The Texas Stars had a rough run last month, coinciding with their early November road trip taking them alongside the west coast to pretty disastrous results.
Since then they’ve gone 6-1 in their last seven, winning back to backs against the Cleveland Monsters (Columbus) and the Grand Rapids Griffins (Detroit). As a result, they currently sit 3rd in the Pacific Division.
Luckily for Stars fans, Texas has been good thanks to their usual veterans, like Travis Morin and Curtis McKenzie.
However, their prospects have pulled their own weight too. Jason Dickinson has been great when he’s not eating chicken fingers in Dallas. He’s currently 16th in the league in even strength goal scoring with seven (just three less than the current league leaders, Jack Roslavic, and Danick Martel).
And he added to that total last night.
However, it’s been the play of Roope Hintz that has been catching the attention of everyone in victory green.
Hintz is a unique player as far as forwards go; his two way play draws some comparisons to Radek Faksa. Hintz is not as defensively brilliant, but like Faksa, he’s a big forward with great loose puck speed who doesn’t have a bunch of eye popping skillsets, yet creates opportunities with positioning and vision. Hintz doesn’t project to be a playmaking center or anything, but his 14 points through 23 games has him on pace for over 40 points (he’s currently 13th in rookie scoring).
His game December 1st against the Griffins was easily his best game of the year.
Here he was pushing Texas to tie the game late in the third, only to stick the cherry on top with a shootout winner.
Recently, Hintz has played on a line with Denis Gurianov and Brian Flynn, and they’ve been truly fantastic together in their limited minutes.
Then there’s Landon Bow. Dallas fans aren’t used to hearing good things about goalie prospects, but Bow has been exceptional since November 8th, when he unofficially took over the starting role. Granted, his save percentage is nothing to write him about, but his overall recent play has been steady.
Stars coach Derek Laxdal expanded on his play just last week.
Texas still struggles on special teams. Their power play ranks 20th (up from dead last only several weeks ago). And their penalty kill ranks 23rd (also up from near dead last just several weeks ago).
However, their special teams, along with their play has been trending up, so there’s a reason for the optimism.
- Their last game against Grand Rapids saw 19 scouts present at the game. It definitely raises the trade hairs on the skin of fans. Might Jim Nill have something in the works? Is Ken Holland looking to sell low on Evgeny Svechnikov (who is struggling)? Or do scouts just travel in duffel bags? It could be nothing, or it could be something to keep an eye on.
- Speaking of an underperforming but highly touted prospect like Svechnikov, everyone’s always curious about Denis Gurianov. I’ve said my peace, for the most part. He’s not having a great season or anything, and it’s always tough to look back at Matthew Barzal knowing then whatever everyone knows now, but Stars fans need only look at Gemel Smith and Remi Elie to see how having meager production in the AHL doesn’t guarantee lack of value at the NHL level. My own pet theory is that they all have something in common - players like them, who play specific, north south based games often try to do more at lower levels, whereas in the NHL, they’re typically just playing simplified games either in terms of style (get pucks in the corners), or have the simple task of getting someone else the puck. Gurianov has produced when he’s been on either Dickinson or Hintz’ wings (there have been stretches where he hasn’t), so hopefully they can continue their chemistry in order to give us a better picture once the season ends.
- Other than the usual suspects, there hasn’t been much to discuss. The veterans are the veterans and the prospects are the prospects. Niklas Hansson has been quiet through 23 games. Despite his lack of point totals, he’s looked comfortable next to Dillon Heatherington. While he was drafted for his puck moving prowess, he’s been a steady two-way presence. He’s not as dynamic transitioning the puck as fans might want, but he plays extremely clean.