Sunday, September 24, 2017

Dallas Releases, Assigns Handful of Players Ahead of AHL Camp This Week

Five veterans placed on waivers as well
(Credit: Texas Stars)
The Dallas Stars released or assigned a significant number of players this morning after last night's preseason victory against St. Louis. A group of players was also placed on waivers with intent to assign if they all clear. All of the players assigned were expected to be with Texas this season, except for Colin Markison, so nothing comes as a surprise here. Marksion does not have an AHL camp and Texas has not confirmed if he will be in camp with the AHL side this week.

Here are the breakdowns:

PLAYER POS. STATUS
Gavin Bayreuther D Loaned to Texas (AHL)
Landon Bow G Loaned to Texas (AHL)
Philippe Desrosiers G Loaned to Texas (AHL)
Sheldon Dries C Released from Amateur Tryout
Max French C Released from Amateur Tryout
Austin Fyten LW Released from Professional Tryout
Shane Hanna D Released from Amateur Tryout
Niklas Hansson D Loaned to Texas (AHL)
Dillon Heatherington D Loaned to Texas (AHL)
Samuel Laberge LW Released from Amateur Tryout
Matt Mangene D Released from Professional Tryout
Colin Markison RW Released from Professional Tryout
Cole Ully LW Loaned to Texas (AHL)

Additionally, Andrew Bodnarchuk, Ludwig Bystrom, Justin Dowling, Mike McKenna, and Mark McNeill were all placed on waivers. (If you need a refresher on waivers, check out the 100 Degree Hockey Glossary)

Greg Rallo, Travis Morin Released from Dallas, Head to Texas

Greg Rallo (left) and Travis Morin (Texas Stars)
A bit of news from yesterday to start your Sunday morning... 

As the Texas Stars prepare for camp this week, the Dallas Stars released two AHL veterans on AHL only contracts yesterday. Captain Travis Morin and vet Greg Rallo were both released to head down to Cedar Park. Texas Stars camp starts this week with the first practice of the season on Wednesday.

100 Degree Hockey will have complete coverage of what is sure to be a competitive camp for the Texas Stars leading up to this weekend's preseason games and the start of the season against Chicago on October 6th.

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.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

When Do We See the 2017 Draft Class in Cedar Park?

Nicholas Caamano (Credit: Andy Nietupski/Texas Stars)
In June, we saw the hockey world focus on Chicago, Illinois, for the NHL Draft. Next year, Dallas will be the host for the 2018 Entry Draft.

There were a lot of exciting names in the draft pool for Dallas this season, including D Miro Heiskanen and G Jake Oettinger. However, when will those players be expected in Cedar Park?

To figure out when players are expected to hit the AHL, let's take a look at when the Texas Stars 2016-17 squad was drafted.

(Note: I've left out a number of free agent, veteran and/or non-prospect players)

Name Year Round Overall Rookie Late season add?
Mark McNeill 2011 1 18
Mattias Backman 2011 5 146
Matej Stransky 2011 6 165
Ludwig Bystrom 2012 2 43
Gemel Smith 2012 4 104
Branden Troock 2012 5 134
Jason Dickinson 2013 1 29
Remi Elie 2013 2 40
Dillon Heatherington 2013 2 50
Philippe Desrosiers 2013 2 54
Cole Ully 2013 5 131
Julius Honka 2014 1 14
Denis Gurianov 2015 1 12 Yes
Chris Martenet 2015 4 103 Yes Yes
Nicholas Caamano* 2016 5 146 Yes Yes
* - Caamano is not expect to come back for the full year next year and will instead play in the OHL and return as an ATO next spring.

So if you look at this chart, you can expect that players drafted this year in the 2017 Draft will start to filter into the AHL as ATOs in 2019 and could have a bigger impact in 2019-20.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

New Texas Stars President Brad Alberts Ready to Grow the Game in Central Texas

Community engagement with Cedar Park, Leander and Round Rock tops the list of big impact projects
(Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
At the end of his first month as president of the Texas Stars and the H-E-B Center at Cedar Park, Brad Alberts has one clear mission.

"We have to connect better with Cedar Park, Round Rock, and Leander, the whole area. We want to make the team and the building synonymous with the region."

Alberts took over for the retiring Rick McLaughlin on July 1. McLaughlin had previously been the only president in team history, an instrumental part in bringing the team and the arena to Cedar Park and guiding it through the first nine years in central Texas. Alberts tips his cap to the outgoing president and the current staff, who have given him a "10-year head start" on his plans as president.

