Dallas Stars’ NHL Draft success makes them a legitimate Stanley Cup contender

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Do you remember Martin Vagner? Ivan Vishnevsky? How about Scott Glennie, the eighth overall pick in 2009? Or pre-Toronto Jack Campbell, the first goalie caught in 2011? Or maybe the pre-Cup champion Valeri Nichushkin?

These are just a few of Dallas’ first-round picks in the 21st century that didn’t work out. In fact, from 2000-2010, Steve Ott (848 games), Mark Fistric (325) and Matt Niskanen (949) are the only first-round picks from Dallas to break the 300-game barrier. They had a bit more success in the early 2010s, but still had notable misfires like Julius Honka in 2014. The 2014 draft was a complete disaster, with Honka (87 games played) being the only player on the nine selected to have ever played in the NHL.

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So, no wonder the Stars have been considered such a mediocre team year after year. But that is changing rapidly.

Fans of public prospects have started giving props to the Stars at the draft table every year for the past few years. It constantly seems like they are making noise no matter what. You often don’t need a ton of prospects to hit it big to start striking gold, but when you get depth it can be a game changer. And that’s exactly where the team is right now, humming along with the Central Division leader.

The past few years have been strange for the Stars. They fought their way to the Cup final in 2020 before missing out on the playoffs in 2021. They were then knocked out of the first round last year despite an incredible performance from young goalkeeper Jake Oettinger.

But, wait a second. Oettinger was taken in 2017. Miro Heiskanen too. Jason Robertson too. Three of the team’s most important players were selected from the top 39 picks in the 2017 draft. One is an incredible defender. One is a future candidate for the Vézina Trophy. The third faces Connor McDavid for the NHL scoring title. Holy beep beep, Batman.

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Dallas’ 2017 draft result will go down in history. And fortunately for general manager Jim Nill, it goes much deeper than that.

There are the strangers they acquired through trade or free agency, such as Tyler Seguin, Joe Pavelski, Mason Marchment and Ryan Suter. But Robertson, Heiskanen, Oettinger, Esa Lindell, Radek Faska, Roope Hintz, Denis Gurianov and captain Jamie Benn make up the bulk of the core, and they’ve all been selected by the Stars. It’s a similar success plan to Tampa Bay, which drafted Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point, Steven Stamkos, Alex Killorn, Victor Hedman and Andrei Vasilevskiy, all crucial members of the Lightning’s Cup races in 2020 and 2021. . .

Oettinger is already considered one of the best goaltenders in the NHL. If it hadn’t been for an early injury, he would be at the top of the conversation for the Vezina Trophy. It helps to have a star defenseman like Heiskanen in front of him, who almost from the start played the best minutes for the Stars. He’s on pace for over 60 points this year, which would be the best offensive production of his career at age 23. With Cale Makar, Quinn Hughes and Adam Fox, it’s easy to get lost in the hype of young defenders. Still, Heiskanen deserves all the attention he gets.

And then there’s Robertson. After missing most of training camp, he exploded with 19 goals (first) and 36 points (second) in just 23 games. He’s chased by Kucherov, Leon Draisaitl, David Pastrnak and Erik Karlsson – quite an elite company – and averages just 5:42 p.m. a night, while most of Robertson’s counterparts top 8:00 p.m.

These are three centerpieces of a single project. And then there’s 2015, another one that turned out to be successful. Gurianov, a first-rounder, has been hit or miss throughout his career, but he can score around 30 points a year. Then there’s Hintz, who just signed an eight-year extension on Tuesday. He showed promising signs in his first two seasons before posting 43 points in 41 games in 2021, and a career-high 37 goals and 72 points in 2021-22. He’s on pace over 80 points this year, so a long-term deal was a no-brainer.

And the talent is always there. Ty Dellandrea, drafted 13th overall, finally made it to the club full-time. Thomas Harley, 18th overall in 2019, could still be something. Mavrik Bourque was a shrewd pick at No.30 in 2020. Wyatt Johnston and Logan Stankoven, among many great picks in 2021, will be huge for the club going forward. Lian Bichsel, taken 18th in 2022, should also make the difference one day.

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What’s remarkable about all of these talents is the value they continue to find. Heiskanen was ranked third overall in 2017. The rest of their NHL draft notables were taken outside the top 10, with Hintz and Robertson caught in the second. Just think about the importance of these two elements, so it’s a huge value.

The biggest downside to an influx of talent out of the draft is the implications of the cap. Hintz and Robertson will earn over $8 million, while Robertson will earn $7.75 million through 2026. Oettinger will earn $4 million through 2025, when his value could skyrocket. Thankfully, that’s most of the team’s central core locked in for a few years, with Johnston possibly needing the biggest raise once his entry-level contract expires in 2025. Nill made a great job securing team-friendly offers from much of the lineup, though Seguin and Benn are making over $9.5 million apiece for the next few seasons.

Excellence in writing and development doesn’t matter if you can’t get the most out of it. During the regular season, this shouldn’t be a problem. It’s about making big strides in the playoffs, though, and that’s where the real test begins. The Flames dominated Dallas for most of last year’s first-round series, but the Stars got great performances from his youth. Now these same players are becoming real « Stars ».

It just shows you how vital solid copywriting and development can be.

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