One would be hard-pressed to find a top-20 prospects list that has evolved and grown as rapidly and completely as the Dallas Stars has in the last few years.
While the Stars have not had many opportunities to garner blue-chip prospects, the amount of quality depth in the organization is top-notch and impressive. They may have less future number-one defensemen and franchise forwards than another team, but GM Joe Nieuwendyk could easily challenge most of the league’s clubs in terms of future top-six forwards and NHL-caliber defensemen.
With that said, the list starts out with a goaltender once again in Jack Campbell who will turn pro like a number of other top prospects in the system. Impressive college wingers such as Reilly Smith and Alex Guptill have made big impressions on the hockey scene while rearguards such as Patrik Nemeth and Jamie Oleksiak are set to become towers of power at the pro level. The Stars ability to locate and cultivate talent even with their late-round picks should put them with the elite of the league in the next few years, a claim augmented by a 2011 draft class that has already seen each player receive an entry-level contract.
1. (1) Jack Campbell, G, 8.0C
Drafted 1st round, 11th overall, 2010
Once again, Jack Campbell retains his crown as the Dallas Stars top prospect. Campbell got his first dose of professional action at the AHL level late last season and performed well. He was off to a decent start in the OHL with the Windsor Spitfires before he was shipped off in a massive trade to Sault Ste. Marie, where he was unable to help the Greyhounds clinch a playoff berth behind a rather porous defense. He joined Texas in the AHL, another playoff-less club, late in the season and looked good despite the rather rigorous schedule. Campbell represented the United States at the U-20 World Junior Championship for the third year in a row but failed to light the world on fire behind an underachieving USA squad, a rare international miss for Campbell.
He had an up-and-down junior career, which is now behind him. He will now embark on becoming an AHL starter, as Texas looks to former Dallas assistant Willie Desjardins to be its third head coach in three years. Last season’s team was far more aggressive and offensive under Jeff Pyle but Desjardins figures to tilt the scales back in the direction of Glen Gulutzan’s defensive style. Assuming that Desjardins can bring better team defense to the table for Texas, Campbell should be in a comfortable, controlled environment as he learns the professional game.
Campbell has good bounce-back ability and, if he has not done so already, will seek to compartmentalize his relatively lackluster junior career. He is a terrifically athletic goaltender with great reflexes and stick-handling ability. His rookie season in the AHL should be a big stepping stone on his way to a bright future.
2. (4) Jamie Oleksiak, D, 7.5C
Drafted 1st round, 14th overall, 2011
Like Campbell, Oleksiak found himself on two OHL teams in 2011-12. Oleksiak moved from Saginaw to Niagara where he became a big part of a much better team. He upped his offense rather significantly and brought a stellar defensive game. The enormous defender figures to be protecting Texas goaltenders all of next season. This will be another step in Oleksiak’s development path which saw him play in the USHL, NCAA, and OHL in each of the past three seasons before turning pro this year. Oleksiak impressed OHL coaches last season and was instrumental in getting Niagara deep into the playoffs.
Oleksiak uses his 6'7” size and long reach to limit the opposition's space and he has shown the ability to be a quality puck-mover and rusher. The overall offense might come along a little slower at the next level but hopefully he can make up for it with increased physicality. While he is not averse to physical play, Oleksiak is tough to get a rise out of and is not someone that readily participates in roughhousing. His composed style should translate well right off the bat at the pro level and the transition should be smooth, even as he is expected to log major minutes as a rookie for the Texas Stars.
3. (3) Alex Chiasson, RW, 7.5C
Drafted 2nd round, 38th overall, 2009
Alex Chiasson saw steady statistical improvement in each of his three years at Boston University and is now yet another top-rated Stars prospect that is making the jump to the professional game in 2012-13. As BU was mired in controversy, Chiasson led the team in assists (31) and points (46) before posting a goal and four assists in nine AHL games at the end of his season. The big, playmaking winger still has a little ways to go before reaching his potential but he is shaping up to be a terrific player.
Once he adds some more strength to his 6'4” frame, he should be able to learn on the job at the NHL level or log first-line minutes in the AHL over the next couple of seasons. Chiasson is a good puck distributor on the wing and has nifty hands. He grew as a player at BU and exhibits a greater work ethic and more attention to his defensive responsibilities. With increased strength and experience, Chiasson may become a more willing shooter and emerge as a victor on right-side board battles more frequently.
