With the expiration of the CBA, the AHL season just got a whole lot more interesting. The Texas Stars roster outlook that we did just two weeks ago is now completely out the window, not to mention the major changes around Texas's South Division. The Stars play 44 of their 76 games against the South Division, which just went from good to great with the assignment of several solid NHL players to their AHL affiliates.
Let's breakdown the lockout's impact on each of the teams in the South Division, starting with the Texas Stars.
Lockout Impact: Moderate
Unexpected Players: Tomas Vincour, Cody Eakin, Brenden Dillon
Texas was already expecting to be flush with young talent, including first year pros Jamie Oleksiak, Patrick Nemeth, Jack Campbell, Alex Chiasson, Reilly Smith and Austin Smith. To that already talented group, the lockout adds Tomas Vincour, Cody Eakin and Brenden Dillon.
Tomas Vincour turned something on in his game last year at the AHL level, scoring 12 goals and 4 assists in just 22 games. At times, he seemed to score at will. Cody Eakin will slide in easily after playing last season in AHL Hershey of the Eastern Conference. Dillon's re-addition makes up a very crowded blue line that will probably shuffle off several players to Idaho.
Here's my current look at lineups:
Matt Fraser - Travis Morin - Alex Chiasson: No change here from earlier projections. I think Fraser and Morin built a rapport that will be useful to the scoresheet and Chiasson just adds fantastic hands and a big body to boot.
Tomas Vincour - Cody Eakin - Reilly Smith: Here's your first change. I'd put Vincour and Eakin together, as they might be in Dallas when the lockout ends. Reilly Smith rounds out this top six as I think leadership has a lot of confidence in him and wants to see him develop.
Francis Wathier - Colton Sceviour - Scott Glennie: No change to this line. The swagger line (S-Wa-G) sticks together after an awesome year last season.
Luke Gazdic - Toby Petersen - Austin Smith: Things get dicey on the "fourth" line. I would say this is more of a third line than a fourth. Scoring potential is there. If nothing else, I think this line has the potential to surprise other teams. However, a lot of teams will have surprising "fourth" lines this season.
Mike Hedden: Hedden did enough last year in my opinion to stay with Texas as the only Texas-signed player on the team. However, he will have to prove himself to a new coaching staff and hope that GM Scott White advocates for him based on his play last year.
See who's on defense, who's assigned to Idaho, and what is happening in each of the other teams after the break...
Jamie Oleksiak - Brenden Dillon
Patrick Nemeth - Jordie Benn
Tyler Sloan - Maxime Fortunus
There is an open question here of whether the Texas Stars might see fit to send Labrie to Idaho and keep a 7th defenseman who is not under contract to the Dallas Stars. He will certainly get more ice time and more meaningful ice time overall in Idaho than he will as 7th man in Texas.
On the plane to Boise, I think it will be:
- F Mathieu Tousignant: Coming off injury, will need to show a lot to get noticed and kept over some other talent in town.
- F Antoine Roussel: Pugilist who would have made the club in the 13th forward slot if not for the lockout.
- D John Ryder: Likely destined for Idaho from signing date.
- D Jace Coyle: Needs more time to develop his game. Probably should have spent all of last year in the ECHL but didn't due to injuries in Texas.
- G Josh Robinson: Likely destined for Idaho from signing date.
- G Tyler Beskorowany: Had a very disappointing year int he AHL last year. Will probably blow it away in the ECHL but needs to re-prove he's ready for the AHL.
Oklahoma City Barons (Edmonton Oilers)
Lockout Impact: Very High
Unexpected Players: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle, Justin Schultz, Magnus Paajarvi
It's pretty clear why the lockout impact is high for the Barons. Coming off a trip to the Western Conference Finals last season, the lockout gifts them a Calder Trophy finalist, the NHL's 16th leading scorer from 2012, and the most sought-after UFA since Jonas Gustavsson. Barons coach Todd Nelson has said that Eberle and RNH will play on the same line in OKC, possible with either Teemu Hartikainen or Magnus Paajarvi. Those four, plus Schultz, will make up the top power play unit. If the lockout lasts any significant amount of time, everyone else is just playing for second.
Houston Aeros (Minnesota Wild)
Lockout Impact: Moderate
Unexpected Players: Mikael Granlund, Marco Scandella, Jason Zucker
Granlund, the #9 overall pick in 2010 and considered a top 10 prospect, was widely expected to make the Wild's opening day roster. Instead, he'll start his North American professional career in Houston. He had 20-31-51 in 45 games with HIFK Helsinki. You may have seen him on YouTube.
San Antonio Rampage (Florida Panthers)
Lockout Impact: Low
Unexpected Players: None
Quinton Howden and Casey Wellman were the most likely players to get a shot at the Panthers, but both were expected to spend at least some time in the Alamo City. San Antonio is definitely on the short end of the stick here.
Charlotte Checkers (Carolina Hurricanes)
Lockout Impact: High
Unexpected Players: Justin Faulk, Jeff Skinner
Skinner was the 7th overall pick in 2010, Calder Trophy winner for 2010-11 and a 2011 NHL All-Star. He has 51-56-107 in 145 games played. This is a difference making assignment. Faulk spent most of the season with the Hurricanes last year, but did suit up for 12 games in Charlotte. The defenseman picked up 2-4-6 in just 12 games.