The Texas Stars don't take losing lightly.
After going winless in five consecutive games from Feb. 26 until March 8, the Stars have rebounded with a vengeance since, registering points in four consecutive games, three of which came within the last seven days.
They put together one of their strongest wins of the season on Friday against the division rival Charlotte Checkers, utilizing a four-goal third period to trounce the Checkers 7-3. Texas spread out their offensive attack throughout the game, but Colton Sceviour was the statistical leader, scoring two goals, adding an assist, and registering a team-high six shots on goal.
Texas looked like they were on their way to another loss on Tuesday against the San Antonio Rampage, trailing 3-1 heading into the third period. Yet, once again, the Stars put forth a determined effort in the final frame, scoring three times within the first 6:14 and then stifled San Antonio's offense the rest of the way, allowing only five total shots in the period. The team's top line of Sceviour, Fraser and Travis Morin led the offense again, with Sceviour scoring one goal and two assists, while Fraser netted two to bump his goal total on the season up to 31.
Thanks to the wins Texas still sits in 1st place in the AHL's Western Conference, with a record of 36-16-5-6 and 83 points. Most importantly, they now have a bit bigger of a cushion from the two closest teams, the Checkers and the Grand Rapid Griffins, who both have 77 points.
While the winning ways of the team are a great success story (especially considering they finished 29th overall last season), the development of the Dallas Stars' individual prospects provides another compelling narrative. Numerous players that started the season in Texas (many due to the NHL lockout) have already dressed for Dallas this year, with some sticking around and some coming back down, and others are likely to follow in both the near and distant future.
Here now is a quick rundown of some of the more interesting individual prospect stories within the Texas Stars' roster: which players have been fueling the team's success, and which others...well, not so much.
- For all the news and hype that has surrounded the very large group of Stars prospects that played in the AHL this season, no player has unrightfully gone under the radar as much as forward Colton Sceviour, who has arguably been the best player in Texas this season. Sceviour's stats paint a compelling picture, with 43 points in 50 games. He is first on the team in points percentage (0.86), first in assists (25), tied for first in plus-minus (+20), is second in goals (18) and second in shots (159). As a guy that has played center and wing, as well as on the PP and on the PK, Sceviour has been Mr. Everything for head coach Willie Desjardins, but for some reason hasn't received the same attention as other Stars prospects. It could be because, at age 23, he is older than the other forward prospects in the system. He played one game for Dallas on January 26, registering an assist, but was soon after sent back to the AHL and hasn't been recalled since. A restricted free agent at the end of the season, it is unlikely that the Stars let him walk away...but whether he gets another shot to actually play in Dallas is still unseen.
- At this point, what more needs to be said about Matt Fraser? Fraser has been the forefront of much prospect talk this year, and rightfully so: if Sceviour hasn't been the best Texas Star this season then Fraser surely has. After spending some time up in Dallas (one goal in three games) before being sent back down Fraser hasn't lost a step at the AHL level, scoring four goals and an assist in the four games since returning to Texas. His 31 goals lead the Stars by a mile, and are second in the entire AHL to only Tyler Johnson of the Syracuse Crunch. Fraser's 15 powerplay goals are tops in the league. Considering the frenetic pace that he's been scoring at since he made his AHL debut last season it's hard to imagine Fraser not sticking around in Dallas full time next year.
- On the topic of playing in Dallas next year, it's looking more and more like that same luxury will not be rewarded to center Tom Wandell. He was originally sent to Texas on a conditioning assignment, but later cleared waivers and was assigned there to find his game again after going pointless in seven games for Dallas. The move doesn't appear to be working, as Wandell has only four points and a -4 in 11 total games for Texas. Between the NHL and AHL Wandell has yet to score a single goal in 18 games this season. Once a top prospect in the system, Wandell played 218 games for Dallas, but was never able to find any kind of continued success with the team. He is a restricted free agent with a contract that is up for renewal at the end of the year, but at this point it seems likely that the Stars will let the 25-year old go and try their hand with other, younger prospects.
- Much talk has been had about the success the Stars organization has been having with signing undrafted players. Fraser, Brenden Dillon, Antoine Roussel...the list goes on. But another name might soon be added to that group, that of center Justin Dowling. Dowling, 22, started the season with 46 points in 34 games for the ECHL's Idaho Steelheads before signing an AHL contract with Texas. He's been one of the team's top forwards ever since, with 18 points in 25 games, finding strong chemistry on a line with Alex Chiasson and Mike Hedden. Despite still being on an AHL deal, meaning that he hasn't officially been signed by Dallas, Dowling's strong play surely has Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk thinking long and hard about whether or not he wants to give the young center a longer look with the organization.
- Scott Glennie, who missed the last couple of months of action with a hand injury, has finally returned to play in Texas, but only has one assist and a -3 in the five games since coming back. Whether his hand is back to 100% is hard to determine, but it will be the key antagonist in an overall disappointing season for the former 2009 8th overall pick. Dogged by injury all year long, Glennie only has six points in the 24 games that he has played this season.