4. (NR) Radek Faksa, C, 7.5C
Drafted 1st round, 13th overall, 2012
Dallas used their first pick on big Czech center Radek Faksa from the Kitchener Rangers. Faksa scored 29 goals and 67 points, both OHL rookie bests, in 62 games and represented the Czech Republic at the World Junior Championship. The import was also named to the OHL All-Rookie First Team. He impressed OHL coaches during the year and was named one of the conference’s smartest players in a late-season poll. Faksa’s commitment to the game is well-documented back to his time as a youth in the Czech Republic and he brought that passion with him to North America.
Unlike some of his forward predecessors in the 2012 draft class, Faksa does not own a lot of flash in his offensive game. He is a cerebral player that passes well and has a good selection of well-placed shots. He plays defense very well for a player of his age and experience level. He has the potential to be a physical player but has yet to make it a staple of his game. His skating could use some improvement, especially his first few steps but that is his only evident weakness. He might not have the high-end ceiling of some other forwards in the draft, but he is a quality player that will be NHL-ready sooner rather than later. His style compares to that of Eric Staal, even if his ceiling is not quite as high.
5. (10) Alex Guptill, LW, 7.5C
Drafted 3rd round, 77th overall, 2010
Alex Guptill makes a precipitous leap up the top-20 prospects list after an impressive freshman campaign at the University of Michigan. His 16 goals and 17 assists in 41 games earned him CCHA Rookie of the Year honors. After a trying USHL season the previous year, Guptill quickly rose up the ranks to be a major contributor for the Wolverines in 2011-12. His size, skill and shot made him a force to be reckoned with in Ann Arbor.
Guptill has really come into his own quickly and still has plenty of room to improve. He has a very projectable frame, good hands, and a shot that allows him to score from anywhere. He willingly drives to the net to dig for chances at both even strength and on the man advantage. He is still learning the game and the responsibilities that come with the wing position, but he is in the trusted hands of veteran coach Red Berenson. His potential is about as high as any forward in the organization.
6. (6) Reilly Smith, RW, 7.5C
Drafted 3rd round, 69th overall, 2009
A lot of pressure fell on to the shoulders of Reilly Smith as a junior, as he had to fill the massive holes left in the lineup when Andy Miele and Carter Camper departed. He responded with a career-high 30 goals as the captain of the Miami University Redhawks. The Hobey Baker finalist was rewarded with an entry-level contract and joined the Stars at the end of the season. Smith was named First Team All-CCHA after he scored more than one-quarter of his team’s goals this past season. The Stars burned a year of his entry-level contract by putting him into the lineup for three games near the end of the season.
Smith is a terrific goal-scorer that finds open space very well. He skates well and has good offensive instincts. Despite his efforts, he still looks a bit undersized on the ice, a problem that has plagued him since he was a freshman. He is rather agile but his ability to penetrate high-traffic areas in the pros will be tested. A bit of a one-trick pony, he might end up being used on his off-wing to allow him to grip-it-and-rip-it without having to handle the puck a whole lot.
7. (7) Patrik Nemeth, D, 7.0C
Drafted 2nd round, 41st overall, 2010
Redoubtable defenseman Patrik Nemeth retains his spot at number seven after another solid season in the Elitserien. While his statistics do not and will not look terribly impressive, his play has been improving since he was drafted. He is a steady defensive presence with improving physicality on the back end for AIK, one of the better teams in the top Swedish league last season. Even though he was not 100% at the World Junior Championship, Nemeth registered a quality performance and helped the Swedes capture gold.
One of the finer junior-aged defensemen in the Elitserien, Nemeth saw his minutes increase from the previous season and improved his timing all over the ice. He is very mobile for a 6'3” defender and can jump into the play on some occasions without too much risk involved. He would have played in the AHL after his Swedish season ended, but was injured during his team’s postseason run and was unable to perform. The Swedish rearguard is expected to jump into the Texas lineup and be a major minute-muncher right from the get-go. He is a mature player that should not need much polish at the AHL level before he is ready for the show.
