Welcome to the 2018 Top Shelf Prospects series. As we go through the Summer of 2018 LWOH will be featuring a team-by-team look at the top prospects in the NHL. We will be following the order of the first round of the NHL draft (as if there were no traded draft picks) and you can find all the articles here. Since we had an extensive NHL Draft preview, we will not be reviewing the players who were drafted in the 2018 draft, as there have been no games since then, and our reports on them will not have changed.
What we will be doing is linking you to those articles, as well as taking a look at prospects that were acquired before this year’s draft; their progress, and their chances of making the 2018-19 roster of the NHL team in question. We will also bring you one sleeper pick – a player who was either drafted in the 4th-round or later, or was an undrafted free agent signing who we pick as our dark horse to make the NHL. For those wondering, the cut-off for what is or isn’t a prospect is typically about 50 NHL games played (including playoff games) or is 25 years old. These are not hard or fast rules though, and we may make some exceptions depending on the circumstances.
Dallas Stars Prospects
The Dallas Stars were one of the busiest teams of the 2017 off-season. The team signed Alexander Radulov, Ben Bishop, and Martin Hanzal, while also trading for Marc Methot. Unfortunately, the off-season additions didn’t translate into team success. The Stars once again missed the playoffs, leading to another off-season of change.
The Stars first move was to hire Jim Montgomery as their new head coach. He makes the jump from a highly successful collegiate career with the University of Denver up to the NHL with the Stars. The team added Anton Khudobin in free agency to be their backup goalie. They also picked up depth forwards Blake Comeau, Erik Condra, and Michael Mersch. On defence, they added Roman Polak. The acquisitions aren’t as high profile as last year but the Stars are hoping for better results. Perhaps their most important move was getting Valeri Nichushkin to agree to return from Russia.
Top Prospect: Miro Heiskanen
Defence — shoots Left
Born July 18th, 1999 — Espoo, Finland
Height 5’11” — Weight 182 lbs [180 cm / 83 kg]
Drafted by the Dallas Stars in the 1st round, #3 overall at the 2017 NHL Draft
Heiskanen had an outstanding season playing for HIFK in the Finnish SM-Liiga. he put up 11 goals and 23 points in 30 games. He was even better in the playoffs with nine points in 16 games. Heiskanen also spent time with the World Junior team scoring two points in five games. He played with the Men’s national team at the Olympics and World Champtionships with a goal and three points over 13 games in the two big tournaments.
Heiskanen has very good skating ability. He has good speed and acceleration in both directions. Heiskanen also has the agility and edgework to make quick pivots and transition from defence to offence, or vice-versa. This allows him to get up in the play, join the rush, and pinch in the offensive zone, and also get back defensively. His skating ability means that he can cover a lot of ice, providing a two-way game. Heiskanen’s lateral agility and ability to walk the line allows him to open up passing and shooting lanes on the powerplay. He needs to continue to get stronger, to improve his balance, and ability to win battles along the wall and in front of the net.
Heiskanen can generate some offence from the back end. He is a good passer and can start the rush by making a move to avoid a forechecker and getting the puck up the ice to a teammate. He can also lead or make plays on the rush. Heiskanen’s passing skills extend to his ability to man the point on the power play, where he can set things up on the back end. He is an excellent stick-handler. He can lead the rush and make plays through the neutral zone, and also has the poise to make plays at the blue line.
Heiskanen imprved his slap shot this past season. It may not be a cannon, but he has decent power. Added upper body mass may allow him to fire it even harder. He makes even better use of his wrist shot though. He has a quick release and gets it on net even when faced with pressuring defenders. Heiskanen finds the right times to sneak down from the point and recieve a pass to get a good wrist shot on net.
Heiskanen is very good in his own end already. He has excellent gap control and is very tough to beat one-on-one. Positioning is a real strength, as he gets himself into good positions and uses his stick and his body to cut down passing and shooting lanes. He could stand to be a bit more physical both in the corners and in front of the net. Heiskanen is quick to retrieve pucks in corners and get the puck out of dangerous areas, and start the transition game.
Heiskanen heads to Stars camp looking to make the team. While there is room for growth, his game is well-rounded and already at an NHL level. Expect to see him make the Stars and he is a potential Calder Trophy candidate.
