Dallas Stars prospects facing big challenges in the 2015-16 season

By Mike Farkas
Alex Peters - Dallas Stars

Photo: Heady defenseman Alex Peters needs a healthy season for the Flint Firebirds to stay relevant as a Dallas Stars prospect (courtesy of John Rivera/Icon Sportswire)

 

 

The Dallas Stars continue to exhibit a very balanced prospect group where a good variety of player types abound. They have a veritable cornucopia of players designated as prospects by Hockey’s Future’s standards – 42 in all, including 18 defensemen (not including Jamie Oleksiak and Jyrki Jokipakka). As a result, some very noteworthy players such as bulky winger Brett Ritchie, QMJHL champion goalie Philippe Desrosiers and the Swedish defense duo of Patrik Nemeth and Mattias Backman will not be mentioned below.


On the NHL roster, some of this youth and the recently-graduated prospects will be put to the test, as spots are available to be earned.

Pro

Top Prospect
Julius Honka, D, Texas Stars (AHL)

The best prospect in the organization is smooth-skating defenseman Julius Honka who was able to play in the AHL as an 18-year-old. With 31 points in 68 games, Honka not only participated, but he played very well – particularly late in the season, when it seemed like things really started to click for him. The offensive-minded blueliner is still ironing things out defensively, but he has a good grasp of the game and further development defensively seems imminent. The Stars have a bit of logjam of young, waiver-eligible defensemen that they have to sort through first at the NHL level, but it is not inconceivable that Honka could see a few games in the show this year.

NHL-Bound
Stephen Johns, D, Dallas Stars (NHL)

Acquired in a deal that sent long-time Stars blueliner Trevor Daley to the Blackhawks, Stephen Johns may make an impact on the NHL roster a little sooner than many might expect. A big, strong, right-handed shooting defenseman, Johns has been on a development route that can best be described as ‘patient’. However, after a strong season of mature play in the AHL with the Rockford IceHogs, Johns may have a look at a Stars roster spot before too long. A physical but very deliberate player, Johns is a growing asset on a very young Dallas blueline.

Unsigned for 2016-17
Jack Campbell, G, Texas Stars (AHL)

The last year on Jack Campbell’s entry level contract turned out to be far more tumultuous than anyone could have anticipated. He was assigned to the ECHL for the first time just to get time in the nets for a spell midseason. He struggled early in his AHL campaign, though he did turn it around late. The Stars gave him a one-year ‘prove it’ deal as well as a seemingly clear path to the AHL starting position – something he really has not had to date. That said, the 2010 first round pick will lose his waiver exemption after this season. Without a strong campaign, Campbell may suffer the same fate that preceding first round pick Scott Glennie was dealt in June.

CHL

Top Prospect
Brett Pollock, LW, Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL)

After the elusive Cole Ully graduated from the WHL, Brett Pollock moves into the top junior spot in the Dallas organization. A much different style of winger, Pollock is a power-move enthusiast who can score from in-close but also from mid-range with his heavy shot. His ability to walk off the wall and drive the net makes him tough to handle for most WHL defensemen. After a 32-goal season in 2014-15, the challenge for Pollock will be adding a little more of a dynamic element to his game to attack opposing defenses in a variety of ways.

Bounceback Prospect
Brent Moran, G, Niagara IceDogs (OHL)

It was a difficult season in 2014-15 for goaltender Brent Moran as he failed to defend his starting role with the IceDogs. He appeared in 38 games on the season, but 18 of those games were played prior to December 1st. Niagara addressed the situation early, by acquiring Brandon Hope in November and he ran with the crease for much of the year. The long and short of it was that Moran posted barely top-20 goalie stats in a 20-team league. The nets go back to Moran now though with only the inexperienced 1998 born Stephen Dhillon (2016) on the roster to challenge. Moran has a slew of capable ’96 born defensemen in front of him and the team is projected to be a contender in the East if Moran can hold it together.

Unsigned for 2016-17
Alex Peters, D, Flint Firebirds (OHL)

After a knee injury ended his 2014-15 season after just eight games, Alex Peters needs to accelerate his progression to earn a contract with the Dallas Stars. The 3rd round selection in the 2014 draft has been hampered by injuries in his young career and as he enters his 19-year-old season, the 6’3 defenseman only has 116 regular season OHL games under his belt. As the second-year captain of the freshly-relocated Flint Firebirds, the physical Peters will be counted on in a number of ways throughout the season.

Amateur

Top prospect
Michael Prapavessis, D, RPI Engineers (ECAC)

The prospect pool does not offer much to choose from in the NCAA ranks. One of their two university players is rangy defenseman Michael Prapavessis. The smooth skating blueliner moved up the RPI depth chart late in the year and really started to grow as a player. The 2014 fourth round pick plays an intelligent and composed game on both sides of the puck. With continued adjustment to the speed and physicality of the collegiate game, Prapavessis could quietly be a breakout player in his conference.

Unsigned for 2016-17
Matej Paulovic, LW, Muskegon Lumberjacks (USHL)

Slovak import Matej Paulovic could not quite cut it in the OHL with Peterborough back in 2013 and has been with the Muskegon Lumberjacks ever since. The big winger broke out last season with 50 points in 51 games, good for 20th in USHL scoring. Paulovic also grabbed a spot as a depth player on Slovakia’s World Junior Championships team last winter where he notched one assist in seven games. The NHL prospects, however, are not strong for a player who will be an overager in the USHL – as Paulovic turns 21 in January.

Europe

Top prospect
Denis Guryanov, RW/LW, Lada Togliatti (KHL)

Once again the Stars rattled conventional wisdom and selected a big Russian with a high first round pick. Denis Guryanov was even more of a surprise than Valeri Nichushkin, but certainly confirms that Jim Nill and his staff are not afraid to take the guy they have the most confidence in. Guryanov is a bull of a winger who can knife his way towards the net effectively. He has one of the best shots in the entire draft class in terms of both release and power. As Guryanov moves up to the KHL full-time in 2015-16, he will be tested on his ability to take on stronger and savvier defenders.

Offensive breakout
Niklas Hansson, D, HV71 (SHL)

Niklas Hansson has played pro for the past two seasons at Allsvenskan level with Rogle. Prior to that, he played at Sweden’s top level with the same club. His experience, even as a youngster, saw him don an A on his sweater last season, in fact. In 2015-16, he has moved up to the SHL once again with HV71 and is poised to have a big role with the club. Hansson is coming off of a 21-point season last year and hopes that moving up a rung does not come at the cost of his production. The third round pick in 2013 should be one of the more interesting players to watch this season in a Dallas defense pool that is extremely deep.

Unsigned for 2016-17
Dmitry Sinitsyn, D, Dynamo Balashikha (VHL)

It has been a whirlwind developmental path for defenseman Dmitry Sinitsyn so far, but it may be coming to an end soon – at least as far as Dallas Stars fans and followers are concerned. A good skater with a strong shot, Sinitsyn still has not yet found himself to be a KHL regular as a 21 year old. He starts the season in the second-tier VHL, where he spent most of last season as well. The Stars traded back into the draft (after they had run out of their own picks) to select the Russian rearguard in the last round of 2012. Barring some sort of ‘defected status’ clause being invoked, the clock expires on Sinitsyn’s exclusive rights this summer.