Over the past two seasons, the Dallas Stars have had a lot of players turn pro which has really emptied the junior prospect pool. Two of the Stars top prospects still reside in juniors – Jack Campbell and Scott Glennie – but had somewhat disappointing seasons relative to lofty expectations. The Stars supplemented their cupboard with free agent signings Matt Fraser and Brenden Dillion, as per general drafting policy, from the WHL.
Hubert Labrie, D, Gatineau Olympiques
Acquired: Signed as a free agent in September 2009
After battling an injury that limited him to just nine games during the season, Labrie has had a lot of energy in the QMJHL playoffs for the Gatineau Olympiques. He had a productive conclusion to his regular season (seven points in nine games, versus a career-high 20 points) and with ten points in 22 playoff games the defensive defenseman has really brought his game to another level. He hasn’t abandoned his own zone by any stretch either – remarkably, he’s a plus-18 so far while none of the other club’s blueliners are better than plus-10. The Olympiques are fighting for a bid to the Memorial Cup as the QMJHL representative.
Labrie makes up for his lack of size with very good skating and plenty of tenacity. He plays a defense-first game but can move the puck with some degree of acumen. He’s a proven playoff commodity at the junior level. It’s expected that Labrie will turn pro in 2011-12.
Jack Campbell, G, Windsor Spitfires
Acquired: 1st round, 11th overall in 2010
Heavy expectations were laid upon Jack Campbell from gold medal winning performances to lofty draft status, Campbell was in charge of piloting the Windsor Spitfires to a third consecutive Memorial Cup. Unfortunately, things took an early turn for the worst and never fully recovered. He appeared in 45 games, posting a 24-14-4 record with a 3.80 GAA and .884 save percentage. While his winning percentage isn’t terrible, his goals against average and save percentage rank among some of the worst in the OHL. Campbell was hoping to turn it around in the playoffs, especially given his flair for big-game situations, but overall it was not to be. He had some wonderful moments, but Windsor’s season ended with a thud – a 10-4 loss to Owen Sound in which Campbell was on the hook for all ten. It marked the first playoff series loss for the Spitfires since March of 2008, when they were downed at the hands of Steven Stamkos (TB) and the Sarnia Sting.
The fledgling Windsor defense was still finding its legs deep into the season, which obviously effected Campbell’s play. As they grow and Campbell grows along with them, the improvement should become evident as the Stars first round pick is extremely talented. Campbell did join the United States at the World Championships in Slovakia, but didn’t appear in a game.
Scott Glennie, C/RW, Brandon Wheat Kings
Acquired: 1st round, 8th overall in 2009
It was a slow start for Scott Glennie, mainly because the offensive weaponry around him (namely LA Kings prospect Brayden Schenn) had departed. He was an early season disappointment and the subject of trade rumors at times, but rebounded to barely eclipse career highs in goals (35) and points (91) in 70 games. Glennie played more center this year than in the past because of the departure of Schenn. He led the team in scoring during the playoffs with 10 goals but was unable to prevent his club from being eliminated in the first round. Glennie immediately moved to the Texas Stars (AHL) to aid in their playoff run. Despite a goal in game four, he was unable to keep Texas from being eliminated by Milwaukee in the first round of the Calder Cup playoffs.
Glennie is a speedy, rangy forward that has a very good wrist shot. He can score in bunches, evidenced by being the first Wheat King since Marty Murray to hit 300 career points. He’ll need to prove that he has the drive to compete in high traffic areas and big game situations. The change of pace and scenery that comes with turning pro should do him good and get him refocused.
Matt Fraser, LW, Kootenay Ice
Acquired: Signed as a free agent in November 2010
Fraser returned to Kootenay for his overage season and he was quite impressive. As expected, he broke career highs in goals (36), assists (38) and points (74) in 66 games. More impressively, Fraser led his team (and WHL) in goals (17) and tied for the team-lead in points (27) during Kootenay’s dominant postseason performance (16-3) en route to a WHL Championship. The tenacious forward brings power and size to the wing position for the Ice.
A gentlemanly humanitarian off the ice, Fraser displays plenty of toughness with gloves on or off. He’s a good goal scorer with a nose for the net. The 6’2 200-plus pound winger will have the chance to show his stuff at the Memorial Cup before turning professional next season.
Alex Theriau, D, Medicine Hat Tigers
Acquired: 4th round pick, 109th overall, in 2010
Alex Theriau started the season with Everett Silvertips but was dealt at the WHL trade deadline to the Medicine Hat Tigers, where he has flourished. While it is a touch concerning that this is Theriau’s third junior team in as many years after being a first round pick in the Bantam Draft, but with nine points and a plus-16 rating in 15 regular season games, perhaps the right-handed shooting blueliner has found his comfort zone. He helped the Tigers to the Eastern Conference Finals with six points in 14 games before bowing out to the steamroller Kootenay Ice.
Theriau is traditionally a defensive defenseman that plays a passive style. He moves the puck fairly well but isn’t a major offensive weapon and doesn’t jump into the play very often. He plays a no frills positional game. The Stars’ brass hopes that Theriau continues to elevate and round out his game next year in juniors.
Jace Coyle, D, Medicine Hat Tigers
Acquired: Signed as a free agent in July 2010
Undrafted free agent Jace Coyle completed his third season with the Medicine Hat Tigers. Post-trade deadline he was able to join forces with fellow Stars prospect Alex Theriau after battling injuries for some of the year. He was limited to just 49 games, six goals and 28 points which paled in comparison to the 10 goal, 36 assist season he had last season. However, Coyle upped his productivity in the playoffs and was a major help as the Tigers advanced deep into the WHL playoffs, heading up a relatively-unknown blue line.
Coyle is an offensive-minded defenseman that has struggled defensively. He hasn’t shown a ton of improvement in most aspects of his game (injury troubles are to blame, in part), so he remains a work in progress. The potential is there, especially on the power play but he’ll need a good deal of seasoning at the minor-pro levels before he’ll be considered a more intriguing prospect.
Brenden Dillon, D, Seattle Thunderbirds
Acquired: Signed as a free agent in March 2011
The Stars have made a habit of scouring the junior ranks (namely the WHL) for undrafted prospects with some upside and they grabbed a 6’2, 209 pound defenseman from Surrey, British Columbia. Brendan Dillon has been a four-year regular with the Seattle Thunderbirds and hasn’t made many friends on other WHL clubs. He’s a tough customer that is physical and not afraid to drop the gloves when called upon. He topped 100 penalty minutes before he mustered up his first three-goal season. In his final junior season, however, he exploded offensively tallying eight times and assisting on 51 others in 72 games. His point totals put him fifth among Dub blueliners – a stark contrast for someone who totaled 35 points in his first three junior campaigns.
After Seattle missed the playoffs, Dillon joined Texas (AHL) late in the regular season and played an extremely composed game. A smooth skater for a big guy, he saw the ice well and adjusted quickly despite the big change in game tempo and pace. He didn’t register a point in the regular season but did have two assists in the Stars first round exit. He showed excellent poise and readiness and didn’t look at all out of place. It’s a longshot, but Dillon will get a very long look in training camp next fall for the NHL’s Stars.