It wasn't long ago that the Stars had a good amount of very solid prospects playing in the NCAA. This year is a bit different, however, as the graduation of a few prospects has left the NCAA cupboard pretty sparse.
Alex Chiasson moved up to the AHL at the end of last year, Curtis McKenzie graduated at the end of the season, and Dmitry Sinitsyn decided to leave college for the Regina Pats of the Western Hockey League (CHL).
This leaves only two players in the Stars system - Devin Shore and Alex Guptill - in the NCAA. Let's take a look at the upcoming season for the two promising young forwards.
Devin Shore had a breakout campaign for the University of Maine Black Bears (Hockey East) as a freshman last season. While he flew relatively under the radar at the previous season's draft, which saw the Stars take him with the 61st pick, he quickly made a name for himself by earning the number one center spot for Maine. While the team struggled to come together and ended up having possibly their worst season in recent memory, Shore shined centering senior wingers Joey Diamond and Kyle Beattie. Scoring six goals and adding 20 assists for 26 points in 38 games, he put up very impressive numbers for a first year player in a less offensive development league. So, what can we expect from Shore this coming season?
Devin Shore will have to make a few adjustments this coming season. He's a known commodity in the NCAA now, coaches are going to start devising strategies to target him specifically and keep him off the score sheet. I'm not discounting the great work he did last season and he should be able to build on those numbers, but it's going to be tough with the best defensive players on other teams gunning for you. Luckily, Shore has great hockey sense and a lot of strength, so he should be able to continue creating space for himself and making plays.
The second adjustment Shore will have to make is with new line mates. He played himself into the position as the number one center last season, so he got to play with Maine's most experienced and offensively gifted players. He developed great chemistry with Maine's senior captain and best player, Joey Diamond, which definitely helped his production. Diamond graduated in the Spring along with Beattie, one of the other guys who Shore played with a lot. Because of the addition of new wingers to the top line, Shore will have to focus more on playmaking and bringing those guys along. He is going to be looked at as the offensive catalyst for his line and a lot of Maine's success will depend on how he adjusts.
In terms of his playing style and technique, Shore has to work on his skating. He's a solid skater, but he should try to get faster. I got to interview him last season and he said that one of the things he was working on a lot was getting quicker on his first three steps and just becoming a better and faster skater. If he's improved significantly in that area over the summer, he'll have all the tools to dominate in the NCAA this season. He's already got a lot of size and strength as well as great vision and a scoring touch, so adding speed to that could put him on another level compared to a lot of NCAA players.
Stars fans should expect big things from Devin Shore this coming year. If his freshman season at Maine is any indication, he could become a good NHL player down the road and this year is going to be very important for his development. One of the many things he has going for him is his leadership ability. He's noticeably vocal on the ice and on the bench and also likes to lead by example when he plays. Acknowledging this, Maine's new head coach, Red Gendron, named Shore an alternate captain for the coming season. That's a great sign for a sophomore; it shows a lot of trust in him and his leadership abilities.
- 10/11/13 Opener at St. Lawrence - First game of the season, it'll be the first look at Shore's improvement over the summer.
- 11/23/13 vs Boston College - This will be Maine's first game against a national powerhouse. It will be a great measuring stick for Devin Shore as he'll have to play against the best players the NCAA has to offer.
- 1/11/14 vs Boston University at Fenway Park - The latest installment of Frozen Fenway, Shore will take on the Terriers outdoors at historic Fenway park. It's an important mid-season match up between two traditional rivals and Shore's performance on such a big stage may be telling of his ability to raise his level of play when his team needs him.
Alex Guptill is in a different situation than Shore. He's entering his junior year as a proven scorer for the University of Michigan Wolverines with 69 points in 79 games. He enters the new NCAA campaign as someone who coach Red Berenson will look to as a team leader. With the departure of Jacob Trouba to Winnipeg in the off-season, Michigan will need its upperclassmen to step in and replace Trouba's leadership and scoring by committee. Guptill will have the opportunity to become that offensive catalyst for the team this season.
