The Dallas Stars are in a state of transition, having graduated a number of prospects in recent years and traded one of their best in Ivan Vishnevskiy (CHI). They used the 2010 draft and some free agent signings to restore their somewhat-depleted ranks. Finally attempting to eliminate the dearth of defensemen in the system, the Stars spent most of their draft picks on defenseman in 2010. They took three in total, the most since the NHL shortened the draft to seven rounds. Prior to that, 15 of the Stars last 18 picks were forwards.
Dallas exhibits one of the finer left wing corps at the NHL level but their present-day prospect pool is a little less impressive. Curtis McKenzie, the best of the shallow group, is off to a slow start at Miami of Ohio University (NCAA) this year after an excellent freshman campaign. At the USHL level, Alex Guptill has moved out of AAA hockey to the Waterloo Black Hawks and figures to be a large part of the offense this year.
Pugilist Luke Gazdic will continue to defend his teammates at the AHL level and Michael Neal will try to find his game at the ECHL level for much of the year.
The most promising center the Stars have left in the system is Ondrej Roman. Roman has had some transfer problems and ended up spending last season in the Czech Republic participating in various tiers of play. With all the I’s dotted and T’s crossed Roman can begin his pursuit of an NHL career and that begins with the AHL’s Texas Stars. Roman should assume a prominent role with the team before too long with the re-departure of Perttu Lindgren to Finland.
Although his future in the NHL is now doubtful, Lindgren is tearing up Finland years after being the SM-Liiga rookie of the year in 2006. Lindgren comfortably leads the league in assists and points through the early going.
Meanwhile, undrafted free agent signing Tristan King makes his professional debut for the Texas Stars with hopes of rounding out his game and keeping up the offensive pace that he established in his fourth WHL season. In a similar vein, Sean Backman – a signing out of Yale University – will be teaming up with King with hopes of making the big show. Backman is twice an ECAC All-Star team selection and had a point-per-game career.
Nico Sacchetti is off to another slow start with the Golden Gophers and is struggling to become an integral part of the offense. If things don’t pick up quickly for the former second round pick then his pro prospects look bleak. Conversely, Aaron Gagnon has started to put together the beginnings of a respectable pro career. He led Texas in goals and points last season while earning a call-up. Already this season he has added a considerable amount of offense to the AHL’s Stars while appearing in a game for the NHL’s Stars. The 2004 eighth round pick has a fair chance of becoming a bottom-six NHL forward.
Last but not least, agitator Mathieu Tousignant will likely compete at the AHL level full-time this season. His scrappy style of play will serve to protect his teammates while carving out a niche that may help him advance his career.
Dallas’ right wing group is the deepest relative to their other forward positions. The list is topped by 2009 first rounder Scott Glennie. Glennie put together an aesthetically pleasing season on the scoresheet but left a lot to be desired come playoff time and even more so on junior hockey’s biggest stage. He’ll have his work cut out for him on a weakened Brandon (WHL) team this year and will need to make some positive strides to raise his stock back up to where it was pre-2009 draft.
After a brief suspension to start the season, Alex Chiasson is looking to get back in the swing of things. Chiasson has cemented himself as a top-six forward and will likely spend a lot of time on the second line at right wing. With an increased work load, Coach Jack Parker is hoping to get an increased work rate from his power forward.
Austin and Reilly Smith will hope to improve upon successful 2009-10 campaigns. Austin of Colgate returns for his junior year after leading his club in points last year. While Austin is an established pillar in the Colgate offense, Reilly is a blossoming youngster with Miami. Reilly might just use his sophomore season as a coming out party. As he pushes forward on the depth chart, he has netted five goals in his first five games – a promising start for the slender Mimico native.
The remainder of the right wingers play at the AHL level. Tomas Vincour is a rookie to the pro ranks but could be a budding power forward. He’ll be a work in progress for some time to come still but once he puts it all together he’ll be difficult to knock off the puck along the wall and in front of the net.
Raymond Sawada, Colton Sceviour and Sergei Korostin will all spend much or all of the year with the Texas Stars. Sceviour and Sawada will both need to grind it out with hard working shifts as neither of them can afford to take shifts off if they want a shot at the big time. Sergei Korostin needs to add a scoring touch to compliment his quickness, however he’s been out of the lineup to the start the year. It’s looking more and more likely that the three aforementioned will be more help to the Texas Stars and the Dallas Stars for the foreseeable future.
The Stars shipped off their former best defensive prospect Ivan Vishnevskiy (now with Chicago) to Atlanta for goaltender Kari Lehtonen. Meanwhile, Philip Larsen has progressed faster than Vishnevskiy over the same period of time and looks poised to hit the NHL regularly before too long. Larsen, who has already made his NHL debut and registered his first NHL point, will spend most of the year in the AHL for Texas learning the geometry of the North American game.
The next defenseman on the Stars top-20 list doesn’t appear until 13th and that’s 2010 second rounder Patrik Nemeth. Nemeth has been a surprisingly effective player in his first year in the Elitserien (AIK has just re-joined the Elitserien after promotion). He’s second among club defensemen in points early in the year while accruing a plus rating. At 18 years old, Nemeth is the youngest defenseman on the team. Nemeth may be a long shot to make the U20 World Junior Championships team, but he’s not going away quietly.
Hubert Labrie, the undersized, undrafted defenseman sustained a serious knee injury in training camp and may not be able to play this season. Meanwhile, fellow undrafted defensive prospect Jace Coyle has returned to Medicine Hat (WHL) as an overager and is off to a decent start. Coyle has a lot to work on in his game, except for skating, but another year at the junior level should be most helpful for him.
2010 draftee John Klingberg was impressive as he captured the Junior European Trophy and is poised to see a good deal of time at the Elitserien level for Vastra Frolunda. Klingberg may have already advanced past the J20 SuperElit level which means his progress is just as promising as Nemeth’s right after being drafted. Another 2010 draftee Alex Theriau is off to a bit more of a reserved start on an average Everett (WHL) team. Mike Bergin will continue on to his junior season at RPI. Trevor Ludwig is ready for his third pro season and Guillaume Monast hopes to continue his impressive defensive exploits at the ECHL level.
The Stars top prospect is a goalie for the first time in a long time. They used a first round pick (11th overall) to select American netminder Jack Campbell. In an era where goaltender scouting is still something of an inexact science, eleventh is the highest a goalie has gone since Jonathan Bernier (also 11th) in 2006. Campbell moved to the powerhouse-turned-glass house Windsor Spitfires of the OHL. It’s been a slow start for him and his team but there’s still a ton of promise. Campbell has all the tools and the right mind set to become a serious impact goalie at the next level.
After graduating from the ECHL in 2009-10, Richard Bachman moves up to the AHL as the backup to veteran Brent Krahn. Bachman was limited to spot duty last season at the American League level last year but should see a more pronounced role this season as Tyler Beskorowany fills his perch in Idaho (ECHL). Beskorowany graduates from being on the receiving end of a shellacking most of his junior career and hopes to face a little less rubber now that he’s a pro.