A Closer Look At the Dallas Stars Opening Night Roster
Summarizing all 23 health players who start the season with the Stars in 150 words or less.
The Dallas Stars are finally about to play meaningful hockey again, which is the perfect time for a roster reset.
Perhaps you're a new fan to the team, brought by offseason marketing or the awesome presence of Grubes. Perhaps you're a reformed Chicago Blackhawks fan looking for a new rooting interest. Perhaps you're just like Bob Sturm and don't pay attention to preseason.
Or maybe you know every single player, his birthdate and his favorite childhood pet but are trying to kill time until you can leave for the American Airlines Center tonight.
So without further ado, here is a brief summary of all 23 healthy players on the Stars opening night roster:
Jamie Benn, #14, C/LW, 6-2, 210
Last season: 35-52-87, 82 GP
What else is there to say about Benn that hasn't been written by this point? People were asking what was wrong with Benn early last season (and some less-informed souls were asking the same thing as he made his push in the spring), but he gave the Stars what he always does - every bit of his considerable talent. The surgery he went through was major, and it may take him a few weeks to really get rolling. Still, not many names are written in ink somewhere in this forward lineup, but Benn will almost certainly be found alongside his partner in hockey chemistry, Tyler Seguin, for the vast majority of the season.
Cody Eakin, #20, C, 6-0, 190
Last season: 19-21-40, 79 GP
It seems like Eakin has been around forever, but he just turned 24 this spring. He's averaged about 0.5 points per game since joining the Stars, but with a fairly significant contract extension kicking in next season, the Stars will be looking for more from him. His speed and defensive tenacity can be his greatest strength and worst enemy, and he has shown more-than-decent chemistry with Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin. Lindy Ruff has ruffled some fan feathers the past few days by bumping Eakin up to the first line in practice, but it's not as crazy as it might seam. Eakin's tireless puck pursuit can get to the puck to the two most dangerous players on the Stars if he plays up or it can keep the puck away from other team's top lines if he plays down. Especially early in the season, as players like Benn and Hemsky heal up, he may play up with good reason.
Patrick Eaves, #18, RW, 6-0, 200
Last Season: 14-13-27, 47 GP
The Stars took a flyer on Eaves last season as he was coming back from a series of nasty injuries, and when he was healthy, he provided nice flexibility on the right side. He got better as the season went on and finished the year not only with a long stretch of playing time beside Benn and Seguin, but also as the slot man on the first-team power play. However, he couldn't get away from the injury bug, suffering not one but two significant friendly fire injuries - a broken foot and a concussion. He's got the speed and the quick release to play up the lineup when healthy, but that staying healthy is a big question mark even now.
Vernon Fiddler, #38, C, 5-11, 205
Last season: 13-16-29, 80 GP
The elder statesman of the Stars and the fourth-longest tenured player behind Jamie Benn, Kari Lehtonen and Alex Goligoski, Fiddler will likely be a lower line stalwart. The 13-goal, 19-point season last year was the most goals of his career and most poins since 2009-10. With so many young and occasionally chaotic forwards around him on the lower lines, the Stars will look to his presence to calm down some of the more frantic tendencies. Plus Kevin Bieksa is still around the conference, and another impression is always welcome.
Ales Hemsky, #83, RW, 6-0, 185
Last season: 11-21-32, 76 GP
Hemsky is probably the forward with the most disappointment from last season, when he came in as a highly-touted free agent and never found his groove. Bouncing around lines, moving to his third team in nine months and struggling with a painful hip didn't help, and he created enough chances without result that many were sure he'd ticked off a hockey god somewhere along the line. The question here is how long the Stars will continue to have patience if he can't produce. He was brought into be, and is paid like, a top six winger, but the Stars now have plenty of options there.
Mattias Janmark, #13, C/W, 6-1, 195
Last season: 13-23-36, 53 GP with Frolunda of the SHL
Brett Ritchie's wrist injury opened the door for a potential new body among the forwards to start this season, and Janmark was the man who grabbed the opportunity. The newest player on the Stars roster popped out of seemingly nowhere this summer to scramble the forward lines a bit. A third-round pick in 2013 by the Red Wings, Janmark was acquired in the Erik Cole trade last February and was all over the scoresheet in the preseason in both good ways and bad. He had plenty of points, plenty of penalties drawn and also more than his share of penalties taken. Adjusting to the smaller North American rink can be a challenge, and Janmark has limited experience outside of Europe, but he's the shiny new toy for many Stars fans to salivate over.
