It’s amazing how much difference one draft can make.
The Dallas Stars had quite a weekend at the 2017 NHL Entry Draft, amassing a draft class that, it could be argued, might one day turn out to be the strongest since the franchise moved to Texas. The Stars are making a tremendous push to be successful right now, but make no mistake: they’re focusing a lot on the future, too.
To help provide a better idea of just what the future might hold for the Stars, we here at Defending Big D have put together an updated list of our Dallas Stars Prospect Rankings.
Compiled once again in tandem by Derek Neumeier and Huw Wales, the last edition of these rankings was compiled back in March.
For consistency, we are using the same definition of "prospect" that we always do: "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."
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 four Honorable Mentions, players that received votes on either of our lists but did not make the final cut.
Prospect Rankings - August 2017
|1||NR||Miro Heiskanen||18||Heiskanen is the type of defenseman that is built to thrive in today's NHL. An excellent skater with exceptional smarts, awareness, and composure, he's a blueliner that can log serious minutes and play in all situations for his team. Holds the potential to become a number one NHL defender. Will anchor Finland's defense at the World Juniors|
|2||1||Julius Honka||21||Honka might begin the 2017-18 season in the AHL, but make no mistake: he's NHL-ready now. He suited up for 16 games for Dallas last season and performed very well, picking up five points and an incredible 54.3 CF%, the best possession numbers of any Dallas defenseman. Has Top 4 upside, while Top 2 is certainly not out of the question|
|3||4||Roope Hintz||20||Riding an upward trajectory with no ceiling in sight, Hintz continues to get better and better. He's rounding out his game incredibly well, steadily improving on both offense and on defense. His size, skating, and ability to contribute at both ends of the ice gives him tantalizing versatility. Could become an integral, difference-making player for the Stars|
|4||2||Jason Dickinson||22||Last season saw a slight step backwards for Dickinson, due in large part to hip surgery that he underwent in the summer of 2016. Nevertheless, he still got called up for 10 games in Dallas when he was healthier, picking up two goals for his efforts. If he doesn't develop into a Top 6 forward he should at least become a great two-way third liner|
|5||3||Denis Guryanov||20||Guryanov's first season in North America was a smashing success, growing leaps and bounds over the course of the year and earning a bigger role with the Texas Stars. He also got to make his NHL debut, offering a glimpse of his explosive skating. Still needs to work on his creativity and offensive zone awareness, but he has enormous potential|
|6||NR||Jason Robertson||18||The Stars might have gotten very lucky at the 2017 draft, taking the talented Robertson all the way down at the 39th overall pick. The budding power forward picked up 81 points in 68 OHL games last year, and did so with very little offensive support around him. Is highly skilled in numerous areas, he just needs to fix his below-average skating|
|7||6||Riley Tufte||19||It was a tale of two seasons for Tufte, but luckily, his season ended strongly, with a nice scoring run and an appearance in the national championship game of the Frozen Four. He continues to refine his skating and add muscle to his gargantuan frame, but he might need two more years in the NCAA to improve his decision-making and awareness|
|8||NR||Jake Oettinger||18||Dallas hopes to have found their future number one goaltender with Oettinger, the most highly-touted netminder from the past two drafts. A true student of the position, his development has been helped along greatly thanks to goalie coaches from USA Hockey and Boston University. Has advanced composure and technical abilities for his age|
|9||5||Remi Elie||22||Elie looked quite NHL-ready in an 18-game stint with Dallas last year, but thanks to newfound organizational depth at forward, he'll likely have to spend most, if not all, of this upcoming season in the AHL. That won't necessarily be a bad thing for the 22 year-old, as he should get plenty of ice time. A strong, fast skater with a tenacious work ethic|
|10||8||Fredrik Karlstrom||19||Karlstrom cooled off a bit as his first professional season in Sweden wound down, but any way you slice it, producing 24 points in 45 games is an impressive pro debut for an 18 year-old. Played for his home country at the WJCs, scoring three points, and should be back again this winter. Has a nice blend of size, smarts, mobility and puck skills|
|11||7||Nick Caamano||18||A budding power forward in the making, Caamano made big strides for the OHL's Flint Firebirds last season, scoring 35 goals and 64 points in 67 games. Should be a top line player for them this season. He also received a nice call-up to the Texas Stars at the end of last year, picking up three points in six games. Big player with some nifty skills|
