Stars AHL prospects update

By Kevin Wey

After a season of splitting their prospects between the Hamilton Bulldogs and Houston Aeros, the Dallas Stars have their own AHL affiliate once again, the expansion Iowa Stars. Playing in the brand new Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines, the Iowa Stars are having a very respectable first season with a 14-12-1-1 record after 28 games. In fact, the Stars are a very impressive 7-1-1-1 in their last ten games, thanks in part to the development of the Dallas and Edmonton Oilers prospects playing for the new team.

Although Iowa has had a number of players injured, especially Dallas prospects, the strong goaltending of Mike Smith and Dan Ellis have kept the Stars respectable and now make them formidable. A strong defensive corps has also proven helpful. Veteran Dan Jancevski and Edmonton prospect Matt Greene have been rocks defensively, and veteran Patrick Traverse was leading the team in scoring when he went down to a foot injury on November 19. With Traverse out, free agent pick-up Mario Scalzo has proven himself a budding AHL and future NHL power play quarterback, displaying his impressive skills along with an improving team concept.

The Iowa Stars have been offensively challenged for much of the season, but the team is not without dangerous offensive players. Veteran Toby Petersen, property of Edmonton, is the team’s top offensive player and also brings a tremendous two-way effort. Veteran Swede Mathias Tjarnqvist is equally dangerous, but has seen his time in Iowa limited because of call-ups to Dallas. Twenty-five-year-old Junior Lessard is also a scoring threat and has had a couple cups of coffee with Dallas this year, but he’s also missed nearly a month due to an undisclosed injury. Vojtech Polak has been especially impressive this season, as the 20-year-old as played on Iowa’s first line nearly all season and has already played three games with Dallas.

Each Stars prospect has contributed in his own way, and each has his own story. Helping make sense of it all was Iowa Stars head coach Dave Allison. Hockey’s Future interviewed Allison regarding Dallas’ 14 prospects playing in Des Moines in 2005-06.

Shawn Belle, D
Ht: 6’2 Wt: 220 lb. Shoots: Left
Born: 1-3-1985 Edmonton, Alberta

Much was expected out of Shawn Belle coming out of major juniors. The former first round pick of the St. Louis Blues won the Bobby Orr Fastest Skater Award at the 2003 CHL Top Prospects Skills Competition. He won a silver medal with Team Canada at the 2004 World Junior Championships and a gold medal at the 2005 WJC’s. Despite those achievements, Belle struggled out of the gate for the Iowa Stars.

Coach Allison believes in order to succeed in the AHL, the 20-year-old blueliner needs to change some of the habits he picked up in juniors, where his considerable talent could carry him.

“Sometimes when you play in juniors you are allowed to get away with things that even the coaches in juniors know you’re not going to be allowed to get away with when you turn pro,” Allison said of Belle. “In some ways it’s done him a disservice, because your habits are everything, because when you’re fatigued you go back to your habits.”

Allison believes Belle was starting to understand what he needed to do to be a good AHL player, but the on-ice learning process has been interrupted by an ankle or knee injury (specifics of the injury are undisclosed) suffered against Grand Rapids November 29 when he fell awkwardly battling along the boards.

“It’s unfortunate that he did get injured, because I thought that he was playing some of his best hockey when that happened, but we look forward to his return to the line-up.”

How much of a setback Belle’s injury is to his development is yet to be seen. Belle has good straight line speed and a powerful stride, but other areas of his skating must improve if he is to be an NHL defenseman. While his edge control is solid, he must improve his backwards acceleration to keep his gaps short and allow him to use his considerable size to angle opponents into the boards and finish them. Belle must also improve his lateral mobility and foot speed to get to the corners quickly and for separation when carrying the puck. His power is unquestioned, and if he improves quickness-related aspects of his skating, much of the rest of his game will fall into place.

David Bararuk, LW
Ht: 6’0 Wt: 180 lb. Shoots: Left
Born: 5-26-1983 Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan

A fifth round pick by the Dallas Stars in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft, David Bararuk (pronounced Bah-RUKE) was a big scorer for the Moose Jaw Warriors during the 2002-03 season, his final season of WHL hockey. The past two seasons Bararuk has split time between the AHL and the ECHL, and he’s doing it once again in 2005-06.

