Stars Top 20 Prospects, Fall 2008

By Mike Farkas

The Dallas Stars have been looking to restock their organizational depth as more and more prospects fill in holes in the team’s aging lineup.  They won the Fabian Brunnstrom sweepstakes and did not make a single trade (specifically, trade down) during the draft this summer. Both could be big steps in the right direction as the Stars look to replenish a diminished group.

Top 20 at a glance

1. Ivan Vishnevskiy, D
2. James Neal, LW
3. Mark Fistric, D
4. Fabian Brunnstrom, LW
5. Jamie Benn, LW
6. Konstantin Pushkarev, RW
7. Perttu Lindgren, C
8. Ondrej Roman, LW/C
9. Richard Bachman, G
10. Raymond Sawada, RW
11. Nico Sacchetti, C
12. Sergei Korostin, LW
13. Tobias Stephan, G
14. Chris Conner, LW
15. Lauri Tukonen, RW
16. Philip Larsen, D
17. Scott Winkler, C
18. Tyler Beskorowany, G
19. Colton Sceviour, RW
20. David McIntyre, C

Rank. Name, position – 2007-08 team (league)
Grade: (prev. grade)

1. Ivan Vishnevskiy, D – Rouyn-Noranda Huskies (QMJHL)

Grade: 7.5C (7.5C)

Despite a midseason injury, Vishnevskiy went a point per game from the blueline for the Huskies in 2007-08.  Once again, the commendations came rolling in.  He was nominated as a second-team QMJHL all-star and was named to Team Russia for the Super Series against Canada. 

Vishnevskiy is a very smooth skater with a ton of offensive weaponry.  He is still a work in progress in his own end, but it seems likely he will at least become a power-play specialist at the NHL level.  His vision and passing ability set him apart from a lot of other offensive defensemen.  He is likely to play a similar role and similar game as Lubomir Visnovsky, however, his ceiling is a notch below the bar that Visnovsky has set. 

2. James Neal, LW – Iowa Stars (AHL)

Grade: 7.0B (7.0B)

Neal turned pro in 2007-08 and seemed to get better as the year progressed in the AHL.  He was injured during the season, but came back strong after a slow start.  He ended up leading all Iowa Stars rookies in points. 

As always, power forwards will take longer to develop, so a slow start to Neal’s professional debut was to be expected anyway.  He’s a complete player with good size and does his best work along the boards.  When his frame fills out and his skating catches up to his skill level, Neal could be a notable force at the next level.

3. Mark Fistric, D – Iowa Stars (AHL)/Dallas Stars (NHL)

Grade: 6.5A (6.5A)

After a rash of injuries to Dallas’ defensive ranks, Fistric stepped in very well to the makeshift blueline.  He played more than half of his games last season with Dallas, and the rest with Iowa.  Fistric also got a good taste of the NHL playoffs, playing nine games as a 21-year-old.

Fistric has good size, and his hard work off the ice has made him a surprisingly nimble skater.  He is a little rough around the edges still and has limited offensive potential.  However, it seems fairly safe to say that he can be a solid third-pairing physical defenseman in the NHL.

4. Fabian Brunnstrom, LW – Färjestads BK (SEL)

Grade: 7.0C (N/A)

The Fabian Brunnström hype machine was out in full force this summer.  For a good portion of last season, Brunnström’s excellent play fueled the fire.  However, he faltered down the stretch and was a non-factor in the playoffs for Färjestads, as he netted just one point in 12 games.  Thus it is very debatable whether or not Brunnström was even the best forward on his own team last year, let alone the best free agent in Europe as some have claimed.

However, he should not be downplayed too much.  He is a dangerous offensive threat with good speed and good puck protection.  He’s a capable backchecker and has an assortment of unexpected moves in his repertoire.  He may not take the NHL by storm in his first year, he might not even be NHL ready, but he certainly possesses intriguing potential.

