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.
There have been three previous posts on prospect potential. The first post was on goaltenders and can be found here. There are two posts on defenseman, part one can be found here and the second can be found here. Part one of the forwards can be found here.
Note: These ceilings are based solely on my opinion.
Brett Ritchie, Right Wing, 19, Niagara IceDogs OHL, 6"4, 215lbs, Drafted Second Round, 44th Overall 2011
Potential Ceiling: Top Six Forward
Likely Ceiling: Top Nine Forward
Brett Ritchie was drafted out of the OHL and was considered a potential first round talent at the time. However a slow season during his draft year, mostly due to Mono, meant that he dropped down to the Stars in the second round. Brett Ritchie was originally drafted out of the Sarnia Sting of the OHL but was traded to the Niagara IceDogs half way through the 2011-2012 season. During his time in Niagara he played alongside top talent Ryan Strome and has been excellent offensively this season with 58 points through 39 games. He also performed well at the WJC, not as well as he could have but he wasn't terrible.
Brett Ritchie is a big forward and definitely has the size to perform well at the NHL level. His board work is, unsurprisingly, excellent and he has helped set up many a goal for the Niagara IceDogs after winning/controlling the puck around the boards. He has an excellent shot, something that explains the offensive force he has become this season. It is a worry that his stats could be a result of him riding the coattails of Ryan Strome. There is no doubt that he has some good offensive talent and instincts though, whether its as good as Stars fans hope is still unsure.
Ritchie will likely turn pro at the beginning of next season and become a key part of the Texas Stars. I believe he has the potential to be a top six forward at the NHL level though he will likely have to spend a year or two with the Texas Stars before he is ready for any prolonged time with the Dallas Stars. If he doesn't have the offensive talent to make the top six in the NHL he has the raw size to become a very effective third line grinder.
Devin Shore, Centre, 18, University of Maine NCAA, 6"1, 190lbs, Drafted Second Round, 61st Overall 2012
Potential Ceiling: Second Line Playmaking Centre
Likely Ceiling: Second/Third Line Playmaking Centre
Devin Shore is another prospect that the Dallas Stars have drafted from the second tier junior leagues in Canada, the CJHL, who joins other prospects such as Jamie Benn and Reilly Smith. He was one of the best players in the OJHL when playing for the Whitby Fury and he is now playing in the NCAA for the University of Maine's Black Bears.
Devin Shore was described before the 2012 draft as possibly one of the best playmakers in the entire draft. His main weakness was his defensive game which was lacking. However he has four years in the NCAA to work on his play and to improve his defensive work and to build upon his playmaking talent. He stepped up for the University of Maine as a top centre on their side, in his first NCAA season he has 13 points through 27 games, not bad at all. He is highly praised by his former OJHL coach as having the raw leadership skills to play an important role for any team that he plays for. His skating is only average but he has the time in the NCAA to improve this.
Devin Shore will spend the next two or three seasons playing in the NCAA and this will help develop all sides of his play and let him mature. After that time he might be offered a contract by the Dallas Stars and join the Texas Stars. For the foreseeable future he will stay in the NCAA.
Austin Smith, Right Wing, 24, Texas Stars AHL, 5"11, 180lbs, Drafted Fifth Round, 128th Overall 2007
Potential Ceiling: Top Nine Forward
Likely Ceiling: Bottom Six Forward/Career AHLer
Austin Smith was drafted out of the CJHL, like Devin Shore, in 2007 and played in the NCAA until the end of 2012 when he signed a two year entry level contract with the Dallas Stars. He was one of the Hobey Baker Finalists and led the nation in scoring in the NCAA in his last year with Colgate College, he had 36 goals and 21 assists in 39 games. He has split his time this season between the Idaho Steelheads and the Texas Stars.
Austin Smith is not the biggest body the Stars have in the system but has a knack for the back of the net. His time in the ECHL was because he wanted top six minutes rather than getting limited time in the AHL. Since the end of the lockout he has spent most of his games in the AHL. He is a speedy forward and can set up his linemates well. He has good hockey intelligence but his main weakness at the beginning of the year was his inability to adapt well to the pro game. During his time in college he was given a free run with his play, instead he has had to adapt and fit in a system in the ECHL/AHL.
Austin Smith I think has the potential to be a top nine forward, though I think its far more likely he would be a bottom six forward or a career AHLer. He is older than most of the Stars prospects which raises question marks over how much more development he has in him. If things work out for him I can see a role forming for him in the bottom six but he will more likely fill in as a injury replacement within the next few years.
Gemel Smith, Centre, 18, Owen Sound Attack OHL, 5"10, 171lbs, Drafted Fourth Round, 104th Overall 2012
Potential Ceiling: Third/Fourth Line Grinder
Likely Ceiling: Third/Fourth Line Grinder or Career AHLer
Gemel Smith was drafted out of the OHL and is expected to be one of the top point scorers in the OHL this season. He currently has 43 points in 50 games for the Owen Sound Attack. He is a tenacious forward and an effective agitator in the OHL and its likely that this will be his way into the NHL.
Gemel Smith is a fast energy player whose greatest skill is his physical forechecking, his speed and his agitating skills. Despite his size he is actually a very physical player who can force turnovers in the opposition zone and help set up goals in this fashion. He hasn't get the best shot in the world but has above average passing ability. He hasn't got the talent to be a top six forward in the NHL but hes got the talent to become an effective grinder, especially if he bulks up.
Gemel Smith will return to the OHL for at least another year and if he has signed an entry level contract with the Stars will have the opportunity to play in the ECHL or AHL. Gemel Smith is a long term project and its unlikely he will play in a Dallas Stars jersey during the regular season for at least 3 or 4 years. Even then it will likely be as a injury replacement if necessary. His success at that level will be dependent upon him being able to bring his offensive and agitator talents to the pros.
Reilly Smith, Right Wing, 21, Texas Stars AHL, 6"1, 192lbs, Drafted Third Round, 69th Overall 2009
Potential Ceiling: Top Six Forward
Likely Ceiling: Top Six Forward
Reilly Smith was drafted out of the CJHL in 2009 and spent the next three years in the NCAA playing for Miami University. He captained the Miami University Redhawks in his final year before signing an entry level contract with the Dallas Stars and playing three games in the NHL at the end of the 2011-2012 season. Reilly Smith is possibly one of the best prospects the Stars have and has this year spent some time in the top six in Dallas. He had 27 points through 38 games for the Texas Stars this season despite putting up zero points in his stay in the NHL. This wasn't due to lack of effort however with several spectacular saves robbing him of his first NHL goal.
Reilly Smith has some excellent offensive skills and vision, its one of the reasons he put up a significant number of points in the NCAA. He still needs to get more muscle on him and bulk up but he is never going to be a physical player. At the end of last season it was made obvious that his defensive positioning needed some work but he has improved dramatically since then. He is a fast agile player and can skate very well. His lack of a point at the NHL level is more due to limited ice time and bad luck instead of lack of talent.
I expect Reilly Smith to take up a full time position with the Stars next season. He is probably ready for a more permanent role in the top six in Dallas but if there isn't a gap in the roster its probably better for his development to get top six minutes with the Texas Stars than fourth line minutes in the NHL.