Prospect talk has become a popular topic of discussion around Stars fans, and for good reason.
Over the past few years the organization has been focusing plenty of attention on the future, and has quickly and steadily amassed an impressive collection of promising young players. Budding stars like Valeri Nichushkin, Alex Chiasson, and Brenden Dillon have already made the transition from prospects to NHL pros, and there are many others not far behind.
Hockey's Future, one of the top hockey prospect information sites on the web, ranks the Stars 4th out of all 30 teams, which is a testament to the fantastic job done the past few years by the team's scouts and front office.
We here at Defending Big D are committed to keeping you up to date on the progress of the players in the Stars' system, and since our last prospect rankings came back in November, it is now time to update the list.
However, this time around we've decided to do things a little differently.
The last few iterations of this list have only included 20 players out of a much larger group, but as the prospects continued to develop so well it became evident that there were more than 20 different players deserving of some recognition.
This time around the list, compiled by the combined individual rankings of Huw Wales and myself, includes not only the top 20 players, but also another bonus five that came very close to making the final cut.
For consistency, we are using the same definition of "prospect" that we used before: "Any player who has played fewer than 25 NHL games last season, or fewer than 50 NHL games overall, is considered a prospect -- the upper limit on the age cutoff is 26 years old."
Let's now take a look at how it all shook out:
|1||Jack Campbell||22||When it comes to what NHL teams look for out of a goalie, Campbell is the complete package. With great size, athleticism, composure, and an impressive resume, Campbell seems to have all the tools needed to succeed at the NHL level. A knee injury cost him a lot of playing time, but he has been terrific in the AHL games he has played.|
|2||Jamie Oleksiak||21||One of the best defencemen in the entire AHL last season as a rookie, Oleksiak has taken a step back this year, but his future still remains very bright. His 6'7" frame can eliminate opposing forwards, and he skates very well for such a big man. Development curve is still long, but he will continue to get NHL chances until he's fully ready.|
|3||Brett Ritchie||20||Although he doesn't have the nastiness often associated with the term "power forward," Ritchie's huge size and powerful shot allow him to terrorize opposing defenses. His stats are solid for an AHL rookie, and they should continue to increase as he continues to bulk up. Can be absolutely lethal when paired with an elite playmaking center.|
|4||Devin Shore||19||A well-rounded offensive package, Shore averaged well over a point per game as he led his NCAA team in scoring by a country mile, which is a very impressive feat for a player of his age. The initial plan was for Shore to play longer in the NCAA, but he seems more than ready to make the jump to the AHL and play center with the Texas Stars. Tough call.|
|5||John Klingberg||21||Hands down the best offensive defenceman in the Stars' system, which is something that is much needed right now in Dallas. Klingberg can skate, pass and shoot very well, but it's his instincts and decision-making that make him so dangerous offensively. Will soon make his much-anticipated jump to North America.|
|6||Jason Dickinson||18||Although a bit of a surprise 1st round pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, Dickinson has shown himself worthy of his lofty draft placement, setting career highs in goals, assists, points and plus-minus. The left-wing/center hybrid has an excellent blend of size, skating and puck skills. Could go on a huge playoff run with the OHL's Guelph Storm.|
|7||Ludwig Bystrom||19||Relatively off the radar playing over in Sweden, Bystrom continues to play very well against mostly older competition. Moves the puck up the ice with silky skating and smart passing, but also defends his own zone well despite his small-ish frame. Solid two-way defender, but could become a very special player if his offense continue to improve.|
|8||Patrik Nemeth||22||A prototypical shutdown, defensive defencemen, but some surprisingly impressive puck handling abilities make things extra interesting. Nemeth excels in his own zone, and isn't afraid to get nasty and really move bodies if the situation calls for it. Has "NHL" written all over him and probably isn't too far off from getting his first shot.|
|9||Kevin Connauton||24||After sitting out the majority of the first chunk of the season as a healthy scratch in Dallas, Connauton has steadily worked his way into a regular roster spot. Although best known for his offensive abilities, he has been focusing on refining his defensive game on the Stars' 3rd pairing. Moves around the ice well and has a heavy shot.|
|10||Curtis McKenzie||23||After not even cracking this list last time McKenzie has skyrocketed to the 10th spot thanks to a stellar rookie season in the AHL. Most of his 56 points have come from the dirty areas around the net, but he still skates and handles the puck well. However, after playing with two of the AHL's best forwards, can he do the same without them?|
