Minor-league system for Dallas Stars rife with grit and character

By Mike Farkas
Photo: Mathieu Tousignant (left) and Tomas Vincour (right) bring a lot of youthful energy and physicality to the Stars organization. (Photo courtesy of Holly Gunning/HF)

The Texas Stars were unsuccessful in their quest to defend their Western Conference title in 2010-11. Instead, they bowed out in the first round but not without some promising bright spots along the way. With a host of first- or second-year pros in the lineup, the young Stars, by way of steady, defensive coaching from Glen Gulutzan, posted a 40-win season and gained valuable professional experience.

Forwards

Tomas Vincour, RW, 20

The first professional season for Czech winger Tomas Vincour didn’t go quite as expected for him. It went much, much better. Largely due to injuries, Vincour saw a healthy amount of time in the NHL (24 games to be exact). He only recorded a goal and an assist but was an effective player. He does some of his best work along the boards and then slides into open space to unleash his powerful wrist shot. He played mostly a mucker’s role at the NHL level, which is to be expected, but he sees more quality ice time at the AHL level. He recorded a rather modest 12 points in 44 AHL games, but his style doesn’t lend itself to gaudy offensive totals. Major increases in totals will occur when he gains a little bit more finishing ability, but he seems to have a good handle on how to create quality chances already, which is very promising.

Ondrej Roman, C/LW, 21

After a season in the Czech Extraliga, Roman returned to North America with the AHL‘s Texas Stars where he recorded eight goals and 22 points in 72 games. Primarily a playmaking centerman that replaced the departed Perttu Lindgren, Roman hasn’t been cracking top-line minutes and his numbers suffer as a result. Using him in a depth role has not proved all that beneficial regarding his physical play and his willingness to fight through traffic. As a result, he was scratched for four of six playoff games this year. He certainly has some tools that are more than serviceable – vision, faceoff-taking, accurate wrist shot (though he doesn’t shoot too terribly much) – but may struggle to adapt to the rigors of the North American game. It’s too early to give up on Roman, but like Lindgren before him, he might be better suited to the European game.


Colton Sceviour, C/RW/LW, 21

Colton Sceviour is a jack-of-all-trades character forward and proved that further this season. He was moved to center for much of the year and piloted a high-octane energy line (generally with Mathieu Tousignant and Raymond Sawada) which was largely successful as it was a nice combination of young bang-and-crash forwards. Coach Gulutzan is comfortable throwing the Stars 2007 fourth rounder in any situation and he’s a valued taker of crucial faceoffs for the Stars. He earned a one-game call-up with Dallas and he’s certainly in the mix at training camp in September for a bottom-six role. Sceviour isn’t a dynamo at any one skill, but he has very little weaknesses. He posted career highs in goals (16), assists (25) and points (41) – the point totals were good for third in Texas.


Luke Gazdic, LW, 21

He had three times as many goals and eight times as many assists this season versus his previous career highs but unless linear development becomes the norm, Luke Gazdic will remain Texas’ resident fist-slinger. The final totals, of course, are nothing to write home about (nine goals and eight assists in 72 games) but they are a nice improvement for the former sixth rounder. He’s trying to shake off the "goon" tag and add more skills to his resume. He improved his offensive totals and cut down his penalty minutes from 155 to 110. Gazdic still has a long way to go in terms of defensive play and skating but he does create a lot of room for his linemates with his bellicosity and board play.

Raymond Sawada, RW, 26

Sawada is one of the team’s veterans despite only completing three American Hockey League seasons. Unfortunately, his NHL call-up didn’t last quite as long as years past – just a single game – thanks in large part to a questionable hit by Boston’s Daniel Paille. Sawada rebounded well in the playoffs however, where he notched a team-best five helpers in a truncated playoffs for Texas. The Cornell grad has his work cut out for him though within the organization because he largely fails to differentiate himself from the myriad of younger, similar forwards. He played well on a bang-and-crash depth line this season, but one would assume that the Dallas organization had higher hopes for their 2004 second rounder. Sawada is a Group VI unrestricted free agent.

Mathieu Tousignant, C, 21

Agitating forward Mathieu Tousignant occupied a role on the lower lines in his first full season in Texas and brought a lot of energy to the club. He put together a nice offensive season given his role; in 78 games, he notched ten goals and 23 points and a club-high 120 penalty minutes. Although small in stature, Tousignant plays a pretty big game and is not afraid of the rough stuff. He forechecks well, works hard and is a more-than-willing competitor. Players like Tousignant can be difficult to predict in terms of progression, but the undrafted free agent has looked like an effective role player.

