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WATCH LIVE: Dallas Stars at Anaheim Ducks

NBCSN’s coverage of the 2017-18 season continues on Friday, as the Anaheim Ducks host the Dallas Stars at 10 p.m. ET. You can watch the game online by clicking here

PROJECTED LINEUPS

STARS
Jamie BennTyler SeguinBrett Ritchie
Remi ElieRadek FaksaAlexander Radulov
Antoine RousselJason SpezzaMattias Janmark
Gemel SmithDevin ShoreTyler Pitlick

Esa LindellJohn Klingberg
Marc MethotGreg Pateryn
Dan HamhuisJulius Honka

Starting goalie: Mike McKenna

[‘Resilient’ Ducks look to extend win streak vs. Stars]

WATCH LIVE – 10 P.M. ET

DUCKS
Rickard RakellRyan GetzlafCorey Perry
Andrew CoglianoRyan KeslerJakob Silfverberg
Nick RitchieAdam HenriqueOndrej Kase
Jason ChimeraDerek GrantJ.T. Brown

Hampus LindholmJosh Manson
Francois BeaucheminBrandon Montour
Marcus PetterssonAndy Welinski

Starting goalie: Ryan Miller

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

One reason for Dallas Stars’ struggles? Shaky drafting

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The narrative is becoming almost as much of a trope as the Capitals suffering playoff heartbreak or the Hurricanes not even getting to the postseason. Year after year, the Dallas Stars “win” the off-season, yet they frustrate as much as they titillate when the pucks drop.

For years, mediocre-to-putrid goaltending has been tabbed as the culprit. There’s no denying that there have been disappointments in that area, especially since they keep spending big bucks hoping to cure those ills.

[Once again, Stars’ hope hinge on Kari Lehtonen.]

Checking all the boxes

The thing with success in the NHL is that there is no “magic bullet.”

Sure, the Penguins lucked out in being putrid at the right times to land Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and other key players with lottery picks. Even so, they’ve also unearthed some gems later in drafts (Kris Letang, Jake Guentzel) and made shrewd trades (Phil Kessel is the gift that keeps giving). They’ve also had a keen eye when it comes to who to keep or not keep in free agency, generally speaking.

In other words, the best teams may stumble here or there, but they’re generally good-to-great in just about every area.

The Stars hit a grand slam in the Tyler Seguin trade, made a shrewd signing in Alex Radulov, and enjoyed some nice wins in other moves. You can nitpick the style elements of bringing back Ken Hitchcock, but there are pluses to adding the Hall of Famer’s beautiful hockey mind.

Beyond goaltending, the Stars’ struggles in drafting and/or developing players really seems to be holding them back.

Not feeling the draft

Now, that’s not to say that they never find nice players on draft weekend. After all, they unearthed Jamie Benn in the fifth round (129th overall) in 2007 and poached John Klingberg with a fifth-rounder, too (131st pick in 2010).

Still, first-round picks have not been friendly to this franchise. When they’ve managed to make contact, they’ve managed some base hits, but no real homers. (Sorry, Radek Faksa.)

The Athletic’s James Gordon (sub required) ranked the Stars at 28th of 30 NHL teams who’ve drafted from 2011-15, furthering the point:

Imagine how great the Stars would be — what with Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn and Alexander Radulov — had they managed to get another core piece or two with one of their many mid-first and second-round picks. Instead, they’ve nabbed mostly role players who don’t move the needle much.

Actually, it’s quite staggering just how far back the Stars’ struggles with first-rounders really goes. Ignoring 2017 first-rounder Miro Heiskanen (third overall) and 2016 first-rounder Riley Tufte (25th) as they’re particularly early in their development curves, take a look at the Stars’ run of first-rounders:

2015: Denis Gurianov, 12th overall, 1 NHL game
2014: Julius Honka, 14th, 53 GP
2013: Valeri Nichushkin, 10th, 166 GP; Jason Dickinson, 29th, 35 GP
2012: Radek Faksa, 13th, 196 GP
2011: Jamie Oleksiak, 14th, 179 GP
2010: Jack Campbell, 11th, 6 GP
2009: Scott Glennie, 8th, 1 GP
2008: No first
2007: No first
2006: Ivan Vishnevskiy, 27th, 5 GP
2005: Matt Niskanen, 28th, 792 GP

Yikes. Even if Gurianov and Honka come along, that group leaves … a lot to be desired. (And those struggles go back past 2014 and beyond, honestly.)

Blame scouting, development, or both, but the Stars aren’t supplementing high-end talent with the depth that often separates great from merely good.

