The regular season is in full swing for all leagues across the hockey world, so now is another great time for the newest edition of the Defending Big D Prospect Rankings.
Compiled once again by Derek Neumeier and Huw Wales, the last edition of these rankings were published in October. A lot of hockey has been played since then, with some players stepping up their games in impressive ways while others are, unfortunately, going the opposite direction. Thus is the nature of prospect development.
For consistency, we are using the same definition of "prospect" that we used before: "Any player who played fewer than 25 NHL games this season or 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: Mattias Janmark.
Please note that these rankings are based around the projection 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||Esa Lindell||21||Lindell made his much-anticipated NHL debut in January and didn't look out of place on the Stars. It surely won't be long until he's in Dallas full-time. The AHL All-Star is logging a ton of ice time in his first year in North America and is a major difference-maker at both ends of the ice|
|2||1||Julius Honka||20||After a mixed start to the season Honka has really turned things around over the last 20 or so AHL games. With 32 points in 51 games he's already eclipsed the 31 points he had in 68 games last season. He's steadily improving his ability as a true PP QB|
|3||6||Devin Shore||21||A serious shoulder injury from a dirty hit tragically cut short what was shaping up to be an incredible season for Shore. He was averaging more than a point-per-game in the AHL in just his first professional season and deservedly earned a three-game call-up to Dallas|
|4||3||Jason Dickinson||20||Dickinson is quietly developing into one of the most consistent, reliable players on the Texas Stars. Plays in a variety of different situations for the team and has been steadily picking up points all year long. An excellent skater that sees and reads the ice very well|
|5||12||Radek Faksa||22||Faksa came into the season billed primarily as a shutdown center, but he's continued to improve his offensive ability as well, which bumps him way up this list. Has been facing very tough minutes while up in Dallas but still manages to hold his own, even as a rookie|
|6||8||Niklas Hansson||21||An early injury slowed a torrid start for Hansson, but after some recovery time he's picking up right where he left off. Has 20 points in 34 SHL games, which is quite impressive for a defenseman his age. Still needs to improve his play away from the puck, but has lots of development time left|
|7||5||Stephen Johns||23||Johns has been asked to do a lot of heavy lifting on the Texas Stars blueline this season and has done a solid job overall. Can physically manhandle opposing players and lug the puck, but could stand to improve his decision making in his own zone|
|8||4||Denis Gurianov||18||While it's undeniable that Gurianov is an immensely talented young hockey player, his lack of ice time this season in the KHL is a big cause for concern. Needs to get more minutes on a consistent basis to maximize his development. Missing the WJCs for Russia was also a big disappointment|
|9||7||Brett Pollock||19||The Edmonton Oil Kings continue to be a middling WHL team, but would be in a much worse spot without Pollock. The big forward does a little bit of everything for his squad, including manning the point on the powerplay. Doesn't have much support, but could still stand to produce a bit more|
|10||15||Mattias Backman||23||Backman started the season on the bottom half of Texas' D depth chart, but he's still excelled with what he's been given and has been steadily working his way into a bigger role with the club. Has a +23 rating while the next closest defender is a +8, which shows just how reliable he has been|
|11||10||Remi Elie||20||After making a strong impression at Dallas' training camp Elie is now learning the nuanced ins and outs of life in the professional leagues. He's fallen into the groove of a checking role lately, which suits him just fine, but he also has some untapped potential to succeed on a scoring line|
|12||13||Roope Hintz||19||Hintz had a nice showing at this year's World Juniors, scoring 4 points in 7 games as Finland won gold on home ice. Has all the tools needed to carve out a long NHL career as a support player, but it would be nice to see him show more creativity and generate more offense by his own ability|
|13||9||Cole Ully||20||The 20 year-old Ully has been stuck in a tough position this season: not quite good enough yet for a Top 6 spot on a deep Texas team, but not also good enough defensively to play regularly as a checker in the Bottom 6. Still, he remains one of the best pure offensive players in Dallas' system|
|14||14||Philippe Desrosiers||20||Desrosiers remains right on track in his development path, for better or for worse. Played well in the ECHL and earned a call-up to the AHL, where he's also played well and seems like he'll now stick around. Could be stuck mostly as a backup unless he can start taking over games regularly|
|15||18||Brendan Ranford||23||The points just keep coming for Ranford. With 44 in 52 games this season he's just one behind Travis Morin for the Texas Stars lead and is on pace to surpass the personal best of 51 points that he picked up last year. Earned a spot in the AHL All-Star game for his continued efforts|
|16||19||Gemel Smith||21||It's looking more and more unlikely that Smith will tap the offensive potential that he hinted at during his junior days, but that's OK so long as he continues to grow into a player that's both defensively responsible and one that can successfully get under the skin of opponents|
|17||NR||Maxime Lagace||23||Well, isn't this a pleasant surprise? After bouncing around the ECHL last year Lagace has leaped forward and seized the #1 job for Texas. He's always had great size and athleticism, and has now refined his positioning and technique as well. Just how sustainable is his current success?|
|18||NR||Michael Prapavessis||20||Despite being the youngest defenseman on his team Prapavessis is already playing on R.P.I.'s top defensive pairing. A skilled skater and puck-mover by nature, he still needs a lot of time to develop and build strength, but will get that luxury with two more years of NCAA eligibility|
|19||20||Chris Martenet||19||Are the days of the traditional defensive-defenceman over? Martenet is trying to prove that they aren't. He plays a lot of minutes in a stay-at-home role on a high-flying London Knights team. His skating is good, but his puck movement will be the biggest question once he graduates to the pros|
|20||HM||John Nyberg||19||While his ice time has fluctuated a lot this season from night-to-night, Nyberg keeps getting game experience in Sweden's top two hockey leagues. Still a very raw player, but his size and skating will serve him well with continued developed before coming to North America.|
|HM||16||Jack Campbell||24||Is this the end of the line for Campbell? He's been passed on the depth chart by both Lagace and Desrosiers and faces an uphill battle to fight his way back up. His play in the ECHL since being demoted has been exceptional, but at this point it may be too little, too late|
|HM||17||Ludwig Bystrom||21||Bystrom continues to grow his game, bit by bit, in his first season in North America. Has been able to hold his own in a limited role for Texas. Will need to showcase himself as an impact player once the likes of Lindell, Johns, Backman and Honka start to graduate to the NHL|