Will Tomas Vincour end up in Dallas or Cedar Park? That's one of a few questions for the front line coming this October (Credit: Texas Stars/Ron Byrd)
All this week, we have been taking a look at the Texas Stars expected roster for the 2011-12 season. As free agency has died down, the picture has become clearer as to who will make the cut on opening night. After covering goaltending on Monday and defense on Wednesday, we close today with the most variable group: the forwards.
With the most players and perhaps the most turnover from opening night last year, the forward group in Cedar Park is the one that will see the most change from the prior season. First let's take a look at the forward lineup from the end of last regular season.
McCulloch, Embach, Schultz (scratched)
Vincour, Segal (callup)
From this group, there are some known subtractions. Greg Rallo (Florida) and Aaron Gagnon (Winnipeg) were signed away this summer in free agency. The Dallas Stars opted not to re-sign Sean Backman or Brandon Segal, and Texas is extremely unlikely to re-sign Mike Embach, Scott McCulloch or Cody Chupp.
The additions to this point mostly come from players out of juniors or college. The roster already included Scott Glennie, the Stars top pick in 2009, at the end of the season last year. Joining him will bme Matt Fraser of the Kootenay Ice, a free agent signing from last season. Dallas also added Ryan Garbutt, a 2nd year player coming over from the Wolves, who played for Coach Pyle in Gwinnett for a short while at the start of the 2010-11 campaign.
At this point, let's break down a likely lineup for the opening night, line-by-line.
All three members of this line are signed on two ways to Dallas. Tomas Vincour spent the most significant time with Dallas last season at 24 games. Depending on how he performs in camp, he could start in Dallas and stay there. My inclination points to him starting in Texas and moving up at some point during the season. Travis Morin and Francis Wathier are more definite to start in Cedar Park, but would both be high on the list to potentially move up to Dallas when the need arises.
Three more Dallas contracts make up the second line. Glennie got a bit of AHL experience at the end of last season, potting his first professional goal in the playoffs against Milwaukee. Ondrej Roman, who performed well but not outstandingly so in his rookie year, will continue his time in Cedar Park with first-year forward Matt Fraser.
Mathieu Tousignant had a career high 10-13-23 in 78 games last season. (Credit: Texas Stars/Ron Byrd)
With the late re-signing of Sawada, this is a line that fans can look forward to seeing come over the boards. Combined in the mid-to-late season last year, these three are an energetic banging bunch that can gut it out in the corners but also score their fair share. As an energy line, they are a handful. The developing silky mitts of Tousignant and Sceviour are unexpected from such a rough and tumble crew. Expect this trio to take some teams by surprise yet again this fall.
The ever-popular Luke Gazdic returns to play his trade after a strong second season in Cedar Park last year. His improvement in both scoring and defensive responsibility make him an important piece of a young fourth line. Stephen Schultz, who went to development camp in Dallas, is actually on a standard player contract to Texas, which was signed last season for this coming year. Finally, Dallas picked up Ryan Garbutt on a two-way deal out of the Chicago Wolves system. Garbutt showed a scoring touch (19-18-37) but also a strong plus-27 rating in 65 games.
Waiting in the Wings
The last question is who makes up the reserve corps. Dallas has two players under contract who made occasional appearances in Cedar Park last season with Michael Neal and Tristan King. Neal has not shown enough to warrant consideration for the next-in-line role quite yet and will probably spend another season in Idaho unless he dazzles at camp. King was injured for most of last season and will likely do the same. I am looking for a player along the lines of a Greg Rallo or Travis Morin to come in on a tryout and make the club. Rallo and Morin, who were both pivotal members of the team over the last two years, were both tryout players. Late in September, we should learn more about potential candidates for this role.