With so many of the Dallas Stars prospects graduating to the professional game in the last couple of seasons, the junior ranks are as thin as any around. To make matters worse, this group exhibits very little upside as it appears filled with potential bottom-pair, physical defensemen.
Brent Moran, G, Niagara IceDogs
Drafted: 4th round (115th overall), 2014
It has been a struggle for Brent Moran in his OHL career. It was thought that the big netminder would take the reins and run with it going back to the last season, but that has been a sputtering proposition to date. Moran started the season ahead of 17-year-old Stephen Dhillon, but a couple of mid-October yanks of the reigning cage dweller have really evened the playing field in terms of starts between this duo. Moran is 8-6-1 with a 3.01 goals against average and .889 save percentage, numbers that are bettered by his American counterpart, if only slightly.
There has not been a ton of progress to speak of for Moran at this point, as the same goals that can’t go through his body still bore a hole in him from time to time. He was much better in November than October however, and must continue to build on that success. He is a project pick certainly, but not one worthy of high acclaim at this juncture.
Aaron Haydon, D, Niagara IceDogs
Drafted: 6th round (154th overall), 2014
One of the vets playing in front of Brent Moran is Aaron Haydon. The hard-hitting American defenseman has been a big contributor to upping the ferocity quotient of an otherwise pretty timid defense. Haydon can skate well and lay the lumber – in fact, that combination of skills is among the best in the OHL. His offensive numbers have not met the anticipated mark though. He failed to really take off last year and this season he is on pace for a pretty stark drop off in production. At four points in 23 games and a plus-3 rating, it seems unlikely that he is going to be much use with the puck at the next level. In fact, one of Haydon’s biggest flaws is his timing on outlet passes: a virtual must-have in the current pro game. That may have been the root of him being a healthy scratch earlier in the year. There always seems to be a spot for big, right-handed, physical d-men who can skate at the next level, but even so, it looks like it will be a struggle for Haydon to become an impact NHLer.
Alex Peters, D, Flint Firebirds
Drafted: 3rd round (75th overall), 2014
Mired in controversy over an ownership/coaching spat that has overshadowed Flint’s fairly average season so far, captain Alex Peters has been in the spotlight but not for his on-ice play. Peters, an outspoken leader of the club, help lead a quasi-mutiny against team ownership after the coaching staff was fired for reasons that were deemed a touch scandalous by the players themselves. Outside of that, Peters has been limited to just 15 games on the year thanks to a meniscus injury. Like Haydon, the offense is not percolating, as Peters has tallied in just one game this season, a three-point outing against Ottawa. It is not as if he is stuffed onto a bottom rung, since he has been partner to electric Finnish puckmover Vili Saarijarvi at times. Also like Haydon, he is a physical defenseman that does not read the play as well as some coaches or scouts might like. He gets caught chasing the puck around or chasing hits. The upside for Peters seems pretty limited at this point in time.
Chris Martenet, D, London Knights
Drafted: 4th round (103rd overall), 2015
Though Chris Martenet is the tallest of the Stars OHL defense prospects, he is the only one that does not seem to chase plays around looking for skulls to crush. Martenet is 6’7 and his coordination and skating are improving. He is another player, however, where the offense is not really reaching a high level. Just six assists for Martenet in 24 games so far on easily the best offensive team in the league (5.33 goals per game) is not splendid; but on the flip side, Martenet is not first in the pecking order for touches with top 2016 NHL Draft candidates Olli Juolevi and Victor Mete ahead of him playing with far more technical skill. Martenet is proving to be a reliable player though and is getting better at toughening up around his net and using his size to his advantage. Martenet is a plus-15 on the season and might have the most upside among OHL prospects for Dallas.
Patrick Sanvido, D, Windsor Spitfires
Drafted: 7th round (195th overall), 2014
Big, tough defenseman Patrick Sanvido has missed most of the year with a knee injury. Sanvido is a physical presence that has chipped in offense in two of his eight games this year, totaling five points in all and a plus-6 rating. His offensive upside, despite the near point-per-game figures this year, remains very limited. He has developed some confidence skating with the puck a little and some poise that was not there last season, but Sanvido looks more like a scrapper than a Brent Seabrook type. Windsor plays with good structure most nights which should help Sanvido learn to read the game better as the season progresses.
Brett Pollock, LW, Edmonton Oil Kings
Drafted: 2nd round (45th overall), 2014
Brett Pollock, by a good margin the most intriguing of the Stars junior prospects, has also had the best season out of any of them this year. With 31 points and a plus-14 rating, Pollock leads the Oil Kings in both categories. Particularly impressive is Pollock’s plus/minus rating considering the team has a minus-16 goal differential. There are only five plus players on the club besides Pollock – none of whom are in double digits even. This is not just a product of goal-scoring though, as Pollock has become a more responsible defensive player. The big-framed forward does not have a power forward style to him, but he is playing a more well-rounded game, offensively and defensively. If anything, Pollock could use some more teeth to his game. He may play bigger in the playoffs, but the consistently obvious compete level is not quite there for Pollock. Of course, sometimes the bigger, smarter players are working smarter as opposed to harder, but there is noted difference in swagger when Pollock is fully engaged.
Matej Paulovic, LW, Muskegon Lumberjacks
Drafted: 5th round (149th overall), 2013
Now a third-year player and overager with the USHL’s Muskegon Lumberjacks, Slovak import Matej Paulovic has posted 12 points in 17 games. He is off the pace from his point-per-game pace from last year, a season that saw him represent Slovakia at the World Juniors. Paulovic has changed his game a bit to become a more physical and engaging player, as he does not seem to have the pure offensive skill to be a top-six forward without an edge. Instead, he has simplified his game, he has become a shoot-first player and has played at center instead of only playing on his off wing. Still, a player that is not dominating the USHL at just short of his 21st birthday leaves a lot to be desired in terms of dishing out contracts.
Dallas Stars Top Performing Non-Junior Prospects
The Stars have never been shy about cultivating European defensemen. First-year SHL player Niklas Hansson picked up right where he left off from last season despite moving from the Allsvenskan’s Rogle BK to HV71. Hansson has played six less games than his peers but still resides fourth on the defensemen scoring list with 14 points in just 17 games. Hansson is a quick-pass, playmaking defenseman with a good head for the game. He needs to continue to smooth out his game and get his lateral skating to improve in order to be more dangerous and get more shots to the net. The young defender has a shoulder injury and has missed the last couple weeks, but is expected to return this month.
Dallas Stars Prospect of the Month
After a final collegiate season that left some wanting more statistically, Devin Shore has been a revelation in the pro game as a rookie. He had a six-game goal scoring streak and has only not pointed in four games out of 20 in his rookie year. In fact, he even earned a cup of coffee with Dallas for his efforts already. Inexperienced, but very hockey smart already, Shore leads the AHL in goals at the moment and is tied with William Nylander for the AHL lead in points. The University of Maine product was projected to be more of a playmaker, but this goal-scoring promise is heartening certainly.