Notebook — 01/02/2002
After a somnolent ’00-01 season, the Stars minor league affiliate (the Utah Grizzlies) retooled, swapped coaching
components, and relocated to the AHL. Somehow, all of these changes (and, of course, player development) have precipitated
an unexpectantly exciting season for the hiterto yawn-inducing franchise. Midway through the season the Grizzlies find
themselves in first place with 45 points and 20 wins (and third league-wide by a deuce). Finally, something exciting’s going
on in Salt Lake City (although I’ve heard snippets that something else is going to transpire there as well).
Newly appointed coach Don Hay is getting much of the credit for the swift reversal of fortune. The former NHL coach,
Memorial Cup winner, and “greatest” coach in WHL history has taken a team with a remarkably similar make-up to last year’s
suck-squad and molded an AHL machine. And, of course, you have to dish out ample credit to Assistant Coach Bob Bassen.
Maybe. Ok, I don’t know. But I do like mentioning former Stars in my column.
The #1 Sim-Lyashenko-Gainey line also deserves a great deal of approbation. Jon Sim, who has racked up 21 goals
already, looks like the minor league equivalent of Theo Fleury and plus-minus leader Roman Lyashenko‘s offensive
creativity (16 a, 7 g) so far paints him as the AHL spectre of Pierre Turgeon (if you squint real hard, I mean). Of course,
all three gentlemen have had extensive stints in the NHL and none have been able to stick. Maybe it’s the three and half
minutes of ice time per game they usually get. Of all three, Sim has shown the best ability to score at the NHL level, but
he still gets tossed about like a rag doll by the bigger players. Obviously the peanut-butter and banana milk shakes still
aren’t paying off for little Sim. Maybe upgrading from Weight Gainer 2000 to the 3000 variety would do the trick.
I still count myself a member of the gradually dying Lyashenko fan club. Yeah there’s not many of us — much less, sadly,
than the amount needed to spell out L-Y-A-S-H-E-N-K-O on our shirtless chests at home games — but I’m still waiting for
definitive proof that he can’t get it done in the NHL. No one (and that includes the best players in the league) can get it
done in a handful of minutes in “safe” situations. Even Turgeon has seen his production cut in half with less ice time and
4th line duty. But breaking into the Stars has proven to be a hard (near impossible) feat, and I guess I’m not that
Cameron Mann has also proven a worthy “tweener” in Utah, and has scored at a steady clip there. But this has always
been the case for the 1st rounder. Other highlights include Marcus Kristoffersson and Niko Kapanen, who have
been impressive and fun to watch at times (with reasonable, though not outstanding, production). Cox and Baumgartner have
also put up points, but they have not impressed as much and had even been swapped out with the Brahmas recently for a short
Jeff Bateman has been loads of fun to watch (playing mostly with the Brahmas), but has shown a remarkable inability to
score despite his repeated, glorious chances (aka Jamie Lagenbrunner syndrome). The development of his scoring touch is the
key necessity and will probably determine more than anything if he ever gets a shot at the NHL.
Defense has been great on the Grizzlies, and John Erskine and Jeff Macmillan both look like potential Stars
(but then, I’m a potential millionaire too).
Top 11 Grizzlies Scorers:
Player GP Points Goals Assists +/- PIM
Greg Hawgood 35 36 11 25 -2 42
Jim Montgomery 39 32 10 22 +3 31
Jon Sim 31 27 21 6 -3 63
Roman Lyashenko 31 23 7 16 +15 21
Cameron Mann 25 22 9 13 -5 20
Mark Wotton 37 19 7 12 +10 46
Steve Gainey 29 18 7 11 +10 36
Eric Beaudoin 30 16 3 13 +11 68
Gavin Morgan 38 16 5 11 -3 123
John Purves 28 16 6 10 0 18
Marc Kristoffersson 30 12 4 8 -1 22
A handful of Stars young ‘uns have been selected for the World Junior Championships and are being showcased in the national
Controversial Stars first rounder Jason Bacashihua has played well in the tournament to date as the US’s starting
goaltender. “Cash” first stymied the Czech Republic, stopping 30 of 31 shots and handing the US its first victory before
backstopping a strong performance against Sweden (allowing just one screened goal and a power play goal from behind the net).
