Training camp for the 2020-21 NHL season is in session, with the Dallas Stars’ season opener less than ten days away. Dallas is bringing back a roster almost identical to last year’s, but with injuries, a taxi squad, and some new faces, Rick Bowness still has some tough decisions to make regarding his lineup.
So today we’re starting a short series taking a hard look at the Stars’ training camp roster. We’re not particularly focused on predicting an opening night lineup — we already did that a couple months ago — but rather looking at roster spot battles, player usage, that sort of thing. Today, we’ll focus on the forwards.
This offseason, the Stars said goodbye to two wingers in Mattias Janmark and Corey Perry, and they will also be without star center Tyler Seguin for the time being. That leaves three holes to fill, one of which will be no doubt taken by playoff breakout star Joel Kiviranta, who entered the lineup last summer due to injuries and never left.
The remaining spots will be fought over by veterans and prospects alike. Justin Dowling, Joel L’Esperance, Nicholas Caamano, Jason Robertson, and Ty Dellandrea are all names to keep an eye on. Caamano in particular is interesting — he’s been on the fourth line with Robertson and Jason Dickinson to start out camp, and Bowness praised his style of play when talking to reporters yesterday.
Dellandrea, while pegged by many to make the roster in Seguin’s absence, meanwhile has been skating with the second team, consisting mostly of younger players and prospects. He will certainly make at least the taxi squad, but he’ll have roughly a 2-3 week trial to prove he belongs in the NHL. Otherwise, the AHL season begins on February 5th, and spending his first professional season in the minors might be the best thing for his development.
In contrast, Robertson, who led the Texas Stars in scoring last year despite being a rookie, has a good chance of staying around regardless. The Stars aren’t a very scoring driven team, only more so with Seguin out of the lineup. Even if Robertson is relegated to the taxi squad, it might be good to keep him around to insert him into the lineup every now and then as a fresh pair of legs for when the Stars need to jumpstart their offense.
Speaking of the offense, perhaps the biggest question mark regarding the forward lines will be the usage of Denis Gurianov and Roope Hintz, whose lack of ice time was a sore subject among fans last season. Bowness told reporters yesterday that he plans to keep both players together on the same line, with likely either Jamie Benn or Joel Kiviranta on the wing. Personally, I would opt for the former — Benn might not be able to keep up with the speed of Hintz and Gurianov, but the duo could provide a nice boost to Benn’s offensive production. Plus, Benn would bring a physical style of play to the line, if you’re into that sort of thing.
As with the two youngsters, Bowness also said he plans to keep Joe Pavelski and Alexander Radulov together on the same line, which will form the core of the other top scoring line. Of course, it’s the team’s third line — Radek Faksa, Blake Comeau, and Andrew Cogliano — which will likely see the most ice time out of any forwards. That might make Stars fans roll their eyes a bit, but you can’t argue that it hasn’t been an effective strategy in the past.
Overall, the Stars have the basic framework in place for their forward lines. The goal of this training camp is to figure out how best to fill the holes to create the finished product. As in years past, the Stars’ will likely be a low scoring team, but there is untapped potential in some of the team’s younger players. It’s Bowness’s job to bring it out of them.