Deep and diverse group populate Dallas Stars top-20

By Mike Farkas
Photo: In his second full season of North American hockey, Philip Larsen has developed into a solid number five defenseman at the NHL level. (Photo courtesy of Warren Wimmer/Icon SMI)

Over the last few years, the Dallas Stars prospect pool has become deep and ripe with quality prospects. Much of the credit can go to impactful late-round picks and key undrafted free agent signings. The Dallas Stars lineup contains more than a few late round picks and a few more with impending success seem poised and ready to join their ranks as well. If anything, their first and second round picks have at times sputtered or stagnated but no one is out of the picture yet in that regard.

With the exception of goaltender Jack Campbell, the Stars continue to lack blue chip prospects but they have a great amount of mid-level or better prospects that create a solid foundation to terrific organizational depth. A depth chart that was chock full of long-term projects and longshot, potential homerun choices is now full of plug-and-play, industrious forwards, quality two-way defensemen, and a good mix of goaltenders. The Top 20 features a very balanced group and it’s difficult to find any glaring weakness or deficiency.

1. (1) Jack Campbell, G, 8C
Drafted 1st round, 11th overall, 2010

American goaltender Jack Campbell holds his spot as the Stars top prospect. The main component of Campbell’s resume is his impressive international ventures. He has received two "best goalie of the tournament" nods at the World Juniors (one for the U18’s and one for the U20’s), but unfortunately couldn’t find the same magic in 2012 for the Americans as their tournament ended in disappointment. Not having a dominant World Junior tournament wasn’t the only change for Campbell this year as he was shipped out of Windsor early in the season after the king’s ransom that was paid by the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. Before leaving Windsor, Campbell looked like he was off to a far-improved season statistically – he had a 3.13 goals against average and .906 save percentage to go with his 6-3-1-1 record. With the Greyhounds, he has a 3.58 goals against average, a 15-12-5 record, and a .892 save percentage, tepid numbers ranked against his OHL peers.

His numbers aren’t completely indicative of his performance however. Which is easy to say, but Campbell does show a terrific amount of talent but has a poor team playing in front of him. For most of the season, the Greyhounds have played a passive, bordering on care-free, game and it has led to many quality opportunities against Campbell. He gives up nearly a goal per game less than his fellow netminder Matt Murray and gives the Greyhounds a chance to get into the playoffs. Campbell still exudes the highest potential in the organization but needs to find a place where he can get a little help and solidarity and given their respective current state of affairs, Idaho (ECHL) and Texas (AHL) may not necessarily provide that either.

2. (2) Philip Larsen, D, 7.5B
Drafted 5th round, 149th overall, 2008

Primed and ready for his first full NHL season, Philip Larsen has been quiet and composed. He’s been mostly an even strength contributor, he sees some limited power play opportunities, but otherwise he gets regular minutes as a number five defenseman at the NHL level. His seven points in 45 games don’t tell as good of a story as his plus-eight rating does (second to Sheldon Souray’s plus-20 among club defensemen). He starts, but more importantly ends, shifts in the offensive zone with regularity and has begun to develop some strength. He isn’t afraid of physical contact and can retrieve pucks better without being put through the wall or knocked off the puck as easy. His anticipation skills are top notch.

The Stars shipped off rugged blueliner Nicklas Grossman to Philadelphia which made more room in the Dallas lineup for the Danish fifth rounder. He has nowhere to go but up in the Stars lineup and has had consistent endorsement at the AHL and NHL level from Glen Gulutzan which is comforting for both sides of the equation. Look for Larsen to continue to grow into a full-time second pairing defenseman in the not-too-distant future.

3. (3) Alex Chiasson, RW, 7.5C
Drafted 2nd round, 38th overall, 2009

The 6’3 Alex Chiasson has continued to grow as a big part of the Boston University offense. His offensive instincts are fairly well polished already and he has spent his junior year refining the rest of his game. He has been improving his playmaking skills and is trusted with penalty kill time while maintaining his top-line role. He also a team-best 44 points in 37 games.

