Last year’s NHL Draft was big for the Dallas Stars.
It was general manager Jim Nill’s first with Dallas as he worked to build the Stars into a playoff team again.
Highlighting that draft was the Stars’ first-round selection, a teenager from Russia named Valeri Nichushkin, who was on the NHL roster from Day One.
Nichushkin finished the season with 34 points, including 14 goals.
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When this year’s draft unfolds Friday and Saturday, Nill doesn’t expect the same kind of immediate impact player that Nichushkin was last season.
“The top six or seven players, everyone knows who they are,” Nill said. “After that, it’s wide open. There’s good players, but they all have some flaws, which they are all young kids. After the top 10 picks, it’s wide open as far as what you want to pick.”
Dallas holds the 14th overall pick in the first round, well out of the range for some of the big names, but they are tied for the most picks overall with nine, holding extra picks in the fourth and sixth rounds.
In a draft with more middle-tier talent than last last year, those extra middle-round picks could benefit Dallas in more ways than one, Nill said.
“The more picks there are, the more assets there are,” he said “If you maybe go to make a move in the draft or make a trade, to have those extra picks — they’re all assets. The more picks you have the better chance you have to find a player.”
And that’s where Nill’s expertise has changed in his second draft with the Stars.
With a year to monitor the Stars’ minor league affiliate in Cedar Park, including the Texas Stars’ run to a Calder Cup Championship, Nill said he has a much better feel for what assets the organization holds.
The result could be a more active two days for Nill.
“It’s just going to have to be the right situation,” he said. “We’re ready for it. We’re fortunate. We have a lot of assets. I think the success of our minor league team in Austin winning the Calder Cup — there’s a lot of players that are closer than maybe what we thought a year ago.”
Many of those developing players are young defensemen, filling the biggest void the Stars have had the past several seasons, leaving Nill with the freedom to draft players he feels will fit the overall system.
“We don’t have any big holes that we know we have to draft,” he said. “We have pretty good balance all through the organization.”