Thursday, October 13, 2016

Texas Stars, Derek Laxdal Ready for Season Eight

(Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
Texas Stars head coach Derek Laxdal is just happy have hockey back.

"At the start of any year, you ask any coach and it's just exciting to get going. We had a month of training camp if you count back to Traverse City. Our guys are excited and you can see it in practice."

His Texas Stars face the Charlotte Checkers this weekend in back-to-back games with a roster chock full of NHL prospects. The draft and over-ripen strategy of Jim Nill has started to show through in Cedar Park as players on Dallas' radar are causing logjams in the top 6.

"I don't know the last time I've seen an NHL camp where that many prospects get 3 or 4 exhibition games."

With trusted veterans like Travis Morin and Justin Dowling competing for ice against prospects, there are only so many bodies you can put in a lineup each night. Laxdal plans to roll four lines hard this season.

"We're going to have to take some ice away from Travis Morin. We're going to have to make some decisions [when Dickinson and Cracknell return]. For us, we'll call it a top 9."

Laxdal was impressed with the camps that many of his forwards had including Cole Ully, Gemel Smith and Matej Stransky. Ully will be on the power play this weekend after ending last season with a season-ending injury before th eplayoffs.

"When Cole got hurt last year, he was a key guy in our lineup. We lost Faksa and Johns, and Cole Ully took a step with his game. He's dynamic, a skilled forward and he had a great training camp with Dallas. We feel he can be a top 3 offensive contributor for our club."

Gemel Smith was another who won plaudits but could have trouble sliding into that top six role. For now, he will play power play and penalty kill along with skating on a line with Remi Elie and Denis Gurianov. The line will have speed, skill and size and could give the opposition fits if they gel.

And speaking of Gurianov, Laxdal views his position as being very similar to Julius Honka's two years ago. He's only 19 years old but with the expectations of a first round pick on his shoulders.

"He's got a great set of wheels, physical, got a bit of an edge to his game."

Laxdal called out Gurianov's offensive finish and his positioning as two areas to work on for the young forward. He also remarked that he has a great attitude and is really taking to the coaching sessions they've had already.

In net, Texas will start Maxime Lagace tomorrow. He "clearly earned the #1 job" for the Texas Stars. Philippe Desrosiers will get ice, but it's going to be a 3 to 1 ratio when he does, sharing with Lagace.

"We've got to get Phil some games. He's a young prospect we have to make sure he get some game time in the AHL."

Lines from today
Ranford-Morin-Stransky
Ully-Dowling-DeFazio
Elie-Smith-Gurianov
Troock-McMurtry-Van Brabant
Fyten

Backman-Bystrom
Honka-Bodnarchuk
Ebert-Mangene-Stevenson
Karjalainen*

Lagace
Desrosiers

* - I'm expecting Karjalainen will head to the ECHL soon.

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