The Dallas Stars continue to manufacture impressive draft class after impressive draft class. With the diverse group that they possess, the Stars have players at many different stages of their development in all corners of the globe.
From major junior to the National Hockey League, new General Manager Jim Nill may be overseeing a number of breakout seasons.
Top Pro Prospect
Valeri Nichushkin, LW/RW, Dallas Stars (NHL)
The Stars first selection in 2013 is set to start paying dividends immediately as he was able to make the opening night lineup. While it does not appear Valeri Nichushkin will be thrust into a top line role right off the hop, he will be given a bona fide opportunity to earn his keep. At just 18 years old, Nichushkin already offers an imposing frame that, combined with his terrific skating ability, can make him tough to slow down – much less stop. When he makes his headlong rushes, he might put more than a few unsuspecting NHL defensemen in a world of trouble.
The Russian winger is far from a finished product though. There is a lot of adjustments that are still just being initiated on and off the rink. The rigors of a condensed NHL season will be tough on the youngster as he only has 18 KHL regular season under his belt to date. We will not know exactly what will happen with Nichushkin until the season begins to unfold, but Calder candidacy would not be out of the question for the player who won the KHL rookie of the year award last season.
The pot has really started to boil for Jack Campbell and as he comes off of a successful season at the AHL level, he will be looked upon to take on an even bigger role in 2013-14. He will continue to share the nets, at first, with veteran Cristopher Nilstorp and then as the season plays out we will see what direction Head Coach Willie Desjardins goes. Campbell caught fire once he got a more regular workload and got himself into a rhythm. He appeared in 40 contests last season but was not given the nod in Texas’ shortened and injury-riddled postseason.
The athletic American goaltender had piled up more doubters than victories in his OHL career, but he has really settled in to his pro surroundings well. Thanks to an infusion of pro caliber coaching and dynamic, young players, the Texas Stars quick turnaround will look to take another step forward this season and Campbell figures to be a big part of the solution.
Unsigned for 2014-15
Scott Glennie, C/RW, Texas Stars (AHL)
The tribulation has been well-documented, but it might finally be the end of the road for Scott Glennie and the Dallas Stars in 2014. He is on the final year of his entry-level deal and has yet to really take any significant steps forward in his development. If there is a glimmer of hope for him, it is that late last season, he used his quality skating to prevent goals as oppose to scoring them. While Glennie seemed to be “into it,” he has been nothing but consistently inconsistent since being drafted. Management will be unable to see what kind of metamorphosis has taken place as Glennie once again starts the year on injured reserve.
He has been surpassed on the depth chart for any role the organization could find for him and with a healthy qualifying offer due at the end of the year on his $810,000 salary; he may be permitted to seek an opportunity with another organization this summer. Combining regular season and playoffs, Glennie has appeared in 126 AHL contests scoring 18 goals and 34 assists.
Top Junior Prospect
Jason Dickinson, LW/RW, Guelph Storm (OHL)
Given the amount of pro-ready prospects the Stars have in their coffers, their top junior prospect cannot be found on their list until #8 with Jason Dickinson of the Guelph Storm. He was the Stars “other” first round pick in 2013 but he is not one to sleep on. Dickinson has an impressive blend of size, skill, skating, and hockey sense. His explosive skating (coupled with a great second gear) and his great use of body positioning to shield off would-be defenders makes him a tough player to stop at the junior level.
He slowed down late last season and settled on 47 points in 66 games, but this season he is off to another fast start, scoring three goals, four assists through his first six games, and hopes to make it last the distance in 2013-14. He has certainly shown the ability to take control of things on the ice at a moment’s notice. He just needs to focus on bringing his talent to the forefront every single night to make him an elite player at the OHL level.
Radek Faksa, C, Kitchener Rangers (OHL)
It was a forgettable 2012-13 season for husky Rangers pivot Radek Faksa. Marred by injury and illness, the Czech import only appeared in 39 games, registering just nine goals and 22 assists. The Rangers offense could not get clicking last season and Faksa being at less than full strength certainly contributed to the lean offensive output in Kitchener last season. The hard-working, two-way center has a chance to really craft his offensive tools and add them to a pretty complete and enticing package.
Faksa understands the game well and competes hard defensively and physically even at a young age. His offensive game needs some polish still and his final year of junior hockey should go a long way to helping him hone is abilities against lesser competition. One issue that might stand in the way of Faksa hitting some lofty point totals is the quality of his linemates and how quickly the youth develops in Kitchener over the year.
What a strange road it has been for seventh round pick Dmitry Sinitsyn in his young career. He did not see much ice in his draft year, nearly ended up being the youngest D-1 hockey player in the nation, ended up being the odd man out on a Cinderella-esque UMass-Lowell team and then in the summer gets selected early in the CHL Import Draft by Regina and bolts for Western Canada. Now, he is primed to get some ice time and exposure with the Pats and plans to show us that the sky is the limit for this rangy Russian blueliner.
