Dallas Stars boast deep, blue-collar group of forwards at minor-league level

By Mike Farkas
Photo: Philip Larsen has been among the top minor-league players for the Dallas Stars this season and looks to have the makings of an NHL regular sooner rather than later. (Photo courtesy of www.eliteprospects.com)

The sophomore Stars are working on defending their Western Conference crown as the midpoint of the American Hockey League’s regular season approaches. The 2010-11 Texas Stars are on a similar pace as last year’s club with exception to their goals against average which has inflated about a quarter of a goal per game. The disciplined Stars are still trending towards a playoff spot for the second time in two years.

AHL

Ondrej Roman, C/LW, 21

Those that track Dallas Stars prospects regularly are well-aware of the tumultuous road filled with contractual obligations and transfer agreements that have plagued Ondrej Roman but eventually led him to the Texas Stars this season. It’s been a bit of a slow start for Roman as he largely occupied the third and fourth lines in Texas. Recently, he’s seen more time on the fourth line and as a playmaker his numbers have suffered a bit. So far, just two goals and ten points in 30 games. Playing on the bottom lines may be beneficial to Roman long-term as it might force him to toughen up a little bit. Soon enough though, it seems Roman will get the chance to showcase his adept playmaking skills.

Tomas Vincour, RW, 20

Another Czech making his professional debut in North America this season is Tomas Vincour. Like Roman, it’s been a little dicey in the early going. He’s played in a few different places in the lineup over the course of the young year but mainly sees time on the third line as a right winger. Despite being a highly-thought-of prospect, Vincour will still have to earn his time in a more-experienced lineup. The 6-foot-2 winger will use his solid frame and good hockey sense to move up the depth chart quickly over the next 12 months.

Colton Sceviour, LW/RW, 21

One of the younger leaders on the team, Colton Sceviour continues to produce after a strong rookie campaign. Sceviour a four-year WHL vet for two different teams was among the team’s better players for much of last season and not much has changed this year. Sceviour plays on the left more often than not this season and finds himself earning a lot of top-line time due to his hard-working style. His numbers may seem a little modest at six goals and 11 assists in 34 games but he has been a factor on the forecheck and backcheck on a fairly low-scoring team. With his continued success at the AHL level, Sceviour may find himself as a character forward at the next level in a couple years.

Tristan King, C, 20

Tristan King, an undrafted free agent from WHL‘s Medicine Hat Tigers, has sandwiched some ECHL time between his stints with Texas. Upon his demotion, King posted four points in just six games with the Steelheads of Idaho. After the parent club Dallas grabbed some players off the AHL squad, the organization slid King back up to the American League. Like most of the rookies on the team, he is struggling to get quality minutes. King has a sizeable learning curve versus what he faced in junior. It may take some time for him to make the necessary adjustments and become an impact AHLer much less an NHLer. The talented, puck-handling center is off and running though at the AHL level.

Aaron Gagnon, C, 24

Suddenly a big scorer at the AHL level last season, Gagnon is off to a good start again this year. His seven goals and 11 points in 24 games are likely overshadowed by his two assists in five games at the NHL level this season. Starting as an unsigned 8th round pick to an overager with Seattle (WHL), to some ECHL time coupled with a relatively poor showing at the AHL level, to a solid AHL role player and now finally a fringe NHLer, it has not been an easy journey for the 24-year-old.

Gagnon, now armed with a goal-scoring touch and the ability to play in all situations, has become a valuable asset to the Texas Stars and is now working on earning a similar fate with Dallas.

Sean Backman, RW, 24

Sean Backman, a better than point-per-game player at Yale University, garnered an entry-level contract as an undrafted free agent after graduation. After taking a brief dip into the ECHL (four points in five games), Backman has put together a nice start to his pro career on a lower line that’s exceeding expectations (now looking like Luke Gazdic, Ondrej Roman and Backman). The tenacious forechecker has five goals and six helpers in just 25 games this season. It’s size that works against Backman, at just five-foot-eight he may have to look to former Stars prospect, current Penguin energy forward Chris Conner as a guide on how to make it to the big show. Like Conner, he’s got some wheels and some skills at his disposal. Backman does not pass up opportunities to put pucks at the net which can certainly be a valuable asset.

Luke Gazdic, LW, 21

Bellicose pugilist Luke Gazdic is another player in the depths of the Texas Stars lineup that is producing points. Through 31 games this season, Gazdic has set career highs in goals (four), assists (five) and points (nine) while keeping his penalty minutes at a modest – by his standards – 61. Especially modest if you consider 55 of those penalty minutes were picked up from 11 fighting majors.

Gazdic is using his mitts for more than just fisticuffs harkening back to late in his junior career with Erie (OHL) where he was a 20-goal scorer once and nearly twice. In addition to being a physical presence on the rink, Gazdic is working on improving his defensive game to perhaps fight his way into an NHL lineup soon.