He’s a big, rangy winger with good puck protection skills and terrific vision. He’s really shown some more creativity with the puck this year and is making players better around him all the time. Veteran coach Jack Parker uses Chiasson in every possible situation – he trusts him with BU protecting a one-goal lead and needs him when BU is down by one late. He even takes faceoffs quite well despite being a winger. Given the distractions and controversy surrounding the university this season, Chiasson may opt to sign during the offseason if the Stars do, in fact, offer him a chance to turn pro, which seems like a very plausible scenario.

4. (4) Jamie Oleksiak, D, 7.5C
Drafted 1st round, 14th overall, 2011

Enormous defenseman Jamie Oleksiak is another American first rounder by Dallas that went the OHL route and was traded during his junior season. The former Northeastern University standout was moved from the Saginaw Spirit to the Niagara IceDogs, which has positively impacted Oleksiak’s development. He seems like a more confident player and doesn’t look like he’s tethered to his own blue line like he might have been with Saginaw. He has 21 points and a plus-27 rating in 28 games with Niagara after just 11 points in 31 Saginaw games. He seems to be growing as a player by the day.

He has a lot of ability on the backend to do many different things. He’s positionally sound and can run forwards out of real estate very quickly – though not typically with a bone-crushing hit. He can move the puck with a good outlet pass, he can get shots towards the net, he can eat up enemy territory by carrying the puck and he’s a good learner. Niagara fans and Dallas brass alike are excited to see what kind of level Oleksiak can take his game up to in the postseason.

5. (5) Scott Glennie, C/RW, 7.5C
Drafted 1st round, 8th overall, 2009

After a tumultuous, sputtering start to his pro career, Scott Glennie has turned his season around quite well. Now, fifth on the team in points with 34, Glennie is really starting to get a good feel for the professional game. He’s typically found centering the top line with two-way forward Colton Sceviour and grinder Francis Wathier. He has added a little more urgency and vim to his game since being placed on the line. Unfortunately, Glennie won’t be able to prove his worth in the Calder Cup playoffs as Texas currently ranks last in the Western Conference.

Glennie is a creative forward that can play right wing or center and show off good vision from either position. He has speed to give and has a nice goal scoring touch, though it’s still rather streaky. The main concerns about Glennie were never technical or physical, but always mental. His slow starts, sometimes unmotivated play and untimely (though, some may suggest that they were quite timely for him) injuries have left a lot of question marks about what kind of pro career he could have. In the last few months, however, he has shown a lot of promise as he pushes to justify his lofty draft selection.

6. (6) Reilly Smith, RW, 7.5C
Drafted 3rd round, 69th overall, 2009

Despite losing two of his senior linemates last season in Andy Miele (PHX) and Carter Camper (BOS), Reilly Smith has kept right up with his goal scoring ways. His 30 goals rank second in the country behind fellow Star and fellow Smith, Austin Smith of Colgate. Named the captain in his junior season, Smith has been a cornerstone of the Miami University offense all season long. His 43 points put him 12 ahead of the next closest player on the team (Austin Czarnik) and 22 over next in line Jimmy Mullin (TB). The Mimico, Ontario product is responsible for about a quarter of the team’s goals this year though he is not just a sniper. Over the year, he has developed a better overall game and is able to contribute in many different situations now. He’s become a more multi-dimensional player out of necessity for a team that took a hard hit from graduations last year. For the second straight season, Smith was named as a CCHA First-Team All-Star.

Smith’s best attribute is his shot and he can score from anywhere. He’s still somewhat slight which may hinder his initial transition to the pros (if he, in fact, comes out after this year). He has a lot of good, mold-able assets at his disposal and looks to have a bright future.

7. (8) Patrik Nemeth, D, 7C
Drafted 2nd round, 41st overall, 2010

The big and burly Nemeth has been a stalwart on the blue line for the Elitserien club AIK in 2011-12. While he notched just three assists in 46 games, he logged big, important minutes and penalty kill time. He showed a better propensity for physical play this season and seemed more composed overall with less scramble to his game.