“Dave is a third-year guy that’s got some skill and he’s got a good head for the game,” Allison said. “I think with any young guy as a third-year pro your window to show that you’re willing to do the things necessary is winding down, and some guys don’t get it until they go to a different organization.”

Allison said the key for players like Bararuk is to make an immediate impression.

“How do you do it?” Allison asked. “Work, bang some bodies, be unbelievable defensively, because then you get a chance to play.”

It’s no different than marginal NHLers trying to crack their team’s lineup.

“How do people stay in the NHL?” Allison asked. “Work, bang some bodies, play well defensively, and then you’ll get the chance to play. When you get the chance to play, you get some opportunities to create offense.”

Bararuk must focus first on defense before his offensive numbers come at the AHL level, because as Allison said, “If you put the cart before the horse, you’re not going to get where you want to go.”

Bararuk is pointless in two games with Iowa this season, but with the Idaho Steelheads he has 13 goals and 12 assists in 20 games. Near the end of his entry-level contract, it is unlikely that the Dallas Stars will re-sign Bararuk. The ECHL scorer already has a role model of what could be with the Iowa Stars. Jamie Johnson toiled in the ECHL for two seasons and the beginning of this season and has taken his first AHL recall and run with it, playing such steady and spirited hockey that the forward plays in all situations, even on the point on the power play.

B.J. Crombeen, RW
Ht: 6’2 Wt: 212 lb. Shoots: Right
Born: 7-10-1985 Denver, Colorado

The son of former NHLer Mike Crombeen, B.J. Crombeen knows what it takes to be a professional hockey player. One of the youngest Iowa Stars at 20 years old, the physical forward has been forced to be very disciplined from an early age.

“Crombeen is a guy who really comes and he’s a professional, and he’s been a diabetic from a young age, so he’s had to put his life in order and priorities in order,” Allison noted.

At 6’2, 212 pounds, Crombeen has good size, and he uses it often, finishing his checks and even fighting now and again. The former captain of the OHL Barrie Colts is used to the role, as he more than doubled his point production in penalty minutes each of his four seasons in the OHL, and even in his season of Ontario Provincial Junior Hockey in 2000-01. Skating mostly on the third line this season, Crombeen has 3 goals and 3 assists in 26 games. Allison sees potential in his young power forward.

“He’s a guy who plays the power play, and we’ve asked a lot of him,” Allison said. “He’s a scrappy guy, and he’s a good all-around player, and I think with his character and the intangibles he brings, he has a chance.”

Crombeen’s work ethic can be seen in the intensity and aggressiveness he adds to the Iowa Stars line-up. He has a strong stride and decent speed, which he often uses to punish opponents. Never a big scorer in the OHL, Crombeen still has a strong chance of playing in the NHL as a fourth line energy forward as long as he hones his skills, improves his awareness, and maintains his physical game.

Dan Ellis, G
Ht: 6’0 Wt: 185 lb. Catches: Left
Born: 6-19-1980 Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

Dan Ellis finds himself among the AHL leading goalies in save percentage after a three-win weekend December 16-18. The third-year pro gave up only one goal in each of the Iowa Stars victories, one over the Chicago Wolves and two over the Omaha Ak-Sar-Ben Knights, pushing his save percentage to an AHL sixth-best .923. Ellis’ goals-against average also dropped to an AHL 11th-best 2.47. The streak of starts came thanks in part to fellow Iowa Stars goalie Mike Smith’s recent departure to Slovakia to play for Team Canada in the Loto Cup.

Ellis and Smith have split time in Iowa this season, with Ellis starting the last four games, the last three of which Idaho Steelheads goaltender Steve Silverthorn stood in as the backup goalie. A second round pick by the Stars in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft, time is running out for Ellis, but he has a chance at filling in this season should either of the Stars goaltenders, Marty Turco and Johan Hedberg, go down.

“Technically he’s a solid goaltender,” Allison said of Ellis, who played one game for Dallas in 2003-04. “He understands his angles and the benefits of following the puck.”

