Sunday, September 17, 2017

Justin Dowling Knows What He Needs to Do to Get Back to NHL, Impresses in Scrimmage

(Credit: Andy Nietupski/Texas Stars)
At age 26, Justin Dowling knows what kind of player he is. Being that player, defensively responsible, able to play the PK, and with a scoring knack, gave him a chance at the NHL last season. He relished the opportunity and has every intent of getting back. Today's two goals in the prospect scrimmage was a great start to making a racket in training camp.

"I'm old enough now that I know what they expect from me and what kind of player I am," Dowling said after day two of camp. "It won't change now that I'm 26. I have to do the things I do well. I have to pick things up fast and do them well.

"It was nice to get a sniff last year and it gives me that drive to get back there."

Coach Hitchcock put Dowling in a limited group of three who changed the coaching staff's opinions on themselves today. The other two were Nick Caamano, who also had two goals, and Gemel Smith. The coaches are looking to make grouping changes and adjustments to Tuesday's exhibition game roster based on the scrimmage. Dowling may have landed himself a place in that match against St. Louise.

In the offseason, Dowling had to recover from hand surgery stemming from a late season injury with Texas. "Recovery went well, but [the injury] put a damper on the season in addition to not making the playoffs. It was good to get healthy and get a fresh start."

The uptempo camp has been a well-worn narrative at this point, and Dowling agrees with it, taking a unique stance on the mixture of drills and skating.

(Credit: Texas Stars)
"It's different than most training camps I've been to, a lot more structure. It's fast tempo, almost like a hidden [bag skate] in a sense where you're doing system work but going for long reps, getting your skating in that way. There's a lot of 1 on 1 battles to get in game shape and form. I've loved it so far and the tempo has been great."

As far as new systems, they are coming fast and furious on both offense and defense. Asked about those systems, Dowling noted a Hitchcock mantra: "The best way to play defense is to have the puck the whole time."

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Hitchcock Separates Wheat from Chaff with Vet Practice, Scrimmage Rosters for Sunday

(Credit: Texas Stars)
With another practice session in the books today, not too much could be gleaned from individual players. Philippe Desrosiers struggled on a few drills at times in the later group, letting in at least five consecutive goals at one point.

The real meat of the day came after practices had finished with the team releasing the veteran practice and 'future prospects' scrimmage rosters. Coach Hitchcock told the media after practice that the players "on one-way contracts" would "get the first kick at the can," as far as the veteran practice goes. Being in the future prospects group shouldn't be seen as a death knell, but it should tell players that they need to keep working to make it onto the NHL roster.

The vet squad was mostly as expected. Jamie Benn, Adam Cracknell, Radek Faska, Mattias Janmark, Curtis McKenzie, Tyler Pitlick, Alexander Radulov, Brett Ritchie, Antoine Roussel, Tyler Seguin, Devin Shore and Jason Spezza made the list up front. Nine defensemen madethe list and they're all exactly who you'd expect: Dan Hamhuis, Julius Honka*, Stephen Johns, John Klingberg, Esa Lindell, Marc Methot, Patrik Nemeth, Jamie Oleskiak and Greg Pateryn. Note that it is nine names, which is three more than you can ice on any given night, so there is still work to be done there. Goalies on the list are Ben Bishop and Kari Lehtonen.

For everyone else on the roster, it's time to prove themselves in the scrimmage to slide up into the top group. Folks like Jason Dickinson, Remi Elie and Gemel Smith, who all played last season in Dallas at various points, will have to re-establish their credibility with the new coaching staff.

* - The roster lists Julius Honka as both a practice and scrimmage participant right now, which we understand is not a misprint.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Dallas Stars Kick Off Second Hitchcock Era with Up-Tempo Practice

Ken Hitchcock at Day 1 of Training Camp (Credit: Texas Stars)
Today's article was contributed by a staff writer who will be joining me this season. For various reasons, I'll hold off on introducing him until next week, but I am excited to have him on board.

Dallas Stars head coach Ken Hitchcock ran a high intensity program on Friday as the organization began their training camp at H-E-B Center in Cedar Park. The 60-man roster was split into two practice groups, each of which took to the ice for 105 minutes this morning.