This isn’t a call for perfection, either. Even a team with some high-profile whiffs can also get big breaks. Sure, the Boston Bruins passed on Mathew Barzal three times, but they also got steals in Charlie McAvoy and David Pastrnak.

 

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If the Stars want to break through as more than a fringe playoff team, “winning the off-season” will need to start in late June instead of early July.

And, hey, what better time to do that than when they’re hosting the next draft?

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Bishop wasn’t too happy about Hitchcock’s decision to pull him during loss to Avs

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Ken Hitchcock has been known to rub some his players the wrong way. It seems like goalie Ben Bishop is the latest one to find that out.

Bishop, who was pulled in Tuesday’s 5-3 loss to the Colorado Avalanche, was noticeably frustrated with his head coach after the game. The Stars netminder was given the hook after allowing three goals on 17 shots just over 26 minutes into the game (the score was 3-2 for the Avs at that point).

It’s hard to fault Bishop on that third goal, especially because teammate Julius Honka morphed into a turnover machine during that shift. On Colorado’s second goal though, it was Bishop’s turnover behind the net that let to the Avalanche taking their first lead of the hockey game.

You can check out the highlights of last night’s game by clicking here.

Anyhow, after the game, the Stars goalie wasn’t shy about disagreeing with his head coach’s decision.

Hitchcock made it a point to mention that his decision had nothing to with Bishop. Instead, he was just looking to give his team a spark.

In the end, Bishop’s replacement, Kari Lehtonen, allowed the next goal to make it 4-2 for Colorado, and the Avs never looked back.

It’ll be interesting to see how these two key figures work things out going forward. Expectations were high for Dallas coming into this season, but they’ve only managed to get off to a mediocre 5-4-0 start.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Quick hits: Sens waive Hammond, Rangers send Andersson to Sweden

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NHL teams have until Tuesday to get their rosters down to 23 players (or perhaps less in specific, tight cap situations), so the waiver wire could be intriguing to watch until then.

Between that and sending prospects to the AHL, juniors, or even overseas, there are quite a few things going on. Let’s take care of some of those items in one convenient spot.

(Note: this isn’t necessarily comprehensive; if you want to cover every base, check out Rotoworld’s NHL page.)

  • First things first, waiver notes for Thursday. The two most prominent names are Matt Puempel of the New York Rangers and Andrew Hammond of the Ottawa Senators.

Hammond is an especially interesting case.

The 29-year-old memorably saved the Senators’ season in 2014-15, also earning McDonald’s for life. Since then, he’s largely been lost in the shuffle of Ottawa: seemingly too prominent for the AHL but not quite established enough to take starts from Craig Anderson (and eventually passed by Mike Condon).

Hammond’s numbers haven’t been the greatest since then, and his $1.35 million cap hit isn’t the cheapest for someone who might not be a difference-making backup. Still, it’s plausible that some team – maybe one with a lot of space and some questions – might want to take a look. In this specific case, the odds increase because at least that cap hit will expire after 2017-18.

  • The New York Rangers loaned their first-round pick Lias Andersson to Sweden, where he’ll play for Frolunda of the Swedish Hockey League. As the seventh pick of this past draft, Andersson is a guy to keep an eye on, possibly not too long from now.
  • There’s some belief that, while it isn’t official, the Dallas Stars are expected to send Julius Honka to the AHL, meaning that he’d lose out to the likes of Jamie Oleksiak.

Some believe that the Stars would be making the safe move as far as waivers go, rather than opting to put the best team on the ice.

Stars sign No. 3 overall pick Heiskanen to entry-level contract

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The Dallas Stars announced on Saturday that they have signed their first-round pick, 17-year-old defenseman Miro Heiskanen, to a three-year entry level contract.

He spent the 2016-17 season playing for HIFK in the Finnish Elite League and recorded 10 points (five goals, five assists) in 37 games, while also representing Finland at both the under-20 and under-18 World Championships. He was the fourth-leading scorer among HIFK’s defensemen even though he was only 17 years old.

He was the first defenseman selected in the 2017 draft. The Stars were in a position to pick him after moving up four spots in the NHL draft lottery.

The obvious long-term goal for the Stars is for Heiskanen, a left-handed shot that they desperately needed on the blue line, could develop into a player that could one day play alongside John Klingberg on the team’s top-pairing. Defense and goal prevention has been an issue for the Stars in recent years, but with Klingberg, Julius Honka and now Heiskanen joining the organization they certainly have some impressive young talent on their defense.