NHL Draft: Stars' biggest needs, top prospects

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The Stars have reinforcements coming up the prospect pipeline, especially on the scoring front. (Getty)
The Stars have reinforcements coming up the prospect pipeline, especially on the scoring front. (Getty)

Dallas put together a commendable 2021-22 season, but key components of their core, players like Joe Pavelski, Tyler Seguin, John Klingberg, Jamie Benn and Ryan Suter, are either aging out of their prime or moving on. Still, there is reason for hope in Dallas. Jason Robertson and Roope Hintz emerged as top-line scorers, and Miro Heiskanen showed he’s an elite defender.

In the playoffs, netminder Jake Oettinger elevated his play and looks to be Dallas’ solution in net for the future. In the pipeline, Dallas has reinforcements coming, especially on the scoring front. As the Stars try to reload and get back to the Stanley Cup Final, where they appeared in 2019-20, they’ll need contributions from youth before their winning window closes.

Top prospects

Wyatt Johnston - No one in the CHL outscored Wyatt Johnston this year. His 124 points not only topped the OHL, leading the powerhouse Windsor Spitfires, but it was the highest total of any Major Junior player in Canada. It might go without saying after he scored 46 goals this season, but Johnston is an excellent shooter, a skill aided by a rapid release. The most difficult decision for the Dallas Stars next year might be what to do with Johnston. Due to the NHL’s agreement with the CHL, Johnston will need to return to the OHL if he doesn’t stick with the Stars, and it’s obvious he’s already developed to a point where another year in Junior might be a regression promoting bad habits.

Logan Stankoven - Not far behind Johnson in scoring prowess is Kamloops Blazers forward Logan Stankoven. He notched 45 goals and 104 points this season and was named to Canada’s World Junior roster. Stankoven is only 5’8” but you’d never know by his style of play. He goes to the middle of the ice, plays hard along the boards, and engages physically in puck battles. He’s a strong skater, has an incredible compete level, and never stops driving his feet. Stankoven is in that awkward 19-year-old season where he’s too good for the WHL, ineligible for the AHL, and not quite ready for the NHL.

Ty Dellandrea - One step forward, and another back. Last season, Ty Dellandrea spent the COVID-19 shortened year in the NHL, playing 26 games. While there weren’t a ton of options for OHL players, Dellandrea could have benefitted from more prime time ice. Dallas recognized this and sent the 13th overall pick from the 2018 NHL Draft back to the AHL this year. They kept him with the Texas Stars for the entire season aside from a one-game call-up. He showed improvement in his all-around game and scored 50 points in 68 games. With his entry-level deal up after this coming season, Dellandrea needs to stick — and prove his worth.

Ones to watch

When you see Antonio Stranges play, you can’t help but feel excited by his pivots and heel-to-heel skating. The puck looks glued to his stick and he can flat out dazzle. How he combines his lateral skating, puck control, and deception is elite, and truly unique among his peers. How he plays may or may not translate to the pro game, which will be an item to watch. The moves he attempts now will be more challenging with professional defenders. Dallas showed faith in their prospect, however, signing him to an entry level contract this spring. Mavrik Bourque will also be jumping to professional hockey next season. A first-round pick of the Stars in 2020, Bourque missed significant time this year due to a shoulder injury, but when he returned, he was lights out scoring 68 points in only 31 games.

Ready to step in

Dallas gave 6’3” blueliner Thomas Harley an extended visit this year. He skated in 34 NHL games after using the pandemic to gain AHL experience last season, where the mobile defender notched 25 points in 34 games. He is smooth and can protect the puck using his long reach. Harley will be a welcomed presence on a blueline that, aside from Miro Heiskanen, lacks youth. If John Klingberg signs elsewhere, it will create an even greater need for Harley to not just step in, but to contribute offensively as he is capable of doing. Up front, both Wyatt Johnson and Ty Dellandrea will try to stake their claim to a middle-six role.

Needs at the draft

Dallas’ blueline is aging, and with Thomas Harley moving to the NHL, there are no defensive prospects on the immediate horizon for the Stars. Addressing this need at the draft can begin with Dallas’ first-round pick where a number of excellent prospects will be available. With the amount of scoring forwards nearing the AHL and NHL for the Stars, it would not be inconceivable to see Dallas select multiple blueliners in the opening rounds. The pool, including ​​Denton Mateychuk, Owen Pickering, Lian Bichsel, Seamus Casey, Ryan Chesley, Calle Odelius, ​​Ty Nelson, Tomas Hamara, Matties Havelid, and Tristan Luneau, among others, should provide value well into the second round.

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