The Dallas Stars are a team that will have to rely on filling the roster with quality prospects as they will have a significant portion of the salary cap dedicated to a small core of players in Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, John Klingberg, and Ben Bishop for the foreseeable future.
GM Jim Nill has done a good job of scouting, drafting and developing prospects to facilitate this. Nill takes the old Detroit Red Wings approach of slow cooking and over-ripening players in the AHL rather than rushing them into NHL duty.
The Stars have been patient with the development of prospects they see playing a key role in their future in Julius Honka, Esa Lindell, Radek Faksa and so on.
Overall it is a strategy that looks poised to begin paying off as the Stars have a solid core of star players with good cap management and a promising prospect pool to draw from for the future.
1. Miro Heiskanen, D – HIFK (Liiga)
Drafted: 3rd overall in the first round of the 2017 draft by Dallas
The Stars feel they secured a cornerstone asset when they selected Heiskanen third overall in the 2017 draft. Having Heiskanen and Klingberg should give the Stars two potential top pairing defensemen for a long time. In Klingberg, they have a quality offensive puck moving defenseman, complimented brilliantly by Heiskanen, who may not have the elite offensive upside, but is arguably a better all-around player and future Norris Trophy candidate. Heiskanen has been dominating his post-draft year playing pro hockey in Finland in the Liiga. If he had not been injured during training camp, he may have played his way onto the Star roster this year. He is NHL ready now.
2. Julius Honka, D – Texas (AHL)
Drafted: 14th overall in the first round of the 2014 draft by Dallas
Further added to the Stars defensive depth is Honka, an undersized offensive defenseman with excellent skating and puck moving ability. Honka plays the modern NHL style of game based on skating, speed, and skill. He’s played well in his time in the NHL thus far in his career. Honka has split time this year between the AHL and the NHL thus far this season, but he is close to locking down a middle pairing roster spot with power play time.
3. Denis Guryanov, RW/LW – Texas (AHL)
Drafted: 12th overall I the first round of the 2015 draft by Dallas
The Stars got burned drafting Russian Valeri Nichushkin after he defected back to Russia, but they seem to be safe with Guryanov. The big Russian is cutting his teeth in the AHL in Texas and played a key role for the Russian World Junior Team in 2017 with four goals and seven points in seven games. Guryanov is a power forward that uses his size advantage to his favour to win puck battles, drive to the goal and protect the puck. He plays a heavy game, has a heavy shot, and can distribute heavy hits. Despite his size and strength, he has soft hands and can dangle the puck. Once he rounds out his defensive side of the game he should be an impact player in the NHL. That will happen sometime this year, or to start the 2018-19 season.
4. Roope Hintz, LW – Texas (AHL)
Drafted: 49th overall in the second round of the 2015 draft by Dallas
Another big bodied forward cutting his teeth in the AHL is Hintz. In his rookie season, he is off to a fine start with six goals and ten points in his first ten games. Hintz comes across to North America from Finland where he spent the past three seasons in Liiga playing pro hockey. Despite his size, Hintz does not play a very physical or aggressive game but is more of an offensive catalyst. Hintz has strong puck skills, hockey IQ and vision. He’s equally adept at distributing the puck and making plays as he is finishing plays and finding the back of the net. Hintz should play out his rookie season in the AHL with a potential audition in the NHL when injuries occur but could be a legit contender for a roster spot in Dallas next year.
5. Jake Oettinger, G – Boston U. (NCAA)
Drafted: 26th overall in the first round of the 2017 draft by Dallas
Picking goalies in the first round is risky business but the Stars are confident in big Oettingers ability to develop into their future starting goalie. The 18-year-old is already getting quality starts in the NCAA with the vaunted Boston Terriers and the Stars will exercise patience in the development of their prized netminder. Oettinger is more of a shot-blocking goalie than an athletic goalie, relying on his size and sound positioning to stop the puck. Oettinger was the reserve goalie for USA at the World Junior last year and should see a larger role this year as he will try to backstop USA to back-to-back Gold Medals.
6. Jason Dickinson, C/LW – Texas (AHL)
Drafted: 29th overall in the first round of the 2013 draft by Dallas
Dickinson actually saw his point production dip in his second AHL season falling from 53 points in 73 games as a rookie to 30 points in 58 games last year. Despite his dip in production he played his way into ten NHL games with the Stars and scored two goals. The Stars are deep at center with Seguin, Spezza and the signing of Hanzel likely means Dickinson will have to wait for injuries or shift to the wing.
7. Riley Tufte, LW – U. Minnesota-Duluth (NCAA)
Drafted: 25th overall in the first round of the 2016 draft by Dallas
The massive Tufte was drafted out of high school and played his post-draft year as an NCAA freshman. He struggled to make the adjustment to a vastly superior level of hockey, but by mid-season, he adapted to the speed and pace of college hockey and finished with 16 points. In his sophomore season, Tufte is off to a good start posting six goals and nine points in the first 15 games. Big players can take a little longer to mature, so expect Tufte to play out his college eligibility and possibly some more seasoning in the AHL, but he has Blake Wheeler style upside.
8. Jason Robertson, LW – Kingston (OHL)
Drafted: 39th overall in the second round of the 2017 draft by Dallas
Robertson is a natural goal scorer with a tremendous and pro level shot. He is an underrated passer and playmaker but there are some concerns with his skating and acceleration. For a big-bodied player, Robertson lacks strength and could develop a more physically aggressive and physical game. With another year of junior eligibility and sometime developing in the minors he is a few years away.
9. Gavin Bayreuther, D – Texas (AHL)
Drafted: Undrafted, signed as a free agent in 2017
One of the more sought-after NCAA free agents in 2017, Bayreuther signed with the Stars after a four year term with St. Lawrence U. and played in the final 15 regular season AHL games last season posting two goals and five points in that span. It remains to be seen if Bayreuther can carve out a role on a deep Dallas blueline, but his point per game production in his final year of college hockey is a good indication he can produce.
10. Remi Elie, LW – Texas (AHL)
Drafted: 40th overall in the second round of the 2013 draft by Dallas
Elie is another example of a player the Stars are slow cooking in the AHL. Elie saw his production rise from 17 points in his rookie season to 28 points as a sophomore last year, with an 18 game NHL debut where he posted his first career goal and seven points. Elie has been mainly in the NHL this year, but is being used sparingly seeing less than ten minutes per game when he is not a healthy scratch. Elie plays a complete game and is a versatile player but with a deep roster and talented prospects ahead on this list he needs to make an impact to maintain his place on the depth chart.