With a glut of players developing in their farm system but Stanley Cup dreams abounding, the Dallas Stars have found little use for their prospects over the course of this season – with one exception, Mattias Janmark. Otherwise, the call-ups have been generally short in nature but have yielded some promising early returns. Esa Lindell has not played many games but the added experience could come in handy as reinforcements are needed, while Devin Shore had his excellent season cut short by injury.
Even though few prospects have contributed to the NHL team this year, fewer still participated in the 2016 World Junior Championships thanks to a late cut of a Stars recent first-round pick.
Mattias Janmark, LW/C, 23
Certainly the biggest surprise of the 2015-16 season for the Dallas Stars has been the play of Mattias Janmark. Picked up, along with Mattias Backman, from the Detroit Red Wings late last season, it was unclear if Janmark would even play in North America this season. He earned a spot on the roster and has played consistently well throughout. He has been used on the wing primarily, often playing with Jason Spezza, but the Stars change their lines up as often as any team in the league, so he can be tough to track. Recently he has been moved to third line center. With ten goals and 19 points in the first 50 NHL contests to go with a quality plus-12 rating, Janmark is acclimating nicely to the big stage.
More of a cerebral player, Janmark has shown a good deal of hustle aided by his very good skating ability. He is never going to be a physical player by any means, but he could improve his strength and his confidence more, which ought to come with maturity and experience. If he is going to play center in the NHL, he will need to improve his faceoff ability and not forget that taking shots on net is never a bad play – particularly if he is going to be playing with lesser linemates going forward.
Radek Faksa, C, 22
The Stars top pick in 2012 (13th overall) made his NHL debut in the first half of the 2015-16 season. With 18 games under his belt, he has been re-assigned to the American League but not before making a positive impression as a defensive forward for the future. Naturally, Faksa was called up to be a lower line player due to some injuries up in Dallas and he filled in quite nicely. In fact, an unbiased observer might prefer Faksa over some of the depth players currently on the NHL roster. However, the Dallas brass wants Faksa to continue to develop his game at a lower level and take the experience that he obtained and apply it to his AHL game. Knowing and understanding the speed of the NHL game should make the AHL game come much easier for the young Czech.
Another pretty heady player, Faksa still showed a lot of heart and hustle while maintaining his defensive assignments during his call-up. Though he scored just a single goal and two assists in his time in Dallas, he impressed with his eye for detail. This stint might be the best Faksa has looked since his rookie season in the OHL and certainly shows promise for the hulking center to become a third line down the road.
Patrik Nemeth, D, 23
With Janmark being the biggest positive surprise, Patrik Nemeth may be the biggest lump of coal on the season for Dallas. A player who started out looking quite promising in Sweden and into the AHL and even his brief time in the NHL – out-performing 2011 first-round pick Jamie Oleksiak by a fair margin – has been struck damaging blows by injuries over his short career. He has been a scratch for much of the season and has only appeared in 11 NHL games, an AHL conditioning stint notwithstanding. Part of it may be physical limitations and the other part of it may be mental. That is, not a hockey IQ problem like Oleksiak, but a confidence problem. Nemeth has just lacked the “pop” to his game that made him effective. Despite only having below-average puck skills, he could still make the best of a less-than-ideal situation (see: his Calder Cup winning goal in 2014).
If the Stars are looking to unload the big Swedish defenseman, more than a few teams would be likely willing to take a chance on him, particularly those looking to add younger pieces with hopes of a better next season. It is not at all unreasonable to think that Nemeth can still be an NHL regular going forward once he collects himself.
2016 World Junior Championships Update
The Dallas Stars had just one representative at the World Juniors in Helsinki. 2015 second round selection, Roope Hintz helped the Finns capture gold on home ice. Though Hintz had three goals and four points in the tournament, overall he left a little to be desired. The Finns were set up a bit differently than past teams, as they possessed a bevy of high-end talent as opposed to a deep group of players not unlike Hintz himself. Obviously, their engine was driven by Sebastian Aho (CAR), Patrik Laine (2016) and Jesse Puljujarvi (2016) plus major support from the back line with talented playmakers Vili Saarijarvi (DET) and Olli Juolevi (2016). The second-line players like Hintz, Kasperi Kapanen (TOR) and Mikko Rantanen (COL) were not as effective as some expected. Hintz worked hard and smart, as he is prone to do, but did not show enough offensive panache to benefit Kapanen or even the rookie AHL standout Rantanen.
Certainly not a bad player or a liability to the Finns, but Hintz failed to be a major cog in what was otherwise a supremely impressive Finnish squad.
Even less impressive was Denis Guryanov, who was a late cut from the Russian team. The 12th overall selection in 2015 has just five points in 42 games in the KHL this season. He failed to crack a Russian lineup that appeared to be one of the least technically skilled teams the Russian had iced in quite some time – reportedly for a bad penalty in pre-tournament play. Still the Russian juniors banded together as a team to nearly capture gold despite a noticeable lack of flash and gamebreaking skill.
Dallas Stars Prospect of the Month
Not atypical of intelligent players in any sport, it can take a little bit of time to adjust to another level of play. For Jason Dickinson, that adjustment period seems to be evaporating rather quickly. Coming out of a stretch of just two points in ten games in December, the rangy center has bounced back with ten points in his last ten contests for the Texas Stars. Dickinson has played both left wing and center this season and has seen significant ice time as a rookie. Overall, his 28 points and plus-10 rating are two of the finest marks on the club and he looks very good playing in any situation at any time. Truly, he is one of the Stars most versatile prospects.