Instead of just giving fans a preview of what’s to come this season, the Dallas Stars’ 2019 preseason also gave fans a preview of what the future has in store.
A number of the team’s top prospects suited up for the Stars during preseason action, but it was the play of newcomer Thomas Harley that specifically got people talking. The organization’s first-round pick, 18th overall, in this past June’s NHL entry draft, Harley displayed his mobile, puck-moving style of hockey and showed composure well beyond his years while going up against NHL competition. Despite being sent down to the OHL for the 2019-20 season, don’t be surprised if Harley makes the jump to Dallas in 2020-21.
With his performance fresh in people’s minds and almost all of the other Stars prospects back in action in their various leagues across North America and Europe, now is as good of a time as any to release the newest edition of Defending Big D’s Prospect Rankings.
The previous edition of these rankings, which came out in February, can be found here.
For consistency, I’m using the same definition of “prospect” as 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. In exceptional cases, a player may be graduated from prospect status without having yet met these criteria.”
Graduated from last edition’s rankings: None
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 right now. 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.
Dallas Stars Prospect Rankings: October 2019
|1||NR||Thomas Harley||18||In a weaker draft year Harley would have gone a lot higher than 18th overall. After all, 6-foot-3 defensemen with skill, athleticism and poise don't come around very often. Those attributes were on full display in his head-turning preseason performance, an enticing sign of things to come. The sky is the limit for his potential ceiling as a blueliner|
|2||2||Ty Dellandrea||19||Dellandrea narrowly missed making the Stars out of training camp, but he can now obtain the rewarding consolation prize of finally guiding the Flint Firebirds out of the OHL basement and into the playoffs. With better support around him than the past two years, don't be surprised if his numbers spike. Should play for Canada in the World Juniors|
|3||4||Jake Oettinger||20||Following three sterling seasons with Boston University, Oettinger turned pro in the spring and looked right at home in the AHL, immediately becoming the Texas Stars' to-go goaltender as they fought for a playoff spot. Dallas' projected starting netminder of the future, he earned praise for how well he played in his first-ever NHL preseason|
|4||3||Jason Robertson||20||After putting up gaudy scoring numbers all season long it was then no surprise at all that Robertson finished as the OHL's top point producer in 2018-19, with 117 in just 62 games. Don't let a quiet showing in the Traverse City Prospect Tournament and the preseason fool you: the big puck wizard is still a prospect with enormous long-term potential|
|5||1||Denis Gurianov||22||There's a big difference between making the NHL, and being a difference-maker in the NHL. That's the hump that Gurianov needs to get himself over this season. He has all the physical tools necessary to seize a full-time roster spot, and the organization's expectations of him for the year are nothing short of that. It's time for him to make some noise|
|6||5||Albin Eriksson||19||Ice time might be hard for him to come by this season on a deep Skelleftea club, but Eriksson is the type of player who can really break things open on any given shift thanks to his huge frame, explosive skating ability and killer scoring instincts. Should be on the radar to make the Swedish roster for the World Juniors if he can stay disciplined|
|7||6||Riley Tufte||21||Tufte is a hard prospect to evaluate. On one hand, he was a member of an NCAA club that won back-to-back NCAA championships. On the other hand, his offensive production took a big step backward last season. He'll be in the AHL this year, so hopefully a new environment and closer hands-on development from the Stars will be what he needs|
|8||14||Nick Caamano||21||Caamano made his NHL debut this past weekend because he knows what he's good at and how to play to his strengths, which are his forechecking ability, his responsible defensive game and his penalty killing. Additionally, he found goal-scoring success during his junior days, including a 35-goal season, so that could come as well in due time|
|9||13||Adam Mascherin||21||It's not easy for short players who aren't high-end skaters to produce in the pros, so Mascherin scoring 44 points in 75 games last year as an AHL rookie is a good sign. His development curve is a long one, but with his elite shooting ability and sharp hockey sense it's reasonable to project him as an NHL contributor at some point in the future|
|10||10||Oskar Back||19||Slow and steady wins the race for Back, who recently earned another roster spot in a Swedish pro league and keeps logging consistent minutes. The big center is best known for his defensive play and checking abilities, but he can make smooth plays with the puck when he finds the opportunities. Expect him on Sweden's WJC roster|
|11||20||Rhett Gardner||23||Like Caamano, Gardner made his NHL debut this past weekend because he really leans into his specialization as a checking forward. But unlike Caamano, Gardner can play the middle of the ice and projects as a shutdown center who can handle heavy usage, a role that always holds a lot of value. Think of him as a sort of Diet Radek Faksa.|
|12||18||Riley Damiani||19||Did the Stars find another gem in the 5th round of the draft? it certainly looks that way with Damiani, who put up 85 points last year in the OHL and could very well eclipse 100 this season. His size and skating might make his transition to the pros a challenge, but with his elite hockey IQ and slick puck control he's a prospect to be excited about|
|13||12||Ben Gleason||21||The Stars struck gold last fall when they signed Gleason, who went on to play four games in Dallas and finished the season as the top-scoring defenseman for Texas. Pretty impressive for an undrafted rookie pro. The cerebral puck-moving blueliner still needs to polish his overall game, but he's still young and has plenty of time to do so|
|14||8||Joel L'Esperance||24||Another undrafted prospect who turned out to be an amazing find by the Stars, L'Esperance surprised everyone by scoring 30 goals last year in the AHL. Even if his goal-scoring success turns out to be unsustainable, he nevertheless should be able to carve out an NHL role for himself thanks to his physical 200-foot game and ability to play center|
|15||NR||Landon Bow||24||Oettinger may be the Stars' goalie of the future, but Bow has come a long way in solidifying himself as a prospect with NHL potential. Naturally blessed with a huge frame, he's worked diligently at refining his game over the past few seasons, including doing a lot of training with Ben Bishop this summer. Could be Dallas' backup as soon as next year|
|16||16||Joe Cecconi||22||Cecconi debuted nicely in the AHL in the spring after turning pro out of college, but shoulder surgery put him on the sidelines for much of the fall. He's back now, but finding consistent ice time on a deep Texas defense might be a challenge. Nevertheless, he's a solid, reliable, right-shot defender with size, and those kinds of guys are always valued|
|17||19||Tye Felhaber||21||Felhaber tore apart the OHL last season, scoring 59 goals, but being an overage player on a powerhouse team makes that a little bit easier to do. Adjusting to the size and speed of the professional leagues will be a big jump, but the feisty and confident winger certainly seems up for the challenge. Don't expect too much from him too soon|
|18||11||Jakob Stenqvist||21||Following a path once taken by John Klingbeg, the Swedish defender Stenqvist is plying his trade in Finland this season, getting used to a slightly smaller ice surface before possibly coming to North America. Light on his feet and possessing a long skating stride, he covers ice well. However, he needs to make more of an impact during his shifts|
|19||9||Colton Point||21||The 2018-19 season was a tough one for Point, but the development of goaltenders often isn't a smooth process. The former Top 10 Hobey Baker finalist still has the tools needed to succeed in the NHL and will be given at least this season and next to refine his game. Getting playing time this year in the ECHL, though, could be a challenge|
|20||NR||Dawson Barteaux||19||After a productive Traverse City tournament and training camp, Barteaux recently inked his entry-level contract with the Stars. The new captain of the WHL's Red Deer Rebels, Barteaux will be Mr. Everything for his team this season, logging a ton of ice time in all situations. The right-shot defender's mobility and versatility are his calling cards|