Known to possess a cannon of a shot, Sinitsyn was a complete unknown in the 2012 NHL Draft but really has a chance to stand out on an improving Regina club. Sinitsyn is a pretty smooth, composed player that can move the puck well. He should be a major asset in Regina’s transition game and on the man advantage. In five games with the Pats, he already has more points than he had all last year in the NCAA.
Top Amateur Prospect
Alex Guptill, LW, University of Michigan Wolverines (Big Ten)
A third round pick in 2010, Alex Guptill embarks on his third season in Ann Arbor, Michigan with the Wolverines. It has been a rather successful collegiate career to date for Guptill – 69 points in 79 games is nothing to be disappointed with at all. He came on strong as a freshman and was named CCHA Rookie of the Year. His sophomore season was a little rockier, but the production was still there. He needs to continue to condition himself mentally to handle the day-to-day life of a hockey player as he nears the time for him to turn professional.
He is a skilled player with a big frame and a good shot. Additionally, he has led Big Blue in scoring the past two seasons. Coach Red Berenson however, one of the legendary coaches in hockey history, never allows one player to be bigger than the team and Guptill will be no exception. Due to an off-ice issue during the summer, Guptill has had a very limited role in U of M’s preparation for the year and is expected to be suspended for the first couple games of the season. Guptill is getting the reputation of a bit of a flout law, hopefully he will develop a little more consistency and maturity in what could be his final collegiate season.
Breakout for 2013-14
Devin Shore, C, University of Maine Black Bears (Hockey East)
Sophomore center Devin Shore impressed a lot of Hockey East followers last season at the University of Maine. Though his point totals were fairly modest (no more modest than the Black Bears record) at six goals and 26 points in 38 games, he made quite an impact on the ice. He led his club in assists and points as a first-year player and was trusted by his coaches in a myriad of different playing circumstances. It is a possibility that Shore will take further charge this year and really turn some heads at a national level.
He is a clean, efficient, and industrious player that uses his smarts to find the right timing and his skill to execute plays. There has been talk since his draft year that Shore would only be in the NCAA for two years before turning pro and this season could go a long way to securing his future at the professional level. He still needs to improve his physical attributes before he is ready for show, but there is a lot of time for the gym and training with the fairly disjointed college schedule.
Top European Prospect
Emil Molin, C/LW, Brynas (SHL)
Emil Molin has begun his third season in the newly-rebranded SHL (nee Elitserien). He has been used in a very limited role to date and his point totals reflect that: two goals, seven assists in 79 games (including playoffs). Though he was signed to an entry-level contract by the Stars already, Molin elected to stay in Sweden in the hopes of establishing himself as a true SHL regular. The early returns have not yielded the desired results unfortunately. Molin has two assists in the first eight games and is seeing less than five minutes of even strength ice time per game.
Molin has been transitioning out of the center ice position and over to the left wing. He is a speedy player with a good motor and showed that he is a skilled player for Sweden at the World Juniors. He is going to have make his own breaks against Sweden’s best it seems; the depth chart might not be any easier to crack in Texas anyway. He is expected to come to North America after the 2014 season is completed.
Bounce-back for 2013-14
John Klingberg, D, Vastra Frolunda (SHL)
Offensive defenseman John Klingberg has been one of the stranger stories in the prospect world. His development path could not be tracked by Carmen Sandiego and then injuries have played a major part in the process as well. He was limited to just half of a season in 2012-13, but he emerged as one of the better offensive defensemen in the league formerly known as Elitserien. He has changed teams once more and is picking up right where he left off.
Klingberg is a smooth-skating, puck-moving blueliner that often acts as a fourth forward to spur the offensive attack. He already wears an “A” and is off to a hot start – netting five points in eight games. He leads the club in even strength, powerplay, and total ice time while also seeing some time shorthanded. This is a very promising turn of events for the 21-year-old Klingberg who had been previously ushered to the sidelines of the Stars’ deep prospect pool.
Breakout for 2013-14
Esa Lindell, D, Jokerit (Liiga)
His first taste of Finland’s top league was not very flavorful for offensive defenseman Esa Lindell. He played in 19 games but went pointless with a minus-nine rating. This season he will have a tough road to trudge through given the amount of defensive depth on Jokerit, but he has shown flashes of being able to handle the bright lights. In the second-tier Mestis League last season, Lindell notched 10 points in 22 contests and before that he dominated the top junior circuit in the country.
Lindell is sizing up the game a little better now and is lessening his headlong forays into the offensive rush. He will have a lot of help from the strong, veteran blueliners on the KHL-bound Jokerit club – he will also have to really fight for ice time in the process. It is an important developmental year for Lindell as there is a crossroads/unusual situation coming up on the horizon for him with his club changing leagues in the summer of 2014.
Follow Mike Farkas on Twitter: @MichaelFarkasHF