Dallas Top 20 prospects

By Geoffrey Ussery

Most hockey seasons are nearly a
third of
the way through, if not further. With this much playing time
already passed, it gives a good enough indication of who deserves to be a
Top 20
prospect at the moment. For the Dallas Stars system, injuries have played a
big
part in the shaping of the ranking as several of the more talented
individuals
have had their position at least somewhat compromised because of large
stretches
of missed time.

Here is Hockey’s Future’s current Stars Top
20
prospects.

No. 1-Trevor Daley,
D

The
biggest waves in the Stars system have come from this small, slick
defenseman.
Just as he did last year, Daley wowed management in 2003 training camp and
preseason
play, pushing fellow defenseman John Erskine very hard for the final
defensive
position. Despite the show of skill, at the end of camp, Daley was the final
cut, mostly due to inexperience and probably partly due to Erskine’s waiver
status. He did not perform very well early in Utah. His plus-minus rating was the
worst on the team while he was there, and he didn’t put up large numbers for
the
offensively starved club. However, when injuries occurred on the big team,
his
preseason play and talent carried him to two stints with the Stars, where he
is
now. In Dallas, he has been a successful point man on the first power play
unit
and has created a lot of chances on the rush while playing well enough

defensively to earn ice time. With the current injury situation, he could
move
to the graduated list as early as this year.

 GPGAP+/-PIM
NHL
Totals
8044-36
AHL
Totals
11033-1116

No. 2-Mathias Tjärnqvist,
LW

Though
he did not start with the Stars after a good preseason, Tjärnqvist’s work
ethic
and talent earned him a call up after some time adjusting in the minors.
Though
his totals at the AHL level are not outstanding, he used the time to adjust
to
the North American rink, and it has help his play with the Stars. He has
bounced
around in the lineup from scoring lines to checking lines and played
reasonably
well in all the roles given to him. Though he lacks speed, he does play a
steady
defensive game and has been excellent on the forecheck. Tjärnqvist has a
good
chance of remaining with the Stars, especially if the team’s inconsistency
continues.

 

 GPGAP+/-PIM
NHL
Totals
10112-50
AHL
Totals
13213-512

No. 3-Antti Miettinen,
LW

Everything
looked right when Miettinen started the season with the Dallas Stars after
being
arguably the best player in camp. In regular season play, Miettinen showed a
ton
of promise, but just could not quite put his game together at the NHL level.
There were many times where the Finn oozed skill, like on his only NHL goal,
but
he still needs a little bit of time to adjust to the North American game,
which
he is now doing in Utah. His need for adjustment has shown up particularly
in
his normally stellar plus-minus rating. He has had issues with bad turnovers
that have ended up in his team’s net at both levels. The big difference is
that
the talented forward is producing in the AHL.

 

 GPGAP+/-PIM
NHL
Totals
14101-70
AHL
Totals
6325-62

No. 4-Jussi Jokinen,
LW

Another
Finnish talent, Jokinen is enjoying a strong season in the SM-Liiga as
expected.
After returning from the Stars development camp in July, Jokinen promptly
caught
fire and was putting up points at a rapid pace through the preseason and
early
part of the regular season. He has since cooled some, but has been chipping
in
points regularly for Kärpät, which is now at the top of the SM-Liiga
standings. He did play well for Finland at one Eurotour event and may play
for
Finland again later other events, especially if he keeps scoring.

 

GPGAP+/-PIM
2781523+48

No. 5-Jason Bacashihua,
G

Currently
slightly ahead of Mike Smith for Utah’s starting job, the talented
Jason
Bacashihua is again showing promise with little results. Bacashihua started
off
the year dead cold but has since come back to get back to at least average
numbers for a goaltender. Making his job more difficult is the team in front
of
him, which is not particularly dangerous on offense or defense. Whether Utah
wins usually comes straight back on to Bacashihua. While he appears to have
the
talent to carry a team down the line, he currently does not appear to be
developed enough to do so.

