Stars Top 20 prospects

By HF Staff

1. (1) Trevor Daley, D – 21 – (2002 Draft Pick, 43rd overall)

Offensive defenseman Trevor Daley continues to the list of Dallas Stars prospects. Having split the 2003-04 season between the AHL Utah Grizzlies and the Stars, he was assigned to the AHL Hamilton Bulldogs in 2004-05. A strong skater with good speed, Daley is a regular point man on the power play. He had four goals on the man advantage this year. In 78 games this season, Daley was tops among Bulldog defensemen in scoring with 27 assists and 34 points. He was -4 on the year, however, on a generally plus club.

Daley’s drawback is his size at 5’10, but he’s a virtual lock for a roster spot on the rebuilding Stars this season. He’ll turn 22 in October.

2. (2) Shawn Belle, D – 20 – (Trade acquisition from St. Louis – 2003 Draft Pick, 30th overall)

With a career-high season in goals, assists and points, matched with a gold medal win with Team Canada at the 2005 World Junior Hockey Championships, Shawn Belle’s stock is very high. The athletic defenseman is a strong skater with great acceleration and a good shot. In 62 games this season he was third in scoring on the Tri-City Americans with 45 points. He was –6 on the year, which was comparatively good for the struggling Americans.

Belle has signed a contract with the Stars and will begin play with the team’s new AHL affiliate, the Iowa Stars.

3. (NR) Matt Niskanen, D – 18 – (2005 Draft Pick, 28th overall)

Matt Niskanen, the Stars first pick in the 2005 entry draft, debuts at No. 3. A defenseman from Minnesota high school Virginia/Mountain Iron-Buhl, he was instrumental in the Blue Devils success, helping them to the Class A state tournament. He was a Mr. Hockey finalist, named to the AP All-State first team, and was a member of the 2003 US U-18 Select team.

Niskanen is a smooth two-way player who can move well with the puck. He has a hard shot and is experienced in controlling the flow of the game. He is a very poised player who knows when to jump into the play and he is a solid hitter who can be utilized in all situations.

Niskanen will attend the University of Minnesota-Duluth beginning this fall.

4. (5) Jussi Jokinen, C – 22 – (2001 Draft Pick, 192nd overall)

Jussi Jokinen is the first non-defenseman on the Stars Top 20 list. The center had a career year in his fourth season with Karpat of the Finnish Elite League in 2004-05, leading this strong team in scoring with 47 points in 56 games. A strong skater with good hands and instincts, Jokinen has a quick release on a good shot. He is known for his hard work on the ice and is usually found wherever the puck is.

Jokinen was signed by Dallas this summer and is expected to play with the Iowa Stars. At age 22, however, he’s further developed than most rookies, and could see some time with the big club.

5. (3) Loui Eriksson, RW – 20 – (2003 Draft Pick, 33rd overall)

Loui Eriksson moves to the fifth spot, having played most of this season with Vastra Frolunda in the Swedish Elite League. In 39 games with Frolunda this season he had five goals and nine assists. He was a member of Team Sweden at the 2005 World Junior Hockey Championships. Strong along the boards, Eriksson is willing to go to the net where he is able to get many of his goals from close range. He is also an excellent skater who plays a physical game.

Eriksson is now signed with Dallas and will acclimate to North American hockey at the AHL level.

6. (4) Antti Miettinen, LW – 25 – (2000 Draft Pick, 224th overall)

Antti Miettinen spent some time with the Dallas Stars during the 2003-04 season, with one goal in 16 games. In 35 games with the Hamilton Bulldogs in 2004-05, he had eight goals and 28 points and was a very impressive +11. Miettinen got a late start to the season after shoulder surgery in the fall of 2004. The two-way winger does not shy away from physical play. Known for being a strong skater and a good playmaker he also has a strong shot.

Signed to a one-way deal, the Stars are banking on him to make the team as a checker, and given his progression, it shouldn’t be a problem. Already 25, what you see is what you get, but as a former seventh round pick, he was a good value.

