Dallas Stars Prospect Potential Grading: Analysing the Trade Deadline Acquisitions

Rich Lam

Analysing the new prospects that the Dallas Stars got at the trade deadline and their potential and likely ceilings.

The Dallas Stars acquired multiple prospects at the trade deadline: Joe Morrow, Kevin Connauton, Cody Payne and Cameron Gaunce. But what are their potential and likely ceilings? Its important to know this, along with the Stars other prospects, to calculate what the Stars need to draft but also where they have the pieces to make any trades.

I looked at the Stars prospect pool earlier in the season to analyse their potential and likely ceilings and these articles can be found here:

Goaltenders

Defensemen: Part One, Part Two

Forwards: Part One, Part Two, Part Three

This is the reminder of the difference between the Potential and Likely Ceilings of prospects.

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.

Kevin Connauton, Defense, 23, Texas Stars AHL, 6"2, 200lbs, Drafted Third Round 83rd Overall 2009 (Vancouver Canucks)

Potential Ceiling: Top Four Offensive Minded Defenseman

Likely Ceiling: Top Six Defenseman

Kevin Connauton was acquired in the trade that sent Derek Roy to Vancouver at the Trade Deadline. Connauton was drafted back in 2009 and has been playing in the AHL the past three seasons, firstly with the Manitoba Moose then with the Chicago Wolves and finally joined the Texas Stars after the trade.

Theres been a reasonable amount of coverage after he got off to an impressive start with the Texas Stars paired with fellow acquisition Cameron Gaunce. Defending Big D's initial scouting report can be found here. He's a quick skater and is an offensive minded defenseman and has really shone in Austin. He had 6 points in his 9 regular season games and 5 points through the Texas Stars first 6 playoff games.

From what I've heard of him and the few clips I've seen of his play I believe he has the potential to be a good offensive defenseman in the mould of Trevor Daley when it comes to skating ability. I think he definitely has a future in the NHL but whether he becomes a top four offensive defenseman is still up in the air. He's performing well in the AHL but he has had three years of experience so its not to be unexpected. I wouldn't be surprised to see him playing in the NHL next season on a full time basis. Its only after seeing how he performs in the NHL will it become clear what his potential level at the NHL will be.

Cameron Gaunce, Defense, 23, Texas Stars AHL, 6"1, 205lbs, Drafted Second Round 50th Overall 2008 (Colorado Avalanche)

Potential Ceilling: Top Four Shutdown Defenseman

Likely Ceiling: Top Six Shutdown Defenseman

Cameron Gaunce was acquired from the Colorado Avalanche in return for Tomas Vincour. Though this was dubbed in the hockey media as simply a trade of minor league players both sets of fans appear to see the potential for both players to do well in the NHL, but just not in the places they were currently.

Cameron Gaunce is one of those players who performs a vital role which often doesn't get noticed on the game sheet. He's a good shutdown defender who has formed an excellent chemistry with Kevin Connauton, in particular as he is able to cover any defensive slipups that could occur when Connauton ventures into the offensive zone. He knows what he's doing and is very responsible in his own end. He also has a good slapshot but he is unlikely to rack up the points.

He, like Connauton, is in his third AHL season and is performing well, though not unexpected for a player of his age and experience playing in the AHL. He's another that I think could be playing in the NHL next season. I consider him more likely to reach his potential ceiling of a top four shutdown defenseman because he already is a well rounded player and less likely to make any ventures into the opposition zone.

Joe Morrow, Defense, 20, Texas Stars AHL, 6"1, 198lbs, Drafted First Round 23rd Overall 2011 (Pittsburgh Penguins)

Potential Ceiling: Top Four Offensive Minded Defenseman

Likely Ceiling: Top Six Defenseman

Joe Morrow produced a wave of excitement when it was learnt that he was part of the package heading to Dallas in return for the long term Stars captain, and now Pittsburgh Penguin, Brendan Morrow. This year is his first in the AHL.

Joe Morrow has the potential to be a good offensive defenseman at the NHL level but it is going to take time for him to reach it. Heres the scouting report from Defending Big D shortly after the trade. He's had some trouble at the AHL level regularly being down the defensive pairings and taking some early season scratches but his potential is still high. I see him need to take a year or two in the AHL to polish off the rough edges before he should be considered for regular NHL duty.

With the depth that the Stars have prospect wise on the blueline I think they can take the time to develop Joe Morrow into a good offensive defenseman. Its better to take time and make sure he's ready instead of throwing him to the wolves. Even though he apparently nearly made the Penguins out of camp I think it would be better to take some time with him. Giving him that extra time makes it more likely that he will reach his potential ceiling.

Cody Payne, Right Wing, 19, Plymouth Whalers OHL, 6"2, 200lbs, Drafted Fifth Round 145th Overall 2012 (Boston Bruins)

Potential Ceiling: Bottom Six Grinder

Likely Ceiling: Bottom Six Grinder/Career Minor Leaguer

Cody Payne was one of two players that the Dallas Stars received in return for Jaromir Jagr. He was probably almost universally unknown to many and was only drafted in 2012 in the fifth round. Heres Defending Big D's scouting report following the trade. To say expectations were rock bottom from Stars fans, in particular because of what was sent to Boston, would be an understatement.

However Cody Payne has some interesting upside even if he has the size and style of a power forward or a grinder at the NHL level. He's only a year out from the draft and will have to play another season in the OHL before he could turn professional so its too soon to make any rock solid conclusions on him. With some of the players in the Plymouth Whalers lineup graduating out of the OHL this season its possible that Cody Payne's offensive production will increase.

With the size and style of game he plays Cody Payne could, if things go well, make the NHL. He will have to work hard and specialise in that bottom six type of play but its possible. It would take some time as he's a project and there is no guarantee of success. Every successful team needs those specialised bottom six forwards and Payne could fit that bill for the Stars.

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