Nemeth is a strong defensive defenseman with good skating ability and is becoming less shy about exhibiting his physical strength. He’s not much for offense, but he can jump into the play and keep pucks alive. He’s a solid outlet passer but won’t wow anyone with his puck skills. He’ll have an opportunity to jump over to the AHL in 2012-13 and log big minutes in North America for the first time.

8. (9) Richard Bachman, G, 7C
Drafted 4th round, 120th overall, 2006

Richard Bachman started the season in the AHL and didn’t fare too terribly well under new head coach Jeff Pyle and his new system. His 3.13 GAA and .887 save pct. are both a far cry from the numbers he put up the season before under the defensive styling of Glen Gulutzan. Bachman got a fortunate break for his career when he was able to beat out Andrew Raycroft for the backup job up in Dallas. His mini hot streak during Kari Lehtonen’s injury really opened up the eyes of management and compelled them to waive and send down Raycroft as a result. Bachman has played well in the time he’s been given this year – which has become predictably scant down the stretch. He’s 8-4-1 with a 2.71 goals against average, .911 save percentage and a shutout – very respectable figures for a 24-year-old rookie.

Bachman is on the smaller side versus his NHL peers but makes up for it with good athleticism and quick reflexes. He has some flash to his saves and moves around the crease well. He’s still working on adjusting to the speed and skill of the players but he doesn’t look out of place at all. He needs to get his positioning perfected in order to ensure he’s covering as much of the net as possible and the talented league snipers can’t find holes. Bachman figures to have the inside track on the backup job next season as well.

9. (10) Brett Ritchie, RW, 7C
Drafted 2nd round, 44th overall, 2011

Another OHL prospect that belongs to Dallas that saw his scenery changed was right winger Brett Ritchie. Like Oleksiak, Ritchie was dealt to the Niagara IceDogs. He also has had a great upturn in his season since being dealt. With just eight goals and seven assists in 23 games for Sarnia, Ritchie’s 30 points in 30 games is a welcomed change. He sees consistent top-line minutes with veteran forwards (typically Canucks prospect Alex Friesen and Andrew Agozzino) and is exuding far more consistency, confidence, gusto and tenacity in his game. After two and a half seasons with Sarnia, this trade seems to have really benefitted Ritchie.

Ritchie is a terrific offensive player with great skills and a devious shot. He’s a player that can attack well on the rush or create off the walls and down-low with his size. He’s getting to be a more agile skater and is always improving his puck protection ability. He has the ability to be a real complete player that can exceed at most aspects of the game. Injuries and sometimes questionable commitment levels have shed some doubt on his highest ceiling, but if how he plays for Niagara is any indication, the Stars have a bona fide top-six forward in their ranks.

10. (NR) Alex Guptill, LW, 7C
Drafted 3rd round, 77th overall, 2010

Alex Guptill makes the most significant jump on the list while enjoying a terrific freshman season at the University of Michigan. Guptill burst on to the scene, often playing with the best the Wolverines have to offer, for 16 goals and 17 assists in 40 games. He leads all CCHA freshmen in points and all CCHA underclassmen in goals securing a spot on the CCHA All-Rookie Team for his efforts.

Red Berenson was fairly unimpressed with Guptill when he saw him last year in Waterloo but he came to play in 2011-12 and with Berenson and his veteran teammates there to help, Guptill’s game has improved leaps and bounds. He’s a better skater, more confident offensively, more competent defensively and a more industrious worker. He still doesn’t have it all together yet and his two-way play will improve with age, but he’s off to a great start in a year that projected him to be mostly a fourth-liner. Leading a tradition-heavy team like U of M in points as a freshman requires an even more impressive encore as sophomore.