#2 Prospect: Ty Dellandrea
The Stars drafted Dellandrea with the 13th overall pick in this year’s NHL draft. Prior to the draft, we did an in-depth scouting report on Dellandrea. As no games have been played since that report; we will not repeat it. You can check out the report here.
#3 Prospect: Colton Point
Goalie — shoots Left — catches Left
Born March 7th, 1998 — North Bay, Ontario
Height 6’4″ — Weight 219 lbs [193 cm / 99 kg]
Drafted by the Dallas Stars in the 5th round, #128 overall, at the 2016 NHL Draft
Point had a brilliant sophomore season for Colgate University. He put up a 1.74 goals-against average and .944 save percentage in 33 games. Point was a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award and an NCAA (East) All-Star. He also played for Team Canada at the World Juniors where he won a gold medal. He shutout Slovakia in the only game he played.
Skating and Talent Analysis
Point has a good frame at 6-foot-4 and makes the most of it. He comes well out of his net, cutting down angles and reducing the amount of room that shooters have to look at. Point is a very good skater. This allows him to get back in his net and avoid being deked. He also has a strong leg push and tracks the puck well. He gets side-to-side quickly making a number of acrobatic saves.
Point has very quick legs. He takes away the bottom of the net very effectively. He is also strong on the blocker side. Point’s glove hand can sometimes be an issue as he has a tendency to drop it too low. He has worked at correcting this and does it less, but it can still be an issue from time-to-time. Point can also stand to work on his rebound control. That said, he is good at staying square to the puck and making the next save even when he gives up a rebound. Point gets out of his net to play pucks. He is a decent stick-handler and makes a good outlet pass.
Point is calm and composed in net, even when facing heavy traffic and a lot of shots against. Colgate was a weak team this year, and it was Point’s work that kept them in plenty of games. He is a leader on the back-end, as defenders and other teammates lean on his calm and coolness to permeate to the rest of the lineup.
Point has signed an entry-level contract with Dallas and leaves school. He is likely headed for the AHL where he will play for the Texas Stars. Point is at least two or three years away from the NHL. His development at the pro level begins now.
#4 Prospect: Jason Robertson
Right Wing — shoots Left
Born July 22nd, 1999 — Arcadia, California
Height 6’3″ — Weight 210 lbs [191 cm / 95 kg]
Drafted by the Dallas Stars in the 2nd round, #39 overall, at the 2017 NHL Draft
Robertson had another strong season with the Kingston Frontenacs. He scored 41 goals and 87 points in 68 games. He also added 10 goals and 18 points in 16 playoff games as the Frontenacs went to the OHL’s Western Conference Final.
Robertson could be a decent to good skater but has one big weakness that is holding him back. His top end speed is decent and he reaches it with good acceleration. However, his first step is often sluggish and can really slow him down. This means in short races for loose pucks, he can be at a disadvantage, but in areas he has room to get going, such as coming in on the rush, he is not bad. Hockey is a game that is full of short bursts of speed though, and so this is a major issue.
Robertson also has good agility and edgework, with the ability to make tight turns and cuts. He can use this skating ability as a weapon, to beat defenders one-on-one, both on the rush, and when working down low. Robertson has good balance, he is strong on the puck and can fight through checks. He is also good at establishing himself in front of the net.
Robertson is a pure goal scorer. He has excellent hand-eye coordination and scores goals in tight to the net with tip-ins, one-timing passes and pouncing on rebounds. He uses his skating ability to take defenders wide and drive the net, where he can finish with is soft hands. Robertson also has a very good wrist shot, which is accurate and features a quick release. He manages to find soft spots in the defence and get open to allow teammates to set him up.
He is also a good playmaker, with good vision and passing skills. Robertson uses his body well to protect the puck and work the cycle game down low. He can extend plays in the cycle and fight off hits and battle through hooks and holds. However, he is not a physical player. Robertson could stand to really use his size and speed to do a better job at forechecking defencemen and fighting for loose pucks. When he has the puck, he’s good; but if he does not have the puck and has to fight for it, he does not seem to use his body effectively, or show optimal effort.
Robertson’s defensive game is a work in progress. He has started to work on his tendency to puck watch rather than get involved in his own zone. Robertson does this less than in his draft year but can still get even better. He needs to continue to work on keeping his feet moving and remain engaged in his own zone. Robertson also needs to work on his positioning, and could again stand to be a lot more physical in his own end. The defensive game is coming around, but it should again be a focus for Robertson to work on this season.