Travis Moen, #27, LW, 6-2, 215
Last season: 3-6-9, 34 GP
It's tempting to say Moen is who he is at this point, a fourth liner or healthy scratch who can bring some grit when the team is lacking it. He does have a bit of an offensive touch when he can stay healthy, which has been a battle, as he showed in his successful penalty shot last year. Nine points in 34 games isn't awful on the lower lines either - translating to about 23 points in 82 games. Moen almost certainly won't play that many, but he'll provide fairly reliable depth when the team needs fourth-line forwards.
Valeri Nichushkin, #43, W, 6-4, 205
Last season: 0-1-1, 8 GP
There's so much to like about Nichushkin's game, with the size, speed and strength he can show off. But even at only 20 years of age, he's reached a prove-it point in his career. This is a contract season for the young Russian after missing virtually all of last season with the same hip problems that hampered his teammates, and what exactly that means is far from determined. To earn the type of contract given to the young superstars in this league, Nichushkin needs to live up to his lofty potential. He seemed to settle in as the preseason went on, and if he can get back on that upward slope, the sky really is the limit.
Antoine Roussel, #21, LW, 6-0, 200
Last season: 13-12-25, 148 PIMs, 80 GP
A fan favorite for his grit and extremely gregarious off-ice attitude, Roussel is also at a bit of a crossroads. The three years remaining on his contract point to him as part of the Stars core, but he couldn't repeat his success as a checking line player last year alongside Eakin and Ryan Garbutt, and his antics can take away from his game as much as they add to it at times. He's the type of player you love to have on your team and love to hate if you play against, but his job this season will be to find the line just a smidgen better.
Colton Sceviour, #22, C/W, 6-0, 195
Last season: 9-17-26, 71 GP
Sceviour finds himself in a bit of a difficult position to start this season as it's hard to pinpoint a role. He had solid statistics last season but didn't seem to find a line or niche during the preseason. He's probably a little old to be a prospect but not experienced enough to be asked to be a calming veteran force. If and when he gets minutes this season, he will have earned them the hard way - by making a case where there doesn't appear to be much opportunity.
Tyler Seguin, #91, C/RW, 6-1, 200
Last season: 37-40-77, 71 GP
Still the most interesting man in the world with an insane amount of natural talent. Seguin's knee looked healthy this preseason, and he had fairly instant chemistry with new winger Sharp. Assuming there's not another mumps outbreak and he stays away from submarining Florida Panthers, there's not much he can't do. Stock up on rubber duckies and donuts, because it's set to be another fun ride.
Patrick Sharp, #10, W, 6-1, 195
Last season: 16-27-48, 68 GP
The Stars didn't necessarily need more offense after their fireworks last season, but that's exactly what they got from the cash-strapped Blackhawks when they traded for Sharp. While he struggled in his final season in Chicago, the addition of the veteran sniper makes the top lines that much scarier for opponents, who could at times last season pick off the top line with shadows. The more important part of his addition may be the defensive stability he brings though. Teams will play the Stars top six in a strength-on-strength manner, and adding a player who knows how to track back against top offensive talent is definitely a plus.
Jason Spezza, #90, C, 6-3, 220
Last season: 17-45-62, 82 GP
Rememebr how everyone was disappointed in a 60-point performance from a second-line center? It's fair to say the expectations for Spezza were extremely high after he was acquired in a trade from the Ottawa Senators last summer, and even a solid season couldn't quite meet those standards. He too suffered from a bit of linemate juggling as the Stars struggled early, and changing teams for the first time in his career was a bigger hassle than he originally expected. The Stars are undeniably deeper at top six forward this season, though, and that may benefit Spezza more than anyone else.
Jordie Benn, #24, 6-2, 200
Last season: 2-14-16, 73 GP
Of all the players on the Stars, Jordie Benn is probably the one stuck the most with little brother syndrome (insert your own joke about the irony of that statement here). No matter how much he does right, how many solid seasons he puts up or good plays he makes, it will never be good enough for some, likely somewhat due to the accomplishments of his little brother. But he's been as steady as they come for the past few seasons and excelled in the toughest situations. Even before you consider the value of his contract, the Stars would likely be happy with more of the same from the elder Benn.
Jason Demers, #4, 6-1, 200
Last season: 5-20-25 in 81 GP, 61 with Stars, 20 with San Jose Sharks
When the Stars acquired Demers in the Brenden Dillon trade last season, the book on him was he was an offensive-minded defensemen who needed a little bit of babysitting in the defensive zone. But with Dallas, and especially once paired with Jordie Benn, he settled into being one of the best 5-on-5 defenders on the team, trusted with tough starts and often tougher minutes. He's a bargain with the Sharks continuing to pick up some of his contract, and he will be counted on to be one of the steadying influences once again this season. If he can continue his play from last season, he will be one of the most important defensemen.
