I’m a sucker for continuing a trend.
In this same column space last week I wrote about the Dallas Stars’ pending restricted free agents, trying to sort between which prospects will be expected to receive tendering offers and which ones won’t.
I’m going to do something similar this time around, but instead of contracts for RFAs I’m going to take a look at prospects still without their first entry-level contracts from the Stars — specifically, who needs them soon and/or who could receive them soon.
Determining which players do or don’t get ELCs is a difficult process. How long an NHL team has the rights to a prospect varies by their age at the time they were drafted and where they play, so some need to be retained sooner than others. Additionally, all teams have contract limits, so some prospects don’t receive ELCs because there’s not really enough room for them, even though they might still have interesting potential.
Let’s dig in.
Prospects who will probably get an ELC
Jake Oettinger — Goaltender
The Stars’ projected goaltender of the future, Oettinger has been outstanding all three of his seasons in the NCAA and looks quite ready to turn pro. A new challenge will be great for his development.
Riley Tufte — Left Wing
For some reason or another, Tufte’s scoring pace this season is behind where it was last year, and his overall game hasn’t taken as big of a step as it should have. While another season in the NCAA wouldn’t be any sort of setback, getting Tufte some more hands-on development in Texas might be the change of pace that his career seems to need right now.
Liam Hawel — Center/Wing
It took some time, but Hawel is finally putting his overflowing toolbox to good use in the OHL on one of the league’s best teams, the Guelph Storm. With plenty of size and skill, the Stars will want to see just how much his game will continue to grow as he matures. He’ll re-enter the draft if he doesn’t sign at the end of his season, so expect Dallas to act.
Prospects who might get an ELC
Joseph Cecconi — Defense
This one is a bit of a misnomer: Cecconi will definitely get an ELC sometime in the near future — it just might not be with the Stars. If Cecconi waits until August he’ll become a free agent capable of signing with any NHL team. But the Stars do have something working in their favor in his decision: the chance to come join the Texas Stars for their ongoing playoff push once his NCAA season ends, possibly as soon as next weekend. Getting an early taste of what the Stars organization is like could be a nice selling point. And if Cecconi is concerned about getting ice time, the Texas Stars are currently looking pretty thin next season for right-shooting defenders.
Rhett Gardner — Center
Like Cecconi, Gardner is a potential free agent this summer if he simply waits long enough. One of the best defensive forwards in the NCAA, Dallas probably hopes to sign him, but they won’t be the only ones. But, like Cecconi again, Gardner could join the Texas Stars for their playoff push once his NCAA is over.
Fredrik Karlstrom — Center/Wing
Karlstrom’s development has been a real roller coaster since the Stars drafted him, going from being a solid producer in Sweden’s Allsvenskan and playing for his home country in the World Juniors twice, to reduced ice time and even some healthy scratches in the SHL. Still, Karlstrom has some good tools at his disposal, and with a shortage of draft picks in 2019 and 2020, the Stars should have enough space in the organization to bring him to North America to see how well he fares here.
Jakob Stenqvist — Defense
One of the Stars’ dark horse prospects, Stenqvist is a beautiful skater who also possesses a bit of puck skill and some good offensive instincts. He’s getting a lot of ice time in the Allsvenskan and could play another year in Sweden before the Stars need to retain his rights, but they could also see if he wants to take his development across the Atlantic for 2019-20. Stenqvist will have a say in the matter too, so what he wants will need to be taken into consideration.
Jermaine Loewen — Left Wing
Despite just being drafted in 2018, Loewen is a WHL over-ager and needs an ELC soon for the Stars to retain his rights. He’s played well this season and already has a big frame that should be able to handle the rigors of the pros, but his upside is a bit of a mystery. This might be a tough call for the Stars.
Prospects who probably won’t get an ELC
Brett Davis — Center/Wing
At one point Davis looked like a prospect with a lot of potential, but his development seems to have hit a wall this year. Doesn’t make enough of an impact in any area to suggest much NHL potential at this point.
