The draft is still over a month away, but that doesn’t mean we can’t speculate about the possibilities and look over possible picks for the Stars.
The first player we’ll look at today will be Finnish defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen.
Weight: ~210 lbs
Ristolainen is being projected in most drafts somewhere between the No. 8 and No. 12 picks, though NHL.com’s Steven Hoffner curiously doesn’t even have him going in the first round. His mock is the clear outlier though.
Ristolainen is generally considered a top-10 talent in this draft, and he’s a top-four defenseman in this year’s class.
Despite being just 18-years-old, Ristolainen has played at the top level in the SM-Liiga for the past two seasons (with HC TPS) and has been seeing significant time. The kid is one of two teenagers on the team, and he has been the assistant captain and captain for various Finnish U-18 and U-20 teams in the past three years.
He’s pretty much all you can ask for in a d-prospect. He’s big, smart, considered a solid puck-mover, smooth skater, has a big-time shot and has a nasty streak as a punishing hitter. He’s a solid two-way prospect.
He said himself that he tries to model his game after Chris Pronger. As long as that’s young, un-concussed Pronger, what’s not to like about that.
The always great Corey Pronman of Hockey Prospectus is a big fan of Ristolainen.
Why Draft Him?
So, why should Dallas take Ristolainen? The team is already flush with a ton of defense prospects (and I mean a ton).
Well, first off, you can never ever have too many d-prospects. Defensemen are always going to be a bit tough to project at the next level, and the more you have, the better off you’ll be in the future. The Stars are going to be in desperate need for some more NHL-worthy guys in a few years, and Ristolainen looks to be one of the safer picks in this draft.
He’s played big, tough minutes in a good league over in Finland (not too common for someone his age). Dallas needs as many reliable guys in the pipeline as they can get their hands on. He's not going to blow people away with his abilities, but there's low risk in taking him.
Secondly, he would be a rare right-handed shot on this team, especially on the blue line. At the moment, here are the right-handed shooters on the blue line in the Dallas system.
Stephane Robidas – Gone in a couple of years, if not next year.
Philip Larsen – Disappointing this season, doesn’t look like he’ll be a top-four defenseman.
Jace Coyle – Not getting time at the NHL level anytime soon, if at all.
Carl Sneep – Same as Coyle.
Troy Vance – Interesting project, but not expecting much from him. Little offensive contributions here.
John Klingberg – A good prospect, but poor defensively and doesn’t have a lot of weight to him. He’s an offensive-defenseman.
Ristolainen would instantly become the best right-handed defensive prospect on the team and would be the only solid two-way player. He’s very advanced at this stage of his career and could easily make his way to the AHL level within a year or two.
There are a lot of choices for the Stars at No. 10, but, at the moment, Ristolainen is at the top of my plausible “hope he’ll be there” list.