7. (NR) James Neal, LW – 18 – (2005 Draft Pick, 33rd overall)

James Neal was a 2005 pick at 33rd overall. With the Plymouth Whalers in 2004-05, he had 18 goals and 44 points in 67 games. Neal started the season strong and had 36 points by the end of January, but he struggled down the stretch and only added eight more points to his total. Despite his lack of production in the second half of the season, Neal was invited to play with Team Canada at the U-18 World Championships where he had a goal and an assist in six games.

Neal has the potential to be a power forward at the next level with his size and offensive skills. He is a physical player who will go hard to the net. He sees the ice well and will compete for the puck down low. Neal was one of the youngest players in the 2005 draft, having only turned 18 this month. He’ll return to the Plymouth Whalers for the 2005-06 season.

8. (7) Niklas Grossman, D – 20 – (2004 Draft Pick, 56th overall)

Niklas Grossman retains his position in the Top 20. He saw more ice time this season with Sodertalje of the Swedish Elite League this season, appearing in 31 games. A stay-at-home defenseman with strength and good reach, Grossman is tough to beat one-on-one. He had two assists and 14 penalty minutes with Sodertalje in 2004-05.

Grossman has been signed by the Stars and will play for the Iowa Stars.

9. (8) Mark Fistric, D – 19 – (2004 Draft Pick, 28th overall)

Due to a broken jaw, Mark Fistric saw limited action with the Vancouver Giants in 2004-05. The former first round pick played in only 15 games this season and had six points and 32 penalty minutes. A large, defensive defenseman at 6’2 and 232 lbs., Fistric plays a physical, intimidating game when healthy.

Fistric will continue with the Giants in 2005-06.

10. (6) Johan Fransson, D – 20 – (2004 Draft Pick, 34th overall)

A contender for rookie of the year in the Swedish Elite League in 2003-04, Johan Fransson had a tough 2004-05 season and at times he was even out of the line-up in Luleå. He was a member of Team Sweden at the 2005 World Junior Hockey Championships. A mobile player who can move the puck well, he is a strong skater who doesn’t shy away from playing physically – despite his 183 pounds. In 43 games this season with Lulea he posted one goal, six assists and 30 penalty minutes.

Fransson will remain with Luleå for another year.

11. (NR) Richard Clune, LW – 18 – (2005 Draft Pick, 71st overall)

Richard Clune was a third round pick in this summer’s draft. His second season with the Sarnia Sting in 2004-05 saw him get more ice time. Clune spent time on the top two lines and on the special teams and had a solid year statistically, with 34 points in 67 games.

A gritty, aggressive player, Clune plays hard every night. He has the potential of developing into a checking or power forward at the next level and could be a second line forward, depending on his physical progression. He will return to Sarnia for the 2005-06 season.

12. (NR) Perttu Lindgren, C – 18 – (2005 Draft Pick, 75th overall)

Perttu Lindgren was taken just four spots after Clune in the draft. Lindgren was a top scorer for Finland at the Under 17 level and he helped his Jr. A team Ilves win the championship by setting a new scoring record. But Lindgren was a disappointment during the Under 18 World Championships in 2005 where he failed to produce until the relegation series. He is yet another very young 2005 draftee, having just turned 18 in August.

A finesse player with good vision, Lindgren is a strong skater and stickhandler. A solid playmaker, he is now going to the net more and developing sniper instincts. He can take care of himself on the ice, but he isn’t a physical force.

Lindgren could benefit from spending more time in Finland to hone his skills and play at the elite level. He will remain in the Ilves Tampere system for the 2005-06 season.

13. (9) Yared Hagos, C – 22 – (2001 Draft Pick, 70th overall)

Playing with Timra in the Swedish Elite League, Hagos had 21 points in 49 games in 2004-05. A hard working player, the 6’1 205-pounder has good hands and plays well defensively. A former third round pick, he has strong leadership skills and has captained Swedish junior teams in the past.

Hagos is signed and could challenge for a spot with Dallas on a checking line. Otherwise he will join the Iowa Stars.

