Future Stars in Nets?

By Geoffrey Ussery

Over recent years, the Stars have not had a tremendous amount of success
when it comes to developing prospects in most phases of the game. A few
players have emerged, but very few have actually been absolutely vital to
the team’s success. The bulk of the developed prospects that were important
all came from one position: goal. The names of goalies coming through the
system are notable, most becoming starters in the league. Arturs Irbe,
Roman Turek, Manny Fernandez, and now Marty Turco have all developed in the
Stars’ system and gone on to start somewhere. With Marty
Turco arriving in the NHL, however, the Stars’ goalie system appeared
depleted, but recent drafts have replenished the talent for the future.

The four notable prospects in the Stars’ goaltending depth chart are
Jason Bacashihua, Tobias Stephan, Dan Ellis, and Mike Smith. Jason
Bacashihua and Mike Smith are already playing in North American professional
leagues. Dan Ellis is currently in his last year of college hockey with
UN-Omaha and will likely join these ranks next year. Tobias Stephan is the
starter for the Kloten Flyers of the Swiss Nationalliga A, and the timetable
for bringing him to North America is currently uncertain. However, with
Turco likely to hold down the starter spot for at least a few years to come,
it appears that there may be a logjam of goalie prospects in a few years.
Here is a brief look at the years brewing for all four of these goalies.

Jason Bacashihua-Utah Grizzlies
13GP, 7-5-0 Record, 2.78 GAA, 0.925 SV%, 1 SO, 0 PIM

Bacashihua has had a good start to his pro career with the Utah
Grizzlies. He is practically splitting starts with veteran Corey Hirsch and
has been relatively consistent and strong positionally behind a slightly
above average Utah team. His history of meltdowns has shown itself as well
as in one game he allowed 4 goals in around half a game, but other than that
he has been a solid, sometimes spectacular backstop, due mostly to his
excellent reflexes and glove hand. Just recently, Bacashihua posted his
first professional shutout with a 2-0 victory over the San Antonio Rampage.

Tobias Stephan-Kloten Flyers
30GP, 19-11-0 Record, 2.68 GAA, 0.891 SV%, 1 SO, 6 PIM, Assist

Stephan has played every minute for the Kloten Flyers in the Swiss
Nationalliga, only one of three goalies in the entire league to do so. Only
18 years old, Stephan has already established himself as a starter and is
the league leader in wins. Stephan’s goaltending has been solid, but as
evidenced by his rather low save percentage, there is still room for
improvement in his game, particularly in consistency as is the case for
almost all young goaltenders. Set to join the Swiss WJC team, Stephan could
be the key to a medal for his team. With a strong performance there he could
enhance his confidence and thus improve his game a bit.

Dan Ellis-University of Nebraska at Omaha
17GP, 6-9-2 Record, 3.13 GAA, 0.896 SV%, 2 SO, 4 PIM

After several strong years in the Omaha area, Dan Ellis has struggled
mightily this year. Gone is the consistent threat to win games on his own
even if the team is playing poorly in front of him. Ellis has shown to be a
slow starter in the past, but generally the stretches have not lasted for
this period of time. Expected to be among the NCAA college goaltending
leaders, Ellis’s year has definitely been a disappointment thus far. He may
still salvage part of the year and regain his former form, but his play in
addition to the current goalie situation makes his place in the Stars’
organization next year uncertain.

Mike Smith-Lexington Men ‘O War/Utah Grizzlies
Lexington: 13GP, 5-5-2 Record, 2.47 GAA, 0.914 SV%, 1 SO, 8 PIM, Goal
Utah: 1GP, 1-0-0 Record, 0.95 GAA, 0.974 SV%, 0 SO, 10 PIM

Mike Smith is the unknown of the Stars’ system. Drafted in the fifth
round in 2001, Smith is a big goaltender with good puck handling ability. He
has been absolutely dominating at times, and at others, he has been very
average, partly due to poor rebound control. However, Mike Smith is the
history maker out of the group. He is the youngest goalie to score a goal in
professional hockey and the first to post a shutout and a goal in his first
professional win. Splitting starts in Lexington except for a brief call-up
to Utah to fill in for an injured Bacashihua, Smith has done a respectable
job in his professional debut. He is still very raw but could be a decent
goaltender down the line.