Of all the Stars' ``prospects,'' I think Nicklas Grossman is as close to a sure thing as there is.
That's in part because the expectations of his job are a little bit easier to attain on a consistent basis than those of the other prospects. But it's also in part because he appears to have all of the tools to fulfill those expectations.
Nicklas Grossman should be a part of the Stars' shutdown defense pair for the next decade or more. He is big enough (6-3, 214 and growing), he is skilled enough and he is smart enough. Grossman doesn't have the mean streak or the physical presence of Derian Hatcher (few players ever will again), but he has a very nice combination of talents that should allow him to play against the best players in the NHL.
He's already shown he can do it by combining with Stephane Robidas in the playoffs in 2007-08 and putting up very solid performances against Chris Kunitz and Corey Perry (Anaheim), Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Jonathan Cheechoo (San Jose) and Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk (Detroit). He wasn't perfect, and he had a lot of help from Robidas in those playoffs, but he also rose to the occasion at the age of 23.
Now 24, and with 151 NHL games under his belt, Grossman appears ready to embrace the role of shutdown defenseman and take a hug part in making his team tough to play against.
Grossman has never had big numbers (even in 138 AHL games, he had only four goals and 11 assists) so I don't see those numbers going up significantly, even with Charlie Huddy in as the assistant on defense. I just don't think he's going to get much power play time. But I do believe Huddy and Marc Crawford can help Grossman become better at making the first pass out of the backend or in finding players off of the blueline at even strength.
That said, what Grossman really needs to work on this season is his edge. Like I said, he's not going to become Derian Hatcher, but he can get that attitude that Richard Matvichuk and Darryl Sydor played with. Those guys were quiet until you pushed them, and it would be nice to see that temper every now and then from Grossman. If we can't see that, then maybe some of that Mattias Norstrom confidence and intimidation that ``shenanigans are not going to happen while I'm on the ice.''
Grossman has it in him, I believe. He was captain of his World Junior Team in Sweden, and he has shown leadership skills. I honestly believe he is well on his way to becoming a very solid, very strong veteran defenseman. He will turn 25 on Jan. 22, and that will be a good time to really take stock of what kind of player he has become. I think this could be a big growing season for him.