|12||10||Gavin Bayreuther||23||Bayreuther joined Texas after completing his 4th year in the NCAA and immediately looked right at home, scoring five points in 15 games and logging a lot of ice time. A defenseman with mobilty, puck skills, and offensive creativity, he has some very nice NHL upside. However, he needs some more time in the AHL to develop his full game|
|13||9||John Nyberg||21||Steadily growing his abilities over in Sweden, Nyberg is quietly emerging as one of Dallas' top prospects. There's a lot to like about his game: size, skating, and some decent offensive chops. Isn't afraid to jump up into the play. Defensive game still needs some rounding out, but that can come with time. Might move to North America by 2018-19|
|14||11||Niklas Hansson||22||After a turbulent season in the SHL that saw his ice time disappear, Hansson will play for Texas this fall, putting him in a better environment to develop. There's no denying his skating and puck-moving abilities, but he needs to refine them. His HV71 team won the SHL title with him sitting up in the press box; will that be a source of motivation?|
|15||19||Jakob Stenqvist||19||Another smooth, puck-moving defender out of Sweden, Stenqvist made the jump from juniors to the pro Allsvenskan league at 18 and stuck around, a very good sign for his future. He also turned some heads at the Stars' recent development camp with his quickness and agility. Long way to go in his development, but he's off to a very nice start|
|16||15||Gemel Smith||23||He's in tough against a crowded group of talented forwards that are younger than him, but Smith showed last season that he's an NHL-caliber player. He's speedy, tenacious, and has some moves with the puck on his stick, a combination that should make him a Bottom 6 NHLer. Now eligible for waivers, will Dallas risk sending him to the AHL?|
|17||12||Joseph Cecconi||20||Nobody is ever going to call Cecconi a flashy player, but that's entirely fine because he takes care of his own zone first and foremost. He's a big body that remains composed under pressure, as was seen by his play at the World Juniors. Still needs to work on his mobility, puck skills, and decision-making, but he has two more NCAA years to do so|
|18||16||Chris Martenet||20||Martenet's raw physical abilities, being an enormous 6'7" defenseman that can cover distance on the ice quickly, makes him an asset worth keeping around. However, he was regularly a step behind the play in the OHL, so he now faces a major challenge in adapting to the pace of the pros. How much can the organization develop his skillset?|
|19||13||Colton Point||19||Point is expected to take over the starter's duties for NCAA Colgate this season, a nice change after only playing 10 games last year. He has a natural advantage with his 6'4" frame, yet he's also working hard to improve his craft, attending camps with PRO Goaltending this summer. Will grow a lot with three more years of NCAA eligility remaining|
|20||17||Rhett Gardner||21||The University of North Dakota lost a couple of their top forwards this summer, but that could be a huge benefit to Gardner, who should in turn receive a lot more ice time. He already excels on the defensive side of things, so it will be interesting to see how much his offensive game is able to enhance with Top 6 and powerplay responsibilities|
|HM||18||Ondrej Vala||19||Vala will be in an excellent situation this season for the WHL's Kamloops Blazers. As one of the team's most experienced blueliners, he'll be expected to be a leader and log a lot of minutes. He'll also likely play for the Czech Republic for the second time at the World Juniors. Physical, intimidating defenseman has some intriguing NHL upside|
|HM||20||Landon Bow||21||Bow's steady play last season solidified himself as a goaltending prospect with legitimate NHL potential. The 21 year-old posted a sterling save percentage of .933, which was the second best in the ECHL. He's still very much a raw goalie prospect, needing primarily to improve his mobility in the crease, but he's 6'5" and tracks the play quite well|
|HM||HM||Dillon Heatherington||22||Just how well do traditional defensive-defensemen fit into today's faster, slicker NHL? Heatherington is an interesting case study. He's a big, strong presence that seeks to prevent opposing goals first, without trying to do anything overly fancy. If he can keep improving his skating and his outlet passes then there may be a place for him in the league|
|HM||NR||Markus Russu||19||After splitting his 2016-17 season between three teams Ruusu is now expected to be the consistent backup for Ilves in the Finnish Elite League for this upcoming year, a more stable situation that should be a benefit to his development. A 6'2" puck-stopper that relies on reflexes and athleticism, but needs to improve his ability to read the play|