After a long summer, hockey is finally back in action!
Well, for some players, anyways.
The 2019-20 NHL regular season doesn’t start until October 2, but the regular season has already begun for players plying their trade in Europe and in the three major junior leagues: the WHL, the OHL and the QMJHL.
For the Dallas Stars’ two top prospects, Thomas Harley and Ty Dellandrea, the games that they played in last week might not have been the ones that they had expected to.
Despite multiple rounds of training camp roster cuts, both players are still with the Stars and taking part in preseason NHL games, with Harley especially earning praise from those within the organization.
Thomas Harley's breakout pass ends up with Scottie Upshall, who buries it. pic.twitter.com/YjOPGB9P1C— Matthew DeFranks (@MDeFranks) September 20, 2019
What will happen next for the two first-round draft picks is a little hard to predict. Harley most likely won’t be in the NHL for the entirety of the 2019-20 season, but could sign his entry-level contract soon and find himself dressed in a handful of games. Dellandrea could also get a temporary tryout before crossing the nine-game threshold that would trigger the first year of his ELC, but with a couple of forward roster spots still open for the taking, has an outside chance of actually staying with the big club all season.
With three preseason games remaining before the Stars begin the regular season, how well Harley and Dellandrea perform will continue to be one of the most interesting storylines to follow.
The Dallas Stars certainly love their Swedish prospects, as there are eight of them in the system at the moment, five of whom are playing in Sweden this season.
Power forward Albin Eriksson, selected 44th overall in the 2018 draft, is the biggest name. He’s been incredibly busy over the past few months, first taking part in the World Junior Summer Showcase on behalf of Team Sweden in August. Then his professional club, Skelleftea, played a few games in the multi-nation Champions Hockey League tournament before their SHL regular season began.
The Stars’ newest Swedish prospect, blueliner Samuel Sjolund, taken 111th overall in the 2019 draft, made his professional debut last week with AIK in Sweden’s second-highest pro league, the Allsvenskan. I was expecting Sjolund to start the year in the SuperElit junior league, so him making the big club to start the season is a nice sign for his development.
Elsewhere so far in Sweden, Fredrik Karlstrom has two assists in four games for Vaxjo, Jacob Peterson has one goal in four games with Frolunda and Oskar Back is pointless through four contests with Farjestads.
Swedish defenseman Jakob Stenqvist is taking a path once attempted by fellow Swede blueliner John Klingberg, moving his playing abilities to Finland this season after signing with Assat in the Liiga. Why change leagues? Some Finnish rinks are smaller than Swedish ones, making them closer to North American size, and moving countries within Europe is decent practice for eventually making the trip to this side of the pond. Through four regular season games with Assat the right-shot defender has no points and an average of 17:16 in ice time.
North American Juniors
Hulking forward Curtis Douglas kicked his season off in a big way, potting a pair of goals for the Windsor Spitfires. Douglas will need to have a big year for the Spits if he hopes to earn an entry-level contract with the Stars.
Riley Damiani hasn’t played a game yet this season for the Kitchener Rangers, but when he does it will be as one of the team’s co-captains. Damiani had 85 points last year for the Rangers and could realistically reach the 100-point plateau this season.
We are pleased to announce our co-Captains for the upcoming Ontario Hockey League season: @rileydamiani and Greg Meireles!— Kitchener Rangers (@OHLRangers) September 20, 2019
DETAILS: https://t.co/iujxWzUt3p#RTown #OHLOpeningWeek #Kitchener pic.twitter.com/Ts4PURYVlr
Speaking of captains, defenseman Dawson Barteaux was recently named the captain of his Red Deer Rebels club. Barteaux had a nice showing in the Traverse City prospect tournament and played one preseason game for Dallas. Like Douglas, his performance this season will determine whether or not he earns an entry-level contract from the Stars.
A number of the organization’s prospects have recently been assigned to the AHL’s Texas Stars, where they will start the season as they attempt to work their way up to the NHL. Some of these names include Riley Tufte, Adam Mascherin, Tye Felhaber, Ben Gleason and Gavin Bayreuther. Texas will play two preseason games (September 26 and 27, both against longtime state rival the San Antonio Rampage) before their regular season begins on October 4.