Movement abounds in the newest Dallas Stars Top 20 list. The acquisitions of Mattias Backman, Mattias Janmark and, most recently, Stephen Johns all make their respective impacts while two 2015 draft picks make the list as well. Meanwhile, three defensemen graduate the prospects list for regular NHL duty: John Klingberg, Jamie Oleksiak and Jyrki Jokipakka. The Stars also bid adieu to Ludwig Karlsson and 2009 top ten pick Scott Glennie, neither of whom received a qualifying offer.
Despite graduations to the NHL, the Stars continue to boast a deep group, though maybe one that looked better a year ago in terms of high-end potential down the ranks. Big upside still exists though to be sure, especially in the form of recent first round picks Julius Honka and Denis Guryanov.
20. (NR) Matej Stransky, RW, 6.5C
Drafted: 6th round, 165th overall, 2011
Hulking winger Matej Stransky completed his second pro season with rather modest totals of seven goals and 19 points in 70 games. However, as a project pick, it is important for him to show some level of progression as he works on his game. The big wing seemed to be smoother as the year went on and he did pot 11 points in his last 27 tilts (including six in his last ten). Besides his 6’3, 210 pound frame, Stransky also has a nice shot that can score from mid-range and he does not need to be asked twice (or even once, really) to fire the disc. His defensive game has improved markedly over the past six to nine months as well.
Like many others of this player type, Stransky is a work in progress and will continue to be one. However, he did show some penchant for becoming a grinding forward who can roll off the wall or off players and get quality chances. The strong scorer certainly has intriguing upside left in his development arc at age 22.
19. (17) Radek Faksa, C, 6.5B
Drafted: 1st round, 13th overall, 2012
2012 first round pick Radek Faksa’s season was cut short thanks to a January shoulder surgery. Prior to that, he registered ten points in 32 games while playing in a depth role. Unfortunately, injuries have really helped to stagnate the development of Faksa to date. Though, with a lot of time off the ice over the past nine months, Faksa has been preparing himself well in the gym. The Czech center has improved his skating since his days in the OHL, but has lost a bit of his physicality. To that end, Faksa is expected to come into camp at about 215 pounds, instead of hovering near 200, which might make the 6’3 pivot a little more vicious on the ice.
He is useful in a lot of areas, but does not really have much of a niche at this point in his young pro career. It would be nice to see him get more involved in plays and perhaps gain some confidence in his abilities. For a player that is not at all oblivious out there, it is strange how little he touches the puck during games sometimes.
18. (13) Michael Prapavessis, D, 7.0C
Drafted: 4th round, 105th overall, 2014
The RPI freshman defenseman had a bit of a timid start to the season, but really started to get the hang of things later in the year and gained more and more ice time and confidence as the season grew old. Though eight points in 41 games seems like a letdown, half of those came in his last ten games – at the end of the season he was only two points off the pace for club blueliners. He did receive some consideration for the ECAC All-Rookie Team.
The wiry defenseman is a terrific skater and has excellent vision and hockey sense. As he improves his physicality and confidence, Prapavessis could really take some big steps forward in a hurry. Given the somewhat limited talent around him, the recent fourth round pick should have no trouble being a top-four defenseman going into the year.
17. (11) Mattias Janmark, C, 7.0C
Acquired: Via trade with Detroit, March 2015
Mattias Janmark, the remarkably consistent Swedish center, was acquired from Detroit with Mattias Backman at the trade deadline but spent nearly all of the season in the SHL. Janmark did hit a career-best 36 points in 55 games in his first season with Vastra Frolunda. After Janmark’s club was eliminated in the semi-finals by the eventual champions from Vaxjo, he joined Texas for their abbreviated playoffs, playing in one game.
The 2013 third-round selection will turn 23 in December but is headed back to Sweden once again for the 2015-16 season. He certainly has the skills and smarts to be a playmaking center, but he does not have a lot of strength on the puck and there may be some valid questions about his ability to withstand the rigors of the longer, more grueling North American season.
16. (12) Devin Shore, C, 7.0C
Drafted: 2nd round, 61st overall, 2012
As a junior, Devin Shore took on the captain’s ‘C’ at the University of Maine – one of a number of players in the Dallas system that are part of a leadership group. Despite Shore’s very slow start in a season that many thought could garner Hobey Baker votes if all went well, Shore still once again easily led his teammates in points (35 in 39 games). He improved an already good defensive game as well, further readying him for lower line plays in the pros.
Because Maine’s schedule ended early in the calendar year, Shore was able to get a greater-than-usual amount of experience in the AHL before the close of business there. He found himself in 22 games (earning the trust of the coaching staff enough to play in all three playoff games, included in that total), scoring five goals and seven points. While statistically it seemed as if Shore may have lost his way or stagnated, he made good strides towards being a better pro over the past twelve months. His hockey IQ is his best asset and will carry him where he gets to as a pro.
