A quick reminder that all top 10 candidates must be no more than 25 years old as of October 7, 2015. The lists consider all skaters in that age group who have played in fewer than 40 NHL regular season games, with 25 games being the cut-off among netminders.
The Dallas Stars have shifted to “win now” mode under Jim Nill. Since the 2006 NHL entry draft, only two Dallas Star selections have achieved 200 games played in the NHL – 2007 fifth round selection Jamie Benn and current Boston Bruin Reilly Smith. Some rough years in the draft and the recent trade of Nick Paul to the Ottawa Senators have combined to leave the Stars with one of the weaker prospect pools in the NHL.
1. Denis Gurianov, RW, Togliatti (RUS), 6-3”,192. 12th overall, 2015
2. Julius Honka, D, Texas Stars (AHL), 5-11”, 175. 14th overall, 2014
3. Brett Ritchie, RW, Texas Stars (AHL), 6-4”, 215. 44th overall,2011
4. Jason Dickinson, C, Guelph Storm (OHL), 6-2”, 191. 29th overall ,2013
5. Esa Lindell, D, Assat Pori (SM-liiga), 6-2”, 196. 74th overall, 2012
6. Roope Hintz, LW, Ilves Tampere (SM-liiga), 6-3”, 185. 49th overall 2015
7. Devin Shore, C, Texas Stars (AHL), 6-1”, 185. 61st overall, 2012
8. Patrik Nemeth, D, Texas Stars (AHL), 6-4”, 233. 41st overall 2010
9. Remi Elie, LW, Erie Otters (OHL), 6-1”, 202. 40th overall, 2013
10. Philippe Desrosiers, G, Rimouski Oceanic (QMJHL), 6-2”, 197. 54th overall, 2013
Players likely to lose eligibility
3. Curtis McKenzie, LW, Texas Stars (AHL), 6-2”, 192. 159th overall, 2009
1. Brett Pollock, C, Edmonton (WHL), 6-2”, 182. 45th overall, 2014
2. Jack Campbell, G, Texas Stars (AHL) 6-3”, 190. 11th overall, 2010
3. Gemel Smith, C, Texas Stars (AHL) 5-10”, 164. 104th overall, 2012
The hope for the Dallas Stars is for Denis Gurianov to take his big frame and big talent, package it together, and emerge as a prototype power forward. Dallas swung for the fences, drafting skill and upside in choosing the skilled Russian forward – high risk, high reward. If he can meet expectations he will form a formidable duo with fellow Russian power forward Valeri Nichushkin to complement the already dominant duo of Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn.
Dallas’ back end is in the middle of an overhaul. Several changes have been made over the past two seasons. There are now good young defenders in the organization. The high octane offense that is being built in Dallas will require some puck moving defensemen to transition the play quickly to the likes of Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin. Julius Honka and Esa Lindell fit the mould of the new NHL defensemen. Honka and Lindell will need to battle each other for ice time and roster spots in the coming years. Adding these two prospects with super producing rookie defensemen John Klingberg, and the rest of the Stars under 25 defenders will give the Stars multiple options for building their back end. Patrick Nemeth’s defensive game will provide a balance to all the offence in Dallas. Nemeth played in 22 NHL games in 2014-2015 after missing 52 games due to an arm injury, and will see his rookie status voided during the 2015-2016 season. Nemeth was showing growth and flashes of the potential to become a bottom pairing defender for the Stars during his rookie campaign and will look to continue his growth.
The goalie that shows up in the top ten is not the one that most would expect. The signing of Anti Niemi provides evidence that Dallas has more than likely given up on one time highly touted Jack Campbell as a future option between the pipes. Phillipe Desrosiers will play in the AHL with Campbell next season and will officially supplant Campbell as the Stars future in net. Desrosiers is an athletic goalie who posted good career QMJHL numbers and posted his best numbers in the 2015 QMJHL playoffs for the Rimouski Oceanic.
Brett Ritchie and Devin Shore both saw time with the AHL’s Texas Stars in 2014-2015. While Ritchie was promoted to the big leagues and is likely there to stay, Devin Shore will continue to build on his rookie campaign and see his first full AHL season in 2015-2016. Ritchie will be an effective third line player for Dallas. Cracking one of the top six slots in the forward rotation is a long shot for Ritchie. Despite his good AHL production there is no indicator that he will be a big time player in the NHL. Shore has playmaking skills and will look great in the third line center slot. He plays a responsible two-way game and will pair with Ritchie to bring depth to the front 12 of Dallas.
Two of Dallas’ top ten prospects played in the OHL last season. Jason Dickinson and Remi Elie are middle of the road prospects and are three or more years away from seeing NHL ice. Dickinson had the post NHL camp blues in 2014-2015. It wasn’t until the second half of the OHL season that he began to show his offensive ability. Elie lacks the high-end offensive talent of Dickinson, but matches his defensive awareness. Both players play good positional and tactical games in the defending zone. If Elie is to crack the NHL it will be as a fourth line player. Dickinson has a second line ceiling but chances are he will be battling for a bottom six roster spot.
Roope Hintz could become an instant fan favorite on name alone, unfortunately he is a long shot to ever crack an NHL roster. Hintz put himself in the early draft conversation after a great performance at the WJC. Although he compiled only two assists during the tournament, he displayed his skill set, impressing the scouts. He is a tall, lanky forward who has a frame to build upon. Good balance and physicality, along with speed and acceleration, make him a fun player to watch. His size and speed will provide HIntz plenty of opportunity to make the NHL.
Looking beyond the top ten, Brett Pollock has some weight room work to do before playing against the pros. Pollock improved his scoring numbers in his post draft season from 0.77 points per game in his draft year he jumped to 0.88 in his third WHL season. Pollack needs to get stronger and to improve on his skating before he can move from the sleeper list to the top ten. As Ryan Wagman put it with Jack Campbell, “he was so overrated that he is now underrated”. He was the darling of goalie prospects for several years. Seeing his save percentage fluctuate from .942 down to .872 in one season to spending time in the ECHL in 2015, Campbell has seen both the top and bottom of the mountain several times. Another climb to the top of the mountain would not be surprising for Campbell. Gemel Smith is a burner. He has the work ethic, speed, and tenacity to impress a coach at any level. His skill set will prevent him from getting a long look at an NHL team yet. A word also for Curtis McKenzie, a bottom line grinder who is four games away from graduating from this list. He has already reached his ceiling as a depth line energy guy with reasonable possession numbers. Not a bad player to have.
Jim Nill had a plan for the Dallas Stars and has gone full speed ahead at trying to turn them into a cup contender. Arriving in Dallas with bare cupboards, Nill has an opportunity to shape the current and future roster according to his blueprint. There is still much work to be done in the Big D as there is a lack of top tier prospects. The few top tier prospects that are in the organization also carry a large risk with them. If any of the high risks do not reward, Dallas will be sitting at the bottom of the Hockey Prospectus rankings for many years to come.