The primary thing Ellis needs to work on, according to Allison, is battling through times when the goaltender does not feel 100 percent.

“You’ve always got to work on your core, your core strength, just the everyday, day-to-day grind, being able to get consistent, and if you don’t feel good, you can’t let it bother you,” Allison said. “You have to find a way to still manage your game and still contribute and control and freeze your rebounds.”

Like most goaltenders, when the former University of Nebraska-Omaha ace controls his rebounds, he succeeds. At times during the 2005-06 season Ellis has flopped too much, failed to control his rebounds, and created more work for himself than necessary. That has not been the story in December though. Starting five of Iowa’s last six games, Ellis’ confidence is high. A workhorse goalie for the Omaha Lancers in the USHL and then for the Mavericks in college hockey, if Ellis can find consistency platooning with Smith, he’ll greatly increase his odds of displacing Johan Hedberg as the backup goaltender in Dallas.

Loui Eriksson, LW
Ht: 6’1 Wt: 183 lb. Shoots: Left
Born: 7-17-1985 Goteborg, Sweden

After two seasons of Swedish Elite League (SEL) hockey with Vastra Frolunda, 20-year-old Loui Eriksson is making the jump to North American professional hockey. The 33rd overall pick of the 2003 NHL Entry Draft has proven to be a reliable two-way player for the Iowa Stars.

“He’s good with the puck, he’s got good vision, he’s got a good understanding, and he’s been very, very reliable in his own zone about chipping pucks out and getting it in and not always trying to paint the Picasso each time he’s out there,” Allison said. “He’s created offense, but not at the expense of the team.”

After 24 games Eriksson had a respectable 6 goals and 6 assists, playing primarily on the second or third line. He has the skill and the frame to play in the NHL, but one key ingredient is missing.

“He has to get that cockiness that he’s going to score in practice all the time, and it’ll translate into the games.” Allison said. “He’s a very high-skilled guy who’s just finding his way and finding out how much fun it is to win those battles and be as competitive as he wants to be.”

Allison sees a lot of potential in his young left winger.

“I’d say, probably, he’s got the ability to move ahead of the Sedins, but he’s got to get that swagger to do that,” Allison said.

“Those are pretty big shoes to fill, but I think that this is a kid who has great skills, he just has to play with that swagger each and every game,” Allison said. “Humble, but with that swagger.”

Nicklas Grossman, D
Ht: 6’4 Wt: 201 lb. Shoots: Left
Born: 1-22-1985 Stockholm, Sweden

With a season of Swedish Elite League hockey for Sodertalje under his belt, 20-year-old Nicklas Grossman is making a transition once again, but this time instead of moving from Swedish juniors to the top Swedish league, it’s from European professional hockey to North American professional hockey, in the AHL nonetheless. As is the case with many young European prospects, Grossman is having to adjust his style.

“When he came over he was used to playing man-to-man all over the place, and you can’t do that here,” Allison said.

Although the 2004 second round draft pick has never had an overly complicated game, he has always been a defensive defenseman, Grossman must continue to simplify his game in order to become an NHL defenseman.

“There’s just a lot of things going around in his head, and the thing that we want him to do is become a task-to-task defenseman, and just go through the proper steps in each situation, and by doing that, by doing the ordinary each and every day, they all have to opportunity to be extraordinary,” Allison said.

Allison noted that Grossman is a competitive player who is willing to learn. Grossman’s learning curve was interrupted November 18 against San Antonio, when the Swede injured his shoulder. However, the injury could prove to be another learning opportunity.

“I think that in some ways when you get hurt, it allows you to just sort of take a look back and say, ‘I can play here,'” Allison said. “And that’s what we’re looking for from him, so that when he comes back, he’s taken this opportunity to watch the games and watch it on video and say, ‘I can do this.'”

After nearly a month, Grossman returned to action December 16 against the Chicago Wolves, helping the team to a 4-1 victory. Just prior to the injury, Grossman was becoming a very reliable defensive defenseman. He’s a good skater and his ability to stay with his man, learned in Europe, gives him the ability to stick with his opponent when necessary. Although he’ll never put up big offensive numbers, Grossman does have a good outlet pass and a hard shot from the point. The Swede is very poised for a 20-year-old European adjusting to a new culture, a new language, and a new game. It’s only a matter of time before Grossman is a reliable defenseman for the Dallas Stars.

