All of a sudden the upcoming Dallas Stars training camp just got a whole lot more interesting.
News broke on Tuesday afternoon that top Stars prospect Brett Ritchie suffered a wrist injury while training, and is expected to be out 3-4 months after requiring surgery.
Dallas Stars RW Brett Ritchie expected to miss 3 to 4 months after undergoing surgery to repair a ligament in his wrist.
— Mark Stepneski (@StarsInsideEdge) September 8, 2015
Ritchie, 22, was considered to be on the cusp of a full-time NHL job heading into the fall after posting six goals, nine points and a 55.73 CF% in 31 games last season. The 6’4″ right winger was a 2nd round pick of the Stars back in 2011 and was a key part of the Texas Stars’ Calder Cup championship in 2014, scoring 11 points in 13 games.
With Ritchie possibly out of the lineup all the way into 2016, Dallas now finds themselves in an interesting position with regards to their roster for the start of next season. The team has 13 forwards that could reasonably be penciled in for regular ice time, but beyond them the competition is currently wide open. Even if the Stars decide to only carry 13 healthy forwards on their pro roster at a time all it would take is one more injury to hit before a new face would need to come up and join the fray.
Luckily for the franchise, however, there is a healthy number of promising young forwards that will be in the AHL next season, with many of them firmly in the running for ice time up in Dallas. Here now is a quick rundown on the top five candidates:
1) Brendan Ranford
Ranford, 23, was originally a Philadelphia Flyers draft choice and lacks the lofty profile of some of the others on this list, yet he is still an early front-runner after already playing in one game for Dallas last season. He put up 51 points in 73 games last year while playing big minutes in Texas’ Top 6, his second productive season in a row with the team.
2) Radek Faksa
The Stars’ 1st round choice from the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, Faksa has a great chance to make his long-awaited NHL debut this season. A shoulder injury limited him to only 32 AHL games in 2014-15, but his big size and solid defensive game could make him a perfect fit on Dallas’ bottom two lines.
3) Devin Shore
Shore turned pro late last season after three years in the NCAA and earned rave reviews in the process, scoring six points in 19 games and then one goal in three playoff games. The 21 year-old is a consistent difference-maker at both ends of the ice, and that versatility could be what pushes the 2012 2nd rounder to the front of the pack.
4) Jason Dickinson
The youngest member of this group at 20 years of age, Dickinson nevertheless still has a good shot at playing in Dallas this season after being a 1st round selection of the team, 29th overall, in 2013. This will be his first year in the pros after a stellar stint in the OHL with the Guelph Storm, winning the league championship with the team in 2014.
5) Justin Dowling
Dowling is definitely the dark horse of this list, but there is certainly a case that can be made for why he should get a chance in Dallas. At 24 years old he’s older and more experienced than the others, but he’s still a capable player as evidenced by his impressive 50 points in 65 games for Texas last season. The big question is whether the Stars would give that chance to an undrafted free agent signing instead of one of their own home-grown prospects.
Derek Neumeier primarily covers the Dallas Stars, but also other various topics related to the sport of hockey. A Journalism graduate of Mount Royal University, Derek also writes for Defending Big D, and has done previous work with the Edmonton Oilers as a communications intern and Hockey Canada as a freelance writer. You can follow him on Twitter at @Derek_N_NHL