Patrik Nemeth hasn't even played 20 NHL games yet - just 18 even if you include the playoffs last season - but he was already being counted on to fill an important role in the Dallas Stars top six defensemen this year.
Unfortunately for Nemeth, a nasty arm laceration is going to keep him on the shelf the rest of the season. He was solid in the Stars first five games of this season, and even though he has little experience under his belt, his absence leaves a distinct hole in the Stars lineup that will almost certainly be filled by one of the prospects.
Jamie Oleksiak is the odds-on favorite for the moment, if only because he has previous NHL experience and several weeks of practice with this season's unit under his belt. But there are other candidates as well.
Jyrki Jokipakka was the call up to replace Nemeth after the injury, and while he won't be on the ice tonight, he looked good in training camp. John Klingberg is also a relatively new import to the North American game, but he provides the highly sought-after right shot from the blueline. And while it's extremely unlikely Julius Honka is NHL ready this season, the first-round pick is just a phone call away in the AHL.
Things will change again in a few weeks when Sergei Gonchar returns from his fractured ankle (he's started skating on his own but still sounds a bit away from returning). Still, that leaves one open spot on the NHL roster, even if as a seventh defenseman. Someone will eventually stick there.
As a note, Kevin Connauton is not on the list for a reason. He's clearly a regular NHL roster player for this season, and in all honesty he's looked solid in the games he's been in so far. He's a cut above the prospect kids fighting for the new roster spot at this point. Whatever you may think of Gonchar's role on this team, he's also clearly going to have a roster spot when healed
That leaves just the one slot on a healthy blueline.
So, loyal readers, who do you think the Stars will eventually settle on as the young defenseman to stick with the big club the rest of the season once all the dust settles?