Dallas Stars 2015-2016 Player Grades: McKenzie, Lindell, Dickinson, Ritchie, and Shore
How would you rate the "babies" of Dallas? Are Curtis McKenzie, Esa Lindell, Jason Dickinson, Brett Ritchie, and Devin Shore glimpses of the future we've always hoped for?
The future of the Dallas Stars is finally here. It's just prohibited unevenly.
Expect that to change. Jim Nill will be letting a lot of players go. In their place will be players drafted by two different general manager's making a difference all the same. For some prospects, finally getting here has felt like a lifetime. For others, only as long as your favorite Game of Thrones character.
While some prospects made more prolonged appearances this season than others, this season was just the chips and queso portion of their Dallas careers.
You are more than welcome to relive Dickinson's first goal in his first NHL game like I just did. Watch it here. But if, like me, you've been watching him do his thing in Cedar Park, then you know he's capable of more than just empty net magic:
Jason Dickinson's goal. Nice move. #txstars https://t.co/PmN8OnKWEp— Sean Shapiro (@seanshapiro) November 8, 2015
Dickinson didn't start out with a major role in Texas. He was eased into a major role as the season wore on, getting quality time in all situations. As he earned more responsibilities, along came more production. Dickinson ended his first AHL season with 53 points: good for 6th in rookie scoring. With his ability to play left wing and center, there's a good chance he ends up in Dallas for full time duty. He made quite the impression against the Colorado Avalanche during his coffee and puck period in the NHL: I don't think people appreciate the totality of that sequence leading up that goal. He makes a diligent behind the back poke check to help disrupt Colorado's breakout, which then leads to Valeri Nichushkin and Colton Sceviour helping capitalize on the Avs' turnover.
He probably hasn't fallen off the tree, but plucking him off the branches won't sting. I feel like he has potential on the left wing of one of Dallas' many centers, but he's another good two way-center Dallas just doesn't have enough of but are suddenly growing in abundance.
Out of all the prospects, nobody carries more hype on their broad shoulders than 'Easy E'. In his first AHL season, he managed to find himself top 10 in defensemen scoring with a whopping 42 points. Like so:
Esa Lindell wrists one through traffic to put the @TexasStars up 1-0 pic.twitter.com/MyLLdV3iIX— AHL (@TheAHL) February 7, 2016
And then he earned himself a spot onto Finland's 2016 World Cup roster, winning a Silver medal while logging far more minutes than any other player. He turns 22 today.
He's done this with a calm, charismatic demeanor missing from most players his age (and most players past his age). Between taking cute pictures with puppies, and calling the AHL All Star game boring, what is there to not like?
He struggled a little bit in the World Cup, which is quite alright. He's an AHL defensemen logging the most minutes against players like Connor McDavid, Matt Duchene, and Corey Perry. Not only does that tell you he's ready, but it gives him valuable experience moving forward. The important thing about Lindell is that he's a threat from the point Dallas doesn't, and historically hasn't had. Like Dickinson, don't be surprised if he's in Dallas for more than just nachos (I don't think there's any question that Lindell will be full time next season at some point).
McKenzie is an interesting case because I think a lot of people had him penciled in as a regular, but after starting the season more or less with the team, an injury against the Tampa Bay Lightning from a dirty hit derailed any consistency he might have built up for himself. Since then he's had only sporadic appearances with Dallas. His future is likely destined to be in the AHL. He plays a good physical game, but his decision to drop the gloves with Ryan Reaves was his most memorable moment in the playoffs. And that isn't the kind of memory anybody's interested in reliving. His 55 points were good for 21st in AHL scoring. He's clearly an integral part of Texas' game. But at 25, how high is his ceiling?
For a lot of fans, Ritchie is a sure thing. People would argue that he's been a sure thing since last season. However, there's an injury cloud hanging over him begging questions about whether or not he can be relied on to be the top six forward he's projected to be. He certainly looked overqualified in Texas, scoring 14 goals in just 35 games. And he certainly looked destructive with Seguin and Benn. The question now is: can he be consistently productive? Ritchie is still a question mark for me. It's possible he's best suited for bottom six duty. It's possible he's suited for top six duty. I honestly don't know. I lean towards the former, for what it's worth. His physicality has been welcome, but with players like Matej Stransky showing exponential growth (every bit the power forward Ritchie is), and Denis Guryanov coming into Cedar Park next season, he's gonna have to do more than just throw the body.
Shore was a forward I was looking forward to see get quality time in the AHL. He was money as a young gun in a leadership role for the University of Maine. However, when he started the AHL 2015-2016 season, he displayed more than just leadership. He tallied 15 goals in just 23 games. Granted, his shooting percentage was 28 Percent at the time of his season ending injury and it would have gone down eventually, but he's no Alex Chiasson. He has good vision, and solid playmaking skills despite his stats arguing for his goal scoring abilities. He's the ultimate wild card in my opinion because he has the type of game that is hard to predict in terms of how well it can translate into the NHL. He didn't show much in his first three games. He played limited minutes on the road with Radek Faksa and Valeri Nichushkin so there's not much to report. But watching his development will be fascinating to watch. Chances are, he starts in Cedar Park to help players like Guryanov.
Who are you most looking forward to for potential full time duty for the Dallas Stars?