When you have a hockey team committed to a long term rebuild, the main focus obviously isn't on the past or the present, but rather on the future.
Here at Defending Big D we dedicate a lot of our site content to the future: the prospects in the system and young Stars already on the team. This is usually done in the form of individual player profiles or articles categorizing them by position, junior league, or nationality.
But for this piece, I wanted to do something a little different. Instead of writing about the micro, such as the categories mentioned above, I am going to write about the macro: what the bigger overall picture looks like for the organization, taking into account all the players that are on the Stars now, as well as the young guys who aren't in the NHL yet but whose rights are owned by the Stars.
To put it more clearly, I'm taking on the task of trying to lay out a 23-man roster of players that the franchise can build around, and how the players on that roster could contribute to the team within the next 5-10 years.
Let's take a look at Jamie Benn, for example. Based on his past performances and his sparkling new contract, it's very obvious that the Stars expect him to be a huge part of this team's core for a very, very long time. At this point, barring any unforeseen circumstances, you can very easily pencil him in as the Dallas Stars' #1 left wing for years to come.
Going beyond Benn as the 1st line left wing, I'm also going to try to fill the other 22 spots of a regular NHL roster.
The point of this article will be to see what areas the Stars are strong in, which need work, and how certain players could be relied upon in the future.
For the purposes of this thought exercise, I have laid out the following guidelines for which players will be included or excluded:
- The time frame for this exercise is 5-10 years. This allows me to include both current Stars, as well as possible future ones, of a wide range of ages. All of Dallas' picks from June's 2013 Draft are taken into consideration.
- Players must be either on the roster for the Dallas Stars, the Texas Stars, or have their rights owned by the team. I'm not including possible trade acquisitions or free agent signings, however likely.
- Younger prospects will be included based on their consensus potential. For example: Jason Dickinson (see below) is nowhere near ready to be a 2nd line NHL left wing at this point in time, but the general consensus about his potential around the league is that he could develop into that type of player in the future, and the Stars are surely counting on him to achieve that potential.
- Players must be under the age of 30. Players over 30 are more likely to retire or depart via free agency in the next 5-10 years, so they won't be considered part of the rebuilding "core."
- Not only will I include the names of the players that I believe will make it, but also where they might fit into the roster and what their roles could play.
- This roster will, of course, not be set in stone, and will be subject to massive turnover between now and the next 5-10 years. I'll go into further detail below.
So, which players currently within the organization could be on the roster in the next 5-10 years, and where could they fit on the roster?
First, let's take a look at what my personal projected 23-man core is.
Ludwig Bystrom - Patrik Nemeth
Benn - Seguin - Nichushkin
-No real surprises here. As mentioned above, I think Dallas Stars fans can safely expect Jamie Benn to be the team's #1 LW within the next 5-10 years. Ditto Tyler Seguin, who is under contract well into the future, and will be given all the opportunities in the world to become the Stars' #1 center. Nichushkin is still very young, but given his talent level for an 18 year-old, I don't think it's too far of a stretch to say that he could be 1st line material 5-10 years from now.
Dickinson - Eakin - Ritchie
-The 2nd line isn't as established as the 1st, but the potential level is very, very high. Like Nichushkin, Dickinson is still a long way away from being a key player in the NHL, but he can make it to that point if his current rate of development stays on track without any major setbacks. Ritchie is also young, but has tons of potential to become a Top 6 forward at the NHL level, so 2nd line aspirations aren't out of the question. Eakin was asked to be the #2 center in Dallas for a lot of games last season and played well in the role, so he can feasibly continue to develop into an effective 2nd line center with enough time and care.
Roussel - Faksa - Chiasson
-Last season Roussel displayed the hockey sense and determination to be an effective checking line player, so he will likely be asked to continue playing that type of game into the future. Faksa will challenge Eakin for the 2nd line center spot, but might end up being better suited as a prominent 3rd liner. Chiasson could also very easily slide up into the Top 6, but possesses the defensive awareness to be a highly effective 3rd line player.
