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We kick off our annual impact player series in anticipation of a possible season with the undrafted Ryan Garbutt, sure to be a staple on the Stars fourth line.
Whether we're building to a season at some point or not, we decided talking some Dallas Stars hockey, including current players on the NHL roster for a change would be entertaining. So we start off our Dallas Stars Impact Player series today with #22 Ryan Garbutt.
Garbutt's story is a good one. He attended Brown University for four years and then found himself playing down in south Texas for the Corpus Christi Icerays. From there he worked his way up to the ECHL (Gwinnett Gladiators) and the AHL (Chicago Wolves, Texas Stars) before making his NHL debut last season with Dallas at the age of 26.
He's seen every level of hockey and has to work for every inch of it, blooming late physically and often playing against competition much larger than himself along the way.
He played 50 games with Texas last season, tallying 16 goals and 17 assists before sticking with the big club. With Dallas he scored two goals and a lone assist in 20 games of fourth line work, as was generally lauded by fans for the energy he was able to provide in the team's big winning streak that straddled February and March.
The Stars rewarded his rapid ascent into their ranks with a two-year, one-way contract in the summer, signaling that he has indeed "made it," earning a regular job in the NHL
Garbutt played largely "sheltered" minutes last season but did good things with them, coming in at the top of Josh's adjusted scoring chance differentials for even strength minutes.
Moving forward this season, whenever that is, Garbutt is expected to slot into a fourth line role on the left side, perhaps along with Vernon Fiddler, but he can also play the right side if Eric Nystrom slides down there as well. He would likely compete for ice time with Tom Wandell as the Stars churn the bottom of their lineup.
A fourth line including any combination of those players, or younger names from Cedar Park as the occasion arises, would be an interesting dynamic for a Stars team that has boasted Krys Barch, Toby Petersen, Brian Sutherby and Adam Burish there at times. Fiddler, Garbutt and company could provide more speed and skill to go along with the requisite sandpaper.
Garbutt, as far as sandpaper goes, is one of the few obvious names left on the list with the departures of Steve Ott, Adam Burish, Barch and others. Garbutt had just two fighting majors for the Stars last season in 20 appearances.
Such a trio doesn't need to score to be effective, and the Stars saw that in their best stretch last season. Merely pushing play forward, away from Lehtonen's net and establishing offensive zone faceoffs sets up the skilled players for success. If the season ever starts, look for Ryan Garbutt to be a part of just that.
How do you see Ryan Garbutt impacting the (potential) season?