Here are a few things that stood out from a Texas Stars perspective on day 1:
  • As if it wasn't clear before, Mike McKenna appears to be your AHL number one goaltender, perhaps with Landon Bow as his backup. Philippe Desrosiers likely has an open door to grab the number two spot with Bow having a difficult Traverse City tournament, but I wouldn’t hold your breath. McKenna is the type of AHL journeyman that you can get excited about. He wears a cartoon Dimebag Darrell on the back of his helmet. The battle between Bow and Desrosiers is a huge unsettled question and will be a fascinating camp battle to watch.
  • PTO invitee R.J. Umberger was on the ice, but the uptempo practice was a challenge for the forward, who did not play professionally last season. Conventional wisdom says that coach Hitchcock loves him as the two worked together in two past coaching stops. Umberger currently projects as the 13th forward on the NHL squad if he makes the team. If he makes the roster, it pushes an AHL player out of the running for NHL minutes. If you want to spin it positively though, perhaps the young bubble NHL-AHL Stars will get big minutes in the AHL rather than watching the Dallas Stars from the press box. Dickinson, Gurianov, or Hintz would do better to play than wear a suit and tie every night in the press box.
  • Pour one out for Julius Honka's AHL career as he appears headed for a full time NHL roster spot skating next to Marc Methot during camp, though lines don’t appear to matter at the moment. Coach Hitchcock echoed as much about Honka during post-practice scrum. While the NHL club is locked into a intense defenseman battle with nine guys clamoring for six spots, Honka’s promotion sparks some competition on the AHL blue line.
  • One name to keep an eye on is Ondrej Vala. He spent most of the season in the WHL last year and was brought in for three games with the Texas Stars. He has a colorful personality and intriguing size on the blue line, and he skated well today. Vala could end the season with Texas after his WHL season is done. He is too young for the AHL currently at 19 years old. Vala was signed by Dallas as an undrafted free agent.
  • 2017 Stars draft pick Jason Robertson looks endearingly like a rookie. In a couple moments of high comedy, he slipped and fell in front of the net while everyone was resting; later, he cursed loudly within earshot of several children. I like him already. He didn't show much, but you can see what the franchise likes about him as he clearly has skills with the puck.
  • I’ll be interested to see if the diminutive Sheldon Dries can make a splash in the Stars organization this year. He seemed to be a lock for the ECHL Steelheads, but he was one prospect that really stood out to me. He made several beautiful centering passes on 5-on-5 drills. His skating was more than competent and he held his own against bigger players (he’s listed at 5’9”). Maybe I tend to root for smaller guys, but I liked the skill that I saw.
  • There was an all-invite line of Shaw Boomhower-Tomas Soustal-Cole Tymkin. I’m sure these guys are fine players in their own right, but they were in over their heads and beat up on in drills by veterans during their entire session. It was tough to watch.
Practices resume tomorrow morning at 9:30 AM at H-E-B Center.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Dallas Stars Ready to Hit the Ice in Cedar Park

Justin Dowling (Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
With Traverse City in the rear-view, the eyes of Texas turn to Cedar Park for Dallas Stars training camp. The NHL club held a media day this afternoon ahead of their I-35 sojourn to central Texas.

The full training camp roster has also been released. The organization continued its excellent practice of including AHL contracted players in the NHL training camp, including vets like Travis Morin and Greg Rallo along with newcomers like Shane Hanna, Max French and Sam Laberge. You can take a look at the full roster here, which has 62 total players.

Some other news of note out of Frisco today:
  • D Miro Heiskanen, Dallas's 1st round pick this year, will not be at camp after suffering a concussion in the early season in Europe. It's questionable if he even comes to North America at all this season as a result.
  • C Martin Hanzal has an ankle injury. Dallas is being cautious now and holding him out of camp but doesn't seem to believe it will be a long-term injury.
  • D Chris Martenet, who was expected to start the season with Texas, is out at least two months with mononucleosis. 
Dallas also announced that they are adding a practice to the training camp schedule on Sunday morning. Before the scrimmage, the veteran NHL players will skate from 9:00 - 10:45 AM. The scrimmage at noon has now been rebranded as the 'Future Prospects Scrimmage,' indicating that fans shouldn't expect to see Benn, Seguin or any of the top players from the NHL in that game.

Everything gets started Friday morning at 9:30 AM.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Dallas Stars Prospects Prep for Traverse Tourney This Weekend

(Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
Many Dallas Stars prospects will head to Traverse City, Michigan, this weekend to compete in the annual Traverse City Tournament, put on by the Detroit Red Wings. The small city in the tip of Michigan's lower peninsula has been a mainstay of the Dallas end of summer huiberaination activities for years. Texas Stars head coach Derek Laxdal and Idhao Steelheads coach Neil Graham will be among the coaching staff there. A gaggle of current and future Texas Stars are set to dot the roster, which will play one game a day round-robin starting tomorrow and culminating in a final game pitting the divisions against each other on Tuesday.

The NHL squads participating include Dallas, St Louis, Columbus, Minnesota, Chicago, the NY Rangers, Carolina, and the hosts, Detroit. The Stars kick things off tomorrow with a 3:30pm ET match against the Columbus prospect squad. The full schedule is here.

And here is the full roster for Dallas.



Texas Stars from 16-17 dot the roster, including Nick Caamano, Denis Gurianov, Gavin Bayreuther, Chris Martenet, Ondrej Vala and Landon Bow. Niklas Hansson even played a few games for Texas two years ago at the end of the season and will be with Texas this season. He's a top defensive prospect.

