With the new season underway and a training camp filled with young players and prospects from juniors and the AHL its an appropriate time to analyse the potential ceiling for the Dallas Stars prospects. It's also important to analyse what their likely ceiling actually is. It's important to remember that potential ceiling and likely ceiling are two very different things.
Potential ceiling is the top level that each prospect could reach if everything goes right in their development and they stay on track. For example Jack Campbell has the potential to be an elite starting goaltender in the NHL, his natural talents and skills put him in a place where he could reach that level.
Likely ceiling is where players are, based on their current level of performance, predicted to reach. Most prospects do not reach their potential ceiling but instead are several steps below it. This occurs when everything does not go according to plan, where they hit a rut or suffer a injury.
Note: These ceilings are based solely on my opinion.
Esa Lindell, 18, Kiekko-Vantaa Miesto, 6"2, 192lbs, Drafted Third Round, 74th Overall in 2012
Potential Ceiling: Number 4 Offensive Defenseman
Likely Ceiling: Number 5-6 Offensive Defenseman
Esa Lindell is another interesting prospect that the Stars have in Europe. Lindell was the last defenseman to be cut from a Finnish WJC team that had a very strong defensive core. He was drafted in the third round in 2012 out of the Jr A SM-Liiga and has spent most of this year between either Jokerit of the SM-Liiga or with Kiekko-Vantaa of the Miesto. (The Miesto is the second division of the Finnish adult leagues). He probably shouldn't have spent any extended period of time with Jokerit but due to an injury crisis of spectacular proportions he played 19 games in the SM-Liiga. He spent a reasonable amount of time paired up with Erik Karlsson.
Lindell is primarily an offensive defenseman, in his draft year he scored 51 points in 48 games in the Jr A SM-Liiga, and like many young offensive defenseman has issues with the defensive side of the game. He isn't the most agile player and has really developed his skating to suit his size. He's a clever defenseman who can do all the right things offensively, and he is willing to join the rush and help out the forwards. He is still very raw but he has the tools to become a serviceable defender in the NHL. He would need to work a lot on his skating and also the defensive side of the game.
Esa Lindell will likely spend the next few years developing in Finland. If he doesn't make the Jokerit team next season expect to see him loaned to Kiekko-Vantaa again for the season. In a few years time and some solid years in the SM-Liiga he might be ready to play in North America.
Patrik Nemeth, 20, Texas Stars AHL, 6"4, 233lbs, Drafted Second Round, 41st Overall in 2010
Potential Ceiling: Number 3-4 Defensive Defenseman
Likely Ceiling: Number 4 Defensive Defenseman
Patrik Nemeth in his first season with the Texas Stars has done very well for himself and adjusted to the North American game. He was drafted two years ago out of Sweden and spent two years playing for AIK in the Elitserien. He made the move to the Texas Stars in the summer and has stepped up and become an important part of the Texas Stars.
Nemeth was never an offensive minded defenseman, in 84 games with AIK he had 10 points, and instead is a stereotypical defensive defenseman. He has been described multiple times as a meaner and tougher version of former Dallas Stars defenseman Nicklas Grossmann. His size and reach mean that he can perform this role very well. However since he came to North America he has been putting up a surprising number of points, collecting 11 points through 38 games. This is probably helped by his defensive partner, Jamie Oleksiak.
Its likely that next season Patrik Nemeth will stay in the AHL and might step into an injury replacement role if trouble hits the Dallas blueline. If all goes well he could start making a case for significant role in Dallas by the end of next season.
Jamie Oleksiak, 20, Texas Stars AHL, 6"7 254lbs, Drafted First Round, 14th Overall in 2011
Potential Ceiling: 1-2 Defenseman
Likely Ceiling: 1-2 Defenseman
Jamie Oleksiak is one of the better known Dallas Stars prospects and is seen as the player that can fufill some needs that the Stars have had on the blueline for years. He was drafted back in 2011 out of North Eastern University and moved to the OHL in the summer of 2011 and split his time between the Saginaw Spirit and the Niagara Icedogs. He didn't join the Texas Stars at the end of last season because he was in the midst of an OHL playoff run. He has however spent the season so far with the Texas Stars in the AHL.
