Though his team’s defensive play left plenty to be desired last season, Stars owner Tom Gaglardi is bullish on the blueline’s future.
“We’ve got the deepest bench of defense prospects in the league quite honestly,” Gaglardi told the Stars website this week.
The remark came during a wide-ranging interview about the club’s offseason moves. It’s certainly an interesting one to make — Dallas allowed the fourth-most goals per game last year (3.13) — though Gaglardi had no issues explaining his thought process:
— John Klingberg “has become the player we thought he might be able to become and maybe even better than that.”
— Patrik Nemeth “is a top four defenseman for a long time in the league.”
— Jyrki Jokipakka, “a seventh-round draft pick, two years ago he is a guy who has a chance and he comes in and plays, and he’s an NHLer.”
Those three, all 23 or younger, make up the core of Dallas’ young defensive prospect pool. But according to Gaglardi, there’s plenty of talent behind them:
“The list of guys back there – [Esa] Lindell is going to be a player, [Mattias] Backman, [Ludwig] Bystrom. In terms of the roster guys, there’s [Jokipakka] and Jordie Benn is capable to playing great hockey and [Jamie] Oleksiak is a first-rounder who is in that group as well. There’s a lot of promise there.
A year or two ago there were guys who were concepts and have now proven they can play at the NHL level and give us lots of options. We’ve got a healthy situation. We’ve got six spots for a game and eight guys on one-way contracts that are going to be battling to play.
And there are some guys coming up that have the capability to knock those guys out in Stephen Johns, Lindell and [Julius] Honka.”
It’ll be interesting to see which of the guys Gaglardi mentioned, if any, will push for minutes this year. Dallas’ top six looks to be comprised of Johnny Oduya, Alex Goligoski, Jason Demers, Klingberg, Nemeth and Jokipakka, with Benn and Oleksiak as the Nos. 7 and 8.
Just don’t set that in stone.
Johns, acquired in the Patrick Sharp trade, said he’s ready for the NHL and Honka, the 14th overall pick in 2014, might be the most promising of the lot.
Guess that’s why Gaglardi’s so excited about what’s on the horizon.