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Stars Young Corps, Prospects Recognized in TSN’s ‘Core 4 Rankings’

The Dallas Stars’ young corps and group of prospects have been mentioned among the best in the NHL. Now, TSN has made it official.

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The Dallas Stars have an elite group of young players. In fact, when you really look into their kids, they possess the perfect successful tier system that all clubs desire. 

This week, TSN recognized this young corps, ranking Dallas atop their ‘Core 4 U-24’ list. 

Here is how this system ranks players: 

AAA: Superstar

AA: Elite

A: No. 1 goalie, top-pair defenseman, first-line forward

B: Tandem goalie, top-four defenseman, top-six forward

C: Backup goalie, depth defenseman, bottom-six forward

Dallas has 10 players on this list, broken down as follows: AAA (1), AA (2), A (1), B (6). Among these, the three top players were all selected in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft. Without a doubt, the success of this Stars team in the present and future, can be traced back to that summer. 

“It’s one of the greatest team drafts in NHL history,” said TSN’s Craig Button.

And don't forget, the Stars also have a guy named Roope Hintz, who at the age of 26, would easily fall into the AAA rating and is a huge part of this organization. 

Let’s break down this list in depth: 

AAA: Superstar

Jason Robertson, LW

Robertson is an easy choice for this ranking, currently in the top 5 in NHL scoring and coming off his Dallas Stars record 18-game point streak this season. Robertson is one of only four players in Stars history to score 40 goals in a single season (2021-22.) 

Robertson leads the Stars with 23 goals and 43 points in 31 games. The 23-year-old has either broken or is on his way to just about every Stars record and NHL milestone. 

AA: Elite

Jake Oettinger, G

Seems like the perfect day to talk some Jake Oettinger. The 23-year-old netminder stopped 45 of 46 shots in a 2-1 victory over the Washington Capitals on Thursday night and has consistently been one of the best goalies in the NHL this season. 

Stars Notebook: Offense Gets Enough, Jake Oettinger Does the Rest 

Oettinger is 12-4-3 with a .920 save percentage this season. And we all know what he was able to do when the pressure was highest in the 2021-22 Stanley Cup Playoffs…

“He’s unflappable. He’s a special, special goalie, a special person,” Stars Head Coach Pete DeBoer said. “He’s got great leadership, he’s got great respect in our room. Guys play hard for him. Those are all characteristics of an elite goalie that you need.” 

Miro Heiskanen, D

Heiskanen is an elite defender. He possesses some of the best skating, stick skills, and hockey smarts of any player in the league. The only downside when looking at Heiskanen is the lack of offense over the past few seasons. 

But Heiskanen showed his potential, recording 24 points in 27 games during the Stars run to the Stanley Cup Final in 2020. 

The good news: under Pete DeBoer, Heiskanen is on pace to demolish his career-highs on the offensive end. Through 31 games, he has five goals and 18 points.  

“Miro is as good as there is if he’s got room to find those holes and if we can create some room for him to get into those spaces,” Stars Head Coach Pete DeBoer said. “He has the ability to create something out of nothing too. But when you can create a little bit of room for a guy like that, he’s special.”

A: No. 1 goalie, top-pair defenseman, first-line forward

Wyatt Johnston, C

Will 19-year-old Wyatt Johnston make the NHL club in 2022-23? Yes. Will the rookie remain with Dallas for all nine games of his tryout? Yes. Will he do enough to stay in Dallas rather than be sent back to the OHL after the maximum nine games? Yes. Will he be a productive player at the highest level despite his age and lack of size? Yes.

Johnston has answered the bell over and over again. He has seen his ups and downs but has remained an integral part of a productive Stars third line. He currently leads all players under 20 with seven goals and sits 11th in overall rookie scoring. 

“He’s starting to heat up. Just getting more comfortable,” DeBoer said earlier this season. “Three in the last four. Every night, he looks more confident, he’s making more plays. I think he’s starting to realize that not only can he play in this league but he can be a good player every night in this league.”

B: Tandem goalie, top-four defenseman, top-six forward

Logan Stankoven, C

Stankoven, unsurprisingly, did not make the NHL out of training camp this season. He was coming off an incredible junior season, scoring 104 points in 59 games. But with his Kamloops Blazers hosting the Memorial Cup and the success of Johnston, this was the best move for all sides. 

Stankoven has responded, recording 17 goals and 44 points in just 21 WHL games. He was recently named to Team Canada for the 2023 World Junior Championships and is expected to play a huge role in that tournament. The 5-foot-8 forward continues to defy his size and prove people wrong. 

Nils Lundkvist, D

Lundkvist was a steal for Dallas this summer. 

The 22-year-old defenseman was lost among a deep blue line for the New York Rangers but has found his stride in Dallas. After a hot start, DeBoer decided to have Lundkvist sit out for three games to reset and get back to what made him successful early on. Since the scratch, Lundkvist has tallied two goals and four points in six games, playing on the Stars top pairing with Heiskanen. 

“The guys in here know how good he is and how good he can be,” Jake Oettinger said. “He reminds me a lot of Klinger [John Klingberg]. I think he has a great future and he is just going to get more and more confident. I am really happy for him.” 

Thomas Harley, D

Harley was expected to make the NHL roster this season after playing in 34 games for Dallas in 2021-22. But after an inconsistent preseason, Harley was sent down to the AHL and has remained there since. 

In Texas, the coaching staff challenged Harley. Rather than playing him to his skills on the power play and in offensive scenarios, they pushed him to improve the weaknesses that have kept him out of the NHL. Harley has responded, playing a much better defensive game and eventually earning his way back into the biggest situations for Texas. In 25 games, Harley has four goals and 13 points.

Mavrik Bourque, C

Bourque is the third player in the ‘Big Three’ prospects for Dallas along with Johnston and Stankoven. An elite skater with a high ceiling, Bourque tallied 20 goals and 68 points in 31 games during his stint in the QMJHL last season. 

This year, Bourque has focused on improving his overall game in the AHL. For Texas, he has four goals and 11 points in 24 games. Despite an underwhelming season so far, the Stars remain entirely confident in his future. 

Lian Bischel, D

Bischel was a very underrated draft pick for Dallas last summer. 

The 6-foot-5, 215-pound defenseman has just about every skill that makes a successful NHLer. At just 18 years old, Bischel continues to impress with his defense and potential. His ceiling continues to rise. 

Christian Kyrou, D

The recently traded Stars prospect, Christian Kyrou, has shown his offensive skill at the OHL level. 

In 28 games for the Erie Otters and now Sarnia Sting, Kyrou has recorded nine goals and 37 points. 

The brother of St. Louis Blues star, Jordan Kyrou, likely has the most offensive upside of any Stars defenseman currently in the system. 

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