For AHL affiliates of NHL organizations, the ultimate balancing act is between winning games and developing prospects.
When the Texas Stars appeared in the 2010 Calder Cup Final, the team leaned heavily toward the former. Led primarily by a rag-tag bunch of hockey journeymen, the only members of that playoff run who later went on to become NHL regulars were Jamie Benn and Colton Sceviour, and even then, Benn was only with the team for that postseason.
As for the AHL-champion 2013-14 team, they managed to successfully strike that rare, magical balance between winning and development. Radek Faksa, Jamie Oleksiak, Brett Ritchie, Patrik Nemeth and Jack Campbell are all still playing in the NHL six years later.
But the 2019-20 Texas Stars? Well, this roster is leaning a lot harder on the development side of things, and the results in the standings so far probably shouldn’t be surprising.
Through 12 games the Stars sit seventh in the eight-team Central Division with a record of 3-7-0-2. Their goal differential of 29-45, suffice to say, leaves a lot of room for improvement.
To some degree, it really should be expected. Twelve of the players to dress for Texas so far this season are AHL rookies, while another seven still are sophomores. Emil Djuse (26) and Joel Kiviranta (23) have professional experience from Europe, but it usually takes time to adjust to North American hockey.
“We’ve done a lot of teaching here the last three weeks. [Right now] it’s about implementation,” Texas Stars head coach Derek Laxdal said recently to Ryan Pennington of 100 Degree Hockey.
“We’ve got some guys that are inexperienced. That’s where we’ve had some trouble — closing out games in the last four or five games. There’s a four or five minute time frame where the inexperience kicks in and we get stung. We have to get by that, and we have to learn from every minute that we play.”
The bright side of this circumstance, of course, is that it should pay off for the Dallas Stars in the long run.
It’s hard to remember a time when Texas had such an impressive crop of young talent on its roster. From Jason Robertson to Jake Oettinger, Riley Tufte, Nicholas Caamano, Rhett Gardner, Joel L’Esperance, Adam Mascherin, Joe Cecconi, Landon Bow, Ben Gleason, Tye Felhaber and others, it’s fair to project that many of these prospects will become NHL regulars in the future. Heck, the argument could be made that Caamano, Gardner and L’Esperance are already ready for full-time NHL duty.
Even if this season doesn’t result in a playoff appearance for Texas, you can’t grow a garden until you plant and water the seeds first. So long as the team’s top prospects keep developing, the season will end up being a success in its own right.
The Texas Stars really are in quite a funk at the moment, going winless in their past six games. The most recent difficulties came this past weekend in a pair of games against the state rival San Antonio Rampage, falling 4-2 on Friday and then 8-2 on Saturday.
Caamano and Gardner have been two of the team’s best players since being sent down from Dallas, with the former scoring a goal on Saturday and the latter picking up a goal and assist in the two contests. Mascherin hasn’t found the back of the net yet this season, but he’s now up to five assists in 12 games after adding two over the weekend. With an assist, Tufte picked up his first professional point.
Even though they got lit up on the scoresheet, both Oettinger and Bow didn’t get a lot of help in front of them on the goals that they allowed.
The team gets a full week off to regroup and practice before returning to action on November 9.
North American Juniors
Three Stars prospects — Thomas Harley, Ty Dellandrea and Riley Damiani — will all be taking part in the ongoing CIBC Canada-Russia series as members of Team OHL. An annual tradition, a group of top Russian prospects travels across Canada for a series of two-game showdowns against Team QMJHL, Team OHL, and Team WHL. The OHL games take place on November 7 and 11.
Harley is still ripping up the scoresheet for his Mississauga Steelheads, with a team-high 18 points in 13 games thus far in the year.
Dellandrea’s 17 points in 13 games aren’t as eye-popping stats-wise, but he’s an absolute workhorse in all situations for the Flint Firebirds, who keep rolling along with a nice record of 10-5.
After a rough start to his season. After a rough start to the season, Nicholas Porco was recently traded from the Saginaw Spirit to the Barrie Colts, presenting a change of pace for the 18-year-old winger. He has one assist in three games since the change.
Red Deer Rebels defenseman Dawson Barteaux had an assist on the game-winning overtime goal in his most recent appearance, but it’s part of what he and his team were recently involved in off the ice that was more important. After the fiancée of a Rebels assistant coach was diagnosed with cancer and began chemotherapy, the group of players decided to all shave their heads in support of her.
“We’re a family around here, and anything we could do to just make one of our family members feel more at home is something we would do 100 times over,” said Barteaux, the team’s captain.
'They became family': Red Deer Rebels shave heads to support assistant coach's fiancee's battle with cancer https://t.co/H3xIChTmY7— CTV Edmonton (@ctvedmonton) October 9, 2019
Blueliner Jakob Stenqvist seems to have turned a corner in his transition from Sweden to Finland for the 2019-20 season, taking his team’s lead in scoring from the back end. A recent four-point game certainly helped in that regard.
After starting the season down Frolunda’s depth chart, forward Jacob Peterson has recently started earning a bigger role on the roster and playing more minutes. He’s now up to five points in 15 contests.
Albin Eriksson missed some time lately due to injury and was then sent down from the SHL to Sweden’s top junior league to help get his legs back under him. He was called back up to the big club last week, but his ice time has been limited.
For a comprehensive list of stats for all Dallas Stars prospects, you can check out the organization’s Elite Prospects page.