The Dallas Stars are off to a solid start in their 2018-19 NHL season, opening with a record of 9-6-1 under new head coach Jim Montgomery.
One of the biggest reasons for this early success? The steady growth and development of the team’s top young players. Superstar defenseman Miro Heiskanen has been drawing most of the spotlight (and rightfully so), but the play of Esa Lindell, Devin Shore, Jason Dickinson and other young professionals has been instrumental as well.
For some of these players it feels like just yesterday when their names were first called at the NHL’s annual entry draft. For others their success feels relieving in a way, having seen the years of hard work they put in before now finally reaching the level of play that has been hoped for and expected from them.
With that in mind, now seems as good of a time as any to turn an eye to the future once again and release another edition of Defending Big D’s Dallas Stars Prospect Rankings.
The previous edition of these rankings can be found here.
For consistency, I’m using the same definition of “prospect” that we always have, with one important addition: “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. In exceptional cases, a player may be graduated from prospect status without having yet met these criteria.”
(I’m going to go ahead and call this the “Miro Heiskanen Rule.”)
Graduated from last edition’s rankings: Miro Heiskanen
Please note that these rankings are based around the projection of a player’s potential NHL ceiling and their chances of reaching that 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.
Prospect Rankings - November 2018
|1||NR||Ty Dellandrea||18||Not many 18-year-olds could play for a team that goes winless in its first 16 games of a season and maintain the right attitude, but then again, Dellandrea is not a normal 18-year-old. Not only does the charismatic center possess a professional demeanor and maturity beyond his years, he also has a deep, balanced set of skills. A complete player|
|2||2||Roope Hintz||21||Don't let his initial, brief appearance in the NHL fool you: Hintz is still a prospect with high-end potential. He has the ability to dominate shifts with his big frame and powerful skating, but just needs a little more experience before he's fully ready for hockey's highest level. Should get to do a lot of growing in the AHL until his next call-up to Dallas|
|3||3||Jason Robertson||19||As of this writing Robertson is averaging nearly six shots on net per game and just under a goal per game, so it's safe to say that he loves firing the puck. The big winger was already a tour de force in the offensive zone because of his elite puck protection and hockey IQ, and he recently took his game to another level thanks to getting a step faster|
|4||5||Denis Gurianov||21||It took longer than expected, but Gurianov is finally starting to fully look like the player the Stars thought he would become after drafting him in the 1st round in 2015. He's fast, he's hungry for the puck and he's putting up big numbers because he's incredibly hard to contain when all the pistons are firing. He certainly earned his call-up to Dallas|
|5||4||Riley Tufte||20||Tufte took his game to another level last year, upping his scoring totals, improving his 200-foot game and, most importantly, helping his team win the NCAA championship. He elected to return to school for one more season before turning pro. So far this year, however, his points pace has dipped. Needs to get better at actually producing results|
|6||7||Colton Point||20||Despite his recent assignment from the AHL to the ECHL, Point nevertheless still remains a high-end goaltending prospect, as evidenced by his incredibly dominant 2017-18 season with Colgate in the NCAA. He owns an ideal combination of big size, quick reflexes and a competitive attitude. Needs some time to adjust to a brighter spotlight|
|7||6||Jake Oettinger||19||A coaching change has Boston University going through some difficult growing pains, so Oettinger's current save percentage being below last season's says more about the team in front of him than it does about his play. A very similar type of goalie to Point, but his reactions are a little bit slower and he's not quite as competitive in comparison|
|8||NR||Albin Eriksson||18||A bit of a surprise pick when the Stars took him 44th overall in the 2018 draft, Eriksson is a prospect who could be a real game-breaker if his long-term development goes according to plan. With his large size, powerful skating, impressive puck control and heavy shot, he can be an explosive player sometimes. Still fighting for minutes in the SHL|
|9||8||Jakob Stenqvist||20||Stenqvist flew under the radar a bit as a Stars prospect over the past two seasons, but really made a name for himself with a strong performance at the prospect tournament in Traverse City. His skating stride is effortlessly graceful and fluid, allowing him to be a dynamic puck-mover. He's growing his game as a top-pair defender for Bjorkloven|
|10||NR||Oskar Back||18||Back was seen as a safe pick when he was taken by Dallas this past June thanks to his size and defensive acumen, but after seven points in 16 games and playing regular shifts on his team's power play, there might be more offensive upside than first expected. A staple for Sweden at international events, expect to see him at this year's WJCs|
|11||NR||Adam Mascherin||20||A former 2nd round pick of the Florida Panthers in 2016, Dallas was thrilled to select Mascherin as a draft re-entry in 2018. What he lacks in stature and speed he makes up for with excellent hockey IQ and a ridiculous release on his shot. A solid start to his rookie AHL season is a good sign that his strengths can outweigh his weaknesses|
|12||10||Nick Caamano||20||Caamano is off to a nice start in his professional career, carving out a Bottom 6 role on the Texas Stars and performing well enough to stay in the lineup every game so far. Helping Hamilton win the OHL title last season as a shutdown forward has helped him transition into a similar role this year. The points aren't there yet, but they'll come soon|
|13||NR||Joel L'Esperance||23||Talk about a pleasant surprise. The Stars' signing of L'Esperance over the summer was met with little fanfare, but it only took him a few months to truly establish himself as a top prospect in the system. He's an older prospect at 23 years of age, but he looks like a guy who could receive an NHL call-up and hold his own in the not-too-distant future|
|14||18||Gavin Bayreuther||24||An early-season injury paused what had been an impressive upward climb for Bayreuther, carrying through last year's AHL regular season and playoffs and then into Dallas' preseason. Were he healthy he likely would have made his NHL debut within the past few weeks. A talented offensive defender, his skill set is well-suited to today's game|
|15||9||Dillon Heatherington||23||He wouldn't be there were it not for injuries, and he's still being heavily sheltered, but Heatherington is nevertheless playing in the NHL, something that most prospects never get to experience. The big question is whether he has what it takes to eventually earn a full-time spot. Improving his puck movement is a must for the throwback blueliner|
|16||13||Joe Cecconi||21||Cecconi's ability to transform himself from a fairly one-dimensional defensive-defender just a few years ago into a reliable puck-mover and power-play contributor now has been very impressive. That versatility is going to lead him to a long professional career and quite likely at least some time in the NHL, even if the point totals don't translate|
|17||11||John Nyberg||22||Making the transition from European pro leagues to the AHL is not easy, and that's the challenge Nyberg is facing right now. With his size, skating and athleticism there are definitely tools at his disposal to work with, so the real question will be whether he has the intensity and decision-making needed to keep up with the best in North America|
|18||15||Jacob Peterson||19||Like his Bjorkloven teammate Stenqvist, Peterson is a talented Swedish youngster who is flying under the radar. He's quick and elusive in tight spaces, and plays with jump and assertiveness. Combine those attributes with keen awareness, a strong nose for the net and impressive finishing abilities and you have a recipe for a goal-scorer|
|19||12||Brett Davis||19||There aren't many forwards in the Stars' prospect pool who have notable offensive potential, so that bodes well for Davis' chances going forward. With his strong skating, accurate shot and above-average puck skills he has a few options for how to beat defenders. Consistency needs work, as some games he shines and others he's too quiet|
|20||20||Liam Hawel||19||Hawel is in the same spot in these rankings as last time, with the same pros and cons: he's a huge forward with remarkably soft hands and a great shot, but plays too passively and sometimes looks disinterested. Could be a dominating player if he played with more intensity, shot the puck more and went into the dirty areas with more frequency|