The summer months between hockey seasons are a great time to take a step back and analyze different aspects of teams, how well they have performed and how well they project to perform in the future.
The main frenzy of NHL free agency passed earlier this month, but there are still free agents left to be signed and trades that could still be made. Because of this, along with just natural anticipation for what happens next, most of the analysis going on right now looks toward the 2017-18 season.
However, summer is also a great time to dig deeper into NHL organizations, which includes evaluating how well they have set themselves up for future success. After all, success in many goals and projects comes from carefully planning multiple steps in advance.
Today I’m going to take a look at exactly that for the Dallas Stars, by listing and exploring the players who will likely make up the team’s future and how they project as a group. This includes both young NHLers and prospects playing in other leagues.
Many of these players might not be with the team in three, five, or 10 years, but some of them will be. Some of them will become core players, the future faces of the franchise and the bearers of the team’s hopes for success.
Below I’ve compiled lists of which players the Stars currently have in their organization who are under the age of 25, sorted by positions and ages, as well as thoughts and observations about what we could expect from the overall group in the future.
Let’s dig in.
Forwards under 25
|Left Wing||Center||Right Wing|
|Left Wing||Center||Right Wing|
|Remi Elie (23)||Radek Faksa (24)||Valeri Nichushkin (23)|
|Riley Tufte (21)||Devin Shore (24)||Tony Calderone (23)|
|Adam Mascherin (20)||Gemel Smith (24)||Denis Gurianov (21)|
|Jermaine Loewen (20)||Jason Dickinson (23)||Nick Caamano (19)|
|Jason Robertson (19)||Joel L'Esperance (22)|
|Albin Eriksson (18)||Rhett Gardner (22)|
|Roope Hintz (21)|
|Fredrik Karlstrom (20)|
|Brett Davis (19)|
|Jacob Peterson (19)|
|Liam Hawel (19)|
|Ty Dellandrea (18)|
|Curtis Douglas (18)|
|Oskar Back (18)|
|Riley Damiani (18)|
Defensemen under 25
|Left Pair||Right Pair|
|Left Pair||Right Pair|
|Gavin Bayreuther (24)||Niklas Hansson (23)|
|Esa Lindell (23)||Julius Honka (22)|
|Dillon Heatherington (23)||Joseph Cecconi (21)|
|John Nyberg (22)||Jakob Stenqvist (20)|
|Chris Martenet (21)||Dawson Barteaux (18)|
|Ondrej Vala (20)|
|Miro Heislanen (19)|
Goaltenders under 25
|Landon Bow (22)|
|Philippe Desrosiers (22)|
|Colton Point (20)|
|Markus Ruusu (20)|
|Jake Oettinger (19)|
What Looks Good
- Center depth is of the utmost importance in the NHL, and the Dallas Stars certainly have that. Faksa, Shore, and Smith have already established themselves as NHLers, while Dickinson and Hintz aren’t far off. Dellandrea, the Stars’ first-round, 13th-overall pick from the 2018 draft, is still a few years away from NHL duty, but he seems capable of having a long, productive career.
- This is one big group of players, with a number of them measuring in at 6-foot-3 or taller. They’re not just a bunch of stocky vending machines, either, as many of these players possess the ability to move around the ice quickly. The NHL is steadily becoming more and more welcoming to smaller players, but big teams (such as the Winnipeg Jets) are still able to be dangerous. The average height of NHL teams was a hair over 6-foot-1.1 in 2017-18, with the Jets the tallest team overall, but future Stars teams could seemingly be even bigger than them. Is that going to be a difference-maker? It’s hard to say. I don’t know if the NHL has ever seen a team with the combination of size and mobility that the Stars could put forward in a few seasons, but there’s no denying that there are many advantages that come from having that size.
- The left side of the blue line looks like it’s going to be set for a very, very long time. Lindell is already a bonafide top-pairing defenseman, and Heiskanen is one of the best young prospects in all of hockey. Between Bayreuther, Heatherington, Nyberg, and Vala the Stars should be able to develop at least one other NHL-caliber defender to slot in on the left side.
- After years spent wandering lost in the wilderness, so to speak, Dallas finally seems like it might soon have some homegrown NHL goaltenders. Point and Oettinger both have starter potential, while Bow has shown flashes of promise in the AHL. That’s a lot of good options to work with.
What Needs Improvement
- As good as the Stars’ center depth is, the offensive caliber of that talent could be an issue. Faksa and Shore have both put up 30+ point seasons in the NHL already, but their offensive ceilings aren’t high. Most of the centers behind them are either two-way pivots or shutdown specialists. Dellandrea is already a number one center in the OHL, but he seems to project more as a 2C in the NHL. Getting current number one center Tyler Seguin (who is still just 26 years old himself) locked up to a long extension is of the utmost importance, because if he leaves the team in free agency then it’s going to be nearly impossible for Dallas to replace him.
- Offensive production on the wings could be an issue too. Generally speaking, the biggest predictor of NHL scoring success is scoring success at lower levels. There’s no doubt that players like Nichushkin, Tufte, and Gurianov are skilled, but will any of them ever crack the 60-point mark? What about the 50-point mark? Scoring by committee is a huge asset, but you also want forwards who can take over games and be difference-makers. Who will the future Stars rely on when down a goal? Who will make the power play dangerous? Size and skating can only produce so much offense if, as a team, you don’t have the shooting, playmaking and offensive vision to round out the attack. Here’s hoping that at least some of the team’s top forward prospects can develop the skills needed to be major point producers in the NHL.
- As good as the Stars’ group of left-shooting prospects is, the right-shooting group isn’t quite as strong. Honka has talent, but he needs to find himself again after a season where his development was mishandled and, as a result, his confidence disappeared. Stenqvist is far more talented than most people realize, but he’s still a little raw and untested against top competition. Hansson, once a promising Stars prospect, seems to have stalled in his development.
The Dallas Stars don’t have a particularly good reputation for drafting and development, which is why this April tweet by Mark Stepneski came as such as surprise when he shared it:
From 2013 to 2018, the Stars ranked fifth in the NHL in games played by rookies and fifth in minutes played by rookies.— Mark Stepneski (@StarsInsideEdge) April 27, 2018
Some high-profile draft misses in the first rounds in recent years have significantly hindered the team’s ability to succeed, but that doesn’t negate the fact that the Stars still have a pretty good track record when it comes to producing NHL talent.
And, as I touched on previously in my recap of the Stars’ 2018 draft, the organization has now produced three strong drafts in a row, so there’s evidence that things are moving in the right direction.
Will it be enough? As good of a job as the Stars are doing right now, doing a good job isn’t enough; you have to do a better job than the other 30 teams in the league. That’s where things get tricky.
Prospects like Heiskanen and Dellandrea have loads of potential, but if the Stars are going to succeed in the future it’s going to have to be a complete team effort, with all four lines and all three defense pairs contributing at maximum efficiency, as opposed to a small handful of elite players putting the team over the top. They might need to get better than fifth in the league when it comes to producing NHLers to achieve that. If you can’t win with talent you better hope that you can win with depth instead.
There’s still work to be done and weaknesses that need to be addressed, but at the same time, there are also reasons why Stars fans should be hopeful about the team’s future.