This will be a weekly feature full of gifs, pictures, tweets, and bad puns to fill your prospect plate of its essential proteins and minerals concerning all things AHL/Baby Stars related. None of this will be re-purposed material from Wrong Side of the Red Line, where I write game recaps for Sean Shapiro’s diligent website. But I will reference them. I’m not Jonah Lehrer. Though I wish I had his talent. For writing. Not plagiarizing. Okay, let’s move on.
Matej Stransky Closing on Career High in Goals
Last Wednesday, Texas battled Tucson; their first game since the octagon spectacle (no really) they had prior. While Denis Gurianov didn’t chuck knuckles this time, it was still suitably physical. Gurianov himself helped propel the team towards a win, having become part of what I like to call the integer line: Travis Morin (#23) with Brandon DeFazio (24) and Guriuanov (25).
It was Stransky who played the hero in the end.
Stransky is currently sitting at 22 goals so far this season. He scored 23 last season. Stransky is a dark horse prospect; he’s not mentioned in the same breath as Brett Ritchie or Valeri Nichushkin, but he’s been improving game to game. It helps that in the offseason, Radek Faksa drives 25 minutes out of his way to work with Matej and his brother on a skating treadmill.
The on ice product speaks for itself. On paper, Stransky, unless he implodes with 10 games left, should eclipse his goal total from last season. In scouting terms, he’s driven play as good as any forward in Texas. Stransky’s closest comparable is Brett Ritchie, but unlike Ritchie, who is more north/south, Stransky plays a smoother transition game, able to toe drag and dangle around defenders more consistently thanks to his improved skating stride. Dallas doesn’t have many traditional right wingers (their best prospects shoot left), so he’s got a real opportunity to make waves these last ten games to set himself up for a training camp spotlight.
The game against Tucson was notable for Dallas’ top prospects looking like their top prospects. This Julius Honka power play goal, assisted by Gurianov and Gavin Bayreuther, was a great example:
Honka, Bayreuther & Gurianov with a clinical PP for the Texas Stars tonight pic.twitter.com/jbbh0MLkBo— Sean Shapiro (@seanshapiro) March 23, 2017
Denis Gurianov misses Mother Russia, but not enough to part with the Brisket
Gurianov’s season might look disappointing to the unfamiliar watcher, with 9 goals and 14 assists through 49 games, but any flaws can likely be attributed his transition to North America, and learning English the hardest way imaginable; learning rules and regulations under the barrel of a puck.
He scored in Tucson with a deft deflection. Though Gurianov struggles to handle to puck in close quarters, his first step, and acceleration are second to none. The majority of his points have come in often 4th line minutes, especially early in the season, which is incredibly hard to pull off. Even the most talented NHL’ers score a large minority of their points on the power play. Denis has an elite shot, and roadrunner wheels to drive the play up ice.
I’m a big believer in words meaning things. When I hear words like “ready”, I believe they should be clarified. Julius Honka and Remi Elie were not players most believed were “ready”, but they made an impact because they were talented. Gurianov is talented, and therefore more ready than fans or media might assume, but that’s not to say I believe he’s an automatic roster inclusion for next season. Only that I believe the talent is there, and he’ll be an impact player for Dallas soon enough.
Honka and the Bayreuther Blueline Rollers
Texas has experienced something of a makeover since the trade deadline. When the season began, the Stars were patrolled by Julius Honka, Mattias Backman, Ludwig Bystrom, Dustin Stevenson, Andrew Bodnarchuk, and Nick Ebert.
They’ve transitioned to Honka with college free agent Gavin Bayreuther, Dillon Heatherington with Nick Ebert, and Andrew Bodnarchuk with Darren Dietz and Ludwig Bystrom.
The makeover has led to a stronger blueline, in my opinion. Bayreuther scored in his debut, Honka scored against Tucson, and Heatherington scored against Stockton on Friday. Defense is so traditionally tied to size, and positioning, it’s easy to forget how critical speed (rushing toward loose pucks) and creativity (breaking out of the zone) are. Bayreuther has helped stabilize the Honka pair by being a dual threat to exit the zone and threaten from the point. I’ve been impressed with Bayreuther thus far; he has good vision, skates well, and moves the puck quickly with rapid decisions and expert bladework.
The strength of Texas’ blueline should provide Jim Nill ample opportunity to start trimming the Dallas fat; it’s time to give new faces opportunities to take over depth roles that other Dallas prospects have never been able to grab by the horns.
Texas went 2-1 for Week 25. They meet Stockton for the trilogy Tuesday. Both games have been decided in extra frames. Saturday was Gemel Smith’s night of nights, tallying three assists and the shootout winner. If their last two are any indication, Tuesday is as good as any to start checking out what Texas has to offer, not simply as entertainment, but as the proving ground for Dallas’ future every day’ers.