14. (10) Junior Lessard, RW – 25 – (Free agent signing, 2004)

After four years with the University of Minnesota-Duluth where he won the Hobey Baker award in 2004, Junior Lessard joined the Houston Aeros in 2004-05, but with disappointing results. In 71 games with the Aeros this season, he had just 11 goals and 22 points. A strong, smart player, Lessard is not afraid to go to the front of the net where he has good hands and instincts.

Lessard will challenge for a spot with Dallas, but may end up back in the AHL with Iowa where he’ll try to find his offense once again.

15. (11) Dan Ellis, G – 25 – (2000 Draft Pick, 60th overall)

In an organization that lacks a top-flight goaltending prospect, Dan Ellis ranks highest at this position. He played one game with the Dallas Stars in 2003-04, in which he posted a win. An agile, butterfly style goalie, Ellis has very good reflexes and stays focused and composed in tough situations. He had a .908 save percentage and one shutout in 31 games this season with the Hamilton Bulldogs.

Elllis will likely play for the Iowa Stars this season, a return to the region where he played his college hockey at the University of Nebraska-Omaha.

16. (NR) Tom Wandell, C – 18 – (2005 Draft Pick, 146th overall)

With their fifth choice in the 2005 draft, the Stars took a gamble on Tom Wandell from Sodertalje Jr. in Sweden. Wandell missed most of the 2004-05 season recovering from an ACL injury. A technically skilled player, when healthy he is one to watch with his strong offensive play.

Wandell’s future will depend on how he recovers from his injury and if he can regain the offensive skill he has displayed in the past. He will remain with Sodertalje for the 2005-06 season.

17. (13) Vojtech Polak, LW – 20 – (2003 Draft Pick, 36th overall)

Vojtech Polak played for Dukla Jihlava and Karlovy Vary this season in the Czech Elite League, posting just nine points in 42 games, a low total for a supposedly offensive player. Possessing a great wrist shot and a powerful slap shot, Polak plays smart and is very competitive.

Polak signed a contract with the Stars this summer and will play for the Iowa Stars this fall. He needs to put up better numbers in the AHL than he did in the Czech league if he has any hope of playing in the NHL.

18. (14) Brandon Crombeen, RW – 20 – (2003 Draft Pick, 54th overall)

Brandon Crombeen posted similar numbers to his totals last season with the Barrie Colts. In 62 games with the Colts in 2003-04 he was third on the team with 21 goals and 50 points. In 63 games this season he had the second-highest goal total on the team with 31, with 49 points and 111 penalty minutes. Strong and competitive, Crombeen is a physical player who uses his size effectively in the corners and along the boards.

Crombeen is yet another signed and likely to play for the Iowa Stars.

19. (19) Raymond Sawada, RW – 20 – (2004 Draft Pick, 52nd overall)

Sawada played in his first season with Cornell University in 2004-05 after spending the previous season with the Nanaimo Clippers of the BCHL. In 35 games with Cornell, he had four goals, nine points and 48 penalty minutes. He has shown the potential to be a power forward and has good speed. Sawada also has good puck control and is a threat to shoot or pass.

Sawada will be a sophomore with Cornell in 2005-06.

20. (15) Matt Nickerson, D – 20 – (2003 Draft Pick, 99th overall)

Matt Nickerson played his first season in the QMJHL in 2004-05 with the Victoriaville Tigres after playing in the NCAA the year before for Clarkson University. In 48 games with Victoriaville he had one goal, 12 points and led the team in penalty minutes with 182. At 6’4 and 235 lbs., Nickerson has great size and strength and uses it to play a very physical game.

Nickerson will join his third team in fourth team in four years as he turns pro this season. He will likely play for the Iowa Stars.

Missing the cut

Gino Guyer, C – 21 – (2003 Draft Pick, 165th overall)

Gino Guyer has played the last three seasons at the University of Minnesota. Guyer is a leader on the ice and has excellent offensive ability. In 43 games last season he had 11 goals and 30 points. Guyer will be 22 in October. This will be his senior year at Minnesota.

Pekka Lampinen, Courtney Wagner, Eric Vegoe, Jason Ahrens and Holly Gunning contributed to this report. Copyright 2005 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.