Yared Hagos, C
Ht: 6’1 Wt: 205 lb. Shoots: Left
Born: 3-27-1983 Stockholm, Sweden

Yared Hagos, a third round pick in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft, is finally playing in North America four years after being drafted by Dallas with the 70th overall pick. One of three Swedes making the adjustment to North American hockey, more is of expected out of the 22-year-old center.

“Hagos is a guy that, again, has come from Europe and is realizing and adapting to this game,” Allison said. “He’s a guy who’s older than others, and we want to take that age and mature it quickly.”

Hagos comes to the Stars organization after four seasons of Swedish Elite League hockey, two seasons with AIK and the last two with Timra. Known for his solid two-way play shown with the Swedish World Junior Championship teams in 2002 and 2003, Hagos is showing more of the same with Iowa.

“I think that he’s a guy who has a real opportunity to be a real steady, steady two-way player,” Allison said. “His defense and his ability to contribute from that posture leads to his offense.”

Hagos cycles the puck well, makes smart, crisp passes, has good stickhandling, and a good shot, but a couple habits prevent him from using his shot as often as he could.

“I think that he can play a little more of a power game,” Allison of Hagos. “He’s great down low, he’s an excellent puckhandler, but he’s got to take the puck to the net faster, otherwise you just waste energy, and then when you do go take it to the net and you lose it you have to backcheck.

“You might as well just be relentless on the forecheck and take the puck to the net.”

The Swedish center has spent most of the season on Iowa’s third or fourth line, but he is a regular on the penalty kill. Hagos demonstrates his two-way awareness and can make plays when given space, but he has trouble battling through checks, which may be why he does not crash the net as Allison would like. Should Hagos become stronger on the puck, although he can make nice moves, he will likely become for Dallas what he is for Iowa, a third or fourth line center who logs minutes on the penalty kill.

Marius Holtet, RW
Ht: 6’0 Wt: 190 lb. Shoots: Right
Born: 8-31-1984 Hamar, Norway

Although Marius Holtet led Team Norway in scoring at both the 2003 and 2004 Division I Group B World Junior Championships, Holtet’s game in the AHL is more about defensive effort and hustle.

The second-year AHLer forechecks and backchecks hard, finishes his checks, and is a regular on the Iowa Stars penalty kill. The 21-year-old has decent speed and uses it along with sheer effort and hustle to create offensive chances on the forecheck and prevent plays on the backcheck. In fact, Holtet sometimes hustles too much.

“Marius is a guy who has to play within the team’s concept, because he’s a guy who does have a lot of carry for the team, but you can’t do other guys’ jobs,” Allison said. “You have to be a task-to-task guy who is reliable.

“With him, less is more a lot of the times, because he’s a strong physical guy, he can shoot a ton.”

Holtet uses his strength often, finishing his checks regularly with force. His strength is also evident in his hard shot, which he can snipe from time to time. Although many of his offensive chances are created from forechecking, Holtet also creates chances with his stickhandling, passing, and playmaking. In fact, Holtet’s skill, on top of his two-way effort, might be enough to earn him a spot as a fourth line NHL forward someday.

Junior Lessard, RW
Ht: 6’0 Wt: 200 lb. Shoots: Left
Born: 5-26-1980 St. Joseph de Beauce, Quebec

As a former Hobey Baker Award winner, the expectations are high for Junior Lessard. He scored 32 goals and added 31 assists in 45 games for the University of Minnesota Duluth in 2003-04. The 2004-05 season was trying for Lessard, as he scored only 11 goals and 11 assists in 71 games in his rookie pro season. Lessard looked prime to break out in 2005-06, but injuries have proven to be his setback this season.

Lessard was injured in the second period the Iowa Stars November 19 game against the Hamilton Bulldogs, returned for the third period, but did not return again to action until December 16 against the Chicago Wolves. When he returned, the 25-year-old was sporting a facemask thanks to a puck taken in the face in practice earlier in the week. Held without a point against the Wolves, Lessard had an assist and an empty net goal in the team’s weekend series against the Omaha Ak-Sar-Ben Knights.

