Notebook — 5/21/2001
The CHL Memorial Cup playoffs is now taking place but the OHL championship has not come and gone without some play (and thus
analysis) of a few Dallas Stars prospects in the Onatario Hockey League. Naturally, many scouting eyes were upon highly
touted rookie Jason Spezza and his somewhat disappointing playoff performance for the Windsor Spitfires. Spezza’s rather
quiet playoffs, in which he was outplayed and kept fairly in check by opposing forward Stephen Weiss (4 goals, 5 assists, 9
points in 9 games), has caused some scouts to rank him lower in the draft. The Red Line report, for instance, proposed that
he may be moved as far as 4th or 5th in the draft this year because of his playoffs.
I mention Spezza because (naturally) Spezza’s performance calls to mind that of teammate (oft linemate) Steve Ott’s
own performance. 18-year old Ott (3 goals, 8 assists, 11 points in 9 games) lead his team in playoff scoring this postseason
and proved to be an antagonostic presence throughout much of the Spitfire’s admittedly short run (27 PIM). Still, things
could have been better for the Windsor Spitfires. Windsor’s top line was not able to muster much against Plymouth’s during
the Spitfire’s quick exit in the 2nd round. A sign of their offensive stars (and Ott himself) being overrated? Or merely a
natural result of having too many offensive eggs in one basket in a highly defensive-oriented postseason?
Another impressive postseason Stars prospect, Jeff Bateman (Brampton) also lead his team in playoff points (5 goals, 7
assists, 12 points in 9 games) but was similarly evicted from the playoffs in the second round after being matched with the #1
seeded Otters and their superior depth. Still, Bateman and teammate Raffi Torres (NY Islanders) showed flashes of brilliance in
the playoffs and continue to impress. Bateman has become a huge star in Brampton where he gets loads of newspaper and
television publicity. If the Stars opt to give him a shot at an NHL debut soon (and we should all sincerely hope they do), he will be sorely missed back there in the small Canadian town where has become a local hero.
The Stars entry draft pick to find himself deepest in the playoffs was former London Knights captain, Dan Jacenvski.
Traded to the Sudbury Wolves at the deadline — where he is now an Alternate Captain — CHL all-star defenseman Jancevski had a solid
playoffs, compiling 9 points in 12 games, a +2 rating, and 17 penalty minutes. Big Dan continues to impress with his
leadership, physicality, solid positioning, and excellent puck movement. His powerful, low slapshot from the point has also
been an effective weapon to keep defenses scrambling. Add Jancevksi to a class of excellent defensive prospects in the Stars
Grizzlies Final Notes
The Grizzlies exited the season with an whimper, failing to make the playoffs and ending up 4th place in the Western
Conference. All in all, it was a pretty miserable season for the Grizzlies who look to be getting re-stocked with some more
talent next year by the Dallas Stars. The only Utah player to finish in the league’s top 20 in scoring was playmaking talent
Greg Leeb (in 78 games, Leeb compiled 25 g, 40 a, 65 p). Leeb showed impressive skating and stickhandling last year
in Dallas Stars training camp and a few preseason games but his dimunitive size is believed to be a huge issue to Stars
management who this year are looking to get much bigger and stronger.
On a positive upside, reports that the IHL is dissolving with most of the teams being annexed by the AHL is excellent news.
Bettman hopes to create a 30-team minor league to mirror the NHL itself, and it’s a great idea. No longer will debates about
the talent on AHL/IHL farm clubs involve such rampant speculation. Those curious about Western farm teams will get an
opportunity to see them face off against the popular AHL farms teams of Eastern NHL clubs and vice versa.
Chernov Building Credibility
Dallas’s second 5th round pick in last year’s draft, Artem Chernov has had a good season for Mettalurg NK of the
Russian SuperLeague this year. Artem compiled 32 points (15 goals, 17 assists) in 44 games and continues to impress scouts
with his keen offensive vision and excellent sense of defensive responsibility. Unfortunatley, Chernov did fail to impress in
the under 20 World Junior championships this year (as did quite a few Russians). However, according to Russian Prospect’s
reporter Dmitri Lukashov, his performance was not entirely his fault and he is expected to bounce back. Dmitri writes (translated) that “[t]he Russian team’s coach, Petr Vorobiev did not use Artem to the best of his abilities, playing a
first line player on the fourth line with weak linemates and giving him no power play time.”