5. Jamie Benn, LW – Kelowna Rockets (WHL)

Grade: 7.0C (7.0C)

Benn established himself on many radar screens with a tremendous rookie year in the WHL.  In the 10 games before a midseason ankle injury, Benn was on a streak that netted 10 goals and 25 points.  He was on such a torrid pace that he had legitimate shot of leading the WHL in scoring in his first year.  He had to settle for leading all WHL rookies in goals, however.

Benn is a sniper who has a strong knack for being in the right place at the right time.  He is still something of a project, as he lacks top-end skating ability and strong defensive awareness.  However, at just 19 he’ll have plenty of time to work on his all-around game.

6. Konstantin Pushkarev, RW – Iowa Stars (AHL)/CSKA Moscow (RSL)

Grade: 7.0C (7.0C)

After Pushkarev left for Russia midseason, he seemed poised to plummet down the Stars prospect ranks.  However, he returned to Iowa and put together a pretty good season on both sides of his shortened defection.  He posted 40 points in 49 games, the best point-per-game average on a rather lackluster Stars team in 2007-08. 

One thing that seperates Pushkarev from his peers is his willingness to take on the physicality of the North American game.  While he is still somewhat lanky, he will mix it up from time to time.  He has the offensive tools to be an effective professional player.  The Kazakh sniper could find his way into Dallas’ lineup at some points during the 2008-09 season.

7. Perttu Lindgren, C – Iowa Stars (AHL)

Grade: 7.0C (6.5C)

Lindgren is hoping to further learn the North American game in 2008-09 after getting his first dose of it with Iowa in 2007-08.  Lindgren put his creative playmaking skills to use on a less than stellar Stars team, registering 24 assists and 34 points in 69 games.  The fact that Lindgren came over to North America to work on his game and pursue an NHL career is very promising.  His somewhat dramatic rise up the totem pole in Dallas’ system is explained by his rather smooth transition in his first year across the pond.

The Finnish forward is a pure center.  His backchecking is not done at a dogged pace by any means, but he does read plays well and is developing a knack for being in passing lanes at the right time.  His highest ceiling may be higher than first thought, but there is still much work to be done before he reaches it.

8. Ondrej Roman, LW/C – Spokane Chiefs (WHL)

Grade: 7.0C (6.5C)

Roman continued to improve in his second WHL season.  After demonstrating nothing but astute playmaking skills offensively in 2006-07, he found the net a little more in 2007-08 (15 goals).  He then tied for the club lead in points (20) in 21 playoff games as his Chiefs won the Memorial Cup.

By and large, Roman is a playmaking winger who tends not to shoot.  He has a lot of qualities without the puck on his stick as well.  He plays a solid two-way game and is not intimidated by physical play.  Like Lindgren, his highest ceiling has been pushed up a bit but, similarly, Roman has a long way to go. 

9. Richard Bachman, G – Colorado College (NCAA)

Grade: 7.0C (7.0D)

Bachman put up fantastic numbers as a freshman for Colorado College, earning him WCHA Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year honors.   But despite the regular season accomplishments, Colorado College’s season was quickly ended by Michigan State in a less than stellar outing from Bachman. No one would be just in throwing the "playoff choker" tag on anyone at Bachman’s age, but it will be important for him to take it to another level in his biggest games this year.  If he should go on to put up a performance even greater than last year’s, there could be a lot of Hobey Baker talk around Colorado Springs this year.

Bachman’s athleticism is top-notch, so is his glove.  His size and consistency are his weaknesses.

10. Raymond Sawada, RW – Cornell University (NCAA)/Iowa Stars (AHL)

Grade: 6.5B (6.0C)

Sawada completed a full four-year stint at Cornell University and joined Iowa for an impressive 10-game showing at the conclusion of their regular season.  Sawada developed himself into impressive package of size, speed and aggressive play.  He probably does not have the top-end talent necessary to be a consistent scoring threat at the NHL level, but it won’t be for lack of effort.  Conversely, his nine points in his first 10 professional games may be end up being a sign of things to come.