8. (5) Scott Glennie, C/RW, 7.0C
Drafted 1st round, 8th overall, 2009
Former top 10 pick Scott Glennie continues to be passed up on the depth chart as he enters only his second professional season. The slight tumble in the rankings has less to do with his play this past season than it does with the improvement of his fellow prospects. Glennie was moved back to center for most of the season where he etched out a respectable 37 points in 70 games. He was used at right wing as well at times and might be better suited there going forward given his propensity to speed down the ice and unleash a big wrister. He got off to a slow start due to a concussion, but rebounded fairly well on a team that was a touch chaotic at times.
Glennie will continue to be valuable for his speed and his strong right-handed shot while he works on the rest of his game. He is still rather inconsistent and needs to improve his determination. The former Wheat King seems to be a magnet for nagging injuries which causes frustration for all parties involved. Glennie received one NHL game last season and hopes to crack the lineup even more in 2012-13. Improving center depth in the organization is one of the leading priorities for GM Joe Nieuwendyk, and if Glennie can make an early impression, he may be seen as a solution to the issue.
9. (NR) Cody Eakin, C, 6.5B
Trade with Washington June 22, 2012
The Stars dealt one of the staples of their offense in Mike Ribeiro to Washington in exchange for Cody Eakin and a second-round pick. Eakin split the season between the Hershey Bears of the AHL and the Washington Capitals to a fair amount of acclaim. The former third-round pick seemed to have no trouble adjusting to the pro game with 13 goals and 14 assists in 43 AHL games, as well as four goals and four assists in 30 games with the Capitals. Eakin can also play on the wing where he will have a better chance to unleash his quick shot.
The former Swift Current Broncos captain plays the game with a great attitude and work ethic. He is a good two-way player that might be able to carve out a career as a quality third-line center. He is not limited on talent and might be able to chip in some timely goals now and again. If he crafts himself in the mold of Brandon Sutter, Dallas management and fans will not be at all disappointed.
10. (9) Brett Ritchie, RW, 7.0C
Drafted 2nd round, 44th overall, 2011
Brett Ritchie embarks on his fourth and final year of junior hockey in 2012-13 but not with the club that selected him in the first round of the OHL Priority Selection Draft in 2009. Ritchie was one of the big acquisitions by the Niagara IceDogs in that team's pursuit of a championship last season. While Niagara fell short of the J. Ross Robertson Cup, Ritchie took a major step forward after leaving Sarnia. He posted just eight goals and seven assists in 23 games before leaving for Niagara, where he potted 16 goals, 30 points, and a plus-27 rating in 30 games. He was a hard working player throughout the playoffs and did well in traffic and along the boards.
Ritchie at times has had issues with injuries, consistency, and work ethic but if his time with Niagara is any indication of maturity and having turned a corner, then Ritchie will have a bright future. A noted marksman, Ritchie has all the tools to be a big scorer at the next level. The upcoming season will provide the platform for the 6'3” winger to prove last season was not a fluke and that his invigorating style of play is here to stay.
11. (11) Matej Stransky, RW, 7.0C
Drafted 6th round, 165th overall, 2011
Though his skill level and upside were evident in 2010-11 as a WHL rookie, his final numbers of 14 goals and 26 points did not necessarily show it. In 2011-12, Stransky exploded for 39 goals and 81 points in 70 games for the Saskatoon Blades. He led the Blades in all offensive categories and was 15th in the WHL in tallies overall. The Czech import has quietly turned into a WHL star almost overnight. He improved his offensive game very well and is not afraid to take the puck to the net and shoot.
Stransky, who was signed to an entry-level contract by Dallas this summer, models his game after Jaromir Jagr and looks similar on the ice at times to a right-shooting version of the Czech icon. The sixth-round pick’s biggest weakness is his overall skating and footwork, which lacks a ton of quickness and balance. As soon as he masters his edge work, he will be able to protect the puck well enough to move it down the ice with great acumen. He has good vision and a better shot which will make him an early offensive fixture when he turns pro. The Saskatoon sniper will have another year of juniors to round out his game and improve his weaknesses while putting together what should be another remarkable offensive performance.