11. (NR) Matej Stransky, RW, 7C
Drafted 6th round, 165th overall, 2011

This time last year, Matej Stransky was being pushed down the lineup with Saskatoon’s changes and acquisitions during their playoff push. Now, the Blades are going to the playoffs on the back of the Czech import. After just 26 points as a WHL rookie, Stransky has exploded for 81 points (39 goals and 42 assists) to lead his team in scoring by a healthy margin. He has been an offensive dynamo and one of the league’s best possession players. He can hold the puck for a near infinite amount of time and he has extremely slick hands and a terrific shot.

Stransky is a big, powerful forward that is full of vinegar sometimes when provoked. He has an array of great offensive tools that don’t look too dissimilar to those shown by Jaromir Jagr when he was a youngster. Obviously, not as talented as Jagr nor as good of a skater, Stransky has nonetheless put himself on the map this season.

12. (13) Brenden Dillon, D, 6.5C
Signed as a free agent, March 2011

Strong defensive-minded defenseman Brenden Dillon has fed off of his late season success at the AHL level in 2010-11 despite sweeping tactical changes to the Texas Stars. The new head coach (Jeff Pyle) has promoted a high-tempo, aggressive, heavy forechecking system that allows defensemen to jump into the play and requires them to keep pucks alive. Dillon already has 25 points, including 20 assists, despite not seeing much in the way of power play time. He has 83 penalty minutes and a minus-eight rating, but has played better than the latter would indicate. Overall, he’s solid, if unspectacular, rugged blueliner that can eat minutes and play on the PK with regularity. He also might be able to audition for a spot on next year’s Dallas team.

13. (18) Austin Smith, RW, 6.5C
Drafted 5th round, 128th overall, 2007

What a year it has been for senior Austin Smith at Colgate University. After posting a career-worst 10 goals last season, Smith exploded this season for a nation-high 36 goals and a career-best 57 points (four off the country’s top spot). After offseason surgery, Smith has come back healthy and confident and flying. He continues to be an all-situation player with good speed and a tremendous work rate, he has skated circles around the ECAC this season. While he’s not projected to be an elite scorer at the NHL level by any stretch of the imagination, he has a future as a quality utility man. He’s not particularly big or strong but he makes up for it with world class determination and a swagger that’s hard to match. Smith will almost certainly be signed after his collegiate career ends and will likely finish the year in Texas if the Stars management so chooses.

14. (20) Matt Fraser, LW, 6.5C
Signed as a free agent, November 2010

Brought into the organization as an undrafted overager from the Kootenay Ice (WHL) during the summer, Matt Fraser has not wasted this tremendous opportunity. For those that thought Fraser’s 36 goals were part of the statistical anomaly that comes with an overage junior season, they are surely mystified by Fraser’s 30 goals (and 47 points) in 60 games in the AHL as a rookie. However, while his trigger-pulling may be NHL-ready, the rest of his game still needs some improvement. He’s still a fairly iffy skater and needs to continue to get work more efficiently away from the puck. He does see a bit of penalty kill time, but has the second worst plus-minus rating on the team at minus-11. When he’s not scoring, he can be found ruffling the feathers of his opponents but not quite to the degree that he did in the WHL. Fraser saw one NHL game already as a first-year pro and certainly can carve out a strong future in the organization.

15. (11) John Klingberg, D, 6.5C
Drafted 5th round, 131st overall, 2010

It has been a tumultuous season for John Klingberg. He left Sweden to play for Jokerit in the SM-Liiga A where they play a more straightforward, physical style of play. But relatively poor play and homesickness attributed to his departure back to Sweden where he joined Skelleftea (SEL) for their stretch drive and the playoffs. He had three points in 20 games in Finland‘s top league and four points in 16 games in his Swedish games. For the second straight year he represented the Swedes at the World Junior Championships. He recorded three assists in six games but was only given limited ice time, especially while his team’s were ahead. He’s still fairly porous defensively and needs to continue to improve his strength. He’s been seen at forward in spot duty, but his skating ability and vision would be best served on the back end. His long-term potential sees him as more of a power play specialist, but his immediate future, most notably where he will play, remains up in the air.