The 2005-06 season has not been entirely frustrating for Lessard, he has been recalled twice by Dallas and scored a goal against the Edmonton Oilers November 7, his lone point in his first five NHL games. The main thing Lessard needs to develop is consistency, both offensively and defensively.

“His talent will come to the forefront as he is competent in all other areas,” Allison said of Lessard. “Some guys are reliable, but it’s the guys who are reliable and augment that with skill, and he’s a guy that that’s what we want him to do.”

Allison also said that Lessard “just has to keep sticking to it and just keep doing the right thing over and over and slowly and surely those opportunities will go in.”

A major scorer in his senior season in college hockey and a huge point producer for the Portage Terriers of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League before playing at UMD, Lessard could also be less hard on himself when he plays a good game but fails to tally a point.

“There have been some games where he’s had six or seven shots on goal and he’s a +1 and he’s down on himself, but there’s no need, because if you keep doing that the law of averages is going to go on your side.”

Lessard’s free agent signing April 15, 2004, was met with much fanfare, and it could still prove to be justified. Although he is unlikely to become a first line NHL forward, Lessard could become a second/third liner, as he has good speed, offensive skills, and he does not ignore his defensive responsibilities. As soon as Lessard becomes a consistent contributor for the Iowa Stars, such as veteran Toby Petersen is night in and night out, the former college ace will graduate from the AHL to the NHL.

Vojtech Polak, RW
Ht: 6’0 Wt: 183 lb. Shoots: Left
Born: 6-27-1985 Ostrov nad Ohri, Czech Republic

Vojtech Polak is only about three weeks older than fellow Iowa Star Loui Eriksson, but Polak is the I-Stars first line right wing and is second on the team in scoring with 6 goals and 9 assists in 19 games. Polak has missed nine games this season, but five were because he was recalled by Dallas October 21. After three NHL games, the 20-year-old was sent back down to Iowa, but the recall was a testament to Polak’s skill. What separates Polak from Eriksson as this early juncture?

“[Polak] plays with a swagger,” Allison said. “He plays with a zest and a love for the game and he’s never intimidated, and I think that just with consistency and just his demeanor, he’ll find a way.”

Allison said Polak has, “Great vision, patience with the puck, and an understanding of what you have to do to score.”

Another edge Polak has over Eriksson, according to Allison, is that the Czech wants to score every time, be it in practice or games. In fact, Polak reminds Allison of a certain Slovakian.

“In some ways he reminds me of Pavol Demitra when I had him, in his second or third year in the AHL,” Allison said. “Those are some pretty big shoes to fill, but he does have a swagger and he has a good feel for the game.

“I think that as his language improves and he understands more and more of the intricacies of the game, the better off he’ll be.”

Although Polak is known for his offense, his defensive game isn’t too bad either, he occasionally kills penalties and it is not uncommon to see Polak finish his checks, although not to the extent that teammates like Crombeen or Holtet do. At this early junction in his career, Polak looks like he should become a solid second line forward, likely a top six forward for the Dallas Stars down the road.

Mario Scalzo, D
Ht: 5’9 Wt: 187 lb. Shoots: Left
Born: 11-11-1984 St. Hubert, Quebec

Mario Scalzo was one of the most skilled defensemen in the QMJHL last season. The then 20-year-old blueliner led all QMJHL defensemen in scoring last season with 24 goals and 50 assists in 62 games, thanks in part to a trade from the Victoriaville Tigers to the high-scoring Rimouski Oceanic featuring Sidney Crosby, Marc-Antoine Pouliot and Dany Roussin. The Oceanic’s power play quarterback also led the QMJHL playoffs in scoring with 7 goals and 14 assists in 13 games.

The Dallas Stars were able to sign the undrafted QMJHL ace to a three-year entry level contract August 5, and Scalzo is already paying dividends in the AHL. As the 2005-06 season has progressed, he has seen more and more ice time, thanks especially to injuries to veteran blueliner Patrick Traverse and fellow prospects Shawn Belle and Nicklas Grossman. Quickly becoming a fixture on the power play, Scalzo has good skating skills mixed with slick stickhandling, which he combines to make some impresses dekes to work his way through the neutral zone and into the attack zone. He’s also adept at manning the point on the power play with his agility, offensive awareness, and passing ability.

