Like a beautiful Sunday afternoon with no errands to run and nothing planned, the Dallas Stars have a lot of freedom heading into the 2016 NHL Entry Draft.
For many NHL teams there are obvious needs that need to be addressed at the draft table, and addressed as soon as possible. The Toronto Maple Leafs need an elite center to play with the elite wing prospects that they already have in William Nylander and Mitch Marner, the Columbus Blue Jackets need to acquire a game-breaking offensive forward, the front-heavy Edmonton Oilers need a dynamic defensive prospect to help balance out their future rosters, and so on.
For Dallas, however, there’s no such obvious need. And that, in a way, is quite freeing.
As I touched on in a recent article over at a website called Defending Big D, the Stars, aside from a few fine-tuned categories, currently have a very impressive depth and balance of young talent. Players like Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, Radek Faksa and Valeri Nichushkin are the future on offense, while John Klingberg, Stephen Johns, Esa Lindell and Julius Honka are the future on defense. And this is only mentioning the more notable names, not counting the big supporting cast also in the system.
With such a strong prospect pool already at their disposal, Dallas general manager Jim Nill and his scouting staff have no shortage of flexibility about what they want to accomplish when it comes time for their first round selection at 25th overall.
Do they, for example, focus their attention on the explosive power forward Max Jones?
Do they look towards a small-yet-skilled player like Vitalii Abramov?
Do they gamble on Tyler Benson, who was considered a Top 10 pick heading into this season before injuries derailed most of his year?
Do they wait patiently and, abstaining themselves from any particular preferences, nab any player that was widely ranked in the 15-20 range that might happen to tumble down the draft board?
Indeed, the Stars will have plenty of options for when it comes their time to make a selection.
Adding to their fortunes, there shouldn’t be a significant divide in talent among the players that are likely to be available. The first few rounds of the draft usually split into varying “tiers” when it comes to consensus rankings and projections. For 2016, the highest tier consists of three players: Auston Matthews, Patrik Laine and Jesse Puljujarvi. Next up is a group of players roughly ranked in the 4-9 range, and then another tier up to 15th or so.
Luckily for the Stars, though, there seems to be a huge tier in the 16-25 range, with numerous players fluctuating at both the greater and lesser ends. In other words, even though Dallas will be choosing 25th, there might not really be that much of a drop off at whomever they selection compared to the player that ends up going 16th. Combine that with their aforementioned lack of a pressing need and it paints a pretty convenient picture for the organization, even though they’ll be picking late.
It’s incredibly difficult at the moment to predict just what the Stars will do at this year’s entry draft, but for fans of the team, that should be considered a blessing and not a curse.
Derek Neumeier primarily covers the Dallas Stars, but also other various topics related to the sport of hockey. A Journalism graduate of Mount Royal University, Derek also writes for Defending Big D, and has done previous work with the Edmonton Oilers as a communications intern and Hockey Canada as a freelance writer. You can follow him on Twitter at @Derek_N_NHL