He had a tremendous 2007-08 campaign in both college and, albeit briefly, at the professional level as well.  It shouldn’t be long before Sawada earns a role with Dallas.

11. Nico Sacchetti, C – Omaha Lancers (USHL)

Grade: 7.0C (7.0C)

After dominating at the Minnesota high school level (90 points in 25 games) in 2006-07, Sacchetti moved onto the USHL in 2007-08.  He got off to a sluggish start and ended up spending plenty of time on the third line for the eventual USHL champs.  He had a disappointing year compared to expectations coming into the season. 

Sacchetti’s claim to fame is his shot.  He has excellent moves and when he’s on his game he can put on quite a show.  However, before he slides up any further he will have to reassure that he can handle the rigors of a higher level of hockey.  He will move up to the Univ. of Minnesota this year.

12. Sergei Korostin, LW/RW – Dynamo Moscow (RSL)/Texas Tornado (NAHL)

Grade: 7.0D (7.0C)

Korostin left Russia for the NAHL’s Texas Tornado in 2008.  He registered nearly a point per game for Texas before they were eliminated in the first round.  He will most likely move up to the London Knights of the OHL in 2008-09, where his skills will really be put to the test.

The Russian forward always has the puck on his stick, wants it on his stick or is in hot pursuit of it with his tremendous acceleration.  He will have to get a better understanding of the team concept before he’ll be a totally effective player at even in the major junior level.  He does have loads of offensive potential and this will be a very key year in his development.

13. Tobias Stephan, G – Iowa Stars (AHL)/Dallas Stars (NHL)

Grade: 6.5B (6.5B)

The Swiss netminder made his NHL debut in 2007-08.  In his lone game, he held a shutout until 59:58 mark of regulation time – the result was an overtime loss.  Stephan got a valuable, and most importantly, full season in the AHL with Iowa.  He took home Iowa’s "Unsung Hero" Award.

Stephan is a tall, calm, and controlled goalie who displays a good economy of movement.  He does have plenty of rough spots in his game, but he will have the luxury of learning from one of the league’s best in Marty Turco.  Stephan is poised to be Turco’s backup this season and with a lack of professional goaltenders in the system, if he is at least serviceable in his appearances he could cement himself there.

14. Chris Conner, LW – Iowa Stars (AHL)/Dallas Stars (NHL)

Grade: 6.5C (6.5C)

The very undersized, but gritty, Conner saw a good amount of NHL time last year – 22 games worth.  He made the best of his AHL time with 39 points in 55 games.  Conner spent four years with Michigan Tech (NCAA) before being a call-up from Iowa for the past two seasons.  He saw bottom-six minutes with the Stars but a bit of time on the power play as well. 

The biggest issue with Conner is his somewhat diminutive stature and his lack of an NHL niche.  It seems very unlikely that he will feature in the top-six group of forwards at this level, so he will need to establish himself as a role player in some regard.  Otherwise, he may not provide any more than organizational depth in the AHL.

15. Lauri Tukonen, LW/RW – Manchester Monarchs (AHL)/Los Angeles Kings (NHL)

Grade: 7.0D (7.0D)

Tukonen was acquired after the 2007-08 season by the Dallas Stars in exchange for lunch pailer Richard Clune.  Tukonen had completed another year in the Kings organization that was well below expectations.  Not only did this year contain an injury, but there were rumors of Tukonen’s discontent in Los Angeles (and, perhaps, vice-versa) that helped push him out the door.

The Finnish forward was thought to be one of the more NHL-ready prospects of the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, where he was selected at 11th overall.  He’s a two-way forward that has a dimension of grit that a lot of clubs held in high regard.  Since coming to North America, he has not really been much of a force in the AHL, much less the NHL.  Perhaps the Stars will have some luck in re-establishing this former LA Kings prospect, as it appears they may have done with Konstantin Pushkarev.