Scalzo’s improvement so far this AHL season may come down less to improvements in skills, but instead changing how he thinks.

“He’s gone from decisions just based on ‘What’s in it for me?’ to decisions know where he’s thinking, ‘If I’ve got nothing, how can I protect my team so that we can get he puck back?'” Allison said. “His risk/reward decisions have been much, much better.

“He does have a great vision on the ice, and now the vision is for us.”

At 5’9, 187 pounds, size is a concern for Scalzo. He is often overpowered in front of the net and along the boards. However, in the new NHL, skilled defensemen like him are more a valuable commodity than they once were. Whether he gains more muscle, improves his positioning defensively, and competes harder will determine if Scalzo becomes more of a pure offensive defenseman like Nashville’s Marek Zidlicky, or more like Nashville’s rock at defense, Kimmo Timonen.

Mike Smith, G
Ht: 6’3 Wt: 210 lb. Catches: Left
Born: 3-22-1982 Kingston, Ontario

Mike Smith had seen the majority of the time in net prior to December, but the ice time is closer to equal between Ellis and Smith after the 2001 fifth round draft pick was called upon by Team Canada to play in the Loto Games in Slovakia. While Ellis had Smith’s week in Slovakia to catch up, Smith’s ice time was padded by the Ellis having to leave the team in November to tend to his mother, who suffered serious injuries in a bus accident in Ontario.

The 23-year-old netminder is in his fourth season of pro hockey after starring for the Sudbury Wolves in 2000-01 and 2001-02 and sports a .915 save percentage and a 2.50 goals-against average for the I-Stars in 2005-06. It is only fitting that Smith is in the same organization as ace puckhandling goalie Marty Turco. Smith is an excellent puckhandling goalie who can launch passes from the net to streaking wings at the far blue line, but sometimes his puckhandling tendancies are his downfall.

“He wants to make a contribution to the outcome of the game and sometimes when he doesn’t face a lot of shots, he gets too involved and overhandles the puck,” Allison said of Smith.

Prior to his departure to Slovakia, Smith appeared to be playing the puck with more purpose.

“I think he’s starting to realize that whatever it takes, he’s capable of doing it, and he’s becoming much more decisive and much more calculating in his puckhandling ability,” Allison said.

“[Puckhandling] is something that’s really part of his aura and what does make him good, but there’s a time and a place for everything, and I think he’s understanding that.”

At 6’3, 210 pounds, Smith is an imposing goaltender, and it may prove to be his edge over Ellis. Both Smith’s lateral movement and vertical movement are strong points in his game. He’s a big, athletic goalie who, when he does not wander too much, is very difficult to beat. Despite his athleticism, Smith could afford to improve in one more area.

“He must to a better job of following the puck,” Allison said. “When you do follow the puck, rebounds and deflections don’t surprise you, because you put yourself in a position where the puck hits you.”

Smith, Ellis, and Hedberg are in a three-way battle to be Turco’s back-up in 2006-07, and Dallas may be keen to bring Swiss netminder Tobias Stephan from the Kloten Flyers to North American professionally hockey next season. The time is now for both Smith and Ellis to prove themselves, the Iowa Stars just happen to be lucky enough to have two AHL starting-caliber netminders in the meantime.

Janos Vas, LW
Ht: 6’1 Wt: 203 lb. Shoots: Left
Born: 1-29-1984 Dunaujavors, Hungary

The Stars second selection in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft, Hungarian Janos Vas may not live up to the expectations of his second round selection, but he is a pioneer who has a shot at playing for Dallas towards the end or after his NHL entry-level contract.

Vas was discovered by Malmo IF and played four seasons in the Redhawks system from 2000-01 through 2003-04. After scoring 15 goals and 19 assists for Malmo in 36 Swedish elite junior games, Vas was drafted by Dallas and seemed all the rage. However, Vas failed to stick with Malmo’s already struggling Swedish Elite League team and eventually wound up with Halmstad in the Swedish First Division last season. The Stars took control of Vas’ development in 2005-06, and a five-game, five-point stint in the ECHL really got Vas rolling.