12. (12) Brenden Dillon, D, 6.5B
Signed as a free agent March 2011
After completing a fine overage season with the WHL's Seattle Thunderbirds in 2010-11, Brenden Dillon joined the Texas Stars for a handful of games at the end of the season to rave reviews. In spite of high expectations for a rookie, Dillon put together an exceptional effort as an AHL freshman in 2011-12 that included being tied for the team-lead in assists (23) among defensemen. He also featured the best plus/minus rating among regular rearguards on the team. He is more of a defensive-minded player that can get the puck on the net well enough as well as distribute it adequately.
Dillon is 6'3” and 210 pounds and given his sound, if unspectacular traits, he is going to get a very strong look at training camp this year as he auditions for a spot in the Dallas lineup. He does not have a lot of weaknesses but he has not yet mastered anything on the ice either. He is solid defensively and physically but is still refining his game overall. There are few prospects in the Dallas system more NHL-ready than Dillon.
13. (14) Matt Fraser, LW, 6.5B
Signed as a free agent November 2010
Finishing second in the AHL in goals with 37 as a rookie is a pretty good start to a pro career, especially for an undrafted free agent. Fraser, with his NHL-level shot in tow, has notched 30 or more goals in each of his last three seasons overall (which includes two WHL campaigns). He is still a fairly raw player and it is still yet to be determined if his scoring exploits from lower leagues will be able to fully translate to the NHL.
Fraser is still working on his defensive game, which he admits is sub-par. In order to make a smooth transition to the NHL, Fraser will need to work his way up from the lower lines and with that said, his defensive game will need to improve. He is a physical presence on the rink and could be a good trigger man on the power play or a crease-crasher. Besides goal-scoring and physicality, Fraser’s game is somewhat limited which will hinder his ultimate potential.
14. (17) Jyrki Jokipakka, D, 6.5C
Drafted 7th round, 195th overall, 2011
Jyrki Jokipakka had another successful season in the SM-liiga A in Finland with Ilves Tampere. Unfortunately, his team was not as successful as they needed to stave off a relegation series to remain in the top league. The 2011 overage draft pick was one of the club’s top defensemen and led all blueliners in goals and points. In fact, his nine goals ranked third overall on the team. He is a sound minute-eater that is not expected to bring much offense to the North American game, but he should be a steadying defensive presence almost immediately.
At 6'3”, Jokipakka has good size for an NHL rearguard and relies on first-class positioning to excel at his trade. He is clean and mature beyond his years. The combination of Jokipakka and a fancy-free puck-mover would work as a balanced pairing or the combo of Jokipakka and a physical presence like Patrik Nemeth would make a nearly impregnable shutdown pairing. The Finn will get his first taste of North American hockey this autumn.
15. (NR) Ludvig Bystrom, D, 7.0D
Drafted 2nd round, 43rd overall, 2012
The second of the Stars 2012 draft picks to debut on the top-20 list, Ludvig Bystrom plays for MODO of the Elitserien. Despite being selected fairly high in the CHL Import Draft by Plymouth (OHL) and being signed to an entry-level contract by Dallas, Bystrom will remain in Sweden for at least one more season. He saw only very limited action in the Elitserien in 2011-12 but hopes to see plenty more minutes in the men’s league this coming year. He will need to refine his game a bit to fit the pro mold after a rather outlandish junior season that included a lot of offensive chance-taking and unnecessary penalties. He has shown the ability to be a cool customer in sheltered big-league minutes though, which is promising.
The Swedish defenseman is a terrific, smooth skater with good agility and recovery ability. He is a great puck distributor from the back end and as the quarterback of a man advantage. He is not averse to the physical elements of the game but has a long way to go to fill out his frame. He has good anticipation and skating which is a great foundation to any prospect, but he is still quite raw and will need to develop slowly and properly to meet his highest potential.
16. (NR) Emil Molin, C, 7.0D
Drafted 4th round, 105th overall, 2011
Skilled forward Emil Molin was selected out of the J-18 leagues in Sweden in 2011 but has quickly evolved into an elite player at the top junior level in the country and even a fringe Elitserien participant in a very short time. Molin was so impressive to the Stars brass that he received an entry-level contract in June. Additionally, the Brynas forward also won a championship with his club at the Elitserien level, albeit in a very limited role. He hopes to become a bigger part of the Brynas lineup in 2012-13 as his 42 points in 29 games would indicate that he has all but graduated from the junior level already.