Markus Ruusu — Goaltender
Probably the easiest contract decision of all, Ruusu was always a head-scratcher of a draft pick, and aside from a brief stretch in 2016-17, never came anywhere close to the numbers that you want to see goalie prospects put up. Besides, the Stars have a goaltender logjam in their prospect pool as it is.
North American Juniors
Jason Robertson might have had his ridiculous point streak snapped at 19 games, but he made up for it by hitting quite a milestone over the weekend: eclipsing the 100-point plateau. Up now to 105 points thanks to a four-point outing on Sunday, he’s currently second in the OHL in scoring.
With his assist on Studnicka's goal in the second period of tonight's game in North Bay, Jason Robertson has reached 100 points on the season, and 300 #OHL regular season points!#BornReady #GoStars pic.twitter.com/QuA5vROhCf— ✖️- Niagara IceDogs (@OHLIceDogs) March 2, 2019
Amazingly, Robertson wasn’t the only Stars prospect to crack 100 points over the weekend, as Ottawa 67’s winger Tye Felhaber did so as well. His 100th point came on his league-leading 56th goal of the season.
Century club welcomes @Felhaber62— OntarioHockeyLeague (@OHLHockey) March 3, 2019
Newest @DallasStars prospect the latest to hit points with his #OHL leading 5️⃣6️⃣ helping @Ottawa67sHockey clinch first in Eastern Conference. pic.twitter.com/LR3cCbInAM
Speakings of point streaks, Liam Hawel is currently on a five-game run himself with the Guelph Storm, picking up seven points over that span.
It was his only point of the weekend, but Ty Dellandrea showed off some nifty moves on this goal, speeding down the right side of the ice before finding twine with a laser of a wrist shot.
Loewen and his Kamloops Blazers team are in a real bind at the moment, looking at playoff positions from the outside with the regular season close to wrapping up. Despite going winless last week, the power winger is certainly doing his part to help, with three goals and five points in three games.
Another weekend, another stellar couple of outings from goaltender Oettinger. He made an eye-popping 45 saves on Friday night in a 1-1 tie before turning aside another 32 on Saturday in a victory. His performance on Friday earned him big praise from his head coach.
If Boston University junior goaltender Jake Oettinger has played a better game, then hopefully fans can catch it on video. Thursday night, the lanky 6-foot-5 Dallas Stars first-round draft pick stood on his head, making 45 saves and leading the Terriers to a gritty 1-1 overtime draw with No. 8 Providence in front of 2,183 Schneider Arena fans.
The win enabled BU (13-15-4, 11-8-3 HE) to move into sole possession of fifth place in the standings, one point ahead of idle Maine, and keep BU’s flickering home ice playoff hopes alive with two games left in the regular season.
“Pretty fortunate to get out of this rink with a point. Our goaltender was the story. After the first 10 minutes of the first period he was lights out,” said BU coach Albie O’Connell, who agreed the outing was among Oettinger’s best ever. “That was one of them. Another was against North Dakota (career-high 56 saves) in the playoffs (March 24, 2017). He was pretty good.”
The Texas Stars had the kind of week they needed to in their ongoing playoff push, winning twice and taking their third game of the week into overtime before coming up a goal short. At this time in the season, all points help.
Nick Caamano had his best week so far in the AHL since turning pro back in the fall, picking up a goal and three assists, with that tally holding up as the game-winner in Saturday’s 4-2 comeback defeat of the Chicago Wolves. As better told by Stephen Meserve over at 100 Degree Hockey:
Where things went from good to great was the Caamano goal, which really pulled the crowd back into the contest. The rookie forward dropped on to the ice and collected the puck off a clear attempt from Chicago. Swooping down and in, right to left, he patiently outwaited Dansk, who couldn’t track his skating across the crease, and casually tapped the puck into an empty net.
“It’s something I used to do in junior a lot, drive the net,” said Caamano. “I’m starting to find my groove out there, get more comfortable. It’s a play I like to do.”
Laxdal complimented the rookie, “His game is growing. He’s taking some steps. There’s a learning curve there, but we like the way he is taking off.”
Adam Mascherin had a good week as well, with a goal and two helpers. Landon Bow was in net for both of the victories, turning aside a combined 41 of 45 shots.