Robertson has the offensive tools to be a top-six NHL player, but needs to improve his quickness as well as his defensive game. Expect him to spend the year in the OHL. He will likely need AHL time in 2019-20. The earliest he could be ready to be a full-time NHLer is likely 2020.
#5 Prospect: Jake Oettinger
Goalie — Shoots Left — Catches Left
Born December 18th, 1998 — Lakeville, Minnesota
Height 6’4″ — Weight 205 lbs [193 cm / 93 kg]
Drafted by the Dallas Stars in the 1st round, #26 overall at the 2017 NHL Draft
Oettinger had a strong sophomore campaign with Boston University. In 38 games he had a 2.45 goals-against average and 0.915 save percentage. He also played three games for Team USA at the World Juniors, helping the team to a bronze medal.
Skating and Talent Analysis
Oettinger is a solid skater in the crease. He can come out to challenge shooters but also back up quickly and take away the net when they try to make a deke. Oettinger could work on his positioning though. He sometimes can get beat when he is slightly off and gives the shooter a bit too much net to look at. Oettinger also gets out of his net quickly to get loose pucks. Oettinger can get the breakout started with a solid first pass. He gets side-to-side quickly in the net, allowing him to make saves on cross-ice passes and set up quickly for shots. His puck tracking ability is also very good. He has the athletic ability to make a save, and quickly get himself back into position and be square to the shooter on rebounds.
Coming in at 6-foot-4, Oettinger has the ideal size that NHL scouts are looking for now. His size and ability to cut down angles gives shooters very little net to look at when coming in. Even when he down in his butterfly, his shoulders are up at cross-bar height. Most teenage goaltenders really need to work on their rebound control and while Oettinger still can make improvements in this area, he is already pretty well advanced for his young age. His butterfly and quick legs take away the bottom of the net extremely well. It is rare that he is beaten by a low shot. Oettinger is also very good up top, with a quick glove hand and solid blocker side.
Oettinger shows maturity in the crease. He never seems to get flustered, no matter what is happening around him. He shows this cool, calm demeanour after scrambles around the net. Oettinger also rebounds quickly after letting in a goal, not allowing things to spiral out of control. He focuses on making the next save, not analyzing the ones that got away. It is easy to see that Oettinger is a stabilizing influence for teammates at both the college and international level.
Goalies are often long-term projects. Oettinger will head back to Boston University for his junior season. If he has another strong campaign, the Stars will have a decision to make, sign him at the end of the year and move him to the AHL or let him play his senior season in the NCAA. It is something worth revisiting later in the year.
#6 Prospect: Roope Hintz
Left Wing — shoots Left
Born November 17th, 1996 — Tampere, Finland
Height 6’3″ — Weight 185 lbs [191 cm / 84 kg]
Drafted by the Dallas Stars in the 2nd round, #49 overall, at the 2015 NHL Draft
Hintz spent his first season in North America last year. He showed skill with 20 goals and 35 points in 70 games for the Texas Stars. He also added four goals and 12 points in 22 games during the AHL playoffs.
Hintz is a very good skater. He has excellent top-end speed, a good first step and very good acceleration. As a result, he can win races to loose pucks, or beat defenders wide off the rush. He has the power and balance to fight through checks and drive the net, and these areas continue to improve as Hintz adds muscle to a lanky frame. Hintz has decent edgework and agility, which allows him to get around defenders, especially when combined with his stick handling ability.
Hintz has shown the versatility to play both centre and wing but looks like a winger going forward. He is a very intelligent player, as he sees passing lanes when he has the puck and sets up teammates with tape-to-tape passes at just the right moment. Hintz also does well without the puck, finding open spaces in the defence and getting himself into good scoring areas. He protects the puck well in the cycle game, using his size, long stick and good stickhandling ability to ward off defenders. He has gotten stronger and does better in board battles and in front of the opponent’s net.
Hintz has a very good wrist shot. It features a quick release. His game took a real step forward when he started shooting more, not always deferring to his playmaking skills. This versatility in his game made him tougher to defend and allowed him to take advantage of scoring opportunities. He does do a good job of driving the net and has good hands to score in tight to the goal with dekes, rebounds, and deflections.