15. (16) Curtis McKenzie, LW, 6.5B
Drafted: 6th round, 159th overall, 2009
Though the 2009 draft class for the Stars batted 1.000 at getting players into at least one NHL game, the only one left in the organization is the last one they selected: Curtis McKenzie. After a dynamite season in the AHL in 2013-14, McKenzie earned the right to split the year between the NHL and AHL in 2014-15. His 21 points in 31 AHL contests are nice, but a far cry from his work last year as a top-line complementary scorer. Four goals and five points in 36 NHL games as mostly a grunt-man is nothing to be disappointed about, particularly as McKenzie was mainly brought in for his physical play and forechecking ability.
Like a few other players in the organization, McKenzie has a knack for finishing off plays started by some superbly talented players – a value that endures in all leagues. Currently an NHL mucker, the former Miami University Redhawk can manufacture offense off the boards or drive hard to the net and pick up those greasy goals from an adept playmaker just as well. It would not be surprising to see McKenzie play anywhere from the first line to the fourth line and back again going forward, depending on how well he can polish his offense in the show.
14. (15) Esa Lindell, D, 7.0C
Drafted: 3rd round, 74th overall, 2012
Esa Lindell broke out in a big way in the top Finnish league last season after joining Assat and leaving Jokerit. His five-point season in 2013-14 ballooned into a 14-goal, 35-point campaign out of seemingly nowhere. That eventually won him the Pekka Rautakallio Award for the league’s most prolific defenseman. Lindell showed his penchant for offensive play at the World Championships as well, netting six points in eight games.
Though it may be unexpected to have a young defenseman who has accomplished such remarkable feats relatively low on the list, Lindell has plenty of work to do if he wants to be an impact NHLer. Between his transition skating, puck carrying ability and defensive zone coverage, Lindell has lots to smooth out on the North American rinks in 2015-16. However, given his pedigree and offensive upside, he should have no problem getting plenty of reps at the AHL level.
13. (NR) Roope Hintz, LW, 7.0C
Drafted: 2nd round, 49th overall, 2015
Grabbing a player with a full season of high-level pro experience in the fringes of the top-50 selections can sometimes be rare, but the Stars got just that with Finnish winger Roope Hintz. Following a strong season of 17 points and a +8 rating in 42 Liiga games, Hintz was snagged by HIFK, where he will begin play next season. The intelligent Finnish forward also acquitted himself well at the World Junior Championships despite the disappointing performance from the team as a whole.
With good size and even better hockey sense, Hintz is versatile, deliberate and proactive on the ice at all times. There is little wasted energy with him and every stride has a purpose. In terms of his offensive ability, Hintz has good vision and a surprisingly quick release. How much his offensive game develops will determine where he climbs to in his career, but the floor seems very high for him given his multitude of skills.
12. (14) Remi Elie, LW, 7.0C
Drafted: 2nd round, 40th overall, 2013
Already in the midst of another point per game season, Remi Elie found himself on his way to Erie and on his way to a significant boost in production. Teaming up with preeminent superstar Connor McDavid, Elie would notch 42 points in his next 28 games, followed by 19 assists and 23 points in 19 playoff matches. Elie’s rambunctious and vigorous style made for a fine complementary piece with McDavid and helped to propel Erie all the way to the OHL Final.
Elie has the feel of the prototypical ‘third man’ on a high-flying line: the Chris Kunitz to a Sidney Crosby, the Matt Moulson to a John Tavares, the Scott Hartnell to a Claude Giroux. The question, outside of development, becomes getting that chance and who he can be matched with to develop those skills. The 2013 second round pick is a talented player in his own right and can finish plays with a degree of panache if the situation arises. He also is a willing competitor who is strong on the puck and can grind a cycle if need be. Elie’s versatile and mature game should see him adapt to the pro game fairly seamlessly.
11. (10) Philippe Desrosiers, G, 7.5D
Drafted: 2nd round, 54th overall, 2013
A 47-save performance to win the QMJHL title in double overtime capped off a strong QMJHL season for Philippe Desrosiers. Though his Rimouski Oceanic club would fall short in the Memorial Cup, Desrosiers has a lot to hang his hat on in his final junior season. He led the league in goals against average at 2.50 and finished strong in other categories as well. After the conclusion of the junior season, Desrosiers was named the CHL Goaltender of the Year.
Not all was rosy for Desrosiers, as he did lose his job for half of the playoffs to the undrafted Louis-Philippe Guindon. He recaptured it late in the QMJHL Final and rallied the club from a 3 games to 2 deficit to win the title. The quick goaltender did improve over the year and is still trying to find exactly what he wants his exact style to be. His rebound control and direction is beyond his years, but he seems prone to lose focus on what should be routine shots, especially near the short-side post. Desrosiers is likely to be a starter in the ECHL next season and perhaps could see some starts in the AHL as well.