Dallas boasts strong contingent at WJC

By Simon Richard





2005 Prospects: Alex Bourret





With six prospects involved in the 2005 World Junior Championship, the
Dallas Stars have one of the biggest contingents in Grand Forks, N.D.
They are equalled by the Philadelphia Flyers, and only surpassed by the New
York Rangers who have seven prospects.

Four of the Dallas prospects
are playing for Team Sweden – forward Loui
Eriksson
(2003, 2nd round,33rd overall) and
defensemen  Elias Granat (2003, 6th round, 196th
overall), Johan Fransson (2004, 2nd
round, 34th overall), and Niklas
Grossmann
(2004,2nd round, 56th overall).

 

The two others are Sergei Kukushin, a
forward also called ‘Siarhei’ who is
playing for the Belarus
(2004, 7th round, 218th overall) and the Canadian
defenseman Shawn Belle (2003, 1st round, 30th
overall). Belle was originally a St. Louis
selection and was acquired by Dallas
last summer in return of goaltender Jason Bacashihua. 

Eriksson, Fransson, Belle and Kukushin are all returnees from last year’s WJC.

The Stars like Euros

The Dallas Stars organization
obviously likes Europeans. In the last three NHL Entry Drafts, 18 of their 33
selections were from Europe, including their
first four in 2002.

 

"It is true that about
half of our selections are from Europe for five or six years, but it is just a
coincidence," Special Assistant to the Dallas Stars General Manager Guy Carbonneau told Hockey’s Future in Thief River Falls, Minn. this week.

 

"We don’t have
more resources over there," added the former NHL Selke
Award winner.

 

"We have about 12 scouts
in North America while just two or three in Europe.
The fact that we have five Euros here at the WJC say lot about the work done by
our scouts over there. We have confidence in our scouts in Europe.”

 

The four Swedes

Guy Carbonneau
has seen all four Swedish prospects in action a few times prior to the
tournament. He was in Europe last year and this year and has also seen them at
the Dallas
prospect camp. He commented on them for HF.

 

Johan Fransson, D
(6’1, 181)

 

"I really liked Fransson last year. Our scouts had some doubts about his
character before the draft. I like both his skating and his hockey sense.
Despite the fact that he is just 18 years old, he plays regularly in the Elite League
and he is on the penalty-killing unit. We hope that his development will
continue."

 

Elias Granat, D (6’2,
187)

 

"He is the only one of
the four Swedes not playing in the Elite League but I’m happy that he
isn’t because he is averaging 25-30 minutes per game. This is very good
for his development. He is also an impact player on his team (Borlange). We have a lot of hope with him.”

 

Niklas Grossmann,
D (6’4, 201)

 

"It is a surprise for us, we didn’t expect he would be that good. He is the Sweden team
captain. He is a natural leader."

 

Loui Eriksson,
F (6’2, 181)

 

"Eriksson had a great
season last year in the Elite league, winning the Rookie of the Year award. As
many young Europeans, he struggles a little bit this year because many of the
kids have lost a lot of ice time with all these NHL players who are playing in
Europe. I have seen Eriksson in action twice this year in Europe.
When his team was leading, he had a reasonable ice time but as soon as the game
was tight or his team was trailing, the coach was putting more experienced guys
on the ice. That said, Eriksson remains the closest of
these Swedish from getting a spot in the NHL. The others are defensemen and
these players require more time to develop." 

Belle, a big Canadian

The big Edmonton
born blueliner (6’1, 229) is a perennial
winner. He won a Provincial Pee Wee Championship with the KC Lancers in 1998.
He also won gold medals with the Under-18 Canadian team at the 2003 IIHF World
U-18 in Russia and in 2002
at the Eight Nations Cup in Slovakia.
He was named the tournament’s top defenseman at the latter event.

Belle also earned a silver medals at the 2002
U-17 Challenge in Stonewall, MB with Team Pacific and at the 2004 WJC in Finland with team Canada. He is not only a big man
but he is skating very well. Indeed, he has won the Bobby Orr Fastest Skater
Award at the 2003 CHL Top Prospect Skills competition.   

The Tri-City Americans player is a reliable defenseman. After three
games played in this year’s WJC tournament for Canada, he has no point yet.

"Our organization has a lot of hope with him," commented Carbonneau. "He has the size and the skating ability
to play in the NHL. He also has a very good head on his shoulders. Some day, he
will play in the NHL. It is just a matter of time."

 

Simon
Richard is the author of La Serie du
siecle, Septembre 1972, a
book about the Summit
Series published in 2002.
Copyright 2004 Hockey’s Future. Do not duplicate without permission of
the editorial staff.