Jeff Angus takes a closer look at the progress of the several Dallas Stars prospects currently playing in the WHL.
Dallas currently has three prospects in the WHL – winger Matej Stransky with Saskatoon, center Mike Winther with Prince Albert, and winger Branden Troock with Seattle. How are the three players fairing through the first two months of the season?
Matej Stransky – Saskatoon Blades
Stransky is starting to come around after a very slow start to the season. The Blades are hosting the 2013 Memorial Cup, and they were expected to ice one of the better teams in the WHL for this season. However, they currently are sixth place in their division with a mediocre 10-10-1 record.
Stransky has eight goals and 20 points in those 21 games. Not terrible production, but people were expecting better after he scored 39 goals and finished with 81 points last year. The important thing with Stransky is that he is trending in the right direction, though. He has 17 points in his last 13 games, including three goals and an assist in his last two games.
I was hoping to get a look at him this Sunday as he was in town to play against the Vancouver Giants (Stransky ended up scoring two goals in the game), but I was at the CFL game across town instead.
Stransky should be on the Czech World Junior team for the tournament that kicks off in a little over a month – the Czechs haven’t made any official selections yet. He could potentially find himself on a scoring line for the Czechs alongside Radek Faksa – a potential duo down the road for Dallas, perhaps?
Mike Winther – Prince Albert Raiders
Winther has had a productive season to date, scoring nine goals and adding 10 assists in 20 contests. The Raiders were the worst team in the WHL last season, but they are much better this year. Through 24 games, Prince Albert leads their division with a 15-7-2 record. Winther is still pretty small, but that is something he can work on over the next few years. He has a bomb of a shot and is a great skater, and he is playing with a lot of confidence this season, too.
He’ll probably spend another year or two in the WHL before turning pro.
Branden Troock – Seattle Thunderbirds
Troock has a ton of potential – he is big and possesses a lot of offensive ability, but he hasn’t been able to avoid injury yet in his WHL career. He has suited up for only seven games this season, and has scored two goals to go along with three assists. He had 14 goals and 36 points in 58 games last season.
At 6-3 and close to 210 pounds, Troock can create a lot of separation with his size and surprising speed. Here’s a scouting report on him:
Troock uses that good skating ability to its full advantage in the offensive end of the rink. Off the rush he loves to take the puck wide on a defender and then cut to and drive the net hard looking for an offensive chance. On the forecheck he is punishing, using his size and speed to make defenders think they’ve been hit by a truck. He uses his size and strength to win board battles and to get to the front of the net. Troock has a hard, accurate shot, with a decent but not great release. Troock’s hockey sense and decision making were poor at the start of the season, however these have really come around with more playing time and as Troock has found his groove. His second half of the season was much better than the first half of the year. His vision and playmaking skills are a weakness however as we’d say they are below average when looking at the forwards we’ve ranked to date.
Troock has experienced significant adversity already in his hockey career – a bad concussion suffered at the age of 16 almost made him choose another career path.
Troock, a native of Edmonton, was knocked unconscious in a game on Oct. 31, 2009 when he was playing for Team Alberta in the inaugural Western Canada Under-16 Challenge. An opponent, whom Troock didn't see coming, hit Troock under the jaw line.
Troock suffered a concussion, but after he had recovered from his head injury the headaches and nauseous episodes continued. The migraine headaches became such a problem that Troock was counselled to find another career.
It will be interesting to see if Troock can put the injury issues behind him – he appears to have solved the concussion/head ache situation, but this year he has missed time with the dreaded “upper body injury.”