A few thoughts and observations on this weekend’s NHL Draft:
* The Stars definitely went with size in this draft and GM Joe Nieuwendyk said it wasn’t a coincidence. The plan was to get some bigger prospects, and I don’t think they sacrificed anything by going that route. The two big defenseman -- Jamieson Oleksiak (6-7/244) and Troy Vance (6-6/200) -- are mobile puck movers. Forward Brett Ritchie (6-3/210) has some skill and offensive upside. So, it wasn’t just size alone. These are some big kids with skill.
*Oleksiak going to the Stars at 14th overall wasn’t a big shocker. He was linked to the Stars in some mock drafts and those compilation rankings I put together just prior to the draft had him ranked 14th. He was going in the Stars’ range. It was much the same with Ritchie, who was projected to go anywhere from the early to late second round. The Stars took him in the middle of the round.
*The pick of center Emil Molin in the fourth round was a surprise. I couldn’t find him on any of the rankings, but this is why teams have their own scouts do the work. Molin put up impressive numbers in Swedish juniors. Defenseman John Klingberg, taken by the Stars in the fifth round last year, wasn’t on any of the rankings and he’s turned out to be a promising prospect. Very promising. We’ll see is the Stars have found another good prospect out of Sweden with Molin.
*The Stars nabbed a sleeper in the fifth round with Vance, who was basically off the radar until he jumped from the Eastern Junior Hockey League to major junior in Canada. Red Line Report listed him as one of the mid-round sleepers in the draft worth a look because of how well he played after making the jump to the Quebec Major Junior Hockey league. The Stars played a role in Vance going to QMJHL. Again, this was the Stars scouting staff toiling away and, who knows, they may have found another fifth round gem. Time will tell.
*Their sixth round pick, Matej Stransky, has just started his transition to North America. His numbers with Saskatoon were OK, but he did put some impressive numbers in Czech junior hockey. It will be interesting how he does next season.
*Defenseman Jyrki Jokipakka, the seventh round pick, played in Finland’s top league and also had a good showing at the World Juniors. He’s got some size at 6-3 and mobility.
*Overall, it looks like a good group of picks. You won’t know how good a draft it was for a few years. None of these guys is expected to have an immediate impact. The Stars don’t rush prospects and will give them time to develop. If they get a couple of NHL players out of it, that’s pretty good. If they get more than a couple, that’s even better. The reason teams don’t like to lose picks is because the more you have the better the chances that you’ll get some prospects that will develop into good NHL players. Drafting 17-, 18- and 19-year-olds and projecting where they’ll be in five years isn’t an exact science. The wider you cast the net, the better chance you’ll haul in a few.
*ESPN.com’s Draft Blog gave the Stars a grade of B for their 2011 draft. Gare Joyce writes:
“The Stars are in flux because of ownership and the impending departure of Brad Richards. Whether they came away with a new identity here or not is an open question. They did come away bigger, though. Jamieson Oleksiak is a beast. I don't remember a tall kid as solidly built, and it's not early maturing. He still has room to grow and pack on more muscle. Brett Ritchie is the kind of slowly emerging player that the Stars have had success with (e.g., Jamie Benn). I don't know if Ritchie can score but he has all the moving parts (skating, size, decent puck skills). I didn't get much of a sense of urgency and passion in his game, though.”
*It will be interesting to see what happens with Oleksiak, who said Friday that he was unsure if he would return to Northeastern next season or go another route on his development path. Nieuwendyk said Saturday he “suspects” Oleksiak will spend another year of two in college.
*It was big weekend for Dallas-Fort Worth hockey as three kids who were born in this area and got their start in hockey here were drafted Saturday. Plano native Stefan Noesen went 21st overall to Ottawa. Noesen was a guy the Stars liked, but the Stars weren’t going to take him at 14 and he wasn’t going to be around at 44. Plano’s Blake Coleman went to New Jersey in the third round with the pick the Devils got from the Stars in the Jamie Langenbrunner deal. Coppell's Colin Jacobs went to the Buffalo in the fourth round. The Stars deserve a lot of credit for this. They didn’t show up and play back in 1993; they did a nice job of helping the game grow at the grass-roots level by building rinks all over the area.