It’s been a difficult season for the Dallas Stars, one that has the team and it’s fans shifting their focus over to the organization’s future.
Like all other NHL teams, the Stars have a large group of prospects plying their trade, in junior and professional leagues in both North America and Europe. Not all of these prospects will have NHL futures, but many of them will eventually develop to the point where they do. Which individuals within the Stars’ system have the best odds of doing so?
Compiled once again in tandem by Derek Neumeier and Huw Wales, the last edition of these rankings were compiled in December.
For consistency, we are using the same definition of "prospect" that we used before: "Any player who played fewer than 25 NHL games this season or last season, or fewer than 50 NHL games overall, is considered a prospect -- the upper limit on the age cutoff is 26 years old."
Graduated from prospect status since last rankings: Esa LIndell
Please note that these rankings are based around the projection of a player's potential NHL ceiling, not who is the closest to NHL duty. These potential NHL ceilings are evaluated based on each player's cumulative careers up to this point, which explains why, for example, someone that was great last year but is struggling right now might be ranked higher than someone that is having an unexpected breakout season.
Without further ado, here now are the 20-player rankings, which also showcase each player's previous position on the list, their ages, and a brief explanation outlining why they're listed where they are. We've also included two Honorable Mentions, players that received votes on either of our lists but did not make the final cut.
Prospect Rankings- Mar. 2017 -
|1||1||Julius Honka||21||It won't come as a surprise to anyone that Honka is still the top prospect in the Stars' system. One of the AHL's best puck-moving defensemen, he has looked right at home in his 10 NHL games to date, and arguably, should have spent much more time in Dallas so far. With little left to prove in the minors, he will be a full-time NHLer very shortly|
|2||3||Jason Dickinson||21||Dickinson moves up to #2 on this list, despite slightly falling to a level below where he was playing at last season. With only 8 AHL goals so far this season it's unlikely that he cracks the 20-goal plateau like he did in 2015-16. A versatile player that is used in all situations, he nevertheless still has the potential to have a long, successful NHL career|
|3||4||Denis Gurianov||19||Guryanov had a very nice coming out party at this year's World Juniors, scoring 4 goals and 7 points in 7 games for Russia, one of which was a beautiful overtime breakaway tally to win the bronze medal over Sweden. However, he still needs to learn how to make more of a regular impact in the pros, as he is a little too unnoticable some nights|
|4||5||Roope Hintz||20||The workhorse Hintz continues to round out his game over in Finland's top pro league, adding a finisher's touch this year as his goal totals climbed from 8 all the way to 19. He can play either center or wing, and has recently become more effective on the powerplay. Is good enough to join the AHL's Texas Stars whenever he's ready to make the jump|
|5||7||Remi Elie||21||Elie received his first NHL call-up in early March and has played like he was shot out of a cannon ever since. He plays with an abundance of speed and intensity, making himself noticeable on most shifts. He was rewarded for his hard work with his first NHL goal. Making a very strong case to be a full-time roster player for Dallas next season|
|6||9||Riley Tufte||18||After an extended offensive dry spell to start his NCAA career Tufte has since picked up the pace nicely, with 11 points in his last 15 games. He's now up to 13 in 33 on the season, which is still below expectations, but getting better. His Bulldogs team is a top contender to reach this year's Frozen Four, which could be a nice boost for his development|
|7||8||Nick Caamano||18||Caamano is already a fun player to watch out on the ice, but he's even more exciting when you consider all the room that he still has to grow. A budding power forward with a long, smooth skating stride, he already wins a lot of puck battles in front of the net and still has more space on his frame to add muscle. Scored 35 goals for Flint in the OHL|
|8||6||Fredrik Karlstrom||19||Karlstrom started the season on a tear in Sweden's second highest pro league, but his scoring steadily cooled off, and his ice time eventually saw a decrease as a result. Despite the inconsistency, however, he still had an impressive season for an 18 year-old. Made Sweden's World Juniors team in a depth role and should be back again next year|
|9||16||John Nyberg||20||Ice time is often a good measure of a young defenseman's progress in European leagues, which is why it's worth noting that Nyberg has been regularly seeing north of 20 minutes per night for Frolunda in the SHL. He plays in a Top 4 role at even strength and is seeing more time on special teams, too. The 6'2", two-way defender is developing rapidly|
