The NHL lockout may be well underway, but there is plenty of hockey action to keep us satisfied in the meantime. European leagues and the Canadian juniors have already started their season, with the CHL starting their season action this past weekend.
The Texas Stars, meanwhile, hit the ice this weekend for AHL training camp.
The Stars have a wide variety of draft picks spread across the globe and while many of the ones we'll be paying the closest attention to will be in Austin this season, there are still a number of top prospects to keep track of in the CHL and in Europe.
Each week throughout the season, we'll provide an update on the season's progress for most of the Stars prospects in the organization as well as any highlights from that week. There will be times when a specific article or feature will be needed, but each Monday will bring an updated rundown of all of the Stars prospects currently playing.
One change from last season: Instead of releasing a new ranking each month, we'll provide a monthly "progress report" to discuss just where each prospect is headed in their development.
After the jump: Radek Faksa has a great start to the season, Ludwig Bystrom and Emil Molin are affected by the lockout and Jryki Jokipakka takes a big step as a defenseman.
Ludwig Bystrom played three games for MODO of the SEL, yet had barely over seven minutes of total ice time in the three games combined. Bystrom is the youngest player on MODO and the youngest defenseman in the SEL and is seeing his minutes considerably slashed in favor of more experienced players. To make matters worse, the SEL is now seeing an influx of NHL players that is going to knock a few young prospects out of the top league and down to the juniors. Bystrom has already been assigned to the U20 MODO team.
Emil Molin has been forced down as well, playing four games for U20 Brynas after starting the season in the SEL. Molin has absolutely destroyed the U20 league in his career and there's worry that his development will be stunted if he's continued to play against inferior competition. The same goes for Bystrom, who many consider to be one of the top defensive prospects from the 2012 draft.
Consequently, there's discussion as to whether Bystrom would be better served in crossed the pond to play in the CHL. Plymouth currently has Bystrom's rights, where he would most certainly get significant minutes against much better competition. If the lockout continues to stunt his development in Europe, it's likely this becomes an option that is seriously considered.
Jyrki Jokipakka was a 7th round pick for the Stars last season but is shaping up to be another late-round find for the Stars. He'll never be a major point producing defenseman at the AHL or NHL level but he's certainly becoming a legitimate shut down option on the blue line. Jokipakka was the top defenseman for Ilves last season and the same holds true this year; so far, in five games, Jokipakka is playing a defensive shutdown role on the top pairing and is routinely averaging more than 24 minutes of ice time per game.
Radek Faksa began the season the right way, with two goals in Kitchener's opening-night win. Faksa also scored the shootout winner in the Rangers' win on Sunday. Faksa once again played a strong all-around game, showing off the puck possession skills that made him a top pick for the Stars this past summer.
Matej Stransky's Saskatoon Blades started their journey to the Memorial Cup with a stumble, winning in a shootout against Price Albert before losing 5-2 in the team's home opener. Stransky scored in the shootout on Friday and had an assist on Saturday night, playing primarily from the boards and half wall. Stransky seemed to be trying too hard to dish the puck to his linemates and while he dd show off his superior possession skills, he was also guilty of holding the puck too long at times.
I wanted to watch the Blades and Raiders game because it also featured Mike Wither, a 2nd round pick in 2012 who has flown under the radar a bit this summer. Winther showed off an absolutely tremendous rocket from the point, that was barely tipped before going into the net, and overall was a major pest for the Raiders for most of the first period. Winther was tossed from the game, however, for participating in a "second fight" during a scrum
Gemel Smith got off to a great start for Owen Sound, notching three points in the team's first game of the season. Smith, a firecracker of a hockey player, is on the top line for Owen Sound and is considered to have the potential to be a leading scorer in the OHL this season. I don't know how realistic that might be, but it's certainly a great thought to have.
Finally a few injury notes: Devin Shore (Maine) is recovering from mononucleosis and only recently returned to practice. John Klingberg is recovering from offseason surgery and is expected to return in November.
Note: Any prospects left off this list? Any changes requested? Let us know!
|Radek Faksa||Kitchener - OHL||2||2||0||2||0||1|
|Brett Ritchie||Niagara - OHL||2||0||1||1||0||1|
|Gemel Smith||Owen Sound - OHL||2||1||2||3||4||3|
|Matej Stransky||Saskatoon - WHL||2||0||1||1||4||-1|
|Branden Troock||Seattle - WHL||2||0||1||1||2||-3|
|Mike Winther||Prince Albert - WHL||2||0||2||2||5||0|
|Troy Vance||Victoriaville - QMJHL||2||0||1||1||2||0|
|Emil Molin||Brynas J20 - SuperElit||4||1||2||3||2||2|
|Brynas - Elitserien||2||0||0||0||0||0|
|Ludwig Bystrom||MODO J20 - SuperElit||-||-||-||-||-||-|
|MODO - Elitserien||3||0||0||0||0||0|
|Jyrki Jokipakka||Ilves - SM-Liiga||5||0||0||0||0||0|
|John Klingberg||Skelleftea - Elitserien||-||-||-||-||-||-|
|Esa Lindell||Jokerit - SM-Liiga||3||0||0||0||4||0|
|Curtis McKenzie||Miami (OH)||-||-||-||-||-||-|
|Scott Winkler||Colorado College||-||-||-||-||-||-|
|Henri Kiviaho||KalPa U20 - Jr. A SM-Liiga||4||-||-||-||-||2.47||.910||-|
|Maxime Lagace||PEI - QMJHL||2||1-1-0||100||9||51||5.4||.850||0|