Tristan King, C, 20

Former Medicine Hat Tiger Tristan King embarked on his pro career at the ECHL level but injuries had an effect. Positively, he was recalled to the AHL for 11 games that yielded a couple of goals and assists; negatively, he missed a significant amount of time while down in Idaho that held him to just 24 games (three goals, 13 points). He also scored twice in six playoff games. The playmaking center will need use this time to toughen while he’s still playing against weaker competition. He’ll get a strong look for more regular AHL time next season.

Michael Neal, LW, 21

Michael Neal had another ECHL-dominated season, spending 46 games there (versus 16 AHL games). In the ECHL, Neal matched his career high with 15 points while limiting his penalty minutes to a mere ten. He went pointless in eight postseason games. He acquired his first career AHL goal in his first AHL game of the year on January 21 against Houston. The scrappy, rugged forward doesn’t have near the skill of his brother James, but is trying to carve out a career as a solid depth player at the lower levels.

Philip Larsen, D, 21

It was an adjustment period for the 21-year-old Danish defenseman. He made the full-time transition to North American hockey and he’s been steadily improving as the year goes on. In 54 games, the rookie posted 17 assists and 21 points and a plus-3 rating. He has very moldable natural abilities – great vision, very good hockey smarts to name a few – and will continue to refine his game. He’s been working closely with NHL veteran Brad Lukowich to hammer out the defensive aspects of his game and is progressing nicely. He played six games in the big show, where he looked sharp but a little overwhelmed in the defensive zone. Once he improves his strength and gains more experience, he’ll be a Dallas regular. In fact, he has a good shot of cracking the Dallas roster out of camp in 2011-12.

Trevor Ludwig, D, 26

26-year-old defenseman Trevor Ludwig spent a complete season in the American Hockey League, particularly on Texas’ third pairing. Never much for scoring, Ludwig compiled a single goal and six helpers in a career-high 64 AHL games. The defensive defenseman brings a steady, physical presence to the Stars back line. He doesn’t bring a ton of puck skills to the table, but he makes a decent first pass. He’s improving but having already turned 26, Ludwig may be a near-finished product and as an unrestricted free agent, the Stars will need to decide if they need him for organizational depth.

Guillaume Monast, D, 23

Former QMJHL defenseman Guillaume Monast spent a second straight season in the ECHL where he’s counted on to log a fair amount of minutes and be a solid defensive presence. At 6-foot-2, 200-plus pounds, Monast is big but not tremendously physical, instead he relies on strong positioning to neutralize opponents. Despite making a crisp first pass, Monast is not a big point-getter – demonstrated by another single-digit point total. He saw AHL action for the first time and it didn’t look out of place. He’s a restricted free agent this offseason and it’ll be interesting to see if the Stars see a future for him in their organization.


Goaltending

Richard Bachman, G, 23

It’s becoming the preferred route for the organization’s goaltenders – ECHL to AHL to NHL – and Bachman seems to be right on track. After effectively conquering the ECHL in 2009-10, Bachman finished top-five in all major goaltender categories on the defensive-minded Stars, an impressive feat for anyone, much less a rookie. In 55 games, Bachman went 28-19-5 with a razor-thin 2.20 goals against average, a healthy .927 save percentage, and six shutouts. While the Colorado College product is slightly undersized at 5’10, he does go a long way to making up for it with tremendous athleticism and determination. He’ll likely see at least one more season at the AHL level before getting a serious look at an NHL role.


Tyler Beskorowany, G, 21

Opposite, at least in terms of size, goaltender Tyler Beskorowany made his professional debut in 2010-11. Slotted to inherit the starting role of the Idaho Steelheads (ECHL), Beskorowany quickly found himself playing behind Bachman in Texas thanks to the injury-ridden Brent Krahn. It looked like it was shaping up to be a stellar season (10-5-4, 2.35, .928 save percentage – far and away statistical bests among the three regular Idaho goalies) that included a berth in the ECHL All-Star Game, which was cut short when he got the call to Texas. He performed admirably in relief of Bachman, posting numbers not-too-dissimilar to the Stars starter – including one of the league’s better save percentages at .921. Beskorowany is used to trying to steal games, so it’s relaxing for the puck-playing goalie to be sheltered a bit for the first time in years, but he still has the propensity for a weak goal now and again. Like nearly all young goalies, his consistency could use some refinement.