Thursday, March 8, 2012

Texas Stars 2012 ATO Primer

With Clear Day in the rearview mirror, it's time for amateur tryout (ATO) contracts to start rolling out across the league. ATO signings in this timeframe are intended for players who have finished their collegiate or junior seasons and want to join the professional ranks.

Last year's ATOs included Brenden Dillon, Stephen Schultz and Mike Embach, two of whom made significant impacts this year in Texas. First year ATOs included Tyler Ludwig and Cody Chupp.

Texas can expect several players coming out of college to join the club in the coming month. Dallas management has pointed to five players joining Texas from the junior/collegiate ranks for next year. Several of them could get the jump with an ATO signing.

College players

The biggest one is Colgate Raiders forward Austin Smith. Smith, a Dallas native, is another fifth round gem from the Dallas organization. He is in the running for the Hobey Baker award (college hockey's Heisman) with 34 goals and 18 assists in 34 games. He has garnered similar praise as Matt Fraser in that "he just flat out scores goals." Colgate is currently in their league's playoff tournament. More information on Smith is available on the Colgate Raiders site. He was also profiled in Texas Monthly by friend of the blog, Jason Cohen.

Another exciting potential addition is Reilly Smith (no relation) from the Miami Redhawks. This third round pick from 2009 is only a junior this year but could leave school early based on what the Dallas Stars see for him and what his family decides is best for his future. Reilly has 26 goals and 12 assists in 34 games for the Redhawks. He was named first team All-CCHA and is also in the running for the Baker Award. In addition to his offense, Defending Big D's Brandon Worley heaps the following praise on the young winger:
What is truly impressive about Smith is that he's more than an offensive powerhouse. Playing for Miami, one of the more physical teams in the nation, Smith has become a reliable two-way player who plays incredibly physical along the boards. He's a tremendous puck-mover in transition and while his shot is what will make him a star, he's quickly become one heck of an all-around hockey player.
If Reilly goes pro, which is up for debate, he could join the Stars in the dying days of the season to get a little jump on systems and start to learn how to be a professional player.

The college season has ended and the conference tournaments have begun. The NCAA selection show is March 18th and the tourney runs through April 7th. Austin Smith's Colgate Raiders are not currently ranked in the top 20 teams in the nation with a 17-14-3 record and don't look to be on their way to the dance. Reilly's Redhawks are ranked #11 and should make it. Austin, therefore, could join Texas as early as March 19th.

Junior players

From the junior ranks, Texas has two first round draft picks who will be joining them in 2012-13 and might make the jump earlier depending on their club's playoff fortunes.

Jack Campbell, #10 pick in the 2010 selection draft, is the goaltender for the Sault Ste. Marie (Soo) Greyhounds. The World Junior hero's club is teetering on the edge of a playoff spot. The top eight team in the conference make the playoffs and the Soo are in ninth, two points back with six games left. If they miss, Campbell could join Texas as early as March 19th.

Campbell's time in the OHL hasn't been without its troubles. He's posted decent numbers, but not those you might expect from a top draft pick. Another friend of the blog, goalie scout Justin Goldman, summarizes Campbell's OHL performance thusly:
From my perspective, statistics and game-to-game performances in the OHL isn’t the focus. All that matters to me is how much he learns, and how much he experiences during his time in juniors. I’d rather him face adversity, learn what it’s like to lose, what it takes to win, how to work harder than everyone else on the ice, and essentially, just mature as a goalie and a human being.
More of that interview here.

The other junior prospect is Jamieson Oleksiak, #14 pick in 2011, out of the Niagara IceDogs. The IceDogs also have six games left but are definitely making the playoffs as they are in first place in the Eastern Conference. Oleksiak has jumped up his offensive play recently with 13 points in his last 13 games and a plus-17 rating (stats help from DBD). He is a big body player at 6'7" and 252 pounds. He was selected for Team Canada's World Junior squad and is highly regarded by scouts as an agile and quick defenseman in addition to his size. He could go into the OHL and playoffs and, if victorious there, continue to the Memorial Cup. The high seeding of the IceDogs indicates that they are likely to advance into the playoffs beyond the end of Texas's regular season.

Wild cards

As we've seen, Scott White works his scouting rather well to pick up ATO talent that rolls into AHL contracts the next season. We saw it with Cody Chupp the first year and Stephen Schultz the second. There has to be someone on White's radar that will join the club down the stretch. I would give you good odds on that player coming from Ferris State, if they weren't #2 in the country and destined for the tournament.

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