Ladies and gentlemen, Steve Ott is near up on us.
Ott filled in very well in a fourth line role while the Stars suffered a couple
of injuries to forwards Kirk Muller and Ulf Dahlen. Playing in eight games he
managed to go out with a bang, registering a goal in his final game with the
Stars. He has brought his agitating game to the NHL and the AHL, but at this
point does not seem to be producing a great deal of offense. However, in his
time with the Stars it appeared he was more concerned with watching his
defensive positioning, so perhaps the scoring is yet to come. Still, even if he
can not score a great deal in the NHL, he will be a player on this team in the
relatively near future.
|D||2||1||Down 1 position|
Sliding a spot through no fault of his own, John
Erskine has been Utah’s best defenseman for most of the year. A casualty of
depth and finances at the beginning of the year, Erskine’s window may be
opening with the recent injury to Richard Matvichuk and the impending free
agencies of Matvichuk (restricted) and Derian Hatcher (unrestricted). Erskine
pretty much is going to be what he is: a big, nasty physical defenseman
Jason Bacashihua’s first pro year has been
markedly up and down. He has had periods of absolute brilliance, stealing games
seemingly at will. Yet, at other times, he has looked downright pedestrian. His
attributes, being his reflexes and confidence, have transferred to the
professional game very well, but unfortunately, his biggest weakness thus far in
his career, his inconsistency, transferred as well. With time, Bacshihua should
work out his inconsistency issues and flaws in his technique and become a very
good professional goalie. He is, however, at least 2 years away from the NHL.
Up 1 position
The dominance of Antti Miettinen in the SM-Liiga
continues. After a slow start, Miettinen has come on to lead the entire SM-Liiga
in points, also becoming the first player in the SM-Liiga to reach 40 points, and
winning December Player of the Month honors. A versatile player who does
everything well but nothing spectacularly, Miettinen has added more net drive in
this season while still retaining his ability to play a skilled game. Miettinen
is probably on the Stars radar to come to NA next year, and should it occur, he
could probably compete for a roster spot that may open with some players retiring or
free agent departures.
|RW||5||4 (5)||Down 1 position|
Rounding out the Top 5 is Northeastern forward
Mike Ryan. Coming into his senior year, Ryan was hoping to lead Northeastern to
a Beanpot, but his team has not been very good. Ryan is among Hockey East’s
leaders in goal scoring and has earned some individual honors during the year,
but the success of his team is a little disappointing. Probably the best natural
goal scorer in the system, Ryan could be here in a year or two depending on his
plans for college. In his 4 years spent at college, Ryan has gone from a
completely one-dimensional player to one that can lead in addition to scoring
and has improved both his size and defensive coverage. It is hard to say where
on the roster he will end up, but the promise is there.
|C||6||7 (8)||Up 1 position|
Just out of the Top 5, Joel Lundqvist is having a
great season in Sweden, already exceeding his point production in all areas from
last year. He is among the league leaders in points, and his play has earned him
a couple tours of duty with Sweden’s national team. Lundqvist has fought
through a couple of minor injuries during the season as well. His skilled game
with the physical edge he brings makes him an intriguing prospect. There is
still some room for him to add a bit more consistency in his offensive
production, and, with NA in all reality at least a couple of years away, there
is ample time.
|D||7||6 (7)||Down 1 position|
Trevor Daley sustained his position despite being
one of the last cuts from the Canadian WJC team. Upon returning to Sault St.
Marie, Daley put up 4 goals and 2 assists in his first two games. Right now,
Daley is hovering around producing a point per game, which is very respectable
for a defenseman. A terrific skater, and the only pure offensive defenseman in
the Stars’ system, Daley looks like he could have a bright future providing
his size does not hold him back. Rumblings are that he may be in the NHL as
early as next season.
|LW/C||8||16 (17)||Up 8 positions|
Jussi Jokinen is the biggest riser among the
Stars rankings because of his good WJC showing and his improvement in the SM-Liiga.
Jokinen, who last year finished with 2 goals and 6 assists in the WJC, flipped
those numbers around and this year registered 6 goals and 2 assists for Finland
while also being a key draw man. Jokinen has also surpassed 20 points in his
second year in the SM-Liiga, which is higher than his total from last year.
Jokinen has shown more skill this year and has the potential to develop into a
star in the SM-Liiga in the near future, and with NA action likely a few years
off, he should have time to do so.
|LW||9||10 (11)||Up 1 position|
Steve Gainey has had a decent season for Utah. He
has been solid defensively and producing offense at a decent clip. Suffering a
broken jaw early in the year, Gainey came back early and played with the injury.
