The 2013 NHL Entry Draft takes place on June 30 in Newark, New Jersey. The Dallas Stars, thanks to the work of the Boston Bruins, now have two first round picks.
The Bruins pick will be somewhere in the No. 27-30 range, depending on how they finish their season. Given that they are set to face the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference Finals, there exists a good probability that the pick will either be 27th or 28th. The Stars' original first round pick is the 10th pick in the draft.
The Stars system is unquestionably deep heading into the draft, particularly on the wings and on defense. The overriding problem facing the Stars system is the lack of impact talent in the pipeline. They have the depth to churn the bottom of the roster for years, but no one who they can expect to develop into a star-caliber player.
The Stars are also in need of center help. The 2012 draft had an obvious focus on center talent, but, as of now, those prospects have yet to make an impact. Radek Faksa in particular had a rough season. He was only able to get into 39 games for the Kitchener Rangers of the OHL due to injury. In those 39 games, he recorded 31 points.
The 2013 draft lines up with the Stars' needs well.
The top six in this draft are all considered to be elite talent, with a second level of talent lining up for a few picks after. The Stars sit at 10, with a deep system and several decent picks. Assuming no one falls to them, the Stars are well positioned to move up to select the impact player their system desperately needs.
The top six players feature two wingers, a defenseman, and three centers.
Winger Jonathan Drouin may be the most talented player in the draft, but it makes little sense for the Stars to trade up for a winger. Valeri Nichushkin is another dynamic winger who could interest the Stars based solely on talent if he fell for some reason, but trading up for Nichushkin also makes little sense.
Plano-born defenseman Seth Jones is an intriguing target for Stars fans, and he would fit a need for the Stars. The problem is that the top of the draft is where teams find elite offensive talent. Defensemen are unpredictable. Seth Jones is as good of a defensive prospect as you will find, but were the Stars to trade up high enough to take him, they would be passing on elite offensive talent that they desperately need.
The three centers in the top six would all be great fits for the Stars, but one is probably out of their reach.
Nathan MacKinnon is as elite of an offensive prospect as you will find, but the cost to move up to pick MacKinnon is likely to be way too prohibitive, given the other two centers who could be available in the No. 6-9 range.
The two centers who make a lot of sense for the Stars are Aleksander Barkov from Finland and Elias Lindholm from Sweden. Both should require trading up, but neither should require the Stars to move what used to be the Bruins' first round pick to do so.
Barkov is a big center from Sweden. He has dual citizenship in Russia and Finland. He stands at 6'3 and 205 pounds. He's among the younger players in this draft, as he won't turn 18 until a week or two before the Stars open training camp. Despite his extremely young age, he was a very good player in SM-liiga, the highest level of professional hockey in Finland. As a 17-year-old in a man's league, Barkov put up 47 points in 51 games.
Lindholm fits a similar profile. Both Barkov and Lindholm have fathers who played professionally in Europe. Both players are top-end offensive options. Lindholm, like Barkov, produced at a high level in a professional league, despite being very young for the league. As an 18-year-old Lindholm produced 30 points in 48 games in the tougher Swedish Elite League.
There are a few differences between the players, but both are equally valuable. Corey Pronman of Hockey Prospectus laid out the main differences -- Barkov has elite hockey IQ, Lindholm has elite speed. Barkov isn't going to be a heavy forechecker, while Lindholm profiles as a very good forechecker.
Picking between the two players comes down a preference of style.
Given the direction the Stars were heading under Joe Nieuwendyk Lindholm would appear to be the better fit, but Barkov has more room to grow, given his age. Both players are elite prospects at a position of significant need. Given their experience and success in a professional league, it doesn't seem crazy to suggest either player could jump right to the NHL.
If either is wearing a Stars jersey in 2014, Dallas should be ecstatic.
Follow Josh Lile on Twitter at @JoshL1220.