“He’s a guy that I think really benefited from going down to the ECHL, where he’s allowed to play and see that he could play,” Allison said. “He’s come back here and he understands that if you don’t defend, and you don’t give us energy, and you don’t battle, you won’t play.”

Assigned to Idaho October 26 and reassigned to Iowa November 7, Vas has taken the message to heart so much that he’s seeing penalty-killing time with Marius Holtet, or at least he had been, his left hand was broken against Peoria Dec. 3. The Iowa Stars energy line player has not been in action since.

“It’s been a pain in the ass to our team losing him, because he was a penalty killer and an energy guy and he was capable of scoring some big goals for us,” Allison said.

Although Vas had only one goal for the I-Stars on the season, it was a game-winning snipe against Grand Rapids in the team’s 3-2 victory over the then second-best team in the AHL. The Hungarian has a hard shot, whichever shot he chooses, which he can laser beam. However, Vas most consistently contributes by finishing his checks and generally playing a game that more and more looks like that of his Norwegian teammate, Marius Holtet.

If Vas makes it to the NHL, it most likely would be as a fourth line energy player who can chip in offensively from time to time. Vas is very much a project player, and if he ever does play in the NHL, he would become the first Hungarian to play in an NHL regular season game. Hungarian goaltender Levente Szuper came close as an emergency recall for Calgary, but he never appeared for the Flames in a regular season game. Dallas’ Hungarian may take the next step.

Francis Wathier, LW
Ht: 6’3 Wt: 198 lb. Shoots: Left
Born: 12-7-1984 St. Isidore, Quebec

A four-year veteran of the QMJHL, Francis Wathier looked prime to contribute on the Iowa Stars fourth line all season, and then he suffered a season-ending shoulder injury November 12 against the Toronto Marlies. Despite the season-ending injury, for which he underwent surgery in Dallas in late November, Wathier is still a member of the team and does appearances for the team, which Allison appreciates.

“He’s a passionate young man about whatever he does,” Allison said of his physical left winger. “Passion comes from the ability to learn and make sense of things and find a way with what you’ve got and to make what you’ve got better.

A sixth round pick of the Dallas Stars in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft, Wathier was actually more impressive in his 11 games than his Iowa teammate Zach Stortini, a third round pick by the Edmonton Oilers in that same 2003 Draft who is also known for his power game.

“[Wathier] was a willing learner and a willing battler for his team,” Allison said. “He’s a guy, like Holtet, who will always fill that role and who’s excellent at taking angles away on the PK and just understanding more and more.”

Allison said that when Wathier returns he needs to improve his “awareness without the puck, just so that you can do something with it when you get.

“The game moves too quick to figure out what you’re going to do with the puck when you get it, you have to know what you’re going to do before you get the puck.”

Should Wathier make it to the NHL one day, it’ll be as a fourth line physical forward who’s also willing to drop the gloves. At 6’3, 198 pounds prior to the injury, Wathier will have to work hard to regain what he had and then surpass his previous weight to become and even more imposing physical force. Dallas currently as Nathan Perrott, but down the road Wathier may be the Stars energy line forward who keeps opponents honest.

Below are the Dallas Stars AHL/ECHL Prospects’ statistics as of December 21.

Dallas Stars AHL/ECHL Prospect Player Stats 2005-06
Shawn BelleAHL19000-42400
David BararukAHL20000200
B.J. Crombeen AHL26336-25510
Loui ErikssonAHL266612-11120
Nicklas Grossman AHL11000+2800
Yared Hagos AHL26369-61811
Marius HoltetAHL26426-11710
Junior Lessard NHL51010120006
Vojtech PolakNHL3000-100003
Mario ScalzoAHL23279+11410
Mathias TjarnqvistNHL12000+160006
Janos VasAHL13123+21000
Francis Wathier AHL11011-12600
Dallas Stars AHL/ECHL Prospect Goalie Stats 2005-06
Dan EllisAHL14803850039333.9232.47
Mike SmithAHL15889681239637.9152.50