Altogether, Gainey looks like he could be a serviceable lower liner based on his
solid but unspectacular play, but his window is rapidly closing.
|G||10||8 (9)||Down 2 positions|
Dan Ellis has seen his number fall precipitously in his final year with
UN-Omaha. Perhaps the years of carrying the team final caught up with him, or
perhaps he is just having an off year. Whatever the reason, Ellis should still
have the potential to be a decent goaltender down the road despite the down
year. Next year, Ellis will probably finish up his college career before joining the pro ranks in the following year.
|D||11||9 (10)||Down 2 positions|
Martin Vagner is another prospect having an awful
year. Vagner’s numbers with Hull in the QMJHL are lower than the ones he
posted in his draft year. The terrible year dropped him from any consideration for the Czech Republic’s WJC
squad. The first round choice of the Stars in last year’s draft, Vagner still
has potential to be a quality defenseman, but as this year illustrates, there is
a lot of work to be done. It is possible that the early cut from Stars’ camp
has affected his confidence.
|D||12||11 (12)||Down 1 position|
One of Utah’s best defensemen, Jeff MacMillan
has gone from a no-risk, positional defensive defenseman to a defenseman who can
chip in the occasional offense jumping into the play while still being solid
defensively. Evolving his game may give MacMillan a chance at the NHL, but with
Erskine ahead of him now and the Stars’ depth, he may not be able to break
into the league in Dallas.
|G||13||12 (13)||Down 1 position|
Tobias Stephan has had an overall slightly above
average year. He has posted respectable numbers in the Swiss Nationalliga,
especially for such a young player. He has a good number of wins on a solid
team, but his other numbers are not jaw dropping. At the WJC, Stephan was to be
important to the Swiss’s medal chances, but he was not very good, and the
Swiss fell short of expectations. A few years of work should help him work out
his problems with consistency.
|C||14||NR||Entered at #14|
Yared Hagos has undergone a big improvement from
last year. To his hard work and strength, he has added a degree of solid
defensive play and shown flashes of playmaking genius. More of playmaker than a
scorer, Hagos looks like he has a good shot at landing in the NHL down the line
because he is a big, powerful, hard-working player with a modicum of offensive
|C||15||NR||Entered at #15|
The big foreign name in Dallas Stars’ camp a
couple of years ago, Mathias Tjärnqvist fell off the radar due to a couple of
unusual illnesses. First, he had a severe case of mononucleosis, and then, he
had an emergency appendectomy. Now back and recovered from both incidents, Tjärnqvist
has landed on the top lines of Djurgardens and is producing at a respectable
clip. Time will tell if the bad luck he had will hurt him badly.
|C||16||NR||Entered at #16|
Two years ago, Artem Chernov was having an
awesome season in Russia. Fast-forward two years, and the slower progress of
Alexei Tereschenko is starting to show dividends. A two-way playmaker that is
also a threat alone on offense, Tereschenko has become an important player to
Dynamo Moscow. His game, however, is very similar to that of rookie Niko Kapanen,
so an NHL appearance with the Stars may be a hard climb.
|C/W||17||NR||Entered at #17|
One of the surprise picks in the second round of the entry draft, Marius Holtet
started the year with a third tier pro league in Sweden. He played well enough
there to get promoted to a second tier team for the second half of the season.
In his WJC division, Holtet was Norway’s best forward and was among the
overall leaders in goals and points. It is still hard to tell where his
potential truly lies, but it is a good start.
|C||18||NR||Entered at #18|
Jarkko A. Immonen may be the next Stars gem in
Finland. He is one of the top players in the Finnish junior system and already
has international experience in a few tournaments around Europe. Immonen has the
tools and mindset to develop into a scoring forward but should he not, there
does not look to be much of a future for him at this point. Next year, he needs
to make the SM-Liiga and Finnish WJC teams to further his development.
|RW||19||NR||Entered at #19|
The other big shocker of the Stars’ picks in
the second round, Janos Vas has split time between the Swedish junior system and
SEL. In the SEL, Vas does not get a lot of ice time, maybe because he is not
truly ready for the league, and his numbers show it. In the junior system, he
produces at about a point per game clip, playing both center and right wing. In
his WJC division, Vas was the most dominant forward when he played, but the
competition was not very stiff. Like the previous two, it is way too early to
tell just how good or bad Vas may be.
|D||20||14 (15)||Down 6 positions|
Another of the Stars’ defensive defensemen, Dan Jancevski still has a ways
to go before being NHL ready. His mobility needs to be improved, and the
offensive production he has shown is not promising. If he can get those two
aspects of his game improved to go with his physical defensive game, there may
yet be a spot for him, but at the moment he’s at least squarely number three
on the depth chart when it comes to the Stars’ defensive prospects in Utah.