We've changed how we've put together our prospect rankings over the past year or so, shifting away from monthly rankings to perhaps four rankings at most per year.
We kick off the 2013 offseason with my pre-draft prospect rankings, taking a look at the top 20 prospects in the Dallas Stars organization before it gets all shaken up by trades and the draft. The Stars have seen significant change in the prospect system and an influx of newer prospects in the past six months, so coming up with an actual ranking was perhaps the toughest undertaking I've had since I began doing these.
These lists are incredibly subjective -- and Huw will have his along soon -- so I don't expect everyone to be in agreement with how I've ranked the players. The toughest part is weighing potential versus actual production, since a 23-year old defenseman already has a significantly more extensive track record than an 19-year old just drafted last summer.
I've done my best to explain my ranking for each player. Chime in with your thoughts below, and feel free to play the game of how you would rank the top 20 in the Stars organization.
|1||Jamie Oleksiak, D||This was an interesting season for Oleksiak, who enjoyed an All-Star season in the AHL yet was not exactly overwhelming during his time in the NHL. It seems the Stars were being careful and not wanting to rush him along and it's likely Jim Nill takes the same approach. Oleksiak has shown the ability to be a top-pairing shut down defenseman with offensive upside in the AHL; he just needs to build his confidence to carry that forward into the NHL.|
|2||Alex Chiasson, C/RW||Alex Chiasson has shown to be a quick study in his transition out of the NCAA; after a bit of a slow start, the versatile forward finished with 34 points in 51 games with Texas while potting six goals in seven games in Dallas before his shoulder injury. Chiasson's ability to play strong along the boards and innate ability to find the prime spots around the goal have led to comparisons to Brenden Morrow which could be fair. He has a significantly more size, however, and is certainly the most promising of all of the forward prospects.|
|3||Jack Campbell, G||Campbell should be set to take over as the No. 1 goalie in Texas next season, after appearing in 40 games this season without playing a game in the playoffs. Campbell started to put together some consistency as the season wore on and finished with respectable numbers -- this next season is when we should see the most improvement for the young goaltender.|
|4||Brett Ritchie, RW||Ritchie was touted as untapped potential when he was drafted in the second round in 2011 and he surely came alive with Niagara this past year. Playing alongside Ryan Strome, Ritchie put up 41 goals and 76 points in 53 games and had a fine showing for Team Canada in the 2013 World Juniors. The trick now is for Ritchie to prove he doesn't need a perfect center to produce; a full offseason with the Dallas Stars program could do wonders for his development next season.|
|5||Radek Faksa, C||Faksa came out of the draft with the promise of a "ready-made" NHL center, although it was quickly noted that was not the path the Dallas Stars desired. Faksa worked through a tough year with Kitchener, taking on a more defensive role, and suffered a knee injury that limited him to just 39 games. Faksa will be back in the OHL for one final season next year, but all eyes will be on his continued offensive development.|
|6||Patrick Nemeth, D||Nemeth, when he was healthy, was arguably the best defenseman for the Texas Stars this past season. Unfortunately, Nemeth's injury issues severely limited his playing time yet his potential as a physical shutdown defenseman has bolted him up the rankings.|
|7||Matej Stransky, RW||Matej Stransky and the Saskatoon Blades had one heck of a rollercoaster season. After a very slow start Stransky proved to be a productive leader, finishing with 40 goals and 85 points in 72 games.|
|8||Ludvig Bystrom, D||Bystrom is an interesting study in just how much "potential" becomes a factor. Bystrom was considered a first-round talent when drafted and made the jump to the Elitserien this past season. He fought for playing time and never had the chance to show the true two-way ability he's capable of. In the playoffs with the Under-20 team, Bystrom had six points in seven games.|
|9||Reilly Smith, LW/RW||Reilly Smith was the toughest of all to place. Smith played most of the season with Dallas (37 games) and was a player full of "almosts" that never could seem to get luck to go his way. He showed great potential with Texas, however, proving to be both a capable playmaker as well as a skilled goal-scorer. With just one more season on his ELC, however, Smith is under pressure to prove he can produce at the NHL level.|
|10||Alex Guptill, LW||Guptill is a strong, sizable winger who is along the same mold as Chiasson -- good possession player with skill around the net. He had to work through some off-ice issues this past season and after an early scratch, came on strong the second half of the year. The sophomore left winger finished with 16 goals and 36 points in 38 games for Michigan.|
|11||Joe Morrow, D||This was another tough ranking, as Morrow didn't exactly overwhelm in his time with Texas so far, but was far from a liability. That could have been due to his particular pairing, yet Morrow is expected to show more offensive production than he enjoyed his first season in the AHL. Next season will be interesting for the 21-year old.|
|12||Emil Molin, C||Molin fought for ice time with Brynas this season, occasionally playing with Elias Lindholm, and finished with just 3 points in 34 games in the Elitserien. Molin was impressive at the World Juniors however, and continues to show he could be a surprising forward to watch in the coming years.|
|13||Kevin Connauton, D||Oh, Kevin Connauton. The skilled blueliner took Cedar Park by storm after his trade, but the question remains whether the 23-year old can actually translate this potential to the NHL. Connauton was torched against OKC in the playoffs and while he was certainly the defenseman most capable of driving play up ice -- there's no doubt he needs help on his two-way game.|
|14||Jyrkki Jokipakka, D||The Finnish blueliner doesn't have much offensive upside but impresses as a player already capable of logging big minutes in a top league. Ilves was not a very good team and Jokipakka finished minus-29, yet there's no doubt the 6-3 defenseman is already ahead of his development curve.|
|15||Cameron Gaunce, D||Cameron Gaunce is a player that could prove to be much better than where he is ranked here. He plays a very similar game as Brenden Dillon, a solid two-way player with a good shot and a sharp pass -- unfortunatly, he does not have Dillon's size and is not as physical as he probably should be along the boards.|
|16||Scott Glennie, C||Perhaps this ranking is a bit unfair; there's a very strong chance that Glennie continues to develop into a very strong two-way center that can play on the third or fourth line in the NHL. He was a strong player the second half of the season and while he may never live up to the No. 8 pick, earning a spot in the NHL is still a possibility.|
|17||Devin Shore, C||Devin Shore earned the top center spot for Maine this season as a true freshman, scoring six goals and 26 points in 38 games. Shore's impact on the franchise might not be felt for another three years, but he could certainly be a hell of an option at center by that point.|
|18||Matt Fraser, LW||Matt Fraser had an inauspicious true NHL debut, scoring just one goal (on his first shot) in 12 games. He was once again one of the top scorers in the AHL, but early signs show his struggles to create his own space will hold him back at the NHL level.|
|19||Mike Winther, C||Winther took a bit of a step back offensively this season, but is still one of the better two-way options that is versatile on both the wing and at center.|
|20||Gemel Smith, C||Gemel Smith gets a lot of comparisons to Steve Ott, a speedy and energetic player with some offensive upside. The speed is perhaps one of the best of all Stars prospects and his potential is intriguing.|