Upcoming AHL-only contracted Texas Stars on the roster include Sheldon Dries, Shane Hanna, Eric Sweetman, Max French, and Sam Laberge. Many of the Dallas Stars draft picks on the roster should be expected in Texas in the coming years, including Jason Robertson and John Nyberg. Roope Hintz is another name to watch. The Finnish winger hasn't been on the radar as much since he's played in the SHL for the past few years, but he will make his North American debut with the AHL Stars this season.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Texas Bolsters Depth at Forward, Defense with Markison and Sweetman

The Texas Stars have signed two depth players for 2017-18 in Colin Markison and Eric Sweetman.

Forward Colin Markison comes from Bridgeport most recently. He also skated for Missouri in the ECHL last season. I would expect him in Idaho. Sweetman is a defenseman who paired with Gavin Baureuther during his time at St. Lawrence. With so many defensemen signed already in Texas and Dallas, you'd expect him in Idaho as well.

Here's the release:
The Texas Stars, American Hockey League affiliate of the NHL’s Dallas Stars, announced today the team has signed forward Colin Markison and rookie defenseman Eric Sweetman to AHL contracts for the upcoming 2017-18 season.

Markison, 25, tallied six points (2-4=6) in 28 games last year for the AHL’s Bridgeport Sound Tigers and has competed in 73 career AHL games over the past three seasons. The 5-foot-10, 185-pound native of Princeton, N.J. competed for four seasons at the University of Vermont from 2011-2015 before beginning his pro career. Markison (MAR-kih-suhn) also played 24 games for the ECHL’s Missouri Mavericks in 2015-16 with 17 points (10-7=17).

Sweetman, 23, begins his professional career after spending the last four seasons at St. Lawrence University (NCAA). The 5-foot-11, 175-pound defenseman tallied 64 points (16-48=64) in 146 career games at St. Lawrence. Prior to college, the Woodbine, Md. native played for the USHL’s Youngstown Phantoms from 2011-2013 and tallied 30 points (11-19=30) in 123 career games.

Sweetman also skated as a teammate of Texas Stars defenseman Gavin Bayreuther during his four seasons at St. Lawrence.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Dallas Stars Release Training Camp Schedule

Ludwig Bystrom at 2016 training camp (Credit: Texas Stars)
We're still about a month from the start of hockey in Central Texas, but your training camp schedule is here. Dallas will be in Cedar Park for the opening of training camp on September 15th. It's the third year for Texas to host training camp.

Here's the release:
The Dallas Stars and H-E-B Center at Cedar Park announced information regarding the team's 2017-18 training camp, which includes open practice sessions and the Victory Green vs. White Intrasquad Scrimmage.

The Dallas Stars will hold training camp for the third consecutive season at H-E-B Center at Cedar Park from Friday, Sept. 15 through Monday, Sept. 18. H-E-B Center at Cedar Park is the home to the Texas Stars, Dallas' top development affiliate in the American Hockey League (AHL). The practices on Friday, Saturday and Monday are open to the public. Fans wishing to attend the sessions can enter through the east entrance of the building.

On Sunday, Sept. 17, the Stars will host the Victory Green vs. White Intrasquad Scrimmage at H-E-B Center at Cedar Park. Split into two teams, the Stars will play an officiated scrimmage beginning at noon. Fans can reserve a free ticket to the scrimmage beginning on Thursday, Aug. 17 at 10 a.m. on TexasStars.com or Ticketmaster.com.

Texas Stars ticket plan holders qualify for reserved tickets for the scrimmage, up to the amount of seats they hold in their 2017-18 ticket plan. Plan holders can contact their Texas Stars customer service representative to acquire their tickets.

Along with tickets to the Victory Green vs. White Intrasquad Scrimmage, Texas Stars fans can secure single game tickets for the 2017-18 regular season at H-E-B Center beginning on Monday, Aug. 21 at 10 a.m. CT on TexasStars.com.

Below is the schedule for on-ice sessions during the 2017-18 Dallas Stars Training Camp:

Friday, Sept. 15
9:30 a.m. - 11:15 a.m. - On-Ice Session One
11:45 a.m. - 1:30 p.m. - On-Ice Session Two

Saturday, Sept. 16
9:30 a.m. - 11:15 a.m. - On-Ice Session One
11:45 a.m. - 1:30 p.m. - On-Ice Session Two

Sunday, Sept. 17
12 p.m. - Victory Green vs. White Scrimmage

Monday, Sept. 18
9:30 a.m. - 11:15 a.m. - On-Ice Session One
11:45 a.m. - 1:30 p.m. - On-Ice Session Two

Please note: Times for all on-ice sessions are subject to change.