Once considered a top prospect in the Dallas Stars organization, Julius Honka’s stock as an asset has been on a steady free fall for the past two seasons and the Anaheim Ducks should look to benefit from what could be a diamond in the rough.
We find ourselves with yet another first-round pick of the Dallas Stars finds themselves in the “potential bust” category as Julius Honka joins the likes of Scott Glennie, Jamie Oleksiak, Jack Campbell, and Valeri Nichushkin as underwhelming top 30 selections. Julius Honka has not lived up to the 14th overall pick that the Stars spent on him in 2014. But all hope is not lost for the once promising prospect and Bob Murray, Dallas Eakins and the Anaheim Ducks could be the right place to get his career back on track.
The 2014 entry draft was not exactly one to write home about, only 4 of the top 10 picks have stood out as star caliber players, and only 2 of the remaining 20 1st round picks have been game-changing players, So needless to say 2003 this draft was not.
Honka had a promising start at the professional level, putting up 31 points in his rookie campaign at the age of 19 at the AHL level, following that up with 44 and 31 point seasons for the Dallas Stars’ AHL affiliate Texas Stars. During that 3rd season, Honka got his first taste of NHL action, playing in 16 games at the NHL level and putting up a respectable 5 points. Not exactly setting the world on fire, but certainly showing promise and giving fans a reason to expect bigger things from the then 21 yr old in the years to come.
Enter Ken Hitchcock, Hitchcock took over the Dallas Stars team in 2017 and for one reason or another Honka was not exactly one of Hitch’s favorites, playing just 42 games (Still a career high) for the NHL club that season, Honka was given minimal ice time. Honka still managed to put up relatively good advanced statistics (still a positive Corsi player) but his points were worse in 42 games than they were in 16 games the year prior. We saw much of the same once Hitchcock was replaced by Jim Montgomery with even fewer games played for Honka and very little growth shown.
A relatively doom-and-gloom story, why should the Ducks be interested in Honka? For one, he likely won’t cost a ton to bring in. For comparison you don’t have to look much further than another one of the Stars lackluster first round picks, Jamie Oleksiak, taken in the same exact position (14th overall) Oleskiak played 6 full seasons for the Stars organization (Honka is entering his 5th) and he was traded for a 4th round pick… A CONDITIONAL 4th round pick to the Pittsburgh Penguins. Honka, in my opinion, has a higher upside than Oleskiak, and despite playing similar amount of time, Oleksiak was a year or so older than Honka when he was traded. Still, Honka shouldn’t be a player that will cost a kings-ransom and despite lackluster play recently (largely due to deployment in my opinion) he could be a good low-risk pickup for the Ducks.
Honka is a right shot defenseman which are not exactly in abundance in the Ducks organization, he’s a smooth skating, puck moving defender with a bomb of a shot who can help create offense, and would be a player who could certainly help the Ducks on the powerplay. The Ducks also have a fairly good record at trading for underperforming, or fringe NHL defenders and getting the most out of them (Ben Lovejoy, Simon Despres, and Francois Beauchemin (both his first and second tour of duty) come to mind). Honka may not be a bonafide top 4 defender in the NHL like many predicted, but he is still relatively young and at a reasonable price would be a good gamble for Bob Murray to take to shore up one of the thinner parts of the Ducks roster.
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