One of the most impressive things about Oleksiak's skillset is the very impressive skating style and skill he has for a player of his size. Though to begin with his puck skills and shot weren't getting points up on the board he appears to have broken the dam and in his last 4 games he has had 7 points. Though he doesn't use his huge size often to deliver bone crushing hits he does use his stick effectively to prevent on rushing forwards and to protect the puck when he has it. His size and skill set make him the best defensive prospect the Stars have.
Its likely that Oleksiak will make his NHL debut this season, here is a recent article on the likelihood of this, and could be pushing for a more permanent role in Dallas for the 2013-2014 season. He does appear to be on track to hitting his potential as a top pairing defenseman which the Dallas Stars need so much.
Potential Ceiling: Number 3-4 Defenseman
Likely Ceiling: Number 5 Defenseman
Dmitry Sinitsyn was the first Russian that was drafted by the Stars since Sergei Korostin in 2007. He wasn't a typical russian pick, having played several years for the Dallas Stars Midget team and he would have been playing in the USHL if it were not for visa issues. He had only played 7 games in the MHL in Russia during his draft year until he was recruited by U-Mass Lowell. The Stars moved up in the seventh round in 2012 to draft him and its obvious that the Stars have taken a flyer on a prospect with some very interesting upside.
He's a relatively big defenseman at 6"2 but his biggest upside is his offensive skills. According to his former coach with the Dallas Stars Midget team he has some first round skills. His shot is of high quality and he does use his body effectively when necessary. He has however got a bad habit of taking retaliatory penalties which is something that he will hopefully learn to not do as he grows older and matures. This piece in particular looks at his role with U-Mass Lowell.
As Dmitry Sinitsyn is a NCAA player he will likely spend the next three years developing with U-Mass Lowell. He is constantly rotated in and out of the lineup but as he grows older he is more likely to take up a consistent role. Not many players go into the NCAA and consistently play. After another three years he will likely sign a contract with the Stars and take up a position in the AHL. It's still going to be a long time until he is in a Stars jersey but he looks like he has the skills to potentially make an impact in the NHL.
Potential Ceiling: Number 5-6 Defenseman
Likely Ceiling: 6-7 NHL Defenseman/ Career AHLer
Troy Vance was the first player to be drafted by the Stars out of the QMJHL since Ivan Vishnevsky in 2006. He was one of those players who the Stars had been keeping an eye on and it was a Dallas Stars scout who referred him to the Victoriaville Tigres. He was drafted in the fifth round in 2011 after half a season in the QMJHL and is now playing his second season in the Q. He was traded to the Prince Edward Island Rockets at the QMJHL trade deadline this year. He looks as if he will probably match his point total from the previous season.
The first thing that is noticed about Troy Vance is that he is big. At 6"5 he is a classic stay at home defenseman and the physicality to punish onrushing forward. Considering his size he is a pretty good skater and can move the puck out of the zone with confidence. He won't be an offensive threat if he makes it to the pros but he can pack a hell of a shot if necessary. Though he is pretty big he can do with continuing to build up his strength. Troy Vance is not a fancy defenseman but one who does everything that needs to be done and keeps their game simple.
Troy Vance is eligible to turn pro at the end of this season and he signed a contract with Dallas last summer. It is possible that he stays in the QMJHL for another year but I think its possible that he could be assigned to either the Idaho Steelheads or the Texas Stars next season. I'm unsure whether he will ever become a constant player in the NHL but instead serve as an injury replacement or as the seventh defenseman. If he gets bigger, more physical and develops his defensive skills even more he could potentially be a shutdown player at the NHL level but it is not guaranteed.