The NHL Draft is just around the corner. This year the Dallas Stars aren’t in a power position. Last year the lottery balls fell their way, propelling them up to the third overall pick where they selected defenseman Miro Heiskanen. This year lady luck is too busy smiling on the Vegas Golden Knights to care about anyone else. The Stars will pick 13th.
A run of futility like this franchise has seen has no one culprit, but if we wanted to blame just one we’d have to pick one of scouting or development. More specifically we’d need to single out the inability to bring young offensive talent into the lineup. The little hockey team in Dallas desperately needs that to change this year.
How do they do that? Target scorers. It seems like a stupidly simple answer, but this is a league that let Brayden Point slide until the third round of the draft because he isn’t 6’2 and 210. Find guys who can create offense, skate, and have the hockey IQ Jim Nill covets. Take a cue from that new undersized head coach and knock size a few rungs down the decision-making process.
Data and the eye test can come together here and make identifying those scorers easier. Canucks Army always does great draft stuff. They put out their spring draft rankings recently. The post has a ton of info. I can’t stress enough that this isn’t the only thing you should focus on the prepare for the draft. The #FancyStats used for the rankings absolutely need to be considered though.
The goal here isn’t to rank the players for the draft. The goal is to find offense wherever it may be “hiding”. I took their data and focused on a few aspects of the offense. Some definitions from the Canucks Army rankings.
I sorted this by INV% and then cut off anyone at less than 2.5 shots per game. Arbitrary? Sure, but the focus is on the guys at the top anyway. It’s worth noting that many leagues don’t have stats available (US High School, Russian minor leagues, etc.) so some players won’t show up here.
Also, 5.1 is 5’10. I did a double take, but I’m not a smart man.
Twelve guys are going before the Stars pick unless a trade surfaces. Rasmus Dahlin, Andrei Svechnikov, Quinton Hughes, Filip Zadina, Brady Tkachuk, Oliver Wahlstrom, Noah Dobson, Adam Boqvist, and Evan Bouchard seem to be locks to be in that group.
You may notice that Wahlstrom is a ringer. For the USNTDP he took damn near five shots per game and was a dominant point producer at even strength. The Canucks Army write up included this absurd graphic.
Is that good? If he slips at all that’s a guy that should be squarely on the Stars radar from a statistical perspective.
Playmaker Joe Veleno stands out as a center who can get his linemates on the board. Joel Farabee wasn’t quite as good as Wahlstrom, but he’s still pretty great. Another is defenseman Ty Smith, but if all things are equal the pick should be a forward. The name my eyes get drawn to is down at the bottom, Jesperi Kotkaniemi.
He’s low because that measure includes powerplay time. He was a teenager playing in the top league in Finland, Liiga. I would imagine he didn’t get much time to do anything on the powerplay, but you can see that he was really productive at even strength. Teenager producing against adults? Check.
Other names from this list will be available when the Stars pick in the second and third rounds. This draft becomes a home run if they can make those middle of the draft picks into winners with offensive potential. Radek Faksa and Roope Hintz are quality players, but dynamic offense still has to be part of the equation somewhere. It’s up to the Stars to see if any of these guys fit what they want.