Day two of the 20017 NHL Draft moved pretty quickly in Chicago, except for a couple of instances when New Jersey pushed the clock, including a timeout at one point. Other than that, it moved along at a nice pace, and the Stars picked five players.
The standout pick was left wing Jason Robertson, taken in the second round (39th overall). After the Stars grabbed defenseman Miro Heiskanen and goaltender Jake Oettinger on day one, the Stars got some goaltending punch in Robertson. He popped in 42 goals in 68 games with Kingston of the Ontario Hockey League last season.
Robertson was projected as a possible first-round pick. The Red Line Report had him ranked ninth overall, and TSN had him 30th in its final rankings. The Stars had him going in the first round as well, so they were pleased to see him drop to them at No. 39.
“We knew we were going to get another good player at 39 and it worked out well that we got Jason,” said Stars GM Jim Nill. “We’re excited. He’s a great scorer, and I think he is going to be a good fit for us.”
The Red Line Report called Robertson the most underrated player in the draft
“Has all the tools, including a great combination of strength and super soft hands,” Red Line Report said in its 2017 Draft Guide. “His offensive numbers were hampered by the lack of a quality playmaking centre on the worst offensive team in the OHL, yet he was able to create chances for himself and score 42 goals. Drives hard into the slot area and fires rockets with a great release – gets great wrist snap.”
The big issue with Robertson – and this was pointed out in many scouting reports – is his skating. But the Stars didn’t seem overly concerned.
“He’s got a good stride, but if you watched him you’d say his skating would need to improve,” said Stars director of amateur scouting Joe McDonnell. “I think his stride is good enough and I think with some added strength it’s just going to get better. His IQ and his hands around the net are pretty good.”
So, the Stars got a pretty good haul with their top three picks of Heiskanen, Oettinger, and Robertson. As always with prospects, time will tell. But the Stars seem very pleased.
The rest of Saturday’s picks – centers Liam Hawel (fourth round), Jacob Peterson (fifth round), Brett Davis (sixth round), and goaltender Dylan Ferguson (seventh round) seem to be projects. We’ll see how they progress over the next few years.
Nill also addressed what’s next for the Stars now that the draft is over. Obviously, free agency is looming on July 1. He noted the Stars have already accomplished some big goals, getting Ben Bishop in net and settling the coaching staff issue. There are still some holes to fill though on the roster.
Here was a brief state of the Stars from Nill:
“We think we’ve checked off a lot of boxes. It actually started when we picked up Ben Bishop. Before that, it was the coaching situation. Bishop is a big move, that’s a free agent situation. That would be like going to free agency July 1, and we got that done early. We got through the expansion draft, knew we were going to lose a player, and we lost a good player in Cody Eakin. That was going to happen. We came to the draft and got the players we wanted and the last check box now is we’ve to fill some holes in free agency. We are going to see how some situations are. We want to see how [Mattias] Janmark is doing. We are going to talk to Patrick Sharp, see how he’s feeling, and Ales Hemsky. The next step is free agency, and we’ll see where that takes us.
“We’re in a good position. Our core is set. We’ve got a couple holes to fill, on the wings and that. We’re fortunate that we have some good young kids coming up, some guys down in Texas (AHL) that got some good opportunities last year. They are there to fill in the holes if there is a situation where there is nothing there. We’re balanced off pretty good.”
On how close the Stars are to determining the status of Janmark, who missed all of last season with a knee issue, Nill had this to say:
“Probably right now. As long as he goes through training camp and feels good, he’s pretty well cleared to play. He’s starting that training process now. He’s over to see our doctors right now. He’s really been given the green light to play. There was a chance last year he could have played some, but we sat down with him and the doctors and said let’s give it a couple more months. He was close to coming back and playing last year.”
There’s also the issue of Valeri Nichushkin, but there is nothing new there. Whether Nichushkin will return to the Stars this season or play another season in the KHL is still up in the air.
“Their season starts up sooner than ours, so between his team and himself and where they are, that decision will probably be made in the next month for sure or maybe sooner. In the end, the ball is in Val’s court, and we’ll see where that goes.”
So, there are still a lot of questions as free agency approaches. Stay tuned.