The past few weeks have been painful for Dallas Stars fans, seeing the team’s 2017-2018 playoff hopes steadily fading away. In times likes this, it can be beneficial to take a step back and, instead, focus on the future.
With that being said, now is the time for another edition of the 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: “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 last edition’s rankings: Julius Honka and Jason Dickinson.
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.
Prospect Rankings - March 2018
|1||1||Miro Heiskanen||18||It should come as no surprise that Heiskanen is atop these rankings once again. The silky, poised defenseman is not only the undisputed top prospect in the Dallas system, but he's also one of the better prospects in all of hockey. After showing very well at the Olympics, Heiskanen is already ready to make the jump to the NHL|
|2||3||Roope Hintz||21||Hintz hasn't looked out of place whatsoever in his first season in North America, quickly emerging as one of the top players on the AHL's Texas Stars. The big, smooth forward has looked good at both center and wing for Texas, versatility that will be an asset in the NHL. A top call-up option at forward, his NHL debut isn't very far away|
|3||6||Jason Robertson||18||Robertson has been as steady as they come in the OHL this season, producing at a pretty consistent clip, with a few big multi-point games thrown in. He's a constant threat in front of the net and along the boards, using his sturdy frame and fantastic hand-eye coordination to dominate the puck. A volume shooter, he led the OHL in shots|
|4||5||Riley Tufte||19||Tufte's development is going more slowly than would be ideal, but he is nevertheless still taking steps forward and improving parts of his game that needed work. His positioning and hand-eye coordination around the net have gotten better, and combining that with his gigantic size, he's become more of a threat for scoring dirty goals|
|5||7||Denis Gurianov||20||Compared to last season, Gurianov has gotten stronger and started going to the tougher areas of the ice more frequently, both of which are great to see. However, his overall progress since last year isn't markedly noticeable, which is a concern. He's still caught chasing the play too often, and his shot totals have actually gone down|
|6||8||Jake Oettinger||19||Even though his numbers have gone down since last season, Oettinger remains a standout goaltending prospect. Following a slow start, he completely turned his game around after Christmas. He's produced a few wins in games where he faced a ton of rubber, and has come up clutch in a number of enormous games for BU|
|7||9||Colton Point||20||Point's 2017-18 season was nothing short of remarkable, staying almost unbeatable from his first game to his last and finishing with an eye-popping .944 save percentage. He also won a World Junior gold medal as Canada's backup. With size, smarts, reflexes and competitiveness, Point has all the tools you want a goalie to have|
|8||12||Jakob Stenqvist||20||One of the best skaters in the Stars' system, Stenqvist is a fun player to watch. His stride is long and fluid, allowing him to cover a lot of ice in a hurry. The Swedish defenseman also shows quick hands and poise when handling the puck, especially on the powerplay, where he scores most of his points. Could have a high NHL ceiling|
|9||14||Dillon Heatherington||22||Heatherington has dressed in five contests for Dallas so far this season and has not looked out of place. He'll never be a flashy player, but he plays a safe, clean, responsible defensive game, the type of guy that you can trust with regular usage on the 3rd pair and the penalty kill. Might have a long, steady NHL career ahead of him|
|10||13||Nick Caamano||19||It has been a bit of a topsy-turvy season for Caamano, getting traded midway through and then having to find his place on a Hamilton Bulldogs team that loaded up with other trade acquisitions as well. The good news is that Hamilton is a team that could go on a long run in the playoffs, which would be a great learning experience|
|11||10||John Nyberg||21||It doesn't take long when watching Nyberg play to really appreciate his potential. He possesses a good frame and reach, and can hit an excellent top gear once he finds some open ice. Doesn't really specialize in any areas of the game, but certainly seems like the type of defender that will be able to drive possession at even strength|
|12||NR||Brett Davis||18||Another guy that turned his season around following the Christmas break, Davis has really emerged as a forceful player with the WHL's Kootenay Ice. A versatile forward that can make an impact in a number of ways, Davis can play center and wing, as well as both sides of special teams. Don't be surprised if he breaks out in 2018-19|
|13||16||Joseph Cecconi||20||Cecconi has grown a lot this season at the University of Michigan and really established himself as a prospect with potential. Shows a lot more confidence with the puck, and when given an unfamiliar opportunity to become a regular on the power play he seized the moment. Very strong on his skates, but his feet could be quicker|
|14||19||Rhett Gardner||22||Recently named the top defensive forward in the NCHC for the 2017-18 season, Gardner knows what his strengths are and maximizes them. He'll never be a big scorer in the pros, but his size, skating, smarts and tenacity should allow him to chip in points by going hard to the net. Shows a lot of potential as a shutdown player|
|15||NR||Jacob Peterson||18||Peterson made a statement after getting called up to Bjorkloven in the Allsvenskan, scoring five points in 10 games and then adding two more in five playoff games. Very fast skater who can also make nifty moves with the puck while in top gear. Still needs to add bulk and learn the fine details of the pro game, but his foundation is solid|
|16||11||Fredrik Karlstrom||20||Despite getting to add a World Junior silver medal to his trophy case, Karlstrom had an otherwise forgettable season, never really hitting his stride. His developmental future is murky: doesn't seem to have the creativity or dynamic skills to be an offensive guy, but also doesn't have the grit or energy needed to be a shutdown guy|
|17||18||Ondrej Vala||19||Vala's biggest weakness earlier in the season was his defensive play, so getting traded to the best defensive team in the WHL, the Everett Silvertips, was exactly what his development needed. The Czech blueliner's natural skills are great, so if he can really learn how to excel within a detailed system he will have a bright future ahead|
|18||17||Gavin Bayreuther||23||Bayreuther has come along nicely in his first AHL season, steadily becoming more confident on the attack while also working out the kinks in his defensive play. Questions exist about his NHL upside, but he might be able to carve out a role for himself as a 3rd pair defender that drives possession and can chip in on the power play|
|19||15||Landon Bow||22||Bow hasn't had a breezy season, facing a ton of rubber playing behind a Texas Stars team that often gets outplayed and outshot, but his ability to keep hanging in there has been solid. He's stolen more than a few wins for his squad, too. Could be the starter for Texas next year and the first call-up to Dallas if they need a netminder|
|20||20||Liam Hawel||18||Hawel is the type of player that you draft because you envision what he could become one day after a ton of development. Grew into a central role with the Guelph Storm as the season went along. For his size, however, you'd like to see more physicality and more nastiness; the 6'4" pivot plays just a little too soft in important battles|