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Dallas Stars January Prospect Rankings: An Infusion Of Youth Forthcoming?

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Last month we discussed the state of the Dallas Stars farm system and how it's evolved under General Manager Joe Nieuwendyk over the past few years. What's been most frustrating for Stars fans is that while we've only recently started to see the excitement some young prospects can bring, it's been a long time since the Stars really enjoyed a number of highly touted prospects turning pro with high hopes for the future.

Over the past few seasons the Stars have made the decision to hold on to their draft picks and attempt to rebuild the system from within while also keeping an eye focused on the future. This current Dallas Stars team has been competitive, yet is bolstered by veterans on short-term contracts; the Stars know that in just a few short years, this team has the potential to become one of the youngest in the NHL.

As we head into the second half of the current season, now the question becomes how quickly we'll start to see some of these names we've been following since they were drafted over the past few summers. It seems the discussion has been centered on the same names for a few seasons now and never about how great they're performing down in Austin. With the exception of Tomas Vincour, Dallas Stars fans have a very little number of players drafted under Nieuwendyk.

That, apparently, is about to quickly change.

After the past World Juniors tournament in Canada, with Jamieson Oleksiak playing well overall and Patrik Nemeth enjoying a tremendous tournament, head of player development Les Jackson was asked about the immediate future of the Stars prospects that played. He stated that Oleksiak, Jack Campbell and Nemeth would all likely be in Austin next season, with only John Klingberg expected to stay in Europe.

"I think all are ready for that jump, and I think it will be good for our organization,'' Jackson said. ``Each one has pushed forward and learned a lot, and there's still more learning to do this year. But, yes, they are ready for the move up.''

Jamie Oleksiak, playing with the Saginaw Spirit of the OHL this season, has six goals and 11 points in 31 games and has quickly made a name for himself as one of the more complete defensemen in the CHL. While his claim to fame is his tremendous size, Oleksiak stands out because of his exceptional skating ability and puck moving skills, both more advanced at this point in his career than anyone anticipated.

Oleksiak, who played at Northeastern University last season, has the ability to jump straight from the CHL to the AHL, and apparently that's exactly what will happen.

The same for Campbell, who has struggled at times in two seasons in the OHL yet who has played much more consistently lately. The prized goaltender crashed down to earth a bit in this year's tournament yet still remains as one of the better goaltending prospects in the CHL. It will likely do a lot of good for Campbell to get to the Texas Stars and have the chance to work more extensively with Mike Valley, who Campbell has played for in the past.

Patrik Nemeth, who is getting a lot of comparisons to Nicklas Grossman but with a mean streak, has enjoyed a good season in Sweden and had a great tournament as his team won the gold. Nemeth is still a bit raw at times but he is likely on the same curve as Oleksiak and both should be reaching for the NHL at about the same time.

What's incredible, other than the fact these three are heading to the AHL next summer, is the liklihood of even more prospects making it to Austin next season.

Austin Smith, the 23-year old senior from Colgate and the current leading scorer in the NCAA, will become the first true goal-scoring star forward the Texas Stars have had. Smith, a Dallas native, has flown under the radar until this season and the hope is that he is not that far away from making it to the NHL. He's a goal scoring phenom and plays exceptionally well defensively as well; the Stars could certainly use a player of his caliber.

He could also be joined by two other talented forwards, Alex Chiasson and Reilly Smith. Both are juniors and both are in the midst of career seasons. Chiasson plays a power forward game, a big body who isn't afraid to get to the net and who plays physically along the boards. Reilly Smith, who is a bit undersized, has been one of the top players in the NCAA the past two seasons and continues to do nothing but score goals.

It's unknown how many other players might make the jump to pro next season, but six new players -- all needed by the Texas Stars -- is something for any fan to get excited about. These six are in various stages of their development but a few of them are making the jump to the AHL ahead of schedule; their path to the NHL is just a bit shorter now, and the anticipation of finally seeing them in Dallas is building.

Now, the rankings:

1. Jamieson Oleksiak
2. Reilly Smith
3. Jack Campbell
4. Matej Stransky
5. Alex Chiasson
6. Austin Smith
7. Richard Bachman
8. Patrik Nemeth
9. Brenden Dillon
10. Alexander Guptill
11. Matt Fraser
12. Scott Glennie
13. Troy Vance
14. Brett Ritchie
15. Colton Sceviour
16. Emil Molin
17. Tyler Beskorowany
18. Jordie Benn
19. John Klingberg
20. Curtis McKenzie

Jack Campbell takes a bit of a tumble but it's John Klingberg who fell the most. He's struggled this season in Finland and had a horrendous World Juniors tournament and it's obvious he's needs a few more years in Europe to continue to develop. It's unfortunate for such a gifted defenseman but it's expected somewhat given his size.

Alex Guptill makes the biggest jump, landing in our top ten. The true freshman from Michigan has found his scoring touch this season and along with his great size is turning into another great power forward prospect for the Stars.