Top 10 prospects
1. Ivan Vishnevskiy, D
2. James Neal, C
3. Mark Fistric, D
4. Sergei Korostin, RW
5. Fabian Brunnstrom, LW
6. Chris Conner, LW
7. Konstantin Pushkarev, RW
8. Jamie Benn, LW
9. Tobias Stephan, G
10. Richard Bachman, G
The Dallas Stars came into 2007 training camp with the league’s fourth oldest team. After some lengthy injuries to veteran regulars such as Jere Lehtinen, Sergei Zubov, Phillipe Boucher and Mattias Norstrom, the Stars got to put some of their youth and depth to the test.
Puck-moving rookie defenseman Matt Niskanen played 78 NHL games this season. Swedish rookie defenseman Nicklas Grossman logged 62 games for Dallas. The list goes on, Mark Fistric stepped up to spend half the season with the big club, Loui Eriksson made great strides this season to fill a gap in the top six and 24-year-old defenseman Trevor Daley did not miss a single game this year.
The Stars core group of forwards is locked in and ready to go. Recently acquired Brad Richards, team captain Brenden Morrow, and creative center Mike Ribeiro are all secured until at least 2011. They will complement an aging group consisting of Mike Modano, Jere Lehtinen and Stu Barnes. The Stars typically strong depth will take a hit if Niklas Hagman and Antti Miettinen do not return. They will hope for big things out of power forward James Neal and Swede Fabian Brunnstrom in the next couple seasons to cover for aging and lost scoring depth. A sizeable percentage of Dallas’ other forward prospects have longshot top-six-or-nothing potential or project to nothing more than energy forwards for the fourth line.
On the blueline, the incomparable Sergei Zubov won’t be around forever and the Stars do not have a likely No. 1 defenseman in the system to replace him. At 38 years old in July, Zubov leads Dallas in both talent and age. Phillipe Boucher is 35 and 36-year-old stalwart Mattias Norstrom just retired. Help is on the way, but again, it’s in the way of strong depth more than anything. Trevor Daley chipped in a solid performance at the age of 24, and following suit were youngsters Niskanen, Grossman and Fistric. The Stars top prospect, Ivan Vishnevskiy, is the only talented puck-mover that could possibly replace Zubov in sight.
Manning the net for Dallas is none other than Marty Turco. Turco has effectively shaken off the label of "playoff choker" with exemplary performances in his past two efforts. While Turco has plenty of good years ahead of him, he will be 33 by the start of next season and there is no heir apparent to the Dallas crease. With Mike Smith dealt to Tampa Bay, the Stars have more or less demolished their current NHL-caliber goaltending depth. Tobias Stephan was just handed the reigns in Iowa (AHL) for the first time and will likely be there again in 2008-09. Meanwhile, the only other legitimate goaltending prospect in the system, Richard Bachman, will continue to play for Colorado College.
The Stars prospect pool is mostly forwards at this point. Of the Stars top 20 prospects that have not played a single NHL game, only two of them are not forwards (Vishnevskiy and Bachman). Among all prospects, Fistric and Stephan make a total of four non-forwards. The Stars have a fair mix of forwards that will either play in a top-six role or will probably not play in the NHL at all. They also have a lot of role players and energy forwards in the system as well. However, a good portion of the Stars’ prospects could be described as longshots and wildcards at this juncture.
The needs are plentiful and wide-ranging in Dallas’ system. The only discernable strength, as mentioned above, is two-way forwards. Now that they have moved some to the NHL, the Stars lack bluechip prospects at every position. They do not have a forward who projects to be a first liner, a defenseman that projects to be a No. 1 or a goalie that projects to be a starter. Obviously, the lack of defensemen and goalies is a glaring issue for the organization.
Among forwards, James Neal is an intriguing power forward prospect. The Stars got the benefit of winning the "Fabian Brunnstrom sweepstakes" and will hope that he lives up to the substantial hype that he has received over the past season in Sweden. Perttu Lindgren and Konstantin Pushkarev are interesting projects, but they are just that: projects. With very few sure-fire forwards, the Stars need to add forwards that can step in soon for when Modano and crew retire.
Defensively, the Stars have a future power play quarterback in Vishnevskiy and a bottom pairing stay-at-home rearguard in Fistric. The latter will be considered a graduated prospect soon enough and the cupboard will be astonishingly bare at that point. Simply put, they need to put any kind of defensemen in the system.
In the blue paint, Dallas lacks potential starting goaltenders. Stephan projects to be a backup, and might fight hard enough to win that job as soon as next season. Bachman has a long way to go before he is considered NHL-ready, if he makes it at all. It is not the most pressing of needs at the moment considering Turco should still have plenty of years ahead of him and the goalie market is ripe with so much talent that some clubs have an excess of quality netminders.
As outlined above, the Stars have a lot of question marks throughout their ranks. The road becomes tougher for co-GMs Les Jackson and Brett Hull because they only have five draft picks in 2008 and none in the top 50 (59th, 89th, 149th, 176th and 209th). Under the old guard (Doug Armstrong), the Stars would often find themselves picking up extra picks on draft day and selecting several times in the second or fifth round, for instance, instead of selecting once in the first and once in the fourth. However, it is unclear what direction Jackson and Hull will go or what kind of flexibility they’ll actually have.
Historically, the Stars draft Europeans heavily and are not afraid to take chances on projects in later rounds. All this, however, could be flipped upside down as the Stars are under new management.
Hockey’s Future Staff Mock Draft result: no first-round pick