Hintz’s defensive game is well-developed for a player his age. He shows his hockey IQ in the way he reads plays, anticipates, and creates turnovers in his own end of the ice. He is able to quickly transition those into offence with a good quick pass or starting the rush himself. Hintz has a big body and a long active stick that cuts down passing and shooting lanes. He backchecks hard and supports the defence down low.
Hintz will head to camp looking to earn a role in the bottom-six with the Stars. He is very close to NHL ready and a strong camp would earn him that spot. Even if sent to the AHL, expect him to see time as a call-up. His ultimate upside is a question mark though, as he seems like his ceiling is a middle-six forward.
#7 Prospect: Adam Mascherin
The Stars drafted Mascherin with the 100th overall pick in this year’s NHL draft. Prior to the draft, we did an in-depth scouting report on Mascherin. As no games have been played since that report; we will not repeat it. You can check out the report here.
#8 Prospect: Riley Tufte
Left Wing — shoots Left
Born April 10th, 1998 — Blaine, Minnesota
Height 6’6″ — Weight 220 lbs [198 cm / 100 kg]
Drafted by the Dallas Stars in the 1st round, #25 overall, at the 2016 NHL Draft
Tufte was part of the University of Minnesota-Duluth team that won the NCAA Championship this year. However, despite the team success, Tufte didn’t have the type of individual success in his sophomore season that one would expect from a first-round NHL draft pick. He put up 16 goals and 29 points in 42 games. He also won a bronze medal at the World Juniors, with three assists in seven games for Team USA.
Tufte is an excellent skater for his size. He moves very well for a big man with surprising speed, first step quickness and acceleration. His agility is also something you are more likely to find in a smaller player and uncommon for a 6-foot-6 player. Tufte could stand to add some core strength and improve his balance going forward. This would help him to fight through checks and drive the net, as well as continue to improve his work in the cycle game.
Riley Tufte is a very good stick handler. He uses his long reach to keep the puck away from defenders, but can also stick handle close to his body to navigate through traffic. Tufte is highly skilled with an excellent wrist shot and quick release. He also has a good snapshot and slap shot.
His passing skills can be refined slightly as he has grown accustomed to doing it all himself at times. This probably comes due to the way he has been able to dominate at the USHS level. He started to show improvement as the year went on but there is still room to grow. Tufte has excellent size. While he’s not a big hitter, he uses his size to win battles along the boards, to protect the puck in the cycle game, and to establish his position in front of the net. He can provide an effective screen, and also tip-in pucks, as well as pounce on rebounds. Given his size, he could stand to add some muscle to his frame to be even more effective when he begins facing bigger and tougher opposition.
Tufte’s defensive game is a bit of a work in progress. Again this may be an issue where he has dominated so much at the high school level, that learning to defend has not been something that he has needed to do before college. Tufte shows determination, but must work on his positioning and reading the play. He needs to learn to use his size in his own end, in physical battles, and in cutting down passing and shooting lanes. He has improved over the last two years but there is still more room to grow.
Tufte returns to Minnesota-Duluth for his junior season. He is looking for a big improvement in his offensive game. The Wild will be faced with a decision on Tufte come the end of the season. They can offer him a contract now or see him stay in school for his senior season.
#9 Prospect: Denis Gurianov
Right Wing — shoots Left
Born June 7th, 1997 — Tolyatti, Russia
Height 6’3″ — Weight 200 lbs [191 cm / 91 kg]
Drafted by the Dallas Stars in the 1st round, #12 overall, at the 2015 NHL Entry Draft
Gurianov improved his regular season numbers in his second pro season. He scored 19 goals and 34 points in 74 games for the Texas Stars. However, he was really disappointing in the playoffs with just two goals and five points in 16 games.
Gurianov has the speed and acceleration necessary to beat defenders wide off the rush. He has a quick first step and can use that along with his acceleration to be the first man on many loose pucks. A powerful stride also allows him to bowl right over a defender, or to carry a checker on his back as he drives the net. He is very strong on his skates for a 20-year-old (21 as of June), with great lower body strength and balance. This makes him very hard to knock off the puck.
Add in good agility and edgework and Gurianov can get by defenders in a variety of ways. Defenders must respect his skating ability when he carries the puck up the ice on a rush, however, if they back up too far giving him the option to use the defender as a screen, he is more than willing to unleash his powerful shot once he gets inside the face-off dots.
