On February 5th, just under 11 months since they last took the ice for a game (March 11th, 2020), the Texas Stars returned to action in the American Hockey League. Like the National Hockey League, this return is far from normal (a drastically shortened season, significantly fewer fans in the stands during games, etc.), but it is hockey nevertheless, as the league and its players are taking the risk to try to make it work.
Of important note for the Dallas Stars, this resumption in play provides an opportunity for many of the organization’s top prospects to get some all-important game experience. Ice time is necessary for the development of young players, and the organization is undoubtedly hoping for smooth sailing as some important pieces of the team’s future get going again.
There was some rust — okay, maybe a lot of rust — but the pandemic-influenced Texas Stars team started their 2021 season the right way, picking up two wins and a loss after three games in four nights against Central Division rivals in the Iowa Wild.
Texas kicked things off with a wild 8-4 victory on Friday night, before bowing 4-1 on Saturday. But it was the first-ever professional goal from top prospect Thomas Harley — in overtime, no less — that helped the Stars take the split with a 3-2 win.
Harley is, without question, the most notable Dallas prospect on this team. As part of a temporary special exemption to the usual transfer agreement between the NHL and the Canadian Hockey League, the 19-year-old Harley is able to play in the AHL right now while the Ontario Hockey League, where he normally plies his trade, remains on hiatus. It’s a fascinating situation, and maybe even a tiny speck of light amidst the clouds of this awful pandemic, as Harley is ready for a bigger challenge than what the OHL offers, but isn’t quite ready for the rigors of the NHL. The AHL is the best place for him right now, and in normal times it wouldn’t even be an option. Funny how things work out sometimes.
The talented defenseman has wasted no time making his presence felt. He’s been playing a key role on the Texas blue line, including anchoring the top power play unit and killing some penalties, and has already picked up the aforementioned goal, along with two assists. His overtime game-winner came in impressive fashion, starting with a shift that saw him all over the puck in the offensive zone, before ending it as he skated behind the Iowa net and intentionally banked the puck in off of the opposing goaltender.
Thomas Harley's first goal: pic.twitter.com/VRQx7FAsW8— 100 Degree Hockey (@100degreehockey) February 9, 2021
Behind Harley, Riley Damiani is the Dallas prospect who has stood out the most so far. He picked up four points — a pair of goals and a pair of assists — and hasn’t looked out of place at all as a professional rookie. He’s been fast, confident, and dangerous at times with the puck on his stick. It’s not an easy situation that he just walked into, given his inexperience and the whole situation, but he seems more than up for the challenge.
Damiani is tied for the Texas lead in scoring with his former Kitchener Rangers teammate Adam Mascherin, as the two are reunited this season. Mascherin must have been especially eager to finally play some hockey again — he missed the full 2020 calendar year, first with a shoulder injury and then the COVID-19 stoppage.
Additionally, Tye Felhaber has two goals and one assist so far, while Ben Gleason has three helpers. Colton Point was in net for the wins on Friday and Monday, and looked a lot better in the latter — including a huge breakaway save late in the third period to keep the game 2-2 — after some shaky moments in the former.
Texas now gets to rest for a few days before beginning a three-game series against the San Jose Barracuda that starts on Friday,
North American Junior
2020 first-rounder Mavrik Bourque is back to action in the QMJHL, which has resumed play after starting in the fall and then having to put everything on pause. In the eight games that the Shawinigan Cataractes have played since late January, Bourque has 11 points. He is currently riding a six-game point streak, and recently earned a nod as the league’s player of the week.
One of the more pleasant surprises in the the team’s prospect pool as of late is goaltender Rémi Poirier, the 185th overall pick in the 2020 draft. He’s currently sporting a shiny .921 save percentage for the Gatineau Olympiques in the notoriously goaltender-unfriendly QMJHL, and his save percentage is one of the best numbers in the league.
Fredrik Karlström, the lone Swedish forward out of five in the system already signed by the Stars to his entry-level contract, has slowed down a bit after a hot start, but remains a productive player in the SHL. He’s up to 24 points in 41 games on the season, which is good for fifth on his Växjö team, and he’s scoring at that pace despite not being one of their top-six forwards (Växjö is the top team in the entire league at the moment).
Jacob Peterson, Oskar Bäck and Albin Eriksson are all still playing for Färjestad BK in the SHL, to mixed results. Peterson is the oldest of the bunch at 21 and is also the most successful so far this year, with 13 goals and 20 points in 33 games. He’s really come into his own as an offensive contributor thanks to his quickness, ability to get into dangerous areas, and his finishing skills. Bäck keeps trucking along as a third-line defensive center. Eriksson, however, continues to be stuck in the mud in his development. He’s only averaging 6:12 of ice time per game, and has zero goals and just four assists through 34 contests. He hasn’t scored an SHL goal since the 2019 playoffs. Yes, he is playing on a team that is quite deep at forward, but he’s also not doing anything to force his coaches to give him more ice time. It will be interesting to see if the Stars do anything to help change Eriksson’s playing situation, because right now, their 2018 second-rounder is steadily looking less and less likely to ever make it to the NHL.
Jacob Peterson (@DallasStars) continues to work on his career-high in SHL points, scoring a goal yesterday to give him five points in his last six games.#GoStars https://t.co/RMOCuK6K2O pic.twitter.com/fQug6hbqtI— EP Rinkside (@EPRinkside) February 5, 2021
For a full database of the organization’s prospects and their stats, check out the Stars’ “In the System” page on Elite Prospects.