Any time a team makes draft picks, it’s a gamble. Effectively, the team is betting on a teenager’s future development, which can be interrupted by injury, illness or just a lack of progression. The Dallas Stars know this all too well and have run in to a few less than impressive picks.
The 2019 NHL Entry Draft concluded last week with a new crop of prospective NHLers. While only time will tell who’s the real winner of this year’s selection process, the Dallas Stars have to hope their luck has changed after a few picks from the past decade have underwhelmed.
Goaltenders aren’t typically picked in the first round of the draft because they’re a true gamble. With development in the crease usually coming to a close in the mid-late 20s, it’s no wonder teams would rather pick guys who could lace up skates for the team in a year or two rather than waiting upwards of five.
Nonetheless, the Stars selected Jack Campbell 11th overall in the 2010 draft with the intention of him becoming the franchise’s next man in net. But, that certainly never came to fruition.
In fact, Campbell only got in the blue paint for the Dallas Stars for one full game, surrendering six goals against in a loss to the Anaheim Ducks and being stuck battling injuries in the AHL for the remainder of his Stars tenure.
He was traded away to the Los Angeles Kings in exchange for AHL defender Nick Ebert in the summer of 2016. And as fortune would have it, he’s now a full-time player with LA at the NHL level and actually defeated Dallas in a game in January 2019.
As a young gun, Valeri Nichushkin joined the Stars’ organization as the 13th overall pick in 2013. His road to the NHL was relatively seamless as he was on the roster for the following season, putting up 34 points (14G, 20A) in 79 games for the team in 2013-14.
Nichushkin was limited to only eight games in the 2014-15 season with a hip injury that truly transformed his confidence for the worse. He followed that up with a 29 point (9G, 20A) performance in the 2015-16 season.
However, that’s when No. 43’s good fortune in the NHL ran out. After hitting a wall in contract negotiations, Nichushkin decided to go overseas and play in Russia, leaving the NHL and the Stars in his rearview mirror. That is, until he returned in a drastically less impressive performance last season, tallying 10 assists and no goals in 57 games.
And it’s that history that led the Stars to buy out the now 23-year-old forward from the last year of his contract. This move was, in all honesty, probably not a difficult one for the team. A first-round pick from six years ago should be performing at a higher level, and despite his growth in other areas, Nichushkin simply wasn’t worth the cap space that the Stars can now use on potential free agents.
At the end of the day
Drafting players can be a guessing game. The fact of the matter is that, sometimes, things don’t go the way they should. However, the Stars have been able to right some wrongs in recent years, drafting players like Miro Heiskanen, who has already taken a place on the roster as a top defender.
As far as the 2019 draft goes, time will tell who, if anyone, will be on this list in a few years.