What a difference it is to be disappointed that the Dallas Stars didn't win the Matthew Wuest Trophy in Traverse City instead of being simply content that certain prospects made strong individual showings. It emphasizes confidence in a prospect system that finally inspires expectations.
In 2009, Dallas' top two producing players in Traverse City were Sergei Korostin and Mathieu Tousignant (with 4 and 3, respectively). Both ended up with as much NHL playing time as Doug Glatt. In 2010, Tristan King, Tomas Vincour, and Jace Coyle rounded out Dallas' top three in points produced. None of these names would ring a bell if it wasn't for wikipedia (or a random trade with Colorado).
Between 2013-Present, Traverse City has welcomed a different cast of red capes. In 2013, the top five producers were Curtis McKenzie, Valeri Nichushkin, Jamie Oleksiak, Alex Chiasson, and Brett Ritchie. In 2014 it was Gemel Smith, Radek Faksa, Matej Stransky, Brenden Ranford, and Jason Dickinson. This year it was Mattias Janmark, Emil Molin, Jason Dickinson, Brett Pollock, and Julius Honka.
This isn't a matter of shiny new objects either. Just look at each team's respective point totals. The 2009 Traverse team managed 26 points with its roster. Then just 17 in 2010. A respectable 32 in 2011 (though it should be noted that Matt Fraser took 16 percent of Dallas' total shots). In 2013 the team dipped down to 29. But in 2014 and 2015, Dallas in Traverse put up 40 and 43 points, respectively, among its roster.
But it's not just about getting these rookies to produce. After all, if Sergei Korostin and Tristan King can do it, what's the big deal?
These players are not just producing, however. They're showing real chops, and an ability to play a two way game. Who looks primed to make an impact assuming they are given a shot?
Ully is looking to validate the notion that the Dallas Stars franchise doesn't actually start drafting until the 5th round. Ully's been a mainstay in the WHL, netting 92 points this past season for the Kamloops Blazers (his career high). However, his lack of size (5'10 and around 180 pounds) has kept him from being thought of as a real premium prospect.
Lately this hasn't been an issue. In Traverse City, he looked well adjusted among his peers, using his speed to create space and make plays. He potted 2 goals on 7 shots at the tournament. In Training Camp, he tallied one Day 2, and then tallied another two on Day 4 while playing on a line with Travis Morin and Gemel Smith. This naturally drew the praise of Lindy Ruff:
"Ully is a dynamic scorer. I've seen enough of him now that, I swear, he is going to score."
With Brett Ritchie down, and Right Wing being a position lacking in general depth, what kind of impact would Ully have playing the proverbial 'sparkplug' role on a 4th line? If Ully can provide the 4th line a scoring touch, a potent offense gets that much more dangerous (to say nothing of the addition of a player who can skate up and down the lineup).
For a minute, it looked like Shore might have faltered. Suddenly being the leading scorer as a freshman for the University of Maine, and being named to the first-team All Hockey East was forgotten because the University of Maine did poorly last season, and Shore wasn't able to lift the team up by his own bootstraps.
While his numbers dipped, his development did not. In Traverse, he tallied one goal, one assist off of 9 shots (5th highest on the team). And notched a goal on a penalty shot during the Day 2 Scrimmage. His two way game has been present even during training. He pick pocketed Antoine Roussel during the 3-on-3 drills like he was practicing Anze Kopitar's favorite dance moves. Should Fiddler or Eakin go down for extended amounts of time, Shore has shown the kind of game that could be useful in the bottom 6.
Ruff appears to already like what he sees.
"I liked the way some of our veterans played. I like the way [Patrick] Sharp skated. I liked Tyler's skating in the game. I thought [Antoine] Roussel skated well, and Dickinson skated well inside the game."
Dickinson's production dipped for the Guelph Storm for the 2014-2015 season (71 compared to 78 previously), but only by accident. He played 12 less games. He scored 3 goals, and notched 1 assist in Traverse (along with a goal for Team Green on Sunday). His speed and two-way game, along with his positional versatility could make him an honest threat in a bottom 6 role.
As Sean Shapiro noted:
Frankly, he probably shouldn't have been playing in this tournament. As one of the oldest players in the tournament and close to NHL-ready, Johns looked like a man amongst boys at times.
Johns really did look great in Traverse (with a team high of 14 shots). He seems to have a real grasp of proper physicality. During the Hawks game, he fumbled the puck on the opponent's blue line. The winger would have been able to get past him if it wasn't for the Thor-like nudge Johns gave the kid, which prevented a scoring chance.
It's been a little more quiet for Johns in training camp where the competition hasn't been easier. His confidence with the puck has waned somewhat, but only in doses. His overall game is stout. He's as nimble a skater as you'll find for a defenseman his size, and if injuries forced Dallas' hand, his size and right handedness would be more than welcome.
I kind of hate putting Honka on this list. There's no reason to rush him. And anytime I'm knee deep in the comments section, I'm either defending the guy or attacking another prospect I consider inferior. Regardless, he's impressed me personally, along with management. And well, the rest of the world really.
As a reader pointed out, his play at 1:26 cuts to the heart of what makes him unique; his ability to read the play, pressure with possession, and the ability to do with so with speed. Even if you were to argue the incorrect position that creating offense is a redundant element of Dallas' blueline, this ignores the opaque Darius Kasparaitus ghost behind the Honka Mario Kart.
He's always been physical in a mosquito drawing your blood at a BBQ way, but at Traverse he was going for full on turbulence. Goligoski-Klingberg, and Oduya-Demers are set in stone. I wouldn't complain if Nemeth-Honka got some unlikely playing time.
The list of certainties in life go something along the lines of death, taxes, and develop amnesia over Mike Modano in a Red Wings jersey. Somewhere in that list is Faksa playing quiet and responsible. Every year something seems to hold Faksa back. He was drafted in 2012, and you get the impression that fans are growing a little weary, feeling he represents Former GM JN's lack of success in the first round. Thankfully Faksa keeps doing what he's always done; walk softly and carry a two-way stick.
Watching him at Traverse, in camp, and throughout the Preseason I can't help but feel like he's ready. Not ready to take Eakin's job. Not ready to force a Vernon Fiddler trade. Just ready. He's a cerebral player that never looks out of place. Against the Panthers, he made a tricky little play to bat the puck out of the air in the opponent's zone to maintain possession. Oh and:
Devin Shore won 12 of 16 faceoffs tonight. Radek Faksa won 7 of 11.— Mark Stepneski (@StarsInsideEdge) September 23, 2015
Ludwig Bystrom, who Ruff had a very glowing review of on Day 4 of training camp. If you're wondering why Mattias Janmark isn't on this list, it's because there's a good chance he plays in Sweden this year.