame, Theriau, who was ranked 77th by NHL Central Scouting, hopes to add more of a physical dimension to his game.  

“I like to consider myself a good-skating defenseman,” said Theriau, whose coach in Everett is former North Stars rearguard Craig Hartsburg. “I like to play good, solid defensive hockey but also contribute offensively, and I base my game around my skating and puck-moving. Probably I’d like to be more physical. I want to put on weight, that’s my goal for the summer.”

“Theriau’s a good skater, he’s one of the best skaters in the Western League and he can really get to pucks,” Jackson said. “He’s in an ideal situation for growth, he’s with Craig Hartsburg, who’s one of the best coaches available to work with him. His game is based on skating and the puck, so for the new game, he has the attributes that fit. It’s just a matter of developing and growing.”

And finally, with their fifth-round pick (131st overall), the Stars selected Swedish defenseman John Klingberg from the Frolunda Indians junior squad. Klingberg, a 6-foot, 158-pound all-around blueliner, will need to get stronger, but Stars management is confident he will.

“Our last pick, our Swedish scouts liked Klingberg,” Bernhardt said. “They feel he’s still got a lot of growth - he’s still a slight kid, but they feel he’s got all kinds of growth in him. He skates really well and he’s a feisty kid.”

Klingberg registered five assists in 27 games in the Elite-level junior league in Sweden and reminds some Dallas scouts of Stars’ prospect Philip Larsen.

“He’s a two-way defenseman and he has some bite to his game,” said Oquist. “He’s a good skater, mobile and moves the puck with ease. Big guy that needs some time to fill out.”

The Stars had previously traded away their original fourth-rounder, as well as their sixth- and seventh-round picks.
In Nemeth, the Stars were excited to add another hard-nosed defenseman somewhat in the mold of current blueliner Mark Fistric.  

“Nemeth is a good-skating defenseman,” said Stars’ Director of European Scouting (and former North Stars goaltender) Kari Takko. “He is good on the puck and a big guy on the back end.”

Nemeth’s pre-draft rankings were a bit all over the map, as he was slotted 37th by the International Scouting Service, 42nd by TSN’s Bob McKenzie and 61st by The Hockey News. NHL’s Central Scouting had him listed 11th among European skaters.  

“He’s more of a two-way guy,” Jackson said of Nemeth. “His strength is without the puck, for sure, but he’s got a good first pass, he manages the blueline offensively. He needs some work, but for sure he has a good foundation.”

While the Stars may have absorbed some local criticism for not choosing a defenseman with their first round pick on Friday, Bernhardt noted that it’s not a wise idea to go into a draft looking to fill a specific need, especially when these players are likely several years away from making an impact in the NHL.

“You can’t go into a draft targeting a certain area,” he said. “You’ve got to take what comes to you, because over a four-year period or five-year period, it’s all going to even out. That’s the way we have to look at it.”

Overall, the Stars were very happy about how their day unfolded, still ending up with three defensemen after securing goaltender Jack Campbell with that first rounder (11th overall) on Friday.

“It’s not that we said, ‘We have to get defensemen in that area,’ it’s just that when we made our list, this is the way it came out,” Bernhardt said. “We had a bunch of defensemen slotted into the second round. We had a pretty good feeling we were going to get a defenseman in that area, we had Nemeth and a couple other defensemen that we were targeting in the second round and Nemeth was the one who was available, so we’re very happy with that. He’s a big, 6-foot-3 defenseman who plays a very aggressive, in-your-face type of game. We think there’s some untapped offensive potential there, he’s got a big shot. He’s going to be a big player when it’s all said and done.

“And Guptill, he’s a very skilled guy. From what we can see, he’s got all the tools. He’s got long, fluid strides, he just kept getting better from the start of the year. He’s going to Michigan, so he’s got a good development program ahead of him.  

“We came to the draft with only four, which is not very good, we were able to pick up a fifth pick, which was kind of a bonus. If we can get two or three players out of this draft, we’re very happy.”

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