22 year old Brenden Dillon made a big impact in the shortened 2013 season as a rookie. After working his way up from being an undrafted free agent he found himself in a pairing with Stephane Robidas by the middle of the season taking a heavy defensive load. His development in 2013 is the single biggest development of the season for the Stars.
Big successful young defensemen don't grow on trees. At 6'3 and 225 pounds Dillon fits the big part. At still only 22 years of age he definitely fits the young part. The success he had defensively at a young age is what sets him apart. Most defensemen take several years to develop. Dillon waltzed into camp after half a season in the AHL ready to stake a claim to an NHL roster spot. It was a remarkable success story.
He was able to claim a roster spot given his combination of size, skill, and defensive ability. Early in the season Dillon was much more active offensively, but as time went on he proved to be more valuable as a shutdown defensive option. In the waning weeks of the season he spent some time on a pairing with Alex Goligoski in more of a two way role. He was excellent anywhere he was asked to play.
Embarking on his second NHL season, Dillon is going to be relied upon heavily to shoulder significant defensive load. We can expect Dillon to contribute on both special teams units, though his biggest special teams contributions are likely to come on the penalty kill.
He spent a good deal of time last season forming a top notch shutdown pair with Robidas. It will be interesting to see how Ruff decides to utilize the two. Do they play together and muzzle opposing offenses, or do they get split up to attempt to bring a responsible defensive effort more uniformly across the lineup?
Being only 22, Dillon's career could go in any number of directions. He has the ability to be a solid offensive contributor as he develops, but he has already demonstrated a high aptitude for the defensive game so it wouldn't be shocking to see him ultimately develop into the top notch defensive defenseman the Stars could really use. Whatever his ultimate path ends up being, he projects as a big part of what the Stars are going to do for the near and long term future.