We're not quite at the midway point to the season, at least technically, but with so many leagues heading into an extended break over the holidays we figured it would be a good time to discuss our updated prospect rankings. Last season, I attempted to adjust our rankings each month based on the ebb and flow of the season and each prospect's performance but found that to be fairly controversial and arbitrary. Releasing a new ranking three times a year is probably the best way to go.
Although, these will still likely be fairly controversial.
Prospect rankings are incredibly subjective and completely dependent on the criteria used. There are some out there that refuse to even consider goaltenders for these sorts of rankings, for instance. Here at Defending Big D, I like to take as much of a balanced view between the short term and long term; which prospects are performing at a high level right now, and then combine that with long term potential and ceiling.
This is why these rankings have been shaken up a bit since we last compiled these back in October. Let's get to them.
You can find a full update for the statistics for each prospect in our latest weekly update, here.
(Please Note: I do not include Matt Fraser, Brenden Dillon, Cody Eakin or Tomas Vincour to be part of the Stars prospect pool.)
1. Jamie Oleksiak
The Dallas Stars top pick from 2011 has made a relatively seamless transition to the AHL and after some early struggles has shown drastic improvement each week. His skating ability, his vision with the puck and his size and positioning have made Oleksiak into one of the best young defensemen in the AHL. The offense isn't quite there just yet, but it's coming.
2. Brett Ritchie
It seems that every season one of the Stars top prospects puts together a magical year; this time, it's Ritchie's turn. The 2011 second round pick is one of the top scorers in the OHL and has all but locked up a top six forward spot for Team Canada. A superb blend of size and skating ability, Ritchie needs to show these offensive outburst is more than just a hot streak.
3. Radek Faksa
The top pick from 2012 hasn't had the offensive output we expected this season but, playing for a struggling Kitchener team, Faksa has had to take on a more defensive role while also battling through injury and a mystery illness.
4. Reilly Smith
I was worried about Smith when the season first began but he's come on strong the past month or so and has been a big reason for the surge in the standings by the Texas Stars. Smith has nine points in his past ten games (six goals) and has been the best skater on the ice in each game I've watched since November.
5. Alex Chiasson
Chiasson has not had nearly the success this season as we expected when he was the No. 2 prospect back in October, managing just five points in 19 games. Yet he's been playing on the top line as of late and had more than his share of chances; he's in the right place, Chiasson just needs to relax and not press when the puck is on his stick.
6. Jack Campbell
Campbell has not had a great start to his career in the AHL and has been supplanted by Christopher Nilstorp as starter. He's still young and he has played well the past two games he's been on the ice, but something -- once again -- is not right. His struggles in the shootout are impossible to explain.
7. Matej Stransky
I'll let Cody Nickolet give an update on Stransky and his big surge in offensive production (31 points in his past 19 games):
Stransky's been playing with veterans Brenden Walker and Adam Kambeitz recently and the line has really gelled. They're a good combination of size, skill and physicality. As far as Stransky goes individually, he seems to be more focused lately and has been more committed to take the puck to the dirty areas of the ice. Along with that, his confidence is a big thing. On the Blades BC road trip in November he finally got some pucks to start going in for him and his confidence has grown since that time. You know the numbers, but 4 straight multi-point games after a solid November is pretty nice to see.
8. Gemel Smith
The speedy winger seemed to be on pace to keep up with Ritchie's production for a bit, yet averaging a point per game is still substantial. Smith has turned heads this season and it's interesting to think of his value to the Stars in the future; is this another, but speedier, version of Steve Ott?
9. Emil Molin
Molin will likely earn a top six spot with Team Sweden and while the production has been far from magnificent, he's had success playing this season in the SEL while bouncing back and forth with the J20 team. Molin is an intriguing center prospect who is already regarded as a mature, intelligent player and could be a key part of the NHL team in three years or so.
10. Mike Winther
Winther, unfortunately, was ignored a bit prior to this season. The talented goal-scorer has found balance in his game this season and is putting up the points for Prince Albert in a league that is known for defense and physicality more than pure skill.