16. (14) Colton Sceviour, RW, 6B
Drafted 4th round, 112th overall, 2007

One of the many plug-and-play wingers in the Dallas organization, Colton Sceviour is having the best year of his three-year pro career. After a slow start as he transitioned into a brand new system, Sceviour has been a big part of the Texas top line with Scott Glennie and Francis Wathier. Through 62 games, Sceviour has a career-best in goals (17) and beat his previous bests in assists (29). The industrious, quick two-way forward is extremely versatile, responsible and can take important faceoffs despite him lining up at the wing generally. He continues to show good promise, not so much as a scorer, which he has proven he can do at the minor league level, but as a valuable depth player that can handle a myriad of situations and not look out of place. The Stars will likely have a spot for Sceviour to snatch up with a good camp next year in their bottom six forwards.

17. (19) Jyrki Jokipakka, D, 6.5C
Drafted 7th round, 195th overall, 2011

Drafted as a 20-year-old, Jyrki Jokipakka is not much farther along in his development path than most of his other 2011-drafted counterparts but is still progressing very nicely. He has a sizeable role on Ilves Tampere (SM-Liiga A) as a number four defenseman that can play in any situation. He has stepped up his offensive game this year and gets plenty of pucks on net. He’s the leading point-getter among his club’s defensemen with nine goals and 17 points in 52 games. His minus-four rating is second-best among club defensemen as well.

Even though it’s been a forgettable season for Ilves, Jokipakka is gaining more and more ice time and positive reputation points in Finland. He plays a clean, mature game and is sound defensively. Two questions loom large this summer for Jokipakka: Will he be invited to play for Finland at the World Championships and will he end up in North America next season?

18. (NR) Scott Winkler, RW/C, 6.5C
Drafted 3rd round, 89th overall, 2008

Getting healthy and acclimated, Scott Winkler has destroyed previous collegiate highs in goals, assists, points, and games played. He’s seeing much more ice time this season which had led to him managing 24 points in 31 games. His versatility and strong work rate sees him play all over the lineup sometimes, but largely he’s the right wing on a second line with Nick Dineen and Alexander Krushelnyski. The Norwegian forward can play in any situation and shows good sense while doing so. Hopefully he can finally put his injury troubles behind him, but even with that out of the way, Winkler is still a jack of most trades, master of none. He projects to be no more than a quality, versatile utility player at best.

19. (12) Tyler Beskorowany, G, 7D
Drafted 2nd round, 59th overall, 2008

A new, less defense-oriented team and a new net partner have not been very helpful to Tyler Beskorowany in 2011-12. Now manning the nets with Andrew Raycroft, neither one has put together an exemplary season as Texas is heading for an early start to the offseason. Both netminders have fairly similar numbers, Beskorowany is 10-17-0 with a 3.27 goals against average, a .891 save percentage, and one shutout. Those numbers are a far cry from his numbers in spot duty as a rookie last year (which included a .921 save percentage).

Due to injury and other circumstances, Beskorowany was pushed quickly from the ECHL and maybe that’s regrettable at this point in time. Technically, he’s still a work in progress and has trouble bouncing back from bad goals it seems. Also, despite his 6’5 stature, he has difficulty filling out the net. All hope is not lost, as he’s still 21 years old and was very much from the start considered a project.

20. (16) Troy Vance, D, 6.5C
Drafted 5th round, 135th overall, 2011

After a feeling out process during the second half of 2010-11, Troy Vance has been well-prepared to put a full QMJHL season under his belt. The Victoriaville Tigre blueliner has bumped his career-high total of four points to a respectable 24 in 57 games while presenting a plus-17 rating. Only the midseason acquisition of Jeremie Blain (EDM) keeps Vance from being the leading scorer among Victoriaville rearguards.

The key for Vance is to remain a consistent, reliable presence on the back line. He’s showing the traits of a quality two-way defenseman but his offensive skills may not be so quick to translate to the pro game. When all is said and done, an organization would be best served by having Vance – at a hulking 6’5 with good mobility – being letter perfect defensively and able to spur on the breakout. He still has much to learn but has shown good signs of improvement.