Alex Goligoski, #33, 5-11, 185
Last season: 4-32-36, 81 GP
You can easily argue Goligoski hasn't gotten his due ever since being acquired in the trade that will not be named. All he's been for the Stars is the steadiest force on the blueline since his acquisition and one of the most effective puck-moving defensemen in the league on an extremely reasonable contract. It's fair to ask whether a pair of him and Klingberg can survive long term against bruising forward units of the Western Conference, but if they have the puck all the time, that solves at least 80 percent of the problem.
Jyrki Jokipakka, #2, 6-3, 215
Last season: 0-10-10, 51 GP
If there was a player benefited from the Nemeth injury last season, it was probably Jokipakka, who saw a significant number of minutes at the NHL level. He appears to have built upon those minutes in training camp, where he made as strong impression and has apparently leapt into the sixth spot in the defensive rotation. With size, strength and what appears to be a developing offensive touch, Jokipakka will continue to try and make his case to be a long-term member of the rapidly changing defensive corps.
John Klingberg, #3, 6-2, 180
Last season: 11-29-40, 65 GP
Klingberg was the best rookie defensemen in the NHL by every metric except popularity, but the trick is he has to keep building on it. No one will be surprised by him this season, and opponents in the preseason made a point of pressuring him as he tried to move the puck through neutral. He has the type of hockey sense that makes for elite players and a frame that should continue to fill out, at least hopefully. There are still a few kinks to work out in the defensive end, but this team's 200-foot puck-moving game may very well rest upon his slender shoulders.
Patrik Nemeth, #15, 6-3, 230
Last season: 0-3-3, 22 GP
Nemeth enters this season in a little bit of an awkward position, coming off a serious wrist cut that cost him much of last season and left him slightly behind some of his competition in the push for playing time. He was solid in easier minutes last season but seemed to struggle in the presesaon. With the Stars putting a lot of emphasis on getting off to a quick start this time around, they may not have the patience to try and work off some of the apparent rust and get him back into top form. He'll have to do that the hard way.
Johnny Oduya, #47, 6-0, 195
Last season: 2-8-10, 76 GP with the Blackhawks
The newest member of the Stars defense is also its most senior member. It's hard to know what to expect out of Oduya if only because he's coming from a defensive machine in the Blackhawks. What the Stars hope he brings is a calming presence that allows the Stars to even out the difficult minutes between two pairings (rather than sacrificing Benn-Demers and sheltering whatever rookies were playing in the third pair last season). More than anyone else on the defense, he's an unknown quantity at this point, but with a decent salary for the next two seasons, the Stars want him to continue to be the steady presence he was in Chicago.
Jamie Oleksiak, #5, 6-7, 260
Last season: 1-7-8, 36 GP
The resident giant on the blueline has struggled to live up to the equally, and probably unfairly, large expectations he was saddled with as a first-round pick. Oleksiak is the youngest of the Stars defensemen - nearly 16 months younger than Jokipakka - but he's such a known commodity around the organization his leash feels much shorter. Early indications are he may struggle to get playing time in an eight-man rotation, especially with a preseason performance that didn't seem to do him any favors. He probably should be a long-term plan guy rather than a short-term one, but his contract status dictates otherwise.
Kari Lehtonen, #32, 6-4, 205
Last season: 34-17-10, 65 GP, 2.94 GAA, 0.903 save percentage
If Kari Lehtonen had an animal representative, it would be the elephant in the room. While his W-L record last season was pretty solid, the underlying save percentage and goals against numbers were among the worst of his career (and he played for some pretty bad Atlanta teams). The $5.9 million-question is whether the year was a fluke, the product of some nagging injury, or a sign of things to come. A new goalie coach and better backup option should provide him every opportunity to get his game in order. Now it's up to him to make the most of it.
Antti Niemi, #31, 6-2, 210
Last season: 31-23-7 in 61 GP with the Sharks, 2.59 GAA, 0.914 save percentage
It's no secret that the Sharks weren't exactly happy with Niemi's performance last season, but looking at his underlying numbers, the problems their team had were more self-induced than goalie-inflicted. Niemi put forward the same type of numbers he typically does - an average save percentage combined with a large number of starts. The Stars spent most of last season searching for simply average goaltending, so if Niemi can just be Niemi, they will be happy with the pick up. The number of starts he gets will almost certainly be dictated by any bounce back from Lehtonen.