It might not be the beginning of the team's training camp quite yet, but for Dallas Stars fans that love to follow the organization's prospects it's still a great starting point.
As of Wednesday morning many of the Stars' top young players headed on down to Traverse City, Michigan to get themselves ready for the 2015 Traverse City Prospect Tournament. The annual event features full rosters of prospects from eight different NHL franchises - the Stars, the Detroit Red Wings, the Buffalo Sabres, the St. Louis Blues, the Carolina Hurricanes, the New York Rangers, the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Minnesota Wild - competing in the four-game, five-day event.
While there's nothing officially up for grabs beyond the bragging rights of being crowned the winning team, the tournament is still highly competitive hockey, and it provides an excellent opportunity for both up-and-coming players looking showcase their abilities as well as the management groups of each team to do some crucial evaluation work.
"It’s very good hockey. It’s intense, playoff-style hockey. And the best part is you get to evaluate players at their age group, which is a lot easier to do," Stars GM Jim Nill said on Wednesday. "When you bring in a young player into training camp and he has to go against a Jamie Benn, Patrick Sharp and Jason Spezza, they are intimidated and they are nervous, they’re young and still immature physically. When you take them to these rookie tournaments they are playing against kids their own age, they can show what they can do, and it makes the evaluation a lot easier."
The Stars finished 2nd in last year's event, coming oh-so-close before falling 3-2 in overtime to the Blue Jackets in the championship game, but they'll be more than well-equipped to improve upon last year's performance this time around. The full roster and stats from last year's group can be found here.
There will be no shortage of talent, depth and balance on this year's Stars squad. Former 1st round picks Radek Faksa, Jason Dickinson and Julius Honka all took part last year and will be returning again this weekend as veterans. They'll be backed up by a strong supporting cast of several top prospects, including Esa Lindell, Devin Shore, Philippe Desrosiers, Brett Pollock, Cole Ully and Remi Elie.
Dallas' group will also be relying heavily on a couple of exciting new faces: defenseman Stephen Johns, who was acquired as part of the Patrick Sharp trade, and forward Mattias Janmark, who was picked up in the move that sent Erik Cole to Detroit at the last trade deadline. The two will be the oldest players on the roster and will likely get an excellent opportunity to establish themselves within their new organization.
What the roster will be short on, however, will be members of the Stars' 2015 draft class. Denis Guryanov, Roope Hintz and Markus Ruusu are all over in Europe with their respective clubs, while Joseph Cecconi will be spending the season in the NCAA and has already begun his school commitments. Chris Martenet, selected in the 4th round, will be the only participating member of this past draft class.
The full roster can be found here.
Even without the team's newest first round draft choice, Nill is quite confident in the group of players that he'll have representing the Stars this weekend.
"It’s a good roster," he said. "We have a good back end, and we’ve got some good players up front. They are all good teams; they’ve all got good, young prospects. That’s what is great about the tournament, it is highly competitive. The kids play their hearts out because they want to show their organizations what they can do."
The Stars' first game is this Friday night. The team will play a total of four games no matter what, but their placement in the final game will be dependent on how they do in the opening three. We here at Defending Big D will be posting recaps the day after each game to keep you up to date about the team's performance.
The Stars tournament schedule, as much as is determined thus far, is as follows:
Friday Sept. 11, vs. Chicago, 6 p.m. (CDT)
Saturday Sept. 12, vs. Carolina, 2:30 p.m. (CDT)
Monday Sept. 14, vs. Detroit, 6:00 p.m. (CDT)
Tuesday Sept. 15, vs. TBD