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31 in 31

Top prospects for Dallas Stars

Defensemen Heiskanen, Honka lead improved system

by Sean Shapiro / NHL.com Correspondent

NHL.com is providing in-depth prospect analysis for each of its 31 teams throughout August. Today, the Dallas Stars. 

In the past six months, the Dallas Stars have beefed up their prospect system. 

It started prior to the NHL Trade Deadline on March 1, when they traded forward Lauri Korpikoski to the Columbus Blue Jackets for defenseman prospect Dillon Heatherington. The Stars also signed defenseman Gavin Bayreuther, a highly touted free agent from St. Lawrence University, on March 15. 

At the 2017 NHL Draft, the Stars had three picks in the top 40 and came away with an impressive haul. Dallas took defenseman Miro Heiskanen with the No. 3 pick, and then made a trade with the Chicago Blackhawks to move up from No. 29 to No. 26 to select goalie Jake Oettinger. Early in the second round, Dallas took forward Jason Robertson, who was projected by many as a first-round selection, at No. 39. 

 

[STARS 31 IN 31: Season preview | 3 Questions | Fantasy breakdown | Behind the numbers]

 

Here are the Stars' top five prospects, according to NHL.com:

 

1. Miro Heiskanen, D

How acquired: Selected with No. 3 pick in 2017 NHL Draft

Last season: HIFK (Liiga): 37 GP, 5-5-10

The smooth-skating Heiskanen, 18, is a solid two-way defenseman who played in Finland's top league as a 17-year-old. 

Heiskanen (6-foot, 170 pounds) effectively moves forwards away from his net and frustrates opponents with his stick work, often breaking up plays before they begin. He never panics offensively and has the confidence to carry the puck out of his own zone. Although Heiskanen will attend training camp, he likely will spend one more season in Finland. 

Projected NHL arrival: 2019-20

 

2. Julius Honka, D

How acquired: Selected with No. 14 pick in 2014 NHL Draft

Last season: Dallas: 16 GP, 1-4-5; Texas (AHL): 50 GP, 7-24-31

After three seasons in the American Hockey League, Honka is ready for full-time duty in the NHL. The 21-year-old made his NHL debut last season and is an offensive defenseman who may be the best skater in the Dallas prospect pool. 

Honka (5-11, 195) is creative and doesn't panic with the puck. He exudes confidence on the power play, and his game was seemingly built for 3-on-3 overtime. Fittingly, Honka scored his first NHL goal April 4 against the Arizona Coyotes in overtime. He needs to improve in the defensive zone, but the Stars are confident he will make major strides in coach Ken Hitchcock's system. 

Projected NHL arrival: This season

 

3. Denis Gurianov, F

How acquired: Selected with No. 12 pick in 2015 NHL Draft

Last season: Dallas: 1 GP, 0-0-0; Texas (AHL): 57 GP, 12-15-27

Gurianov made his AHL debut as a 19-year-old and matured as the season went along. He became more confident with his game, and when he faced his own peer group at the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship, he was one of Russia's best forwards. 

Gurianov, 20, is a shifty forward with a heavy shot. He can create his own chances around the net but is a skilled passer who can set up his teammates. Last season, the Texas coaching staff was impressed with his work ethic and dedication to defense. Gurianov (6-3, 200) showed a willingness to hit and block shots, and he earned time on the penalty kill by the end of the season. 

Projected NHL arrival: Next season

 

4. Roope Hintz, F

How acquired: Selected with No. 49 pick in 2015 NHL Draft

Last season: HIFK (Liiga): 44 GP, 19-11-30

Hintz, 20, is a smart, playmaking forward who likes to create open space for his teammates. He had a slow start last season for HIFK but ended up with 30 points in 44 games before leading Liiga in playoff scoring with three goals and 11 assists in 14 games.

Hintz is expected to start his first season in North America in the AHL. The Stars will look to develop Hintz (6-3, 205) at center and will watch him closely to see how he reacts to a more physical game in the AHL. 

Projected NHL arrival: Next season

 

5. Riley Tufte, F

How acquired: Selected with No. 25 pick in 2016 NHL Draft

Last season: Minnesota-Duluth (NCAA): 37 GP, 9-7-16

Tufte had a difficult start to his college career. He was recovering from a broken wrist while making the jump from Blaine High School in Minnesota to the NCAA. He didn't score his first college point until January but finished the season with 16 points and helped Minnesota-Duluth reach the Division I national championship game.

A big, raw prospect (6-6, 210), Tufte has been growing into his game. He's a strong skater but needs to improve his overall quickness and agility in tight spaces. The 19-year-old goes hard to the net and is poised for a big sophomore season.

Projected NHL arrival: 2020-21

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