He gets around the ice with a quick little motor that runs on short strides. Skilled offensively and able to find holes in the opponents’ defense, Molin can distribute the puck well and can create chances on the fly. He is still slender looking and his game needs plenty of fine-tuning before it is ready for the rigors of the North American environment.
17. (13) Austin Smith, C/RW, 6.5C
Drafted 5th round, 128th overall, 2007
After going the distance at Colgate, Austin Smith has finally turned pro after being a fifth-round pick in 2007. He had a very productive career at Colgate which was punctuated with an exclamation point in 2011-12 when he led the nation with 36 goals, 20% more than fellow Stars prospect Reilly Smith. The Texas native received a bevy of awards and nominations for his senior season efforts, including ECAC Player of the Year, NCAA East First-Team All-American, and he was a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award. Late in the season he jumped to Texas on a tryout where he notched three assists and a minus-six rating in 12 games.
Smith may not light up the scoreboard at the professional level like he did in his senior year but he has plenty of valuable traits that will be helpful to Texas and, perhaps in time, Dallas. He has a good motor and is a fine skater that can play in any situation. Smith exhibits a good level of hockey smarts and balances his offensive abilities with defensive responsibility quite well. He might have to carve out more of a niche role to have a noteworthy NHL career, but he has the tools to be a versatile utility man at the next level.
18. (19) Scott Winkler, C/RW, 6.5C
Drafted 3rd round, 89th overall, 2008
The Norwegian forward that had been previously derailed by injury during his time at Colorado College has finally appeared to have turned the corner. His junior season saw him set career-highs in games played (31), goals (7), assists (17) and points (24). In fact, his freshman and sophomore years combined did not come close to matching his output last season. He was moved to right wing last year and took the opportunity to show his stuff while playing with more gifted linemates.
Winkler is starting to come into his own a bit and his senior year will be huge for him. He has made great strides not only in terms of both offense and defense, but also confidence – something he lacked prior to this season largely due to nagging injuries and his inability to get into a good rhythm. Winkler should be a featured part of the offense at CC as a senior, although whether he plays at his natural position of center or on the wing is yet to be seen. Though he has largely been written off (due in part to being a 2008 pick), Winkler will have a better-than-average shot at an entry-level contract with a quality season for the Tigers in 2012-13.
19. (20) Troy Vance, D, 6.5C
Drafted 5th round, 135th overall, 2011
Troy Vance dove into his first full QMJHL season last year as an 18-year-old with the Victoriaville Tigres and did not disappoint. Despite being more of a defensive player, Vance was third among club defensemen in points with 24 in 57 games. He had a stark increase in ice time this season and did not fail to impress. He seems to have really gotten settled in quickly at the major junior level and has taken his physical game to a new level. He is a recognized demolition man in Quebec which is not at all marginalized by his 6'6” frame.
He is big, mean and mobile and still has another year of juniors to do some touch-ups before he hits the pro circuit. Without the pressure of trying to earn an entry-level contract, Vance should be able to really explore his potential this season on what is expected to be a so-so Victoriaville team. He has only just begun to tap into his potential and has a lot of room to grow as a player.
20. (16) Colton Sceviour, RW, 6.0B
Drafted 4th round, 112th overall, 2007
The recipient of a one-year extension in the off-season, Colton Sceviour will begin his fourth professional season in 2012-13. The 2007 pick played very well in the defensive system implemented by Glen Gulutzan in 2010-11, and after a slow start, eventually thrived in the high-flying, forecheck-heavy system instituted by Jeff Pyle in 2011-12. Sceviour finished second on the team with a career-high 21 goals and third with 53 points, also the best mark of his pro career. The versatile forward remains a responsible defensive player that takes plenty of important faceoffs.
As his prospect status winds down, Sceviour will be pressing for a spot in the Dallas lineup this October and may well win one. His versatility allows him to line up at both center and wing, and he has always maintained his status as an industrious two-way forward. It is also reassuring that he is not a black hole offensively. He would fit in nicely on the Stars' fourth line early on but he will have some competition going into camp. Should he not make the team, Sceviour will require waivers to go back down to Texas.