If you’ve been paying attention to Gone Puck Wild lately, and shame on you if you haven’t, then you know school has begun as Wild fans brush up on their knowledge of the new teams within Minnesota’s division. This week, that new team just so happens to be ”the old team”–that’s right–the Dallas Stars. Going through Sunday, we’ll break down Dallas’ major additions and subtractions, strengths and weaknesses, prospect pool, 2013 draft class and team outlook.
We’ve officially entered the latter half of Dallas Stars Week. By now, I know you all must be thinking, “What’s this supposedly talented prospect pool this guy’s been talking about this week?” Well, here’s the cream of the crop.
According to NHL.com, here’s a look at the top-10 best prospects in the Stars organization:
1. Valeri Nichushkin, RW:Dallas Stars general manager Jim Nill couldn’t have been more pleased when the 6-foot-4, 202-pound Russian fell to them at the 10th pick of the 2013 NHL Draft. Heralded as a potential top-five pick, Nichushkin’s contract with Dynamo Moscow of the Kontinental Hockey League scared off some teams. But Nill was more than happy to take a chance on an 18-year-old power forward who was named the KHL’s top rookie last season.
“We’re excited. We think he’s very close, but I don’t want to put expectations on him either,” Nill told NHL.com. “I want to be careful. He’s going to get every opportunity in the world to be on the team. We want to keep him around for a while.”
2. Alex Chiasson, RW: Few prospects made more of an impact in a shorter NHL stint than Chiasson, who was Dallas’ second-round selection in the 2009 draft (No. 38). He spent most of his first professional season in the American Hockey League with the Texas Stars, where he had 35 points in 57 games. That earned the 22-year-old a seven-game NHL trial last season, and he responded with six goals and seven points.
Of course, there’s a world of difference between seven games and a full 82-game season, but Chiasson (6-4, 187) definitely will be looked at to provide a similar offensive punch for the Stars this season.
3. Jamie Oleksiak, D: There aren’t too many players who can make Nichushkin appear diminutive, but at 6-7, 242, Oleksiak is one of them. Dallas’ first-round pick in 2011 (No. 14), Oleksiak was a defensive force in the Ontario Hockey League before enjoying a standout rookie season with the Stars’ American Hockey League affiliate in Texas. His play earned him a 16-game trial with Dallas last season.
Oleksiak, 20, struggled near the end of his time with the Stars, and had two assists and a minus-5 rating, but he’s still a big part of this team’s future, and most likely their present.
“He’s right there,” Nill said. “Jamie’s going to come to camp. Show us what you can do. If you’re in the top six, you’re there. I don’t want guys sitting in the press box with me. I want them playing every night. So if he comes in and shows he’s a top-six guy, he’s on the team.”
4. Jack Campbell, G:Kari Lehtonen has established himself as the franchise goaltender in Dallas, but the Stars benefit from having one of the world’s top prospects waiting in the wings. The 11th pick in the 2010 draft, Campbell (6-3, 184) had an outstanding junior-hockey career, winning multiple medals at the World Under-18 Championship and World Junior Championship.
He started his professional career last season in the AHL, and the 21-year-old went 19-13-3 with a 2.65 goals-against average, .905 save percentage and two shutouts. He earned his first NHL call-up March 19, when he spent two games as Lehtonen’s backup.
5. Brett Ritchie, RW: The trend of size and strength among Dallas prospects continues with Ritchie. The 6-3, 212-pound forward has shown a remarkable knack for scoring goals at every level. Dallas’ second-round pick in 2011 (No. 44), Ritchie was a scoring sensation last season with the Niagara IceDogs of the OHL (41 goals in 53 games) and played a large role on Team Canada at the 2013 IIHF World Junior Championship.
It impressed Stars brass enough that the 20-year-old earned a five-game trial with Texas of the AHL, during which he had three goals and four points. He followed that with two goals in nine playoff games.
6. Radek Faksa, C: The Stars’ run on size at the draft continued in 2012 when they selected the 6-3, 200-pound Czech-born forward with the 13th pick.
Faksa had a standout rookie season in 2011-12 with Kitchener of the OHL, totaling 66 points in 62 games, but missed a lengthy period last season with an MCL injury. Faksa played 39 OHL games and finished with two games in the AHL. His combination of size and skill has the Stars excited about the future for this 19-year-old.
7. Jason Dickinson, C: Dallas’ second first-round pick in 2013 (No. 29), the Stars tabbed the Guelph Storm forward with the pick they acquired from the Boston Bruins in the Jaromir Jagr trade. Dickinson enjoyed a strong 2012-13 season, leading the Storm in plus/minus before helping Canada win gold at the 2013 IIHF World Under-18 Championship.
The 18-year-old Ontario native likely will return to Guelph this season to further his development. That development could be key for a player who already has established himself as a solid two-way forward. At 6-2, Dickinson has good reach but has expressed his intentions to put more muscle on his 176-pound frame.
8. Devin Shore, C: Selected in the second round of the 2012 draft (No. 61), Shore was a Hockey East standout last season as a freshman at the University of Maine. Though the Black Bears struggled, Shore led the team in assists (20) and points (26), and was named a co-recipient of the league’s Top Scholar-Athlete Award.
In an ultra-competitive conference, Shore, 19, was named to the All-Rookie team. And new coach Dennis Gendron, who was an assistant on the New Jersey Devils‘ 1995 Stanley Cup team, likely will lean on Shore (6-1, 185) to help lead a Maine team looking for a bounce-back season.
9. Ludwig Bystrom, D: Dallas’ second-round selection (No. 43) in 2012, Bystrom has all the makings of a classic, puck-moving defenseman, although it may be some time before Stars fans get a chance to see the 19-year-old. A product of Modo in Sweden, the smooth skater has been a contributor at all levels, including Sweden’s U-16, U-17 and U-18 national teams.
Bystrom (6-1, 169) was selected by the Plymouth Whalers of the OHL in the 2012 Canadian Hockey League Import Draft but chose to stay in his native Sweden.
10. Patrik Nemeth, D: Like Bystrom, Nemeth hails from Sweden and was a second-round pick of the Stars (No. 41 in 2010). However, the similarities end there. Continuing a prominent theme on this list, Nemeth is a big, strong pillar on the blue line, measuring 6-3, 201 pounds.
The 21-year-old stay-at-home defenseman showcases strong passing ability and was a member of the national team that won gold at the 2012 World Junior Championship.
As you can see, no prospect pool is complete without a couple of quality Swedish defensemen. There is a lot of talent coming up through the ranks in the Lone Star State. Nichushkin, Faksa, Chiasson and Oleksiak all stand a good chance to make the team out of camp and there’s more talent on the way behind them. With big names at nearly every position, this is going to be a fun team to watch in the coming seasons, even from a rival fan’s perspective.