The Dallas Stars are off to a great start to the season, but it's always still fun to also keep a close eye on the future. You know what that means: it's time again for another edition of the Defending Big D Dallas Stars Prospect Rankings!
Compiled once again by Derek Neumeier and Huw Wales, the last edition of these rankings came way back in March and a lot has changed between then and now. Not only did the Stars acquire five new prospects this summer at the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, but they also picked up another top new prospect through a trade.
For consistency, we are using the same definition of "prospect" that we used before: "Any player who 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."
Graduated from prospect status since last rankings: Brett Ritchie, Curtis McKenzie, Jyrki Jokipakka and Patrik Nemeth (Editor's Note: even though Nemeth hasn't yet played the required number of games, we decided to graduate him on the grounds that he certainly would have reached that limit if he hadn't missed so much time last season due to injury)
Please note that these rankings are based off of a player's potential NHL ceiling, not who is the closest to NHL duty. These potential NHL ceilings are evaluated based on each player's cumulative careers up to this point, which explains why, for example, someone that was great last year but is struggling right now might be ranked higher than someone that is having an unexpected breakout season.
Without further ado, here now are the 20-player rankings, which also showcase each player's previous position on the list, their ages, and a brief explanation outlining why they're listed where they are. We've also included two Honorable Mentions, players that received votes on either of our lists but did not make the final cut.
|1||2||Julius Honka||19||Incredibly skilled, mature well beyond his years and still getting better on all fronts, Honka is one of the top prospects in all of hockey. The Stars' defensive depth might keep him in the AHL for longer than he needs to be, but he'll be a real treat to watch once he makes the jump to the NHL|
|2||5||Esa Lindell||21||Lindell's stock keeps skyrocketing up and up and up, with no end in sight. Voted the best defenseman in Finland's highest league last season, he capped off an incredible year with an eye-opening showing at the World Championships. Already playing on the Texas Stars' top pair|
|3||3||Jason Dickinson||20||An injury cut the number of games that he played during Dallas' training camp, but Dickinson looked excellent every time that he was on the ice. He's a complete player that can do a little bit of everything and will get the chance to develop all the aspects of his game with Texas this year|
|4||NR||Denis Guryanov||18||The team's newest high-profile draft choice, Guryanov was a surprise to be taken 12th overall, but he has more than enough talent to live up to that status. An explosive, aggressive offensive weapon with both size and speed that can take over games. Watch out for him at this year's World Juniors|
|5||NR||Stephen Johns||23||Despite just being acquired by the Stars this summer, there's no question that Johns immediately became one of the organization's top prospects. He's the prototypical big, physical, shutdown defender that fans have coveted for ages. Will be more than ready for the NHL when he gets the call|
|6||4||Devin Shore||21||Many wondered how Shore would look after leaving his struggling NCAA club and getting to play with more talented teammates in the AHL. Nobody, however, expected his red-hot start of 6 goals and 7 points in his first 4 games. Could be just the beginning of a huge season|
|7||11||Brett Pollock||19||Pollock's numbers might not leap off the page, but don't let them fool you: he's much more talented than they let on. The best player on a weak team that is at the end of a championship era, Pollock could really take off with a change in scenery. Great size, hands, shot and hockey IQ|
|8||12||Niklas Hansson||20||Comparing any player to someone as skilled and tantalizing as John Klingberg isn't exactly a fair thing to do, but it's really hard to not do that with Hansson. Just like Klingberg, he's an effortless skater with stellar instincts and sublime puck skills. You'll be hearing his name more often very soon|
|9||7||Cole Ully||20||Few Stars prospects are as adept at capitalizing on their opportunities as Ully is. He was forced down the depth chart in both Dallas' preseason and the start of the AHL year, but he just keeps scoring points when he does get a chance. If he can keep doing that he'll get big minutes in no time|
|10||9||Remi Elie||20||One of the most pleasant prospect surprises of training camp, Elie left a major impression and was one of the last players cut despite being only 20 years old. He's big, very fast and likes to play with an edge, which will make him an ideal fit for Dallas' bottom two lines in the not-too-distant future|
|11||18||Mattias Janmark||22||Raise your hand if you saw this coming. Nobody? Yeah, I thought so. Four years in the SHL will make most players look polished, but nobody expected Janmark to have such a positive impact in Dallas so quickly. After such a strong start one begins to wonder just how high his ceiling goes...|
|12||17||Radek Faksa||21||It took some time to shake off the rust after his shoulder surgery but it looks like Faksa is back on the same impressive development path that he was on prior to the injury. Looked great during the preseason and was deservedly called up to Dallas, where he made his much-anticipated NHL debut|
|13||NR||Roope Hintz||18||The Stars make it no secret that they love players that combine both great speed and great size, so it should come as no surprise that they used a 2nd round pick on Hintz this past draft. A back injury has him sidelined currently, but he'll be back playing in The Liiga once he's healthy|
|14||10||Philippe Desrosiers||20||A bit of a middling showing in both the Traverse City tournament and the Texas Stars training camp drops Desrosiers down this list a few spots, but he nevertheless still remains the team's top goaltending prospect. Will need to find more consistency if he wants to get a lot of starts this season|
|15||15||Mattias Backman||23||Backman will probably end up being the 4th defenseman in Texas this season, behind Lindell, Johns and Honka, but on his own he's still a solid prospect. Is very comfortable handling the puck and can use his reach and 6'2" frame to defend, even though he's not overly physical|
|16||8||Jack Campbell||23||Nobody doubts Campbell's athleticism or his infectiously passionate desire. However, yet another injury has him sidelined, and it's hard to develop when you're not actually playing. This is Campbell's year to seize the #1 goalie job for Texas. Will he be able to stay healthy enough to assume the role?|
|17||20||Ludwig Bystrom||21||Yet another Swedish defenseman in the system, Bystrom is a possession-driving blueliner that is spending his first full season in North America. Will be brought along slowly so other parts of his game are able to grow and improve. Could be a really nice surprise a few years down the road|
|18||13||Brendan Ranford||23||They don't ask how, they just ask how many. Ranford isn't a flashy player in any ways, but he consistently finds a way to score a lot of points from season to season. He's in a tight competition for ice time among forwards but teams will always make room for guys that can put up 50-60 points|
|19||19||Gemel Smith||21||As long as Smith keeps doing what he's doing he'll keep earning a spot on this list. Fast, scrappy, and capable of chipping in offense from time to time, Smith is a versatile player that's useful to have because he can plug anywhere into a lineup. In a lot of ways he's a poor man's Cody Eakin|
|20||NR||Chris Martenet||19||Standing 6'7" and possessing quite a good skating ability for his size it's pretty obvious what Martenet brings to the table. He's playing Top 4 minutes for the London Knights, the most well-run organization out of all three CHL leagues, so his development is in safe hands|
|HM||NR||John Nyberg||19||OK, last Swedish defenseman, we promise! Nyberg has size and a cannon of a slap shot that he's still learning to fully utilize. Has four points and a +5 rating in 15 games in Sweden's second highest league. Knowing how well the Stars scout that area Nyberg could be a real dark horse|
|HM||NR||Aaron Haydon||19||Sometimes you need to judge a player not based on what he is right now, but on what he might become. Haydon is incredibly raw but has a nice assortment of tools: size, toughness, skating and some offensive ability. Will be a very nice prospect if he can put all the pieces together.|