Stars 2008-09 AHL prospects update

By Mike Farkas

The Dallas Stars continue to ship their pro prospects out to several different American League teams.  Much like the teams they play for, the Star prospects are yielding mixed results. 

Forwards

Cornell grad and industrious forward Raymond Sawada has spent this season with the Manitoba Moose. He has recorded 10 points in 25 games (missing a few weeks with an ankle injury). His only two goals on the year were scored December 27 in Toronto. Sawada has demonstrated quite a bit of toughness this year. Twenty of his 22 penalty minutes resulted from some glove-less altercations. At the age of 23, Sawada seems to be on the proper track to be a third liner at the next level. 

Chris Conner, who turned 25 in late December, has split the 2008-09 season between Dallas and Peoria (AHL). In 12 games with Dallas, he saw some bottom-six time while recording five helpers. Back in Peoria, his 13 goals and 11 assists in 24 games lead the team in points per game (second in total points). He will continue to provide organizational depth for the Stars, but is unlikely to be a notable NHL player in the future. That said, Conner is on his way back to Dallas after a New Year’s Day recall. 

Aaron Gagnon has been playing for the Grand Rapids Griffins this season. Just two short years ago, Gagnon was a better than point per game player for Seattle (WHL); the next season, he notched a solitary assist in 25 AHL games. This season he has just three goals in 19 games. Gagnon has been helping the defensive-minded Griffins keep up their top-ranked penalty kill. After a couple of uneventful three-game stints with Hamilton in late October and mid-December, Tyler Shelast finds himself back in the ECHL. Shelast has scooped up five points and 12 PIMs in 13 games for Idaho. He had been a healthy scratch in Hamilton and retrospectively said he was unhappy about the situation and his role with the Bulldogs. Hungry for ice time, one could expect something of a spike in Shelast’s offensive numbers if he’s given an extended stint in Idaho.

Meanwhile, hard hat-wearing Francis Wathier has found himself with one more fighting major than points this season (7 points in 32 games, 8 fighting majors and 68 PIMs). Wathier continues to be a valuable bottom-six forward for each team he plays for. After an unsuccessful stint with Assat Pori (SM-liiga A), John Lammers has returned to North America with the AHL’s Houston Aeros. Through 28 games, Lammers has six goals and seven assists while racking up 29 penalty minutes. After recording 10 points in his first 11 games, the British Columbian left winger has cooled off considerably. A lot of his offensive impotence may have something to do with Krys Kolanos being assigned to Houston for a good portion of November and December. It will be interesting to see, with Kolanos recalled to Minnesota, if Lammers can get back into his early season rhythm. 

Defensemen

Dallas’ top prospect, Ivan Vishnevskiy, has played 32 games for the Peoria Rivermen this season and got word of his first promotion to the NHL on the final day of 2008. The Rivermen have very evenly distributed scoring and Vishnevskiy places nicely in second among team defensemen in points. Three goals and 12 points positions him six points behind Blues prospect Jonas Junland. Conversely, Vishnevskiy has a team-worst minus-7. Vishnevskiy may be the type of defenseman that could use the AHL game to develop and hone his defensive skills but at the same time might curtail his offensive abilities somewhat. His exceeding hockey sense and offensive skills appear to be just about NHL caliber. 

Vishnevskiy’s polar opposite, Mark Fistric, has split his 2008-09 campaign between Dallas of the NHL and Manitoba of the AHL. In 13 minor league games this year, Fistric has gone scoreless with a plus-6 rating and 12 penalty minutes. He was a plus in each of his first seven games before sustaining a knee injury in late November. Since returning, he has been a minus-3 as Manitoba’s hot start has simmered somewhat. 

Trevor Ludwig has gone pointless and even in 16 games with the Manitoba Moose while accruing 18 penalty minutes. On the final day of 2008, Ludwig was assigned to the Idaho Steelheads (ECHL) where he has participated in one game. There simply wasn’t a roster spot available to Ludwig in Manitoba, who had been a healthy scratch for the past six games because of recent struggles (a -6 and 12 PIMs in his last nine games). 

Goaltenders

Matt Climie, who will turn 26 in February, has spent the season with the Steelheads where he is splitting time with Rejean Beauchemin. Climie is 10-5 with a 2.62 GAA and .907 save percentage, hardly world-beating numbers but enough to help Idaho to second in their division. Climie’s lack of definitive improvement confirms that he will provide nothing more than minor league depth in the future.