Big, powerful, fast, skilled, Gurianov has each box checked when it comes to talent amongst forward prospects. He scores goals and can do it in a variety of ways. Gurianov has the strength to drive the net, battle in the corners, fight through checks and score gritty power forward-style goals. He is good in board battles, digging out loose pucks consistently, and is a menace on the boards.
Gurianov also protects the puck extremely well in the cycle game, extending zone time and increasing possession for his club. He also has a heavy wrist shot with quick release, allowing him to fool goaltenders and score from further out. Gurianov adds the quick hands necessary to deke past defenders and it’s clear that he can be a pure sniper going forward. However, he can be a bit too much of a risk-taker at times and needs to do better at making the smart pass to a teammate in order to generate a better scoring opportunity, rather than attempting a very low percentage shot or fancy play.
Its hard to put a finger on it, but there is something holding Gurianov back from dominating at the offensive end. There have been questions about his hockey IQ and ability to read the play.
Denis Gurianov shows a commitment to backchecking and plays his gritty game along the boards in all three zones. However, he is inconsistent in this aspect. Gurianov is tenacious in all three zones and not afraid to make a hit to make the play or take a hit to be sure he gets the puck out at his blue line. Gurianov could use some work on his positioning, however, as that does not seem to come naturally to him in the defensive end of the ice.
Gurianov can be a dynamic offensive player, but there is still plenty of development work to do. He should spend another season in Texas, working on becoming more consistent offensively, getting stronger physically, and improving his defensive game. His high-end skill could be worth the wait.
#10 Prospect: Oskar Back
The Stars drafted Back with the 75th overall pick in this year’s NHL draft. Prior to the draft, we did an in-depth scouting report on Back. As no games have been played since that report; we will not repeat it. You can check out the report here.
Sleeper Prospect: Nicholas Caamano
Right Wing — shoots Left
Born September 7th, 1998 — Ancaster, Ontario
Height 6’2″ — Weight 191 lbs [188 cm / 87 kg]
Drafted by the Dallas Stars in the 5th round, #146 overall at the 2016 NHL Draft
Caamano was moved from the Flint Firebirds to the Hamilton Bulldogs early in the OHL season. He would help the Bulldogs to the OHL Championship. Caamano finished with 25 goals and 32 assists fo 57 points in 64 games. He was even better in the playoffs, scoring 10 goals and 22 points in 21 games.
Caamano is a very good skater. He has good speed and reaches that speed in just a few strides with his strong acceleration. He can get to the outside on defenders off the rush and cut to the net. Caamano has good agility and edgework which he can use to manoeuvre through traffic. He has good balance and is strong on his skates at the junior level. However, he can stand to bulk up even more now as he heads to the pro game.
Caamano is a goal scorer. He gets to the front of the net and is able to score goals in tight to the net. He can deke a goalie, fit pucks through small areas, deflect point shots and put things in with a quick one-timer in front.
Caamano is a strong forward in the cycle game, protecting the puck and moving it quickly to an open teammate. He sees the ice very well and also anticpates where teammates will go. Caamano also gets assists by getting in quickly on the forecheck and pressuring the defenders into mistakes. After creating the turnover, he is able to quickly transition into creating an offensive chance by finding a teamate streaking to the front of the net.
Caamano is also good in the defensive zone. He uses his quickness to create turnovers. He is also well-positioned to do so. Caamano shows a strong hockey IQ reading the play and anticipating what opponents will do. He battles hard in the corners and in front of the net, supporting the defence down low.
Caamano puts his junior career behind him and heads to the AHL this year. He should be given an opportunity to further develop his game with the Texas Stars. Caamano is likely two-to-three years away from NHL action
With Point and Oettinger the Stars are set for the future in goal. On defence, Heiskanen is an elite prospect. However, the team lacks depth in the system overall. There are a number of Stars prospects with serious question marks going forward.
In terms of depth on the blue line, the Stars also have Dillon Heatherington, Gavin Bayreuther, Curtis Douglas, and John Nyberg. Upfront, the team has Jason Dickinson, Albin Eriksson, Jacob Petersson, Curtis Douglas, Riley Damiani, and Liam Hawel. In goal, the Stars have two top goalie prospects and Landon Bow and Phillipe Desrosiers.
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