Projections for Chernov in the NHL have thus far been extremely positive. Russian hockey expert Maxim Dostoyevskiy thinks
that Chernov could become a second-line player on the Dallas Stars (an excellent sign for a 5th round pick) in the mold of a
Jamie Lagenbrunner-type player. Unfortunately, Chernov suffers from Roman Lyashenko syndrome — Lyashenko being another
highly rated 2-way Russian prospect in the Stars system. Chernov is below average in size for an NHL player and worries
abound about his abilities to hang with the bigger, tougher NHL players.
For an excellent article on Artem Chernov which is the source for this update, please see Chernov’s profile on
Artem Chernov will continue likely remain in the RHL next year where has signed a contract with Avangard Omsk.
Last shot for Minor Leaguers?
In a recent Dallas Morning News article, Ken Hitchcok talked about Ryan Christie as a possible candidagte for making
the team next year. Christie is a big, hard-working LW who had a shot at making the team two years ago. Unfortunately, when
the Stars got off to a poor start, he was part of the roster purge that sent a number of rookies back down to the minors.
Since then, he really hasn’t had another NHL look. Expect him to be seriously evaluated in training camp/preseason this year
and to either make the team or be dealt soon. Christie has all the size and speed to be a 4th liner on the Stars team next
year. He just has to demonstrate some consistency and intelligence.
Richard Jackman is another player in the same boat. Though immensely talented and fairly dominant at the IHL level,
he has been shakey and has lacked confidence in the NHL. Bob Gainey did not speak very highly of Jackman in a recent radio
interivew. It appears that Jackman has not lived up to the great expectations that the Stars organization have for him, and
management is basically challenging him to take his game to the next level. Several organizations (particularly in the
Eastern Conference) have expressed an interest in Jackman with the belief they can fit him onto their team. If Jackman
doesn’t prove himself next year, expect him to be gone to one of these teams. The Stars have too many great defensive
prospects to waste much more time grooming Jackman. In the immediate future, Macmillan and Erskine are knocking on the door and stand a good chance of competing for that 6th spot with Jackman next year, if Ledyard is not back. Also, I have received information from Russian Prospect’s writer/translator Eugene Belashchenko that Yevgeny Petrochinin is planning on travelling to Dallas and trying out for the Stars next summer. Eugene reports that: “Though he is no Zubov, he is a reminder of the
same style of a defenseman. [Eugene is good for] a lot of scoring, a booming shot and [many] penalty minutes”. Sounds like excellent competition for Jackman.
Hitchcock also expects Tyler Bouck to be a big factor next year and to possibly make the team. Bouck was thrown into
the NHL straight from Juniors this year and proved to have the the speed and work ethic for it right away. He struggled to
produce offense, though, or to get his timing right in a much faster NHL game. With some time to work on his timing in the minors and
get adjusted to a faster game, Bouck might be able to improve this year. His intensity and work are there. He just needs to
click more with his next year’s linemates offensively.
Where’s our Drury/Hejduk?
One thing I’m getting extraordinarily sick of, is fans coming up to me and asking why we couldn’t draft the next Chris Drury
or Milan Hejduk? Does Gainey look for defense too much? Is Gainey just bad at evaluating offensive talent? Why aren’t
Morrow, Sim, Lyashenko, Bouck on the same level as the great Drury and Hejduk?
It’s true: the Colorado Avalanche have, over the past few years, produced the biggest name prospects in the NHL.
Moreover, the Avalanche (and numerous other teams) clearly outdrafted the Stars in the ’94 draft. However, though the Stars haven’t produced any
prospects that compare to them recently — please keep in mind that neither have around 28 other NHL teams.
Furthermore (as pointed out repeatedly to Dallas Morning News Reporters by Coach Hitchcock), Drury and Hejduk have
been in the Avs talent pool for a very long time. They were drafted in ’94. Quite simply, it isn’t fair to compare them to
players like Morrow, Lyashenko, and Bouck (who are much younger). For comparison, around that same time Drury and Hejduk
were drafted (give or take a few years), players like Lagenbrunner, Turco, Iginla, Lehtinen, and Lukowich were drafted.
Without at least three of those draft picks (two of whom were the 2nd and 3rd most prolific scorers during the Cup run and the
the third of whom was traded for our Conn Smythe winner), the Stars would not have been a dominant Championship organization in the late 90’s.
There is some definite truth to the fact that Gainey drafts two-way players in preference to offensive talents, but please
keep in mind that this drafting style produced a championship organization and one of the most successful NHL organizations
of the last half-decade. I know we all love to hate the Avalanche and experience loads of misery whenever they are more successful than us. However don’t be so quick, just because of a (relatively) early playoff exit, to condemn one organization
because of the successes of another. Without the great two-way players Gainey has drafted, the Stars future would look quite
bleak indeed and their past would be far less glorious.