Dallas Stars: (includes Minnesota North Star)
Before winning the franchise’s only Stanley Cup in 1999, the Stars advanced to the 1981 Stanley Cup finals. The Stars were an upcoming team who would lose to an Islanders club that was in the midst of its championship dynasty. The early 1980’s would see the emergence of the Edmonton Oilers and the North Stars would have to battle Chicago and St. Louis in some epic playoff clashes. The foundation for the ’81 final appearance can be traced back to the 1978 and 79 drafts.
In 1978, Bobby Smith would be selected with the first overall pick after a dominating career in the Ontario Hockey League. Smith would emerge as the team’s top offensive force averaging close to a point per game during his time in Minnesota. In the second round, wingers Steve Payne and Steve Christoff were picked with Curt Giles being nabbed in the 4th round. During the Stars 1981 playoff run, Christoff had 16 points in 18 games while Payne scored 17 times in 19 games. Payne appeared to be on the verge of becoming a prolific goal scorer but over the next few seasons a series of knee injuries would ultimately cut his career short.
The 1979 draft saw the Stars draft Craig Harstburg (6th overall), Tom McCarthy (10th overall) and Neal Broten (42nd overall). Hartsburg developed into a top pairing defenseman who appeared in 3 all-star games and represented Canada in the Canada Cup twice. McCarthy played for 9 seasons scoring at least 28 goals on 3 occasions. A native of Minnesota, Broten was a premier play-making center who recorded over 900 career points in 1099 games.
If you combine the 1971 and 1972 draft, the Minnesota North Stars had a total of 21 draft picks. Six players from these drafts would appear in at least 3 NHL games. The most productive player was 12th round pick Mike Antonovich who had 25 points in 87 career games.
In 1981, the Stars had a first round pick along with 5 second round selections. Not one player of any significance was selected by the Stars in spite of being in position to draft the likes of Al Macinnis and Chris Chelios.
With the next pick…
The 1983 draft would result in three future hall of famers being selected in the first round. With the 1st overall pick, the Minnesota North Stars seemed to be in a no lose situation. The team had the choice of a troika of three prolific junior scorers. However, the club passed on all to select U.S. high schooler Brian Lawton at number one. He would spend most of his career with the Stars franchise finishing with 266 points in 483 games played.
The Stars selected Lawton instead of Sylvain Turgeon (Hartford #2) who was drafted just ahead of hall of famers Pat Lafontaine (New York Islanders 3rd overall) and Steve Yzerman (Detroit 4th overall). The 3rd hall of famer picked was 9th overall pick Cam Neely. Other prominent players taken in the opening round of the 1983 draft include Tom Barrasso, John MacLean and Russ Courtnall. When that much talent is taken in one round you simply can’t miss out on any of these players especially when you have the number one overall pick.
In 1980, the Stars drafted winger Brad Palmer with the 16th overall pick. He would record 70 points in 168 career NHL games. With the very next pick the New York Islanders nabbed Brent Sutter a perennial Selke Trophy candidate. The native of Viking, Alberta would enjoy a long productive career which included two Stanley Cup championships and over 800 career points. Right after Sutter was selected, the Bruins drafted Barry Pederson. While often remembered as being dealt to Vancouver for Cam Neely and Glen Wesley, Pederson had to retire from the NHL at the age of 30 due to injuries. He was nonetheless a productive NHL player who recorded 654 points in 701 games along with 52 points in 34 career playoff games.
Late Round Bargain:
Arturs Irbe was a pocket-sized goalie selected by the North Stars in the 10th round of the 1989 draft. He never played for the Star’s franchise as he was claimed by San Jose in the 1991 dispersal draft. On three occasions he led all goalies in games played and twice registered the lowest goals against average in the NHL.
The Star’s management has made some shrewd draft picks in the middle rounds. Some honourable mentions include the selections of steady defensemen Curt Giles (4th round in 1978) and Bob Rouse (4th round in 1982) and goaltenders Roman Turek in round 6 of the 1990 draft and Marty Turco (5th round in 1994 draft). In more recent times, current Star’s rearguard John Klingberg was a 5th round choice in 2010. An excellent offensive defensemen, the best is yet to come for the smooth skating native of Sweden who registered 58 points this past season.
Current Star’s captain and former winner of the Art Ross Trophy, Jamie Benn somehow lasted into the 5th round of the 2007 draft. A solid power forward who is evolving into one of the game’s best all round players. Benn is just entering the prime of his career and after another excellent season seems primed for a possible Hall of Fame career.
The franchise struck gold in the 1992 draft when Jere Lehtinen was picked 88th overall in the 4th round. A member of the franchise’s only Stanley Cup winning team, Lehtinen was a three time winner of the Selke Trophy as the game’s best defensive forward. He could also contribute offensively as evident by his seven seasons of 20+ goals.