With terrific drafting and progressing development, the Dallas Stars have quietly amassed one of the finest prospect pools in the National Hockey League. While it might be “standing room only” to start out in the minor leagues and some European pro leagues, the Stars will ultimately prevail with a stable full of exciting prospects who will garner heavy focus throughout the season.
An even more interesting development is the relative flux of the Dallas roster in general. The Stars are experiencing a changing of the guard of sorts which will allow some roster spots all over the lineup to pop open now and in the near future.
After a rather forgettable junior career, former first-round pick Jack Campbell is poised to become the starter for the Texas Stars in 2012-13 as a rookie. He saw a surprising amount of starts down the stretch for Texas late last season, after his Sault Ste. Marie (OHL) season had come to an end, and did not look out of place. With a new head coach in place down in Texas, the quick and athletic Campbell may actually have a reliable defensive structure around him to make his transition to the pro game a smooth one.
Brenden Dillon, D, Texas Stars
Much ballyhooed undrafted free agent Brenden Dillon will be the recipient of a lot of eyes at Dallas’ training camp in the hopefully not-too-distant future. Dillon has been impressive at the AHL level and while he’s not a flashy blueliner, he is on top of his defensive assignments positionally and physically. He’s been lauded for his play in the minors since joining the club on a tryout following his overage season. While there is some competition towards the bottom of the Stars defensive depth chart that includes Aaron Rome and Mark Fistric, Dillon may be able to surpass these NHL vets on merit soon enough.
Unsigned for 2013-14
Colton Sceviour, RW, Texas Stars
After a fairly slow start, Colton Sceviour adjusted to the new, full-speed-ahead tactics of now former coach Jeff Pyle. Sceviour, a WHL product, sported career highs in goals (21), assists (32) and points (53) – but for the first time in his pro career, he registered a minus-8 rating (hardly a cause for concern as Texas was the only Western Conference team to surrender 250 goals in 2011-12). Sceviour has adjusted well to every style he's played at the WHL and AHL level and now his biggest test of all will be adjusting to the big show. The 2007 draft pick is no longer exempt from waivers should he not make the Dallas Stars and he’s slated to become a restricted free agent after the season. Needless to say, this is a crucial year in Sceviour’s future and with some roster spots open for contention in the Dallas bottom-six, the Red Deer native will have an opportunity to snag an NHL job when camps open.
Top Junior Prospect
Radek Faksa, C, Kitchener Rangers (OHL)
The Stars’ top pick in 2012, Radek Faksa was superbly impressive in his OHL rookie campaign. The hulking Czech import brings a lot of maturity and a well-rounded game to the table in addition to his offensive skills. After being the highest scoring OHL rookie in 2011-12, Faksa will have a lot of pressure on him to keep producing at a high clip with this talented Rangers team around him. He’s expected to continue to sharpen his skating ability while augmenting his already capable defensive and physical skills. Faksa will have to work quickly though, as it wouldn’t be a shock if this was his final year of junior hockey.
Brett Ritchie, RW, Niagara IceDogs (OHL)
Stocking up on talent for a deep playoff run, Niagara scored Brett Ritchie last season from Sarnia to add to their scoring depth. Ritchie did not disappoint. After just seven goals in 21 games with Sarnia, the Stars 2011 second-round pick exploded for 16 goals and 28 points in 29 games with the IceDogs. It was the most invigorating and energetic hockey we have seen from Ritchie yet – at least on a consistent basis. At 6’3”, Ritchie can be imposing along the boards and in open ice he can protect the puck very well when he’s on his game. If his exploits late last year were not a mirage, Ritchie could end up as one of the top scorers in the OHL and become quite the gem for the Dallas organization.
Branden Troock, RW, Seattle Thunderbirds (WHL)
Slowed by injuries thus far in his junior career, Branden Troock is looking at a fresh start for himself as he returns to Seattle for another season. Troock had been suffering from head and neck ailments that were not dissimilar to what has plagued superstar Sidney Crosby in recent years. His production to date, 16 goals in 67 career WHL games, is not indicative of his talent level. Armed with an impressive shot, Troock will be expected to carry a fair amount of the offensive load in 2012-13 for the Thunderbirds. A right-handed shooter, this Dallas fifth-round pick is considered quite a project and has a lot of room for improvement in all facets of his game.