|11||Radek Faksa||20||What can the Stars expect out of Faksa? He was a point-per-game player in his draft year, but his production has not returned to that level in the two seasons after and he was invisible for the Czechs at the World Juniors. Still defends his own zone well and has some nice tools, but hopes of him becoming a Top 6 forward are beginning to fade|
|12||Philippe Desrosiers||18||Easily one of the most pleasant surprises out of all Stars prospects this year. Athletic and highly competitive, Desrosiers is learning how to be a bonafide #1 goalie in the offense-first QMJHL and is doing an excellent job. Set a league record for longest shutout streak this season, and also rattled off an insane 14-game winning streak.|
|13||Colton Sceviour||24||Sceviour won't technically be a prospect much longer considering he signed a one-way deal with the Stars for next season, but he's earned his way there as the AHL's top goal scorer this season. Has a true nose for the net. He's consistently improved every year he's been in the Stars' system, which is always a positive sign for a prospect.|
|14||Alex Guptill||22||Great combination of size and skill, but has struggled to find consistency from year to year. Was expected to play a large role on his NCAA team this season, but his offensive production has dropped. Will likely make the jump to the AHL very soon, which could be the best thing for his long-term development.|
|15||Niklas Hansson||19||Almost identical to Ludwig Bystrom, Hansson is plying his trade in Sweden as a two-way defenceman and is making his mark thanks to an impressive blend of skating and puck movement. He's still a few years away from coming to North America, but he will certainly be a prospect worth keeping and eye on in the meantime.|
|16||Cole Ully||19||Ully's 72 points in 69 games might not look like much at first glance, but they become more impressive when you realize that he got them with very little support on one of the worst teams in the WHL. Great hands in traffic, and isn't afraid to go to the dirty areas despite his slight frame.|
|17||Matej Stransky||20||After a fantastic tenure in the WHL Stransky has had a difficult time adjusting to his first season in the AHL. Although he possesses excellent size and a nice touch around the net, his skating needs improvement and he's been stuck on the lower lines of a deep Texas Stars roster. Still has NHL potential, but will need more time to develop.|
|18||Remi Elie||18||After excelling in a depth role for the 2013 OHL Champion London Knights last season, Elie was traded to the Belleville Bulls early this season and asked to play on their top line: impressively, he succeeded, with 65 points in 61 games. Might not be a major scorer at the NHL level, but his versatility will make him a very valuable player.|
|19||Scott Glennie||23||Scott Glennie continues to do all the little things right, but the big things still elude him. He's developed into a reliable two-way forward for the Texas Stars, but still rarely takes complete control of games like he used to in his WHL days. Could still develop into a serviceable NHLer, but Stars fans will likely wonder what more could have been.|
|20||Dmitri Sinitsyn||19||It's amazing what a change of scenery can do. Sinitsyn only played limited minutes in 13 games for a deep UMass-Lowell team in the NCAA last year, but has been regularly playing 23+ minutes per game for the WHL's Regina Pats this year. Has been used in all situations this season for the Pats and has looked good at both ends of the ice.|
|Bonus||Jyrki Jokipakka||22||A big defenceman that can protect his own zone and also chip in offensively, Jokipakka isn't the type of defenceman to completely take over a game, but still has a very nice set of tools. Made the jump to the AHL from Finland this year and should continue to develop well as he further gets accustomed to North America.|
|Bonus||Esa Lindell||19||Lindell has had a very nice bounce-back season in Finland's top league, the SM-Liiga, after getting caught a little over his head in the league last year. Perhaps more importantly, he was a key cog in Finland's surprise Gold Medal win at the World Juniors, with 5 points in 7 games. Long development curve, but the future looks bright.|
|Bonus||Branden Troock||20||Troock continues to be plagued by injury troubles, but they haven't stopped him from producing well when he's been healthy, with 58 points in 58 games. His size and speed and both very good, and he plays well enough at both ends of the ice that he could become a useful role player at the AHL or possibly even NHL levels.|
|Bonus||Mike Winther||20||It's been a tough year for Mike Winther. He was injured early on, was traded from the WHL's Prince Albert Raiders to the Calgary Hitmen, and then was injured again, all combining to make it hard for him to get into a groove. However, he could help salvage the season with a strong playoffs with the Hitmen. Great speed and puck skills.|
|Bonus||Gemel Smith||19||Small size, but plays with a big heart. Smith averaged over a point per game this season in the OHL, and was the beneficiary of being traded to the powerhouse Memorial Cup hosts the London Knights. He may not be a big scorer in the pros, but his speed could make him a great energy player|