After a lackluster 2016-17 campaign, the offseason has been a whirlwind thus far. The Dallas Stars fired Lindy Ruff, hired Ken Hitchcock, lost center Cody Eakin to Vegas expansion, bought-out Antti Niemi, traded for Marc Methot, signed free agents Martin Hanzal and Alexander Radulov, and hope to have finally found a reliable goalie Ben Bishop. Then to top it off, they had two first round draft picks. It’s no suprise that the Stars biggest weakness last year was defense and goaltending, and that is exactly what they addressed with their first two picks.
Round 1 – 3rd overall: Miro Heiskanen, D
The Stars love Finnish defenseman. Heiskanen follows Esa Lindell and Julius Honka as Finnish defensemen drafted by the Stars. Miro plays a very smart game, with a lot of talent both offensively and defensively. He played in the Finnish Elite League last year as a 17-year-old and notched ten points in 37 games. His strengths so far have been his high hockey IQ, and defensive responsibility, something the Stars have been starving to find. It’s worth noting that while his numbers in the Finnish pro league may not be impressive, he did manage twelve points in seven games World Juniors, which highlights his offensive potential when playing against those of his age. The teenager has an abundance of ability, and the Stars absolutely love him. He’ll likely spend next season playing in Finland, but he might just be a year or two away from being in Dallas.
Round 1 – 26th overall: Jake Oettinger, G
It’s really difficult to overstate how bad the goaltending situation was for the Stars last year. Everyone is aware of the struggles of Antti Niemi and Kari Lehtonen, but it’s extended to their goalie prospects. Their AHL affiliate, Texas Stars had one after another that struggled between the pipes. With very little developing in the farm system made drafting Oettinger huge. Oettinger is coming off his Freshman season at Boston University, and will likely spend at least a couple more years there. He’s a big goalie that uses his frame, and loves to compete. He excelled in the net for BU last season, and pressure never seemed to bother him. It may be a few years before we see him, but the Stars drafted a big-time goalie.
Round 2 – 39th overall: Jason Robertson, LW
Day two for the stars was filled with forwards, and Robertson is the most promising of them. He enjoyed a phenomenal season in the OHL last year, with 81 points, which highlights his offensive ability. Robertson has an incredible shot, and possesses great hands. The Stars believe they have another great offensive producer. Not the greatest skater in the draft, but the Stars believe if he adds some strength that will improve. He’s just going to be 18-years-old, so he’ll have plenty of time to add the necessary strength. Jason Robertson could be a notable fantasy asset in just a few years.
Round 4 – 101st overall: Liam Hawel, C
Hawel is viewed as a long-term project and gives them another big bodied forward prospect. Still skinny, so he’ll need time to fill in, but skates well for such a large frame. He may project more as a third line checking center to match up against opponent’s top lines. Played for Canada in World Juniors, and currently plays in the OHL, and hasn’t shown to be a dominant scorer in either level of competition. Expect more of a penalty killer than a power play specialist.
Round 5 – 132nd overall: Jacob Peterson, C
Another young center that the Stars are going to give ample time to mature. Stars scouting group feels that Peterson is just scratching the surface of his potential. They feel he’s a bit on the skinny side, and want him to fill out to realize his potential. He played mostly a bottom-six role last year in Sweden.
Round 6 – 163rd overall: Brett Davis, C
Davis played in the WHL last season for the Lethbridge and Kootenay. He didn’t score a lot, but the Stars feel he is a great skating center. Worth pointing out that Davis had a minus-46 last season. If he wants to play for Ken Hitchcock, that number must improve.
Round 7 – 194th overall: Dylan Ferguson, G
The Stars feel they may have got a sneaky pick with Ferguson. He was the backup for Kamloops in the WHL, but looked good when given ice time. A little on the smaller side, doesn’t have the huge frame of Ben Bishop or Jake Oettinger, but still possesses skill. He’s the number one goalie heading into the Fall for the Kamloops Blazers.
With so many moving parts this offseason it’s difficult to project how Ken Hitchcock will put things together. The Stars are anxious for Gurianov, but they may not have room for him just yet. Defenseman Julius Honka likely earns a starting role to start the season, and is expected to fight for a spot on the Stars power play.
Top 5 Stars Prospects:
1: Julius Honka
4: Riley Tufte
5: Jake Oettinger
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