Raymond Sawada, RW, 25

Embarking on his third full NHL season, Raymond Sawada is on pace to shatter his personal bests in scoring. Through 23 contests, Sawada has regis
tered six goals and nine assists for 15 points which is among the club’s leaders. A solid, physical, two-way threat, Sawada has been chipping in the offense now that he’s gained an increased role with the team. He’s among the top-six and is seeing some power play time now. Additionally, he’s second among Stars forwards in plus/minus at plus-four. In each of the last two seasons, the 2004 draft pick has played in five games for NHL’s Stars and it wouldn’t be surprising if an injury brought Sawada up for a similar stay in 2011.

Mathieu Tousignant, C, 21

Agitation extraordinaire Mathieu Tousignant returns to Texas after a fairly successful 2009-10 campaign. Rotating between bang-and-crash bottom-sixer and more skillful top-six forward, the undrafted QMJHL-grad has five goals and 13 points in 34 games. He has cooled off as of late, but he can certainly ruffle the feathers of his opponents. Tousignant is Texas’ closest answer to Dallas’ Steve Ott and his penalty minute totals are starting to demonstrate that – 43 through 32 games – good for second on the club (enforcer Gazdic). The Quebec-native’s career trajectory is not yet known but with a successful 2011 he could become a legitimate NHL prospect in the future.

Philip Larsen, D, 21

Philip Larsen, the Danish-import from Swedish hockey, made his North America debut last season in the NHL and started this year at the AHL level. Larsen leads club defensemen in assists (12) and is second in plus-minus (plus-six) while playing clean hockey (six penalty minutes). Always at least second-pairing d-man this year, Larsen has been very good this season learning the North American game on a smaller rink. Larsen has been playing well positionally, using his smarts to diminish any weaknesses in his game. The Swedish Elite League veteran of 116 games also got the call for three Dallas games this year, registering one assist. The future looks bright for the 2008 fifth rounder.

Trevor Ludwig, D, 25

After an ECHL-heavy season in 2008-09, an AHL-heavy season in 2009-10, it appears that defensive defenseman Trevor Ludwig is in the AHL for good. Predictably, more of a physical presence than a point-getter, Ludwig has been limited to five assists in 30 games this season but still sporting a plus-five rating. Quickly growing into a solid minor league vet, Ludwig is being molded into a steadying force on the Stars blue line. While his offense is lacking, he does make a decent first pass which is essential for a defensive-minded d-man such as him.


Richard Bachman, G, 23

After working his way up from the ECHL last season, Richard Bachman has secured the starting job in Cedar Park this year. He still sees his time divided up between Brent Krahn sometimes and Tyler Beskorowany on rare occasion. In 21 contests, Bachman has gone 12-5-2 with a 2.09 goals against average and a .930 save percentage, notching three shutouts. These numbers reflect positively among the top-5 or 10 goaltenders in the American League. With Matt Climie out of the organization, Brent Krahn being unable to duplicate last year’s short-but-spectacular performance and Tyler Beskorowany looking to spend much of his time in the ECHL, the reigns are Bachman’s for the taking. The Colorado College standout recently had the fortune of stopping all four shots he faced in his first NHL action.

ECHL

Michael Neal, LW, 21

Michael Neal is still struggling to pull himself out of the ECHL. Something of a plugger, Neal has four goals and two assists in 24 ECHL tilts, on the plus side he is a minus-one and has kept his penalty minutes way down (six) in the young year. James Neal‘s younger brother is only in the second year of his three-year entry-level deal but he will have to do better than a cup of coffee at the AHL level in order to earn a qualifier.

Guillaume Monast, D, 22

Signed as an undrafted free agent after being moved to his third QMJHL team, Guillaume Monast continues to plug away at the ECHL level. Already gaining on last year’s point totals, Monast has recently registered his first regular season professional goal (December 11th versus Las Vegas). The Longeuil native is still trying to find his game offensively, he has been effective defensively.

Tyler Beskorowany, G, 20

After playing on some rather questionable teams in junior, Tyler Beskorowany eagerly turned pro this October. Following behind the older Richard Bachman, Beskorowany will spend much of the season at the ECHL level. So far, so good as he shares time with Mike Zacharias. The Stars second round pick in 2008 has put together numbers that are among the league’s best through 10 games: a 2.27 goals against average and .932 save percentage. despite posting just a 4-3-3 record. He also received a look at the AHL level for a few starts, going 2-4-0 with a 3.36 goals against average and .910 save percentage. Beskorowany still has plenty of time to establish himself in the organization.

Additional note: As of December 2nd, Sergei Korostin has been loaned to Dyanmo Tver – a tier-two Russian team (VHL).