16. Philip Larsen, D – Borås HC (SWE-2)/Västra Frölunda HC (SWE-J20)/Västra Frölunda HC (SEL)

Grade: 7.0D (N/A)

This Danish defender was selected by the Stars in the fifth round of the 2008 NHL Draft.  Larsen has gathered plenty of experience all over Sweden and in international tournaments.  In the Division 1B U18 World Juniors, Larsen took home "best defenseman" honors in 2006.  He has seen more than a handful of games at Sweden‘s highest level, but the offensive defenseman has yet to register a point.

Larsen is a fantastic skater with an offensive mindset.  He is very intelligent and cognizant in the offensive zone.  His vision sometimes borders on "adventurous" but that will be fixed with good coaching and experience.  He is one of the finest defensemen to ever come out of Denmark.  He’s still years away, but the potential is obvious.

17. Scott Winkler, C – Russell Stover Stars (U.S. Midget)

Grade: 6.5C (6.5C)

The Norwegian-born forward came over to work his way from the Midget level.  Already speaking English very well, the transition was very smooth.  Winkler is a solid all-around performer, with few weaknesses but few decided strengths.  However, he’s determined to overcome any obstacles in his path with a great attitude and work ethic.

Most notably in his young career, Winkler’s efforts have helped Norway‘s U18 WJC team slide up to the top-tier (Group A) of the tournament.  He will move on to the USHL and then Colorado College the following season.  A lot will become known about Winkler and the progression of his game as he quickly moves up the ranks in the next two seasons.

18. Tyler Beskorowany, G – Owen Sound Attack (OHL)

Grade: 7.0D (N/A)

The sizeable netminder spent the year behind a rather forgettable Owen Sound team that yielded more than 36 shots per game with him in net.  Beskorowany battled hard and took home many team awards, including team MVP and Rookie of the Year. 

The 6’4, 203-pounder had his work cut out for him in 2007-08, but is hoping to get some help in 2008-09.  He’s still raw, even for his age, but there’s a lot of potential.  He’s got the great size and, like many Stars goalies past and present, he can play the puck with confidence.  There are some technical issues that need ironing out, but at 18, that’s to be expected.  He’s years away, but when the Stars handpick a goalie with their first selection, it shows that they have a lot of confidence in the young netminder.

19. Colton Sceviour, RW – Portland Winter Hawks (WHL)/Lethbridge Hurricanes (WHL)

Grade: 6.5C (6.5C)

Sceviour benefited handsomely from an early-season trade to Lethbridge.  He potted career highs in goals and points during his time with the Hurricanes, not including his 17 games with Portland.  He was no slouch in the playoffs either, his 13 points in 19 games helped the Hurricanes to an Eastern Conference Championship. 

Sceviour is armed with an impressive shot and a good work ethic.  He’s a team player who won’t hesitate to finish his checks or dig for pucks in the trenches.  However, it’s unclear how well his offensive talents will translate to the next level.  Improving his all-around game even further would help his appeal.

20. David McIntyre, C – Colgate University (NCAA)

Grade: 6.5D (6.5D)

McIntyre’s 2007-08 campaign propelled him close to the top of Colgate’s team leaders.  He nearly doubled his points while essentially halving his penalty minutes.  The Ontario nativw will return for his junior season. 

McIntyre has tremendous acceleration and handles the game well at top speed.  His hands are well above average too.  He could stand to round out his game a little more and become stronger. 

Missing the Cut

- Overage selection Mike Bergin.  A strong two-way defenseman who shows little in the way of weaknesses, but is very unproven (6.5D).

- Gritty two-way center Matt Tassone.  He showed something of a scoring touch in the WHL last season and the competitive drive is always present (6.0C).

- Creative center Tom Wandell.  Wandell is heading back to Sweden in 2008-09, his "longshot" status is furthered, but the offensive gifts are certainly on display (6.5D).

The Stars have relinquished the rights to:
- Goal-scoring winger Sergei Kukushin
- Power forward Fredrik Naslund
- Defensive defenseman Lukas Vomela
- Gritty winger Max Warn

The Stars also failed to sign college seniors Matt McKnight and Trevor Ludwig by the Aug. 15 deadline.