As a team that is a perennial contender, the Dallas Stars have maintained mostly a veteran team, each year competing for the Stanley Cup. This season the Dallas Stars had five rookies suit up with none competing in more than 30 games. Here is an overview of the Dallas Stars rookies’ season.
Steve Gainey received spot fourth line duty for the Stars in a seven-game call up from November 17th and ended December 3rd with a demotion to the Utah Grizzlies of the American Hockey League. At the age of 25, Gainey is running out of time to become an NHL regular, only averaging 5:27 of ice time in his only pro stint of the season. His time in Dallas ended with a February 16th trade to Philadelphia for RW/D prospect Mike Siklenka.
Jeff MacMillan received a brief call up in early December due to injuries to the Dallas Stars blueline including Teppo Numminen and Phillipe Boucher. MacMillan plays a defensive game with a physical side. In his four games for Dallas this season he did not reach the score sheet averaging 8:19 minutes of ice time per game. MacMillan was named the most valuable player to his team by his teammates in Utah of the AHL. MacMillan will continue his development and try to earn a top 6 defenseman spot in Dallas next season.
The 23-year-old native of Hameenlinna, Finland made the Dallas Stars out of training camp due to his strong two-way play. As the Dallas Stars struggled through the first half of the year, Miettinen was not immune to the struggle. Miettinen played 14 games from October 8th to November 15th and after going through a brief injury to his back, Miettinen was reassigned to Utah of the American Hockey League to regain his confidence and form. He earned a two game call up late in January before being reassigned to the minors. Miettinen scored one goal in his 16 games in Dallas while averaging 9:50 of ice time as a third/fourth line forward. It has been a reasonably successful transition to North America for Miettinen with a good chance at becoming a full time Dallas Star as early as next season.
The Dallas Stars increased their North American depth at right wing by signing Mathias Tjarnqvist to a one-year contract last off-season. The 25-year-old began the season with the Utah Grizzlies of the American Hockey League and performed well enough to earn a promotion to the Stars on November 11th. After a slow start, Tjarnqvist began to adapt better to the North American game playing more solidly in both zones. In 18 games this season in Dallas, he scored a goal and an assist while averaging 9:43 minutes of ice time. He was voted the Utah Grizzlies rookie of the year for his contribution on the farm team so his first North American season can be considered a success. With a strong off-season training regiment Tjarnqvist will have a decent shot at becoming a Dallas Stars regular next season.
The slick skating defenseman likely had problems getting settled with a surprising seven-time recall from Utah Grizzlies of the American Hockey League. Daley has very significant offensive upside and this was not lost by the Dallas coaching staff. In his 27 games in the 2003-04 season, Daley scored 6 points but averaged an impressive 3:16 minutes of power play time per game ranking him second among Stars blueliners in that category. The 20-year-old will have to continue to compensate for his frame being 5’9.5” and 197 lbs, but with his skill set Daley should be able to overcome the deficiency. Daley will prepare this off-season to compete for a full time spot on the Stars in 2004-05.
The Dallas Stars spent 2003-04 easing their prospects into duty with sporadic action as the veteran club continued to be a contender for hockey’s top prize. It has been rumored publicly that the Stars are a team in transition which might open the door for this rookie crop and other prospects looking for a full time position on the NHL club as early as next season.