The Dallas Stars organization is a big proponent of using professional European leagues to develop their prospects. They utilize their ability to loan players to European teams with some regularity. The Stars currently have four prospects playing in Europe, all of whom play in top leagues.
Due to a dispute between the IIHF and the CHL, Ondrej Roman was unable to re-join the Spokane Chiefs to start the year. Roman spent most of the first half of his season in the Czech Republic’s top league playing for his former club, HC Vitkovice. He spent four games with the team’s under-20 junior club where he posted a point per game. Roman wasn’t featured very prominently among the league’s vets in the Extraliga but posted a respectable nine points in 26 games before leaving for the World Junior Championships. After the tournament, Roman returned to North America to play in the WHL. The exceptional playmaker didn’t miss a beat in returning – accumulating 32 points in 32 regular-season games. But he has just five points in 12 games.
Philip Larsen, D – Vastra Frolunda (SEL)
5th round pick (149th overall) in 2008
The 19-year-old Danish defenseman made the jump to a full-time spot in Sweden’s top league. Larsen has continued to rise prominently for years through the Vastra Frolunda program. The talented two-way defenseman is the second-youngest player on the club behind Senators prospect Erik Karlsson. Larsen’s 17 points placed him just three behind the leading point-getter among blueliners on Frolunda. He took on more and more responsibility and minutes as the season progressed. Larsen also had an excellent World Junior Championships tournament for Denmark.
Perttu Lindgren, C – Lukko Rauma (SM-Liiga A)
3rd round pick (75th overall) in 2005
After spending one season in North America with the Iowa Stars (AHL), Lindgren returned to Finland’s top league to play for Lukko Rauma. Despite being one of the youngest players on the club, Lindgren finished with 24 points in 49 games – good for fifth on the team.
Unfortunately for Lindgren, Lukko Rauma had a poor showing this season and did not challenge for a championship. The Swedish center probably could have used some more big-game experience, both for the experience and the motivation to keep his devotion to the game at a high level. He has had a cloud hanging over him that suggests that he may not be fully devoted to being an NHLer. It’s not terribly damning that Lindgren, at age 21, didn’t take the SM-Liiga A by storm but next season is critical. He only signed a one-year deal with Lukko Rauma, meaning that his 2009-10 location is still up in the air.
Tom Wandell, C – Timra IK (SEL)/Dallas Stars (NHL)
5th round pick (146th overall) in 2005
Wandell, like Lindgren, spent last season in North America playing for the Iowa Stars. This year, Wandell played a prominent role for Timra IK of the Swedish Elite League; he finished second on the club in scoring with 41 points and led the club with a plus-15 rating during his 51 games there. The Swedish center garnered a couple of recalls to the Dallas Stars this season. He played 14 games with the Stars, picking up three points while mainly seeing fourth line duty. Wandell’s Swedish season ended when Timra blew a 3-1 series lead to HV71 in the Eliteserien playoffs. Wandell has improved his quickness and his defensive responsibility during the year. The creative center may be looking at a season split between the NHL and the AHL next season, especially after having such an excellent year in the SEL.
Vojtech Polak, RW – HC Trinec (Czech)
2nd round pick (36th overall) in 2003
Polak spent a few years in North America trying to force his way into the Stars lineup, but was unsuccessful in gaining a full-time spot with the big club. After a poor start to his 2007-08 season with Iowa, Polak left for the Czech Republic. Citing that he needed to rekindle his passion for the game, Polak joined HC Trinec for the year. He posted 21 goals (second on the team) and 34 points in 45 games. The Czech sniper may have the goal-scoring prowess of an NHLer but that may be the extent of it. It’s unclear at this time whether or not he’ll return to North America. Regardless, it doesn’t appear that Polak figures too heavily in the Stars future plans.