With the 2012 NHL Draft wrapping up over the weekend, the Dallas Stars should be ecstatic about how things turned out. Dallas had an early start, as they traded veteran Mike Ribeiro to the Washington Capitals for their second-round pick and 21-year-old center Cody Eakin just as the first round began.
It was a pretty polarizing deal among Stars fans, as I've heard a lot of anger at the trade. However, that anger is misguided. Ribeiro, 32-years-old, was on the last year of his contract and was due $5 million at the end of the year. He was a terrible face-off guy, struggled defensively against other top lines in the league and as Mike Heika notes, his insistence to overstay shifts killed chemistry in this team.
He was a huge part of the historically bad power play that this team trotted out night after night (remember that game against the San Jose Sharks at the end of the year?) and was just flat-out miscast as a number one center. In the end, he may have had a lot of points but they turned out to be nothing more than empty numbers. He'll fit in much more naturally in Washington.
This Stars team is one that's (finally) rebuilding in earnest. That extra $5 million in cap space will go towards the Jamie Benn contract and towards free agency, which the team has said they will be very active in.
Cody Eakin could be a big part of that process. He's a really quick agile two-way center that works hard along the boards. It's a foregone conclusion that he'll work extremely hard to improve as his work ethic is impeccable.
He had his first taste of NHL action last year and had eight points (four goals and four assists) in 30 games working as a depth liner. Eakin probably needs another year playing in the minors before he's fully ready to play at the NHL level, especially if the Stars want him to be a consistent second line center (though he'll probably be third-line).
However, if he has a good showing in training camp, don't be surprised if he makes the team at the start of the year. I think the Stars will do everything they can to get him on the team as soon as possible.
After that trade, the Stars just sat back, stayed patient and watched as the amazing happened. After the first three picks, a run started where seven straight defensemen were picked, and good offensive talents continued to drop to the Stars. A massive trade between the Carolina Hurricanes and the Pittsburgh Penguins pretty much sealed the fact the Stars would get one of the centers that they coveted. In this case, it was Radek Faksa.
Tom Gaglardi came into the draft saying that the team would go after centers and boy did they stick to the plan. The Stars took four centers in this draft (not including Eakin) the most since 2000, when they also took four. What Tom Gaglardi wants, Tom Gaglardi gets and it started with Faksa.
First Round - Pick 13:
I did a scouting report on Faksa a couple of weeks ago and had him as one of the top three targets for the Stars. As luck would have it, Faksa dropped into the Stars laps (along with other solid centers) as defenseman after defenseman got picked in front of them.
He's really the perfect fit for the team. He's the big-bodied power forward that the Stars have been looking for and he could step into the second-line center role for this team if needed. He's easily the best center prospect on the team and Dallas really could not have asked for much more with this pick.
Dallas will probably play it a little slow with Faksa and let him get one year of AHL hockey under his belt before bringing him up next year, but if he has a great camp he'll find himself fast tracked to the NHL. He's one of the few guys in this draft that has the ability to step into the NHL immediately.
If he really improves his offensive game through his career, he'll be a first line center for the team. Stars fans should be really really happy with this pick.
Stay tuned to the Stars off-season stream over the next week for breakdowns of their other eight draft picks.