While the pile of young defensive talent is large in the Dallas Stars’ organization, defensive talent with a right-handed shot was hard to come by last season.
The Stars beefed up that area by taking Julius Honka with the 14th overall pick in the first round of Friday’s NHL Draft in Philadelphia.
Honka, an 18-year-old from Finland, gives the Stars a right-handed shot with a knack for offensive production.
“The other thing we’re missing is a power-play-quarterback kind of defenseman,” Stars general manager Jim Nill said. “Julius kind of takes care of both of those. He’s highly skilled. He moves the puck well. He’s a right shot. He can run the power play, so we’re excited about his potential.”
Last season, the 5-foot-11, 181-pounder made the transition to North American hockey, joining the Swift Current Broncos of the Western Hockey League where he scored 16 goals and had 56 points in 62 games.
“I love to play an offensive game — a fast game,” Honka said. “I like to move the puck up with the forwards. I think I’m going to be a good part of this Dallas system.”
Honka said he knew the Stars were interested in him as far back as the NHL Combine, and Nill said that Honka was their target from the get-go, unless one of the top 10 prospects unexpectedly fell to the 14th pick.
Nill said Honka will participate in the organization’s development camp this summer before returning to Finland next season to play in its men’s league as he develops into a NHL-ready option.
“It’s good for his development,” Nill said of the Finnish league. “He’s going to play against men. He’s going to realize how hard it is and get stronger. It’s a very good league. It’s going to really help his development. It’s going to make him closer to potentially making the American league in a couple of years and from there see how he develops for making Dallas.”
The draft continues at 9 a.m. Saturday with the Stars having eight more picks in Rounds 2-7.
Nill didn’t rule out trading some of those picks.
“I talked to teams and, yes, we had talked about some different moves,” said Nill, who is running his second draft since joining the Stars last year. “It’s just kind of talk, but there was most definitely some chatter today with some other teams.”