Guptill's game is pretty well rounded. He complements his obvious scoring ability with hard work and an underrated ability to set up plays in the offensive zone. Defensive responsibility has been an issue for him in the past, but he's steadily gotten better in his own zone through his two seasons at Michigan. Coach Berenson expects a lot out of all of his players and emphasizes a good, well rounded game, so a third year under his tutelage will be good for Guptill to hammer out the kinks in his defensive play. It would also be good if he could establish himself more as a scoring winger. His stats are very good, there's no doubt, but he only scored three more points in 2012-13 than he did in 2011-12. He came into the NCAA prepared, but it will be a bit worrisome if he puts up the same stat line this coming season - but that's more of a nitpicky criticism.
The one major concern with Guptill is his commitment. When he's engaged he looks like one of the best players in the NHL, but at times last season his commitment wasn't there every day, leading to a short benching from his coach. After proving himself in his freshman campaign, it seemed at times that Guptill took things for granted and tried to get by on his skill alone. After he was benched he came back and played really well and showed a lot of professionalism, so those doubts have been mostly put to bed. But, as an upperclassmen this coming year he'll be looked at to lead in more than just the point categories; he'll have to show that he's committed to playing the game at the highest level he can, and that he's committed to Michigan hockey throughout the whole season if he wants to snuff out those criticisms for good. He's faced with the task of bringing one of the NCAA's most historic programs back to the promised land after falling short for a few seasons, so this season will be a big test.
Alex Guptill has a lot on his shoulders going into his third, and likely last season in the NCAA. He'll be looked at to improve on his offense and really break out as a star player in the league while also leading his team through veteran savvy and a commitment to excellence. It's not going to be easy for him, he's still got growing up to do and he'll have a target on his back in every game he plays. He's got all the tools to succeed, however, so it's a safe bet that he has a great year for Michigan. If he's able to build on last season, and use the public criticism from his coach as motivation he'll become one of the toughest customers in the NCAA and a really great asset for the Dallas Stars who lack a lot of proven depth on the wings. While he may have moved a bit laterally in his second NCAA season, he'll be better prepared and more motivated this year.
Editorial Update: Guptill has been suspended a couple of games by coach Red Berenson for disciplinary reasons related to team rules during the offseason. Here's the post from MGOBlog, thanks to Brandon Worley and primetimey for call this to attention.
News: Junior forward Alex Guptill participated in team drills Monday for the first time since practice started, held out previously for an off-ice issue from the summer. Berenson said Guptill will likely be suspended for a game or two.
Berenson: "In the summer, I don't follow them around but we still have expectations. It's a program decision."
Views: This isn't Guptill's first incident. A year ago, he was left behind on a trip to Ferris State because of on-ice effort and attitude, and Berenson will not stand for insubordination nor will he accept it when his players conduct themselves off the ice in a manner detrimental to the program goals of academic, athletic and community success.
Guptill is a talent. He's led Michigan in scoring each of the past two seasons, netting 16 goals in his first year to earn CCHA Rookie of the Year honors, and another 16 goals last season. Losing him would be a big blow to a U-M offense that should be among the nation's best.
However, Berenson has shown repeatedly during his 30-year career that no one skater is above the expectations of the team, dismissing players when they break the rules. Two years ago, in fact, Michigan suspended its best player, defenseman Jon Merrill, for half a season for violating team rules. Guptill would be wise to learn from that, stay out of trouble and turn this situation around so he can be the player and person that he's capable of. - See more at: http://michigan.rivals.com/content.asp?CID=1556111#sthash.liVcB3gh.dpuf
- 10/10/13 Season Opener vs. Boston College - The first game of the season is always big and will set the tone for the season. He'll be able to show how prepared he is and if he can rise to the challenge of scoring against the powerhouse Boston College Eagles.
- 1/10-11/14 Home and Home vs. Wisconsin - Wisconsin is always one of the best teams and a cross conference rival of Michigan's. This will be a great game and another good measuring stick.
- 3/7-8/14 Home and Home vs Michigan State - Michigan will play it's second to last set of games against their long time rival Michigan State Spartans. They'll be two huge games for playoff positioning so look for Guptill to step up in a pair of high stakes rivalry games.