Elie - Glennie - Stransky
-Elie is a major wildcard at this point, but you don't use 2nd round draft choices on guys without potential. Elie excelled in the OHL this year as a 4th liner, and could conceivably do the same in the NHL if he develops well. At this point in time it seems like Glennie will never become the scoring threat that the Stars hoped he could be when he was drafted, but he still remains an effective two-way player with a lot of natural talent. Stransky would probably be ideally placed into a higher right wing spot, but gets forced down to the 4th line due to depth.
MacDermid and Shore as the extra forwards
-MacDermid is one of the closest players in the organization to an enforcer, so he'll probably find himself sticking around for a while since rosters usually have at least one. Shore had a huge breakout season in the NCAA and shows a lot of potential, but is still a bit of a wildcard.
Goligoski and Oleksiak
-Goligoski might not be the most popular choice, but at 28 years of age he still has a lot of hockey left in him, and will get many more chances to prove himself. Oleksiak will learn to be a #1 defenceman in the AHL this season, and that could help ease him into that role in the NHL one day.
Dillon and Connauton
-Dillon is already averaging 20 minutes per game in the NHL, so he fits right into a future Top 4 role. Connauton is still unproven, but has the offensive game that could complement itself very well with Dillon's defensive game.
Bystrom and Nemeth
-The two Swedes combine for a balanced 3rd unit, with Bystrom's puck-moving and Nemeth's shutdown play.
Klingberg as the extra defenceman
-A WJC gold medal and a SEL championship already for a player that's only 20 years old puts him above the other young defencemen in the system.
Campbell and Desrosiers as the goalies
-Still a long way from ever happening, and easily the riskiest position for the team, both goalies have loads of potential, but are not yet proven at the NHL level. The Stars are banking a lot on Campbell being a #1 goalie in the next 5-10 years.
Overall, What Looks Good:
- The Stars are enviably deep down the right wing with Nichushkin, Ritchie, Chiasson and Stransky. Chiasson is the only one so far with NHL experience, but the others are all highly-regarded prospects.
- Size is in abundance on the forward core. All the right wings just mentioned have it, as do Benn, Faksa, Dickinson and others. The Stars will not be a small team in the future.
- The defence has an excellent balance, with three big shutdown types, as well as four nimble puck-movers.
What Needs Work:
- Goaltending is a serious question mark. Kari Lehtonen might not be around in the next 5-10 years, and while Campbell and Desrosiers have a lot of potential for their ages, neither have played in the NHL yet. Don't be surprised to see another goalie from another team enter the picture at some point if the need arises.
- While the Stars have a lot of promising players, their overall experience at the NHL level is very lacking. Whereas a team like the Edmonton Oilers has a ton of young talent already in the NHL, the Stars don't have that luxury, and will be cautiously hoping that many players develop exactly as expected.
- Blueline talent. The idea of Alex Goligoski as a Top Pair puck-moving defenceman isn't an entirely reassuring one, and not many others in the system have shown so far that they could assume that role at some point down the road.
This roster was assembled with the "revolving door" idea kept in mind since the Stars have a ton of prospect depth outside these 23 names. Players' NHL potential levels rise and fall with each passing year, so ideally, such a thought exercise like this should be conducted every year depending on how players develop.
Will Alex Chiasson continue to be a point-per-game player at the NHL level? Will Mike Winther end up being better than Scott Glennie or Devin Shore? Is Henri Kiviaho the next out-of-the-blue goaltending superstar from Finland? All of these questions, and more, could dramatically change the look of a projected roster like this, with players moving up, down, or out of the picture entirely.
And, of course, trades happen. Free agency happens, with guys coming in and guys going out. Trying to predict an NHL roster 5-10 years in advance could easily be a fool's errand.
But I'm hoping that this article will make the projection of the Dallas Stars' future, as well as what they need to improve upon, easier to visualize. If Roussel excels as a 3rd line checker, will there be a need to bring in anyone else for that role? If the blueline struggles, will a big name be added through trade or free agency? Questions like that will always arise, but might be easier to answer when looking at the big picture.
I'm also hoping that a thought exercise like this makes following the future of the team as enjoyable for you as it is for me. One of my favorite things about following the Stars is watching the fresh new faces come into the picutre and begin impacting the team. I watched it with Brenden Morrow and then again with Jamie Benn, as well as others, so I'm constantly curious as to which players will be the next ones to step in and take the reigns.
So, with all that being said, what are your thoughts on the future of the Dallas Stars?