 

GPIMINW-L-TGAASV%SO
137163-9-12.680.9021

No. 6-Loui Eriksson,
RW

The
Stars first selection in the 2003 Entry Draft has shown tons of promise
early in
his career with Frölunda in the SEL. As only an 18-year-old with limited ice
time from the fourth line on the strong team, Eriksson is hovering around
the
leaders for rookie scoring, having been that leader at times. In the SEL,
Eriksson has shown a lot of drive. He is playing nearly without fear and
earning
a lot of praise from his coach for his efforts. He is expected to help lead
the
Swedish WJC team, especially offensively, in its effort to win gold.

 

GPGAP+/-PIM
26527+40

No. 7- Yared Hagos,
C

Hagos
was another prospect who visited Dallas for the development camp over the
summer. After leaving Dallas, he was soon joined by some of the players that
he
had worked out with when the Stars loaned some of their players to Hagos’s
new
club Timrå. In his return to the SEL, Hagos has played quite well. He is not
among the SEL scoring leaders, but he is putting up decent numbers for his club in what is essentially his second SEL season. However, it has not been
his
scoring that has earned him accolades, but instead his fantastic defensive
play.

 

GPGAP+/-PIM
233811+745

No. 8-Joel Lundqvist, C

After having a strong season with Frölunda
last
year, Lundqvist has fallen off his production pace from last season.
Lundqvist
struggled mightily through camp and most of the early part of the season. He
was
not playing assertively and had lost confidence in his game. Recently, he
has
rediscovered his game and he is starting to play well both ways. Should he keep
up
this play for the rest of the year, he may be able to match his previous
totals.
His skating continues to be an area of concern as well.

 

GPGAP+/-PIM
256511+1024

No. 9-Tobias Stephan, G

The young Swiss goalie was in attendance at the development camp
in
July, then returned to Kloten of the Swiss Nationalliga A for the
preseason. Stephan struggled a little at the season’s start as his whole
team
stumbled, but he did have respectable numbers. Then, during the November
break,
Stephan returned to Dallas for a brief visit. When he returned to the Kloten
Flyers, Stephan was on fire, going unbeaten in seven and posting three
shutouts
in that span. Stephan is again expected to backstop Switzerland at the WJC
this
year.

 

GPIMINW-L-TGAASV%SO
27160414-12-12.365

No.10- Vojtech Polak, LW

Despite being arguably the most talented
prospect
in the system, Polak has not done much with that talent this year. He has
done
well against players in his own age group at international tournaments, but
his
production in the Czech Extraliga with Karlovy Vary has been anemic. Known
as a
sniper, Polak has yet to record a goal with his home club. His only
Extraliga
goal came while he was on loan to Sparta Praha immediately after the U20
Four
Nations Tournament in November.

 

 GPGAP+/-PIM
Exl.
Totals
27167Even14
Jr.
Totals
2325Even0



No. 11-Dan Ellis, G

At training
camp,
Dan Ellis had the strongest showing among the Stars stable of goaltenders.
Since this is his first professional season, however, the Stars
decided
to assign him straight to Idaho of the ECHL where he has been sharing
goaltending duties with ECHL veteran Blair Allison. Ellis started the season
slowly, but he has come on recently to raise his numbers to better levels.
One
thing Ellis has had no problem with however is shootouts. So far, the young
goaltender has not lost a game that went to a shootout and has allowed only a
single
goal on nine attempts.

 

GPIMINW-L-TGAASV%SO
127267-5-02.650.9021



No. 12-Martin Vagner, D

Had
Vagner
stayed healthy the entire year, he would likely be higher in the ranking. He had a much better showing at training camp, sticking around longer and
seeing
some preseason action before returning to the Gatineau Olympiques of the
QMJHL.
Vagner played well both ways to start the season, but then injured his
shoulder
during practice. He sat out nearly a month before returning to the lineup.
When
he did, he picked up right where he left off. If he keeps up this pace
throughout the season and stays healthy, it will only enhance his standing
in
the system.

 

GPGAP+/-PIM
13268+916

No. 13-Matt Nickerson,
D

While
most teams looked at selecting Nickerson strictly on his fighting prowess,
the
Stars were gambling that he would have more than just toughness. Thus far,
they
have been proven right. After committing to Clarkson over the summer because
they offered him a better position on the team than Michigan, Nickerson has
gone
on to cement his place as a key defenseman for them. Nickerson is
playing in
all situations and has been particularly efficient on the power play. Not to
go
unmentioned is how he is already piling up the penalty minutes in the NCAA
even
though it is a no fighting league.

