Welcome to today’s edition of “Top Shelf Prospects” a team by team look at the top prospects in the NHL. Today, as I continue my alphabetical journey through the NHL I bring you a look at the Dallas Stars. As always you can find a complete listing of my previous articles here. Since we had an extensive NHL Draft preview, I will not be reviewing the players who were drafted in the 2012 draft, as there have been no games since then, and my reports on them will not have changed. What I 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 2012-13 roster of the NHL team in question. I 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 I pick as my darkhorse to make the NHL. For those asking the cut off for what is or isn’t a prospect is typically about 45-50 NHL games played or being 25 years old. These are not hard or fast rules though, and I may make some exceptions depending on the circumstances.
#1 Prospect Jack Campbell, Goaltender
Born Jan 9 1992 — Port Huron, MI
Height 6.02 — Weight 199 — Shoots Left, Catches Left
Selected by the Dallas Stars in round 1 #11 overall of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft
Jack Campbell burst onto the hockey scene in the 2010 World Junior Championships. The pressure Campbell faced was immense. He stepped into the US net in the second period of a 3-3 tie in the Gold Medal Game and faced the five time defending champion Canadian squad in the Gold Medal Game. However Campbell was unflappable and the US team rode his goaltending and an Overtime goal by John Carlson to World Junior Gold. Campbell would follow that up by winning another gold medal in a US jersey, the 2010 World Under 18 Championships.
In 2010-11 however, a pattern started to emerge. Campbell decided to jump in and backstop the OHL’s Windsor Spitfires rather than join Michigan in the NCAA. His first year in the OHL saw him put up a 3.80 GAA and an 0.884 sv percentage, clearly numbers that were a lot less than what was expected from Campbell. Despite his OHL struggles Campbell was once again able to step up at the World Junior Championships being named the tournament’s top goaltender and leading the US squad to a bronze medal. This past season, Campbell again struggled at the OHL level. Part way through the year he was traded from Windsor to Sault Ste Marie, and it didn’t really help matters. In 34 games with the Greyhounds he had a 3.58 GAA and 0.892 Save percentage. He would once again suit up for the US at the World Juniors, and although he personally played well, he was part of a disappointing squad that did not qualify for the medal rounds.
Campbell’s struggles are hard to explain. He seems to be at his best when the pressure is at its highest but has had trouble bringing a high level of play over a full season. He has all the skill to dominate at the junior level, but for whatever reason he is just not getting it done on a regular basis. However put him in a Team USA jersey and its like you’ve got a whole different goalie for two weeks. He also played pretty well for Windsor in the 2010 OHL playoffs (at least until Windsor ran into the buzzsaw known as the Owen Sound Attack). While many analysts would say its a good thing that a goaltender is at his best in the biggest games, and it certainly is, one still has to be concerned by Campbell’s disappointing regular season play.
Talent wise, Campbell has it all. He plays excellent positionally, is always square to the puck. Campbell is a big goalie who cuts down his angles well and takes up a ton of room in the net. He has excellent lateral mobility and plays an effective butterfly style that takes away the bottom of the net with his fast legs. Campbell has quick reflexes and a lightning fast glove that takes away a shooters options upstairs. Lastly he possesses excellent puckhandling skills and this greatly helps his defensemen out.
Its a bit of a mystery why Campbell couldn’t put it all together in the OHL, and he performed admirably for a 20 year old rookie goalie in 12 games for the Texas Stars of the AHL, which is a good sign, but makes the situation all the more puzzling. As for an outlook, Jack Campbell still possesses the talent to be an all-world goalie, and lets face it he wouldn’t be the first 20 year old goalie who had talent but needed to develop consistency in his game. He will likely spend next year with Texas in the AHL, and may even need a couple of years there, to work on developing that consistency in his game.
#2 Prospect Jamie Oleksiak, Defence
Born Dec 21 1992 — Toronto, ONT
Height 6.07 — Weight 240 — Shoots Left
Selected by the Dallas Stars round 1 #14 overall in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft
The first thing everyone notices about Jamie Oleksiak is his towering size. At 6’7″ and 240 lbs, the defender is a massive physical specimen. He uses his towering size and huge reach advantage to be extremely effective in his own end of the ice. He plays an effective positional game and when you combine this with his massive size and long reach he takes away a ton of space, and seriously minimizes passing lanes in his own end of the rink. Oleksiak has also proven to be a faithful and willing shot blocker. However Oleksiak’s size is used to its full advantage outmuscling opponents in front of the net or in the corners, and by laying out a big hit when he gets the opportunity.
Don’t be fooled though, the big man brings more to the game than just his defensive prowess. He also brings effective offensive skils to the table. Oleksiak is a very good passer. He gets the transition game started with strong, crisp passes out of his own end. He also is alert and keeps his headup when working the point in the offensive zone. He has good smarts and can often find the open man for a scoring chance.
The main knock on Oleksiak is his skating. While no one will consider him a speedster, those concerns seem overblown. Sure he’s not the fleetest of foot, but not many 6’7″ defencemen come around with his ability. He is a very good skater for a defenceman his size, and with solid positioning any issues he might have are greatly minimized.
As a 1992 Birthdate, Oleksiak is likely headed for the AHL this fall. This is something that will do him a lot of good. He’s an excellent prospect, but defencemen his size usually take a long time to adjust to the pro game. Expect to see Oleksiak play at least 1 full season for the Texas Stars before he cracks the Dallas lineup.
Top Sleeper, Matt Fraser, Left Wing/Right Wing
Born May 20 1990 — Red Deer, ALTA
Height 6.02 — Weight 207 — Shoots Left
Signed by the Dallas Stars as an undrafted free agent in November 2010
Fraser appears to be an absolute steal as an undrafted free agent signee. In his first year in the AHL, the big and powerful winger scored 37 goals for the Texas Stars. He is a rugged power forward type, who is hard working and extremely physical. Fraser is a big hitter on the forecheck, and wins a ton of pucks along the boards. He also is willing to stand in the dirty areas and takes up a ton of space in front of the net whenever he gets the opportunity. Fraser has a hard heavy shot that is able to unleash with a sniper’s quickness. The shot and release are a major reason why Fraser absolutely lit up AHL goalies this season.
Fraser is also a smart two way hockey player, who plays as hard in his own end as he does in the opponents. He again works to win battles on the boards, and is always willing to block a shot. His toughness also shines through as Fraser is willing to do whatever it takes to defend a teammate.
The main reason Fraser was not drafted was a choppy skating stride and poor acceleration. And while Fraser has improved, he still didn’t look NHL level last season. However with Fraser’s other skills and intangibles coming to the forefront, he will make many GMs question how their scouts missed this player.
Prior to the 2012 Draft, the Stars system appeared to be one of the weaker units in the NHL. Former 8th overall pick Scott Glennie has just not developed as the Stars expected, and has not justified his draft position. He has struggled with injuries, but even when not injured he has been wildly inconsistent. While Glennie is still young, and can certainly bounce back, right now he wouldn’t be considered among the top 5 Dallas prospects. His lack of development over these last three years is a major concern and a major blow to the depth of the organization’s prospect pool. Jack Campbell has also been inconsistent and at this point is less than what one would expect from the #11 overall pick in the draft, even if he still maintains the #1 spot on the organizational rankings. As such, there was a ton of pressure on GM Joe Nieuwendyk and the scouting staff going into the 2012 draft. Fortunately for Stars fans, it would appear that the the group came through with flying colours. Dallas’ outstanding 2012 draft has really replenished the system, especially at forward and pulled them back to the pack in terms of ranking their prospect pipeline.
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