Unfortunately, “Cash” has sunk back to Earth after getting pummeled yesterday by Russia’s menacing snipers in a 6-1 loss.
“Cash” had already had a strong season in Plymouth with 14 wins, 4 losses, and 5 ties while building a .917 save percentage
and a 2.42 GAA. A rookie, “Cash” is a top 5 OHL goalie in almost every important goaltending category. Hmmm. Perhaps he’s a worthy first rounder after all.
Two Swedish Stars futures have also made an apperance in the WJC’s. Joel Lundqvist — the budding but inconsistent
sniper — has notched a goal and an assist in the tournament as has young Yared Hagos. Hagos is still suspected of being a peripheral headcase, but his appointment to the World Junior team does bode well for him and the experience he needs.
Hagos definitely needs to work on his “diving” chops, however, as no one is buying his televised ill-timed flops on the ice against Canada.
Finnish selection Jussi Jokinen has also been very puck strong on a very formidable (and fast) Finnish line.
Currently, he is leading his (very strong) Juniors club in scoring with a goal in 6 assists so far. So what is doing with us anyway? Clearly, Jokinen should belong to an organization not ranked 30th on Hockey’s Future (just kidding, guys).
Perhaps the most entertaining Juniors representative for the Stars (yet again) is sparkplug forward Steve Ott. Though
he plays on Team Canada’s checking line (the self-proclaimed “green machine”), he is also scoring opportunistic goals and is
a royal pain in the derriere each and every night. Ott has compiled 3 goals and 3 assists so far, and was the first star in
today’s game against Switzerland. In the game before that, Ott was a big catalyst for Canada’s defeat of Russia. He
shrieked like a banshee, clung to foes like a spider monkey, drew penalties, and set up a key goal. It’s unclear whether Ott could make it as an NHL checker, but his
goal scoring celebrations and hooliganism are already NHL calibre.
Other Prospect Tidbits
The most astonishing Stars future this season has been Antti Miettinen of HPK Hämeenlinna. Anti Miettinen, who has
compiled 13 goals and 22 assists already (after 33 games), is 3rd in the Finnish Hockey League in scoring! In addition,
Miettinen has recently become the midseason recipient of the award for “Best Forward” in the league. This kid has great
stuff. Yet another player where you shake your head and wonder: what is he doing with our shoddy drafting organization anyway (sarcasm intended)?
Of somewhat lesser note on the Finnish hockey front, Espoo Blues bottom liner Teemu Elomo has compiled a respectable 6
goals and 5 assists this season and has been named to Finland’s Baltic Cup team.
Moving back up North, the Sakatoon Blades’s 1st pick, Daniel Volrab, is having a solid WHL rookie season. His 10
goals, 19 assists in 40 games illustrate his moderately swift adjustment to the North American iteration of the sport. As expected, though the
Czech forward is still somewhat of a softie. In fact, I believe he has yet to produce even one penalty minute.
Northeastern Junior Mike Ryan is still proving that he’s got burgeoning sniping potential. Ryan missed the season’s
first three games and early practices with mononucleosis, but he has returned to score 13 goals and 9 assists in the team’s
next 15 games. Ryan is now considered a legitimate NCAA hockey star, though the Northeastern University press is still ribbing him for
his consistency. Some games, Ryan seems to virtually disappear, whereas in others Ryan will explode offensively. Still, a
fine forward prospect in a goal scorer’s mold.
A very similar player, Merrimack Junior Anthony Aquino has also been showcasing his great hands and a knack for
finding the back of the net. Aqunio has scored 15 goals already this season — most recently scoring a hat trick in
Merrimack’s blowout of Vermont last weekend.
Last year’s top 10 Russian SuperLeague scorer Artem Chernov has fallen off from last year’s astonishing production which will likely correspond to a demotion on our little ranking system.
He is still doing quite well, but he is not scoring at the same astonishing pace — perhaps because he is not playing with
the same amazing cast of characters this season.
As always, please share your opinions with us in the Dallas Stars message board. We are about to conduct a re-rank of
prospects and your thoughts are definitely appreciated. In addition, we are always looking for more staff writers, opinions
writers, and contributors.