 

GPGAP+/-PIM
13358+269

No. 14-Brandon Crombeen,
RW

A
surprise second round pick this year, Crombeen has had a respectable season
for
the Barrie Colts. He has produced offense somewhat regularly for Barrie, but
has
been an effective physical and defensive forward when not scoring goals. His
early season play was strong enough to earn him a spot on the OHL team that
competed in the RE/MAX Russian Challenge. In the two games, Crombeen had a
goal
and two assists for Team OHL.

 

GPGAP+/-PIM
249918+1075

No. 15-Marius Holtet,
RW

The
talented Norwegian has shown improvement in his second professional season
with
Bofors in the second tier of the Swedish professional system, but he still
needs
to improve significantly before he can make the NHL. Holtet has improved his
defensive game somewhat and has been a very abrasive player this year. His
offensive production has not quite been to the level expected, but his knack
for
goal scoring has shown through at times. He should be representing Norway
during
their WJC tournament and will likely lead the team in scoring. 

 

GPGAP+/-PIM
26628+166



No. 16-Mike Smith, G

After
overcoming
an injury he suffered in camp, Smith stepped into his role as part of a
goalie
tandem for Utah. Sharing duties with Bacashihua in Utah, Smith has been
about on
par with the more highly touted prospect. While he has not gotten as much
time
as Bacashihua, he has an identical save percentage. The one area where
Smith
has significantly outplayed Bacashihua is in his handling of the puck, but
other
than that their situations are about identical.

 

GPIMINW-L-TGAASV%SO
105493-5-03.170.9020



No. 17-David Bararuk, LW

After
a strong
year in the WHL year last year, Bararuk has joined the professional ranks
with
the Utah Grizzlies. He is currently tied with Miettinen among Utah’s rookies
for
point output though he has played many more games than the Finn. The
smallish
forward has shown some acclimation to the faster pro game, but it is
uncertain
that he will ever match his junior production in the AHL. 

 

GPGAP+/-PIM
19325-42



No. 18-Drew Bagnall, D

A bit of
a
surprise selection at this year’s draft, Bagnall joined the St. Lawrence
Saints
in the NCAA after a couple of strong seasons in the SJHL. He has had a
significant spot on the team from the outset, logging big minutes and
usually
playing in all situations. He produced very well at the start of the season
but
cooled after suffering a groin injury that held him out for a game. For an
overage sixth round pick, he shows a lot of promise.

 

GPGAP+/-PIM
15268Even31



No. 19-Dan Jancevski, D

After a
couple
of seasons in the minors with Utah, it appears that Jancevski may be turning
a
corner in his development his year with the Grizzlies. Jancevski started off
the
year well, showing strong defensive play and a lot of toughness. His
offensive
production also looks like it might rise marginally. Thus far in the season,
Jancevski has been one of Utah’s best defensemen, if not the best.

 

GPGAP+/-PIM
21145Even77

No. 20-Justin Cox,
RW

While
not the most talented or biggest prospect in the system, Justin Cox has been
an important
player for the Grizzlies. He has been a leader for the Grizzlies on and off
the
ice. Early in the season, he was leading the team in scoring, but he has
since
fallen off that pace. Still, he has been a quality player for a struggling
Utah
team. His NHL future may not be that bright, but given that he is currently
the
highest scoring prospect in Utah, he has earned his position at the bottom
of
the Top 20. 

 

GPGAP+/-PIM
20347-510

Injury Woes

Within
the Dallas system this season, there have been a relatively large number of
injuries to
prospects, especially some of the higher profile prospects. All of the
prospects below have missed time and
struggled with injuries so far this year. The injuries are noted where
known.

Drew Bagnall (groin)
Jarkko A. Immonen (back)
Joel Lundqvist 
Antti Miettinen (back)
Tuomas Mikkonen (groin)
Alexander Naurov (leg)
Martin Vagner (shoulder)
Janos Vas (knee)

Of these, Vas and Naurov
have missed the entire seasons so far. Vas is still recovering from a knee
injury, and Naurov is recovering from surgery to his leg. The others are
currently in action.

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