Dallas Stars December Prospect Rankings: Austin Smith & Reilly Smith Turn On The Heat

Before we get to this month's prospect rankings, I wanted to discuss the Stars farm system overall and what we're looking at as far as the big picture goes.

If you take a look at the current Dallas Stars roster, you'll find only four players on the team that were drafted by the Dallas Stars in the past five years. This includes Richard Bachman, Tomas Vincour and Philip Larsen, so in reality only one player drafted since 2006 -- Jamie Benn -- has had a significant impact on the current team. While the trade of Ivan Vishnevskiy (2006 draft) has certainly helped this team by adding Kari Lehtonen, there is no doubting that for a team hurting to add via free agency having some good, young talent coming up would certainly be welcome.

There is no denying that as recently as two years ago, the developmental system for the Stars was frankly horrendous. There was no defensive depth in the system aside from Larsen and the Stars were in desperate need of help along the wings. In fact, the Stars were hurting at every position in the system and we are seeing that effect now on the current roster.

It generally takes 2-3 years for a series of good drafts to really have it's impact on a team and with the Stars a) not have top-ten picks for over a decade and b) swinging and missing on 90% of their picks (including a staggering 1-for-12 in 2002) it's no wonder why the current team doesn't have the young talent it so desperately needs.

When Joe Nieuwendyk took over for the Dallas Stars in 2009, it's now apparent how he has refocused the organization at building through the draft. After three drafts it's clear he has a very specific plan in place for the team and organization he wants to build and he's remained hesitant to part with draft picks or prospects when trade winds start blowing.

More on the Stars system and the future, as well as the rankings, after the jump.

So where do the Dallas Stars stand now?

The Stars have slowly built their farm system back up from being perhaps the worst in the NHL to certainly top-10 or even top-5. Having three picks in a row in the top 15 of the draft certainly helps, but the Stars have also managed to find a way to unearth hidden gems late in the draft -- players that will have a big impact on this team's future very soon. This is what has made Detroit so good for so long; it's not the top picks that matter, it's how well you draft in the later rounds that matter most.

For the Stars, they are suddenly very deep at defense and goaltender. Nieuwendyk has also shored up the wing positions and while some of his first round picks are certainly controversial, there's no denying the potential we're seeing in some of the late round picks his scouting department have found.

For the Stars and their fans, however, there's still going to be some waiting until we see the influx of youth that fans are hoping and waiting for. There' s a reason the Stars only gave out 2-3 year contracts this summer, aside from financial reasons. In that time, the Stars are going to be having some very young players knocking on the door to the NHL.

Because it takes so long for drafts classes to work themselves out, the instant gratification we so desperately want isn't there. There's also the fact that someone like Scott Glennie is struggling and drafting a goaltender instead of defensemen is going to slow down that instant gratification as well.

What the Stars really need, however, is a center. They're hurting for it at the NHL level and they're definitely hurting in the system. With the Stars picking up Jamieson Oleksiak last summer, expect center to be the focus heading into the 2012 draft.

So keep all of this in mind as we dive into this month's rankings and prospect updates. Even the players near the top of the rankings are not likely to impact the Stars next season -- we're likely looking at a two-season timetable before the best in the system make their way to the NHL, and that is at the earliest.

Logo_dallas_stars_mediumDisclaimer: I've removed Tomas Vincour and Philip Larsen from the prospect rankings. With both seeing significant time in the NHL this season, it's not fair to compare them to players still in the juniors.

1. Jamieson Oleksiak
2. Jack Campbell
3. Reilly Smith
4. Matej Stransky
5. Alex Chiasson
6. Austin Smith
7. Brenden Dillon
8. Brett Ritchie
9. Patrik Nemeth
10. Richard Bachman
11. Scott Glennie
12. Troy Vance
13. Colton Sceviour
14. Matt Fraser
15. Curtis McKenzie
16. Emil Molin
17. Alexander Guptill
18. Tyler Beskorowany
19. John Klingberg
20. Hubert Labrie

A few notes on the top players in the rankings:

** Jamieson Oleksiak is having a good start to his pro career with the Saginaw Spirit, with six goals and 10 points so far in 29 games. He's quickly established himself as one of the most polished defensemen in the OHL and is showing good offensive potential as well. He's had a rough time the last few games, going minus-2 with no points in December so far. Yet he's getting high praise as one of the best defensemen in the OHL and it's obvious his ceiling is still very, very high for the Dallas Stars.

** Jack Campbell has had another up and down year, as he continues to play Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde from game to game. He'll have games of absolute genius followed by games where he allows seven goals. Since being traded to the Soo Greyhounds, Campbell is 4-3-2 with a 3.07 GAA and .903 save percentage. He hasn't won a game since November 18, however, and had some tough losses this past weekend. Still, all reports are that Campbell is still progressing well and just needs to work on his focus -- everything else is nearly perfect.

** Reilly Smith had one heck of a month, being named the CCHA Player of the Month as his team went undefeated in November. Smith has shown incredible ability to take over a hockey game offensively, as well as showcasing he's not just a goal scorer with impressive physical play along the boards and defensively. This past weekend was a bit rough for Smith and his Redhawks as they fell in both games to Northen Michigan (Smith was held scoreless), yet he is starting to get considerable national attention after taking a big step forward as a leader on his team.

** The other Smith in the Stars system, Austin, had himself an incredible month as well. The ECAC Player of the Month for November is now the leading scorer in the NCAA with a staggering 1.69 points per game and 18 goals in 16 games this season. The native of Dallas, Texas has really started to put together a heck of a season in his senior year at Colgate and will become a key member of the Texas Stars next season -- if he's not pushing for the NHL.

Be careful on celebrating too early, however. Austin was drafted in 2007 and is 23 years old. While he's shown goal scoring ability before, he's exploded offensively as a senior against younger competition in a conference that isn't exactly the most competitive in the NCAA. If you look at the top scorers in the nation, Smith the only one from the top ten not in the CCHA or the WCHA.

Still, he's been a point per game player for his career at Colgate and and while he's certainly one of the older prospects in the system, he shows good promise to at least have the potential to be a promising player in the NHL.

** Finally, you might have noticed Matej Stransky in the top five of this month's power rankings. The 6'3", 200lb winger from the Czech Republic is getting some comparisons to Jaromir Jagr in his ability to use his size to create chances. More realistically, it appears that Stransky is much like Tomas Vincour -- with better playmaking ability and more dynamic potential on offense. With two goals and four points in the past three games, Stransky now has 14 goals and 32 points in 30 games. He's getting high praise for not just his scoring but his all-around play as well and appears to be yet another late-round steal by the Stars.

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