Over the past few months most if not all of our attention has turned to the revamped Dallas Stars prospect system, as a couple of promising drafts by Joe Nieuwendyk and Les Jackson has shifted a weakness into what appears to be growing into an area of strength. Much of the positivity surrounds the acquisition of several high potential and promising defensive prospects along with a few that have surprised with their development and increasingly high ceilings. Jamieson Oleksiak, John Klingberg, Patrik Nemeth, Philip Larsen and Troy Vance all have Stars fans hopeful for the future of this team's blue line.
Most of those players are a few years away, and it's going to be a while before we see any big prospect suit up for the Dallas Stars outside of training camp. Yet there is one prospect, not just Philip Larsen, who might make waves in Dallas ahead of all the other highly touted draft picks and system gems. After being passed over numerous times by every team in the NHL, Brenden Dillon is knocking on the doorstep of the NHL.
John Tranchina of DallasStars.com has a great article this weekend on Dillon and his journey from after-thought junior hockey player to someone who is going to be a key player for the Texas Stars this season, as well as someone who will likely make his NHL debut this year. Joe Nieuwendyk says that it's Dillon's versatility as a defenseman that makes him a prized prospect in the system:
"He's big, I like the size, the range," noted Dallas General Manager Joe Nieuwendyk regarding Dillon. "He's got a good long stick. He's got a good swivel head on defensive zone coverage. He reads the game really well and he can skate really well for a big man, too. He's not afraid to join the rush and with those legs he can get back and not get himself in any trouble."
More after the jump...
What is interesting about Dillon is that what made him get passed up by NHL teams during the past few drafts was his lack of size, especially as a defenseman playing in the WHL. Yet he was a bit of a late bloomer and the skills he developed in order to succeed as an undersized hockey player are being put to get use now that he's a big body out on the ice.
When Dillon signed his entry level contract back in March, not much was made of the acquisition here at Defending Big D. We had bigger worries to talk about, especially as the season was lost down the stretch of the season, yet there were some very positive things happening down in Austin once Dillon made his AHL debut.
While he never scored in 10 regular season games, he managed to instantly solidify himself as one of the best and more reliable defensemen on the team. He was used extensively by coach Glen Gulutzan in the first round of the playoffs, as he finished with a plus-1 and two assists in six games. For a player that was never regarded as someone worthy of even being drafted, Dillon certainly made an instant impression on the Dallas Stars and the organization.
In our last Prospect Rankings, Dillon was the third-ranked defenseman behind Oleksiak and Larsen and was ranked overall at #7. His demeanor, work ethic and impressive ability on the ice has vaulted him up the rankings list -- especially since it's obvious that he'll be one of the first options for a call up to the NHL. He was impressive at the Stars development camp this summer and everyone in attendance agreed that he was one of the more polished defensemen there, looking like he was more than ready to push for playing time in the NHL.
According to Dillon, this is obviously the goal:
"My goal is, like every prospect, you want to play for the Dallas Stars and do it as soon as possible," said Dillon, who looked impressive at the Stars' annual development camp that took place at the Dr Pepper StarCenter in McKinney in early July. "That's my goal and the only thing I can do is just make that decision as hard as I can for the coaching staff and for everybody up there (in management) and just have a day-by-day mentality and do my best out there."
This sort of story is also what endears players to become fan favorites, and Dillon is well on his way. His humble demeanor and friendliness off the ice are perfectly matched with his work ethic and desire to excel in the NHL. The Stars aren't ready to just throw him onto the ice at the AAC as soon as possible, yet he's going to be a vital part of the depth at the defensive position for the Stars this season and as we witnessed last year with Tomas Vincour -- all you need is an opportunity.
In the meantime, he's going to be one of the top players for the Stars down in Austin this summer and will be yet another player who will benefit from having someone like Brad Lukowich to play with and learn from.
Nothing has ever been handed to Dillon; he's had to work at it and prove himself time and again and now that expectations are higher than ever, so is the pressure to succeed and perform.
Be sure to read the entire article at DallasStars.com on Brenden Dillon and his journey to the AHL.