With the NCAA season wrapping up recently, the prospects in the Dallas Stars system who play at the collegiate level have finished the most recent chapter in their playing careers. Like all hockey seasons, this season was full of ups and downs for all of the prospects; some surprised, some maintained a steady course, and some still have a lot of room to improve. Let's take a look back at the seasons that were.
Alex Guptill entered his sophomore season at the University of Michigan with a lot of expectations. After a great Freshman campaign he became one of the players on he Wolverines squad who was looked to to produce consisten offence and help lead the team, which has been one of the NCAA powerhouses throughout the history of the league.
Guptill didn't disappoint offensively. He scored 16 goals and recorded 20 assists for 36 points in 38 games. In a league where there is a premium on grinding two-way play, offensive statistics tend not to be as extravagant or eye-popping as one would see in the CHL, so 36 points - just under a point per game - is a great accomplishment. Guptill showed that he could play in almost any game situation and that he wasn't a one-dimensional player. He survived and thrived in a tough fought league and while his team ultimately fell short, it was through no fault of his own.
Guptill did, however, have some issues with his commitment to working hard every single day and focusing on being the best he could be at all times. After an early season benching as a result of this, he really got his act together and proved to his coaching staff that he was comitted to being a great player and a big part of the team. These kinds of lapses shouldn't cause any panic; these guys are still very young and especially in college, have a lot of things that can distract them from playing hockey. It says a lot about Guptill's character that he was able to rebound from his punishment and use it as fuel to make him better rather than an excuse to pout and play disinterestedly.
Curtis McKenzie recently wrapped up his final year of college hockey at the University of Miami (Ohio). While he was more of a grinder and defensive forward early in his collegiate career, McKenzie really turned up his offensive production.
24 points in 39 games isn't a huge number, but it's still very solid. He became an important part of the Redhawks' offense during the year and maintained his ability to battle hard for pucks and play a strong two-way game.
McKenze flew under the radar compared to his former teammte and current Dallas Star Reilly Smith; but his possible importance to the Stars shouldn't be overlooked. In recent years the Stars have looked to build up a stable of big, strong, forwards who can contribute offensively while also playing strong defense. Curtis McKenzie fits this mold perfectly. He is currently playing for the Texas Stars of the AHL, where he has one point in five games.
Devin Shore is another recent stars pick who went to play in the NCAA without much fanfare. However, the Whitby, Ontario native really impressed in his first year at the University of Maine. After joining the team he was immediately slated into the first-line center position, where he played with team captain and leading scorer Joey Diamond for the whole year.
Shore posted 26 points in 38 games during his Freshman season - impressive number for any first year forward. When I saw him play it was obvious why he was able to put up those kinds of numbers. He is a big bodied player with a ton of skill who is great in puck pursuit and possession and who isn't scared at all of going into corners and the dirty areas of the ice to retrieve the puck. On top of that he has a strong two-way game, as evidenced by his coach's trust in him to play a lot of minutes on the penalty kill and in the final minutes of games. On top of that, the fact that he was immediately put onto the first line and managed to stay there all season shows how much confidence the University of Maine Coaching staff has in him.
Devin Shore has started his college career and his career as a Stars prospect in a great way. He shows the ability to play in all situations and do whatever is needed of him. On top of that, his smooth transition to the NCAA game shows his ability to learn quickly and adjust to new levels of play and new systems. He will return to the University of Maine for his sophomore season next year.
Dmitry Sinitsyn is a curious case. He signed on to play for the University of Massachusetts-Lowell but visa issues prevented from playing in his first year. So, this past season has been his first full year of play in the NCAA. Since he was a few years removed from junior hockey, everyone knew he would have a little bit of rust.
He certainly did have that, as he struggled to make it into the Riverhawks lineup on a consistent basis; he only played in 13 games this season. This shouldn't be too concerning though. Anyone who takes that much time off from hockey is sure to have some rust and he did show some good things in the game action he saw.
Sinitsyn is a strong two-way defensman who can play good positional hockey and can also provide offense. He has good speed and can use it to join the rush on offense. He also has good hands, so the combination of speed and skill bodes well for him. While he is still a project for the Dallas Stars, he has some good raw ability and instinct so his second year will be very important for his development. It should be exciting.
Scott Winkler is another under the radar collegiate prospect for the Dallas Stars. After two pretty quiet years for Colorado College, he became an offensive force in his junior and senior seasons. This last year he built on his numbers from his junior season, scoring 13 goals and 15 assists for 28 points in 42 games.
Winkler was part of a Colorado College squad which surprised many with how far they got. He was an integral part to their cindarella story. Again, while his numbers aren't crazy or anything, the really impressive thing with Winkler is how he has developed. The jump in offensive numbers he's had after his frist two seasons shows that he's starting to come into his own as a solid prospect and that he takes some time, but can learn to play at new levels and eventually succeed in them.
Winkler hasen't been extended a contract yet, so it will be interesting to see what the Dallas Stars organization decides with him.