|10||NR||Gavin Bayreuther||22||A recent free agent signing out of the NCAA, the Stars essentially gained a quality prospect at little to no cost. Bayreuther is a skilled offensive defenseman that knows how to produce points, and at 6'1" is not held back by a small stature. Led his St. Lawrence club in scoring in back-to-back seasons, which is quite a rare feat for a defenseman|
|11||11||Niklas Hansson||22||Hansson's difficult 2016-17 season has not gotten any easier lately, as his playing time continues to dwindle. His HV71 team is now taking part in the SHL playoffs, but Hansson has been sitting as a healthy scratch for their games so far. The right-shot, puck-moving defender has a lot of skill but needs to be more consistent and reliable defensively|
|12||HM||Joe Cecconi||19||Cecconi is a player that you really need to watch closely in order to fully appreciate, but luckily for Stars fans, many of them got to do just that at the World Juniors. The large, shutdown defender got better and better for the U.S. as the tournament went along en route to a gold medal. Is effective thanks to excellent positioning and decision-making|
|13||20||Colton Point||19||It's a small sample size, of only 10 games, but Point's .918 save percentage this season was quite impressive for a freshman 18 year-old goalie in the NCAA. His Colgate club was not very good, but Point held his own while facing plenty of shots, and even outperformed the team's senior goaltender. He should be their undisputed #1 next season|
|14||14||Matej Stransky||23||Stransky continues to keep chugging along offensively for Texas, hitting the 20-goal mark for the second straight season. The power forward has a heavy shot that he can get off in a hurry, and is getting better at creating scoring chances all on his own. A restricted free agent this coming summer, will he receive another deal from Dallas?|
|15||13||Gemel Smith||22||Smith scored a surprise call-up to Dallas near the start of the season, and even picked up a few points over that 12-game span, but didnt fully maintain that same momentum after getting sent back down to the AHL. A speedy, hard-working forward, he needs to show that he can regularly make more of a noticeable impact at both ends of the ice|
|16||NR||Chris Martenet||20||The humongous Martenet dealt with a mid-season OHL trade from the powerhouse London Knights to the weaker Ottawa 67's, but it might have been the best thing for his development, as he now gets to play more minutes and in bigger roles. His decision-making has improved a lot, making him more reliable defensively. Will turn pro next year|
|17||18||Rhett Gardner||21||Gardner moved up the forward depth chart for the University of North Dakota in the NCAA this year, and while higher levels of production would have been nice, that's never really been his game, and likely won't be in the pros either. Luckily for him, however, he is successful enough at his utility, checking, defensive game that it should translate well|
|18||17||Ondrej Vala||18||Vala is still a very raw defenseman, but continues to improve in ways that make him a very intriguing player. He's getting more comforable using his skating to jump up into the play, as well as using his hard shot from the point more often. Scored 10 goals this year for Kamloops in the WHL. Needs to process the play better in his own zone, though|
|19||NR||Jakob Stenqvist||19||Stenqvist made the jump from Sweden's top under-20 league, where he was a point-per-game player, to the Allsvenskan and earned his ability to stick around, dressing in 41 games for MODO in a fairly sheltered role. He's a quick, albeit slight, puck-moving defenseman that could have a high ceiling if his development continues to go smoothly|
|20||NR||Landon Bow||21||Out of Bow, Maxime Lagace and Philippe Desrosiers, Bow has been the best of the young goalies in the Stars' minor league system this year, which is why Dallas signed him from an AHL-only contract in to a full NHL contract on March 10th. The 6'5" netminder has been stellar for Idaho in the ECHL, with a .929 save percentage and a 15-5 record|
|HM||NR||Dillon Heatherington||21||Acquired in exchange for veteran forward Lauri Korpikoski at the trade deadline, Heatherington is a big, defensive-defenseman with an impressive resume. He won gold with Canada at both the 2013 IIHF U18s and the 2015 World Juniors, as well as the 2016 Calder Cup with the AHL's Lake Erie Monsters. Not a flashy player, but smart and effective|
|HM||10||Cole Ully||22||Once a prolific offensive threat in junior, Ully has had difficulty translating that success to a higher level. He's seen some time in a Top 6 role for the Texas Stars this year, but has not been able to sustain a spot that high in the lineup. Still has one year remaining on his entry-level contract, and will need to regain that scoring touch to earn another|