The future may be unwritten, but that doesn’t stop us from trying to predict what may end up being put down on paper. Prospects bring us hope for a better tomorrow, whether today is good or not. Today, the situation for the Dallas Stars looks fine, but what the future holds is a bit murky.
Draft lottery luck pushed the Stars up to the third slot in the draft, which allowed them to add a potential impact talent. The system as a whole is still missing that element despite the existing potential that the Stars prospect pool could produce several decent NHLers.
The top 10 Dallas Stars prospects are a diverse crew that, over time, has drifted more and more towards a focus on intelligence, hockey IQ, and skating. This group isn’t perfect, but many of these guys should become names you hear from regularly over the next few years.
1. D - Miro Heiskanen – The No. 3 pick in the draft is almost always going to go right to the top of a team’s prospect rankings. Ultimately, questions persist about what Heiskanen’s offensive ceiling is, but overall he brings the full package. He projects as easily a top-four defenseman and ideally a top pairing guy. Heiskanen was made for what the Stars try to find these days. Hockey IQ and skating are his calling cards.
He missed training camp due to some concussion issues. He will continue to develop with HIFK in Finland. He had 10 points in 37 games last year as a 17-year-old playing against men. He’s the best defense prospect the Stars have had in years, possibly ever.
2. D - Julius Honka – This should be the last time Honka is ever on a list like this. He has apparently made the Stars’ opening night roster and should cement himself as an NHL regular shortly. The diminutive rearguard is feisty as heck with as much offensive skill as any blueliner in the Stars’ professional or amateur ranks. There is no reason to think he won’t be a big and successful component of the 2018 roster.
3. F - Roope Hintz – The big two-way forward made an impression in training camp. He was among the final cuts from the NHL roster at the end of camp and should be a key piece for the Texas Stars. For HIFK in Finland last season, he had 30 points in 44 games before lighting the playoffs on fire for 14 points in 14 games. He’s a keeper and should make an impact this season before it’s all said and done.
4. F - Jason Robertson – The kid can simply score. He buried 41 last year in juniors then went nuts in the playoffs for 18 points in 11 games. If Robertson was a better skater there’s no way the Stars grab him in the second round. Scouts rave about his hockey IQ, shot, back checking, and physical game. He checks all the boxes…except skating. Would it be nice if he were a better skater? Sure, but ask Brett Hull how much that mattered. Ask the Los Angeles Kings, who turned Tanner Pearson and Tyler Toffoli into quality players by not stressing over an unrefined ability to skate.
5. G - Jake Oettinger – An American goalie picked in the first round of the draft, what could go wrong? I kid. I won’t pretend to have any idea how a goalie progresses, but Oettinger seems to have everything you’d want from a goalie prospect, including the full mental package. The Stars moved up in the late first round ahead of a few teams who were eyeballing him to guarantee they got their top goalie prospect. Leaving the draft with the top drafted defenseman and goalie isn’t too shabby. He’ll have plenty of time in college to develop.
6. F - Jason Dickinson – Dickinson had a tough season battling injuries. When an injury to a skilled player strikes the NHL group, Dickinson should be the first recall. He has the talent to succeed in the NHL. Now he just needs the opportunity. The playmaking winger could have provided a needed depth scoring element to this current group, but the organization went another way. He’ll get his chance sooner than later.
7. F - Denis Guryanov – 27 points in 57 games a 20-year-old in the AHL is nothing to sneeze at. Guryanov does a lot of things really well, but the most impressive thing to me is watching him make simple, smart plays to get the puck moving in the right direction. It wouldn’t surprise me if he has the longest career of any player on this list, yet never plays more than 13 minutes a night. The Stars are still hoping that offense comes out. He’s young enough that it could, but this draft pick still seems like it was a reach.
8. F - Riley Tufte – This is a big year for the Stars’ 2016 first-round pick. He’s a big kid and has all the size you’d want in a modern power forward. He got off to a very slow start last year for Minnesota-Duluth, finishing with only 16 points as a freshman. It’s far too early to write him off, but he needs to start producing soon.
9. F - Nick Caamano – The young winger made a big impression on the Stars in training camp. He doesn’t have huge numbers in juniors, but the Flint Firebirds have had a tumultuous existence during Caamano’s tenure. He has steadily progressed to the point that he has put himself on the Stars prospect map. As a fifth-rounder, this is the point where I make the joke about him being destined to be a star like former fifth-round picks Jamie Benn and John Klingberg.
10. F - Fredrik Karlstrom – As an 18-year-old playing against grown men last season, Karlstrom had 24 points in 45 games. He needs to take a step forward offensively to really put himself on the map, but he’s big and a good skater. Upside is there. As a European playing overseas he will have plenty of time to develop.