Top Amateur Prospect
Alex Guptill, LW, University of Michigan Wolverines (CCHA)
CCHA Rookie of the Year Alex Guptill heads an impressive list of current or recent college prospects in the Dallas Stars organization. Guptill jumped headlong into Big Blue’s offensive schemes in 2011-12, piling up 16 goals and 33 points in his first 41 collegiate games. Blessed with size, great hands, a terrific shot and a high level of determination, Guptill could emerge as one of the top college players in the nation if all goes according to plan in 2012-13. Much more will be expected from the Newmarket, Ontario native this year than just offense though. With the departure of Chris Brown, Ann Arbor might be looking for a new sheriff to help patrol the ice which means Guptill might have to put that 6’3” frame to the test.
Freshman to Watch
Dmitry Sinitsyn, D, UMass-Lowell River Hawks (Hockey East)
It may have been more obvious to tag future University of Maine marksman Devin Shore as the “freshman to watch,” but Dmitry Sinitsyn might be even more intriguing. The Stars snuck in just before the bell rung on the 2012 NHL Draft to grab the trilingual defenseman and it was a pick met with a deluge of furrowed brows and rustling papers. Due to visa issues, Sinitsyn wasn’t able to play very much in his draft year outside of a small handful of low-level Russian junior games that did not provide much exposure. An offensive-defenseman equipped with an already NHL-caliber shot and forward-moving mentality, Sinitsyn may be a hidden gem in the UMass-Lowell lineup as a freshman.
Unsigned for 2013-14
Scott Winkler, C/RW, Colorado College Tigers (WCHA)
Muddled by injuries over his collegiate career, Scott Winkler has a lot to prove in his senior season at Colorado College. He set career highs across the board as a junior, a season that saw him move up in the lineup as a winger rather than a center. So long as he has solidified himself in the Tigers top-six, he will get a chance to show his worth to Dallas (or other teams) with quality linemates by his side. He has shown flashes of his potential, at times, on both sides of the puck but is still working on putting it all together consistently. The Norwegian forward will have an opportunity to earn an entry-level contract with a noteworthy display of improvement in 2013-14.
Top European Prospect
Ludvig Bystrom, D, MODO (SEL)
With Patrik Nemeth moving across the pond, Dallas’ second-round pick in 2012, Ludvig Bystrom becomes the Stars best European prospect. An excellent skater, Bystrom can move the puck very effectively and has the ability to play a solid two-way game when called upon. While he’s only likely to garner minimal minutes in the Elitserien this year, it will still be a great learning experience for Bystrom as his play was a touch on the audacious side in the top junior league last year. Playing within his means defensively and letting his superior skating ability do much of the work for him against the top men in Sweden will be crucial this season. He will see some time back in the top junior league as well, where he can work more freely on all of his assets, as he will be allotted the ice time and permission to take more control when he’s out there.
Esa Lindell, D, Jokerit (SM-liiga)
After potting over 20 goals and 50 points in Finland’s top junior league in 2011-12, Esa Lindell looks to jump right into the Jokerit lineup for opening day. Though it’s a tall order to fill, Lindell is expected to start out by being paired with excellent Finnish veteran Ossi Vaananen while Lindell works out the kinks in his game. The Stars third-round pick from the last draft has good size and a lot of raw potential. He has lots to work on and will be tested nightly by the best Finland has to offer, but with the right coaching and the apparent apprenticeship he will undertake with Vaananen, Lindell might make excellent developmental strides as a rookie. Additionally, Lindell is actively auditioning for a role on Finland’s World Juniors team coming to theaters this December.
John Klingberg, D, Skelleftea (SEL)
In pursuit of a more robust style of hockey, John Klingberg moved to Finland to play for Jokerit in 2011-12 – however, the experiment was not a great success. He had a limited role in the lineup and was even bumped down a tier for a time before finally being loaned to Skelleftea later in the season. The offensive-defenseman brings a fourth-forward’s mentality to the ice and can be held accountable at times for scoring chances at both ends of the rink. Back in friendly Swedish surroundings, Klingberg hopes to rebound this season and continue polishing his game. Those plans will be delayed, however, following the hip surgery he had during the offseason that will leave him unavailable for several more weeks.