The Dallas Stars are no longer disadvantaged by not having a sole American League affiliate. A fledgling team named the Texas Stars has put most of Dallas’ professional prospects under one roof. Thirteen Dallas prospects populate the minor pro ranks, including seven of their top 20 prospects – but only one of their top six is in the AHL this season.
Aaron Gagnon, C, 23
With his new team and increased ice time, Gagnon has found his game. After a slow start to his pro career, which followed five junior seasons, Gagnon has been a pleasant surprise for the Texas Stars. The 23-year-old Gagnon even got the chance to make his NHL debut this year. The former Seattle Thunderbird leads the Stars in assists (13) and is tied for the team lead in points at 18 in 28 games. He’s been looked up to as a veteran leader on a team that has a number of NHL vets as well.
Luke Gazdic, LW, 20
After a junior career with the Erie Otters (OHL), the noted pugilist moved on to the AHL. Besides a brief stint in the yle” id=”HFlink” href=”/teams/echl”>ECHL (yielding one goal, one assist and one fight in two games), Gazdic has one goal and 55 penalty minutes in 17 AHL matches. In all three of his junior seasons, Gazdic topped the century mark in terms of penalty minutes and is certainly on pace to do so during his first professional season. With seven fights in 17 games, it’s clear who will defend the burgeoning stars down in Cedar Park.
Sergei Korostin, RW, 20
With one OHL season under this belt, Korostin jumps back to Texas for the second time in his young career. The speedy Russian winger played for the Texas Tornado of the NAHL back in the 2007-08 season. Korostin is off to a pretty good start this year; his nine goals in 27 games is good for second on the club. In fact, only Sergei Shirokov has more goals this season among AHL rookies. Korostin has proven to be a willing worker and effective forechecker.
Perttu Lindgren, C, 22
Lindgren returns to North America for his second AHL season. After a season with Lukko Rauma (SM-Liiga A), Lindgren has seen his fair share of first-line minutes with the Texas Stars. Primarily a set-up man, Lindgren is just one assist behind Gagnon for the team lead in assists and points. The soft-handed Finn is a plus-12 on the year, second on the club, but he doesn’t show all that much attention to detail defensively -– at least not as much as a plus-12 would suggest. That said, he is one of the most offensively gifted players on the club. He could become a little more snarly and determined in order to be a factor at the next level.
Raymond Sawada, RW, 24
Sawada is off to something of a slow start this season with the Stars, not playing his first game this year until Nov. 6 due to an injury. The gritty winger’s play will go a long way to determining what kind of player he can be at the professional level this season. He’s a hard-working mucker with an eye for the defensive side of the game. It’s likely that once Sawada returns to form he’ll be one of the first call-ups for Dallas. His size, physical nature and willingness to drive to the dirtier areas of the ice will make him valuable at every level.
Colton Sceviour, RW, 20
With four years of WHL hockey down, Sceviour is trying his hand at the professional game. Playing the role of responsible, playmaking winger. Attesting to that is his team-best plus-14 and his 10 assists through 29 games. His relatively hot start has cooled a bit, but as a right-hand shot with a solid frame, he’s valuable within the organization regardless. Sceviour will be counted on to play in all situations and lead by example.
Tyler Shelast, RW, 24
Shelast finally has a little bit steadier of a home. He’s bounced around between Iowa, Hamilton and an ECHL stop in Idaho since he turned pro in 2008. Shelast will need to earn minutes in order to produce offensively like he did in his final season at Michigan Tech (NCAA). The feisty winger, who will turn 25 on Boxing Day, has had acute spatterings of offensive production at the AHL level. His three points in 16 games so far have been disappointing.
Ivan Vishnevskiy, D, 21
Vishnevskiy is the lone defensive prospect seeing time at the AHL level. The rest of the blueline in Cedar Park features veteran players such as Brad Lukowich and Garrett Stafford. The advantage to Vishnevskiy this year is that Texas has a vested interest in giving the Russian blueliner the minutes he needs to properly develop. That was not the case last year when Vishnevskiy was caught behind St. Louis Blues vets down in Peoria. The former QMJHL Husky is on pace to surpass career highs in points – he already has 12 in 29 games after scoring 19 points last year. Should Vishnevskiy become a little bit more consistent in his own end this season, he will likely earn a spot on the big club next season.
Matt Climie, G, 26
The Texas Stars are the best defensive team in the AHL and Climie goes a long way to helping that cause. He has a slender 2.15 GAA and a .931 save percentage to go along with two shutouts. Climie battles Brent Krahn for ice time, which is no easy task as Krahn has been one of the best goalies in the American League this year. However, Climie has sufficiently fended off Richard Bachman for a spot in the AHL, at least for now. The Alberta native is a big goalie with quick lateral movement who was signed as an undrafted free agent in 2008.
Michael Neal, LW, 20
Neal completed an injury-shortened junior career with Belleville and Sarnia (OHL) and will likely spend most of this season in Idaho with the Steelheads of the ECHL. Neal has recorded eight points in 23 games and has also received a brief cup of coffee with Texas. The hard-hitting grinder will strive to prove himself AHL-worthy before the season is out.
Trevor Ludwig, D, 24
Defenseman Ludwig has split time between the ECHL and the AHL just like he did last season. He’s recorded six points in 13 ECHL games while leading team defensemen in plus/minus at plus-6. Despite recording just one point in seven AHL contests, Ludwig is a respectable plus-4. The smart, defensive defenseman will fight for minutes with the many Texas Stars defensive vets.
Guillaume Monast, D, 21
Two-way defenseman Monast has graduated from the QMJHL and moved on to the Idaho Steelheads of the ECHL. He has started his pro career with a simple game, worrying about his own end before pursuing offensive interests. For that, his short-term offensive numbers have suffered (just two helpers in 21 games) but it should make him a better prospect in the long run. The sometimes-ornery Monast is one of a growing number of undrafted free agents accumulating in the pipeline.
Richard Bachman, G, 22
Yanked out of Colorado College after just two seasons, Bachman embarks on a professional career that starts in the ECHL. Similar to Climie up in Texas, Bachman splits time with a veteran player – in this case it’s Rejean Beauchemin. They’ve put up nearly identical numbers: 12 games a piece, both are 9-2-1, both have a single shutout. Bachman, though, has a 2.12 GAA and .916 save percentage which are both just slightly better figures than Beauchemin. Bachman will likely see a few games at the AHL level (he already has one) but he will need to continue to hone his craft as he lacks the ideal size for a netminder.