The inaugural Texas Stars season should be an exciting one, as a myriad of new players have a lot to prove at the professional level. Moreover, the incumbent Stars prospects and minor leaguers will get the chance to play under the same system with some increasingly familiar faces.
The Dallas organization has no shortage of forwards to use for their newly-founded minor league club. Perhaps the most anticipated player to make his pro debut is former Kelowna standout Jamie Benn. With 24 players left on the Dallas roster, Benn is among 15 forwards left. It should be expected that Benn gets to spend most of his time in Cedar Park this season, as Tom Wandell should have an inside track to make the team after impressions he made last year.
Sergei Korostin, Michael Neal and Colton Sceviour are expected to make their respective North American professional debuts also. Neal, brother of James, left the OHL with a career-high 21 points in 63 games last season. His numbers are not awe-inspiring but he did lose a development year due to an injury in 2007-08. Neal will fight for organizational prominence with fellow professional question marks Korostin and Sceviour.
Meanwhile, the older and wiser Raymond Sawada, Tyler Shelast, Aaron Gagnon and Francis Wathier hope to make an impact and bring some helpful hints for the newcomers. Sawada saw some time with NHL Stars late last season and will likely see some spot duty in Dallas over the course of the year. Shelast was merely a victim of circumstance – referring to his ECHL demotion – last season as he did not fit into Hamilton’s plans.
If Warren Peters, after his stint on the disabled list, is sent down he will fight it out (literally perhaps) with former Erie pugilist Luke Gazdic for the team’s enforcer role.
The Texas Stars blueline will feature talented offensive defenseman Ivan Vishnevskiy. Last season, Vishnevskiy impressed during his late season cup of coffee in Dallas. Stars management hopes that Vishnevskiy uses his ample ice time this season to further hone his offensive skills and round out his defensive game so he can attempt to fill the mighty big, but now vacant, skates left behind by Sergei Zubov.
A couple of fellow Quebec Major Junior players Guillaume Monast and Maxime Fortunus will get the chance to show their stuff in Texas for the first time. Monast and Fortunus both joined Dallas’ defensively-limited pipeline as undrafted free agents.
Trevor Ludwig rode the buses in the ECHL for the most part last season. However, the already familiar name hopes to become a familiar face in the Stars’ AHL lineup this season. The defense-first blueliner has been brought along slowly over his young career. Two years in the NAHL, four years at Providence College (NCAA) and the aforementioned largely-ECHL year should have Ludwig prepped and ready for life in the American League.
Veteran players such as Dan Jancevski, Garrett Stafford and Andrew Hutchinson will fill in the remaining spots while highly-touted, but severely underrated, Danish defenseman Philip Larsen has returned to Vastra Frolunda (SEL).
Richard Bachman was yanked out of college during this offseason and will start the year in the ECHL. That leaves Matt Climie and Brent Krahn to man the nets for the Stars. Both are capable minor-league vets that should be able to hold the fort for the youngsters.
Climie found himself unexpectedly making his NHL debut late season. It was a move that proved to break the proverbial camel’s back – Tobias Stephan‘s — and he has moved back to Switzerland for the 2009-10 season.
Prospects in training camp
The biggest testament to a good camp is being the last player cut from the team. Benn has found himself in that very position as he is making the decision very difficult for the Stars staff. It could even be a situation where a player is demoted a line (Steve Ott for instance) or demoted a level (Fabian Brunnstrom perhaps) to allow Benn to start the year in the big leagues – but that is merely speculatory.
Philip Larsen impressed over Vishnevskiy during camp but both won’t start with the Stars this season. It’s very likely that they will both start with the club next season, however.
The Stars 2009 first-round draft pick, Scott Glennie, was quickly returned to juniors – a decision that was aided by a groin injury sustained during a rookie tournament.