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Dallas Stars 2015-16 Impact Player Rankings #22: Curtis McKenzie

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Can he make the grade and stick with the big club when the preseason ends?

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

To get Dallas Stars fans ready for the 2015-16 season, the Defending Big D staff will be taking an individual look at each probable player on the opening day roster in reverse order of their likely "impact" on the team's success this season. The way we chose to interpret that was this is a ranking of the individual's likely importance to the Stars success this season and this season alone. Thus, players who have high potential but are not being counted on to reach it this season are further down the list. We also limited it to players who are most likely to be on the opening night roster at this point, which means a few Texas Stars candidates won't show up.

A few short years ago Dallas Stars role-players and young prospects were given unusually liberal opportunities to audition for key positions, and the conversations sounded much different than they do today.

"The Stars can't afford to lose Aaron Gagnon to waivers. Adam Burish is a big signing. Is Tom Wandell ever going to lock down that 3C position and stop circling the net with the puck?"

Or, if you recall in November of 2011- "Toby Peterson will man the point on the power play tonight."

And so on. Remember center Jason Williams? neither do I.

Since, they've added Tyler Seguin, Jason Spezza, Patrick Sharp, Ales Hemsky, Val Nichushkin. They have Antoine Roussel. They signed Cody Eakin to a long-term extension. Vern Fiddler will invariably start the season, as he always does, on the fourth line and end it on the third.

They have a surplus of work-horses in the forward area- And it's great for the team, but challenging for someone like Curtis McKenzie. In the bankruptcy era he might have found himself trying to check the West's best on a nightly basis along side Colton Sceviour.

This season he's likely, through no shortcomings of his own, to start the season as the Stars' 13th forward or in Cedar Park with his mates on the Texas Stars.

Last season he played in 14 games between October 18th and December 19th, posting a goal against the Blackhawks in Chicago and a -7 rating in the stretch. Two months later he was invited back for an extended -run of 22 games where he was granted about 12 minutes a night, adding three more goals and an assist along the way before re-joining Texas.

His most frequent line-mates, according to Behindthenet.ca, were Shawn Horcoff and Brett Ritchie.

This season he'll be competing against Colton Sceviour, Travis Moen and others fighting to get noticed from the AHL level for a roster spot. Failing that, he'll be a more-than-capable call-up from Texas at the first sign of injury, and a low-risk option to step in an eat minutes that Lindy Ruff trusts.

He's not too shabby in the AHL- 87 points in 111 games, all while sustaining his penchant for mischief with 152 penalty minutes. (48 in his 36 NHL contests)

Unless I am mistkaen (likely) McKenzie is waiver-exempt for 34 more games, having signed his ELC at the age of 22 and having played in 36 NHL contests to date. Given that, he's a good candidate to bounce back and forth as needed as Jim Nill manages his assets.

In July he was rewarded with a new two-year contract with an average cap hit of 675k. It is "two-way" this season, but one-way next, by which time he will likely have eaten through his waiver-exempt status anyway.

"Curtis is a very mature young player who is hard-nosed and accountable," Jim Nill told the media in July. A brief, but accurate description. This season sets up for him as one last to mature as a professional and find his niche when given the chances he surely will be.

If he does that, he can put the Stars to a decision next year when his contract goes one-way. For now the AHL's 2013-2014 "Most Outstanding Rookie" is one of many auditioning for the priveledge to be part of the extraordinarily talented Dallas forward group.

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And now, for your pleasure, here his beating Dmitry Kulikov's arse. One of his admirable characteristics. Someone needed to do it after what Kulikov did to Seguin. He took care of business.