"When Mr Gaglardi purchased the team from the Hicks family, obviously I got more involved in watching what's going on down there. Rick decided to retire last year at this time and we started having those discussions, that he would phase out and I would assume the title of the president. It's been a year in the making. I'll still sit here in Dallas, but I'll be down there often."

Brad Alberts
(Credit: Dallas Stars)
The model of having AHL team presidents or GMs sit in the NHL front office is well worn across the league and minor league sports in general. Scott White moved to Dallas several years ago and Jim Nill managed the Grand Rapids Griffins from Detroit before moving to Dallas to become NHL GM. "It'll be constant communication and be being down there as much as I can. I talk with these guys multiple times a day from ticketing decisions to things like community engagement. I let those guys execute on a daily basis."

As mentioned above, Alberts sees a chance to gain a deeper connection with the community in order to get more fans to games and make the Texas Stars a regionally-known team.

"I want to continue to turn Central Texas into a hockey market. I want to create more fans. I want more engagement with the region. The fan base for all things at the HEB Center comes from that region. We don't pull a lot from central Austin. We need to continue to engage with them and engage in the schools where the kids are and the families are."

The obvious next step would be getting more and more kids involved in youth hockey. Flat out, Alberts agrees, "Austin needs more rinks. They need areas for kids to [play]."

Dallas consolidated their youth hockey presence with the numerous Dr Pepper StarsCenters in the Metroplex. In fact, the Stars' main practice facility and front office are co-located with the Frisco StarsCenter.

"It's been a boon for us in Dallas. That's an opportunity for us down the road to bring the StarsCenter concept to Austin down the road. We're not discussing that in the short term but that is something we could look at. Austin needs more grassroots opportunities for kids to get involved, especially in these bedroom communities."

"When kids are playing, they're going to bug mom and dad to go watch."

(Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
Pressed further on how the team plans to engage the community, Alberts is reticent to share anything solid, lest he ruin the surprise. "We are working on things that I think you'll like, but I don't want those to be public quite yet. We really want to engage with the schools and get in with the kids. We are going to do things that relate to the youth."

In addition to being the president of the Stars, he will also assume McLaughlin's other role as president of the H-E-B Center. Of course, the arena hopes to bring even more quality events to the arena outside of hockey including high-profile shows such as the Styx and REO Speedwagon show that played last night. He also noted that Mr Gaglardi, who owns the acreage around the arena, is in the "middle to late" stages of planning for retail, dining and hotel properties on the site.

"Once that area gets activated, it will help the events there as well."

In all of this Dallas to Austin synergy though, one thing that Alberts is not looking to do is turn Austin into a mini-Dallas.

"The two cities and areas are very different and the products are different. In 25 years here, we've been known as an edgy product and no one ever comes to an NHL game in Dallas and walks out saying it was boring. It's always really fun, but it is really different. We can't do all the same things we do in Dallas that we do in Austin. What we have to do is recognize that we're an AHL team and we're in Cedar Park and create a show and entertainment that fits the region. I'm not trying to put Dallas in Austin."

Friday, July 28, 2017

Idaho Locks in Neil Graham Until 2018-19 as Coach Preps for Coming Season

(Credit: Idaho Steelheads)
Earlier this week, the Idaho Steelheads announced that they had re-signed their head coach, Neil Graham, until the end of the 2018-19 season.

“Neil has been a tremendous leader for our hockey team over the last two seasons,” said Steelheads President Eric Trapp. “He has maintained a tradition of winning for our organization, and he has helped us foster a strong relationship with our fans and the community.”

Graham maintained the longest playoff streak in professional hockey, extending a long history of success in Boise for the ECHL and former WCHL squad.

I caught up with Graham this week as he continues to prep for the coming season. With some distance from last season, he's had some time to reflect on the year, which saw a first round exit for the Steelheads at the hands of the eventual ECHL champions, the Colorado Eagles.

"It was a pretty good season. You lose sight of how good of a year it was with the early exit in the playoffs. 43 wins and we finished 6th in the entire ECHL. We were trending upward heading into the playoffs. It was tough to lose out in the first round."

In each of the last two years, the Kelly Cup champ has come from Idaho's division: Allen in 2016 and Colorado this year. Graham knows that "getting out of our division" is a key marker of playoff success for his club on the way to the championship.

"Our goal every season is to win the Kelly Cup. We just have to be that much better for the postseason."

To get that much better, Graham is still in his office in late July working the phones and consulting dozens of lists and spreadsheets while doing it.

"We're trying to find players that fit our mold and match on and off the ice with the returners we have coming back. We put time and homework in over the summer to make that happen."

The club wants to add scoring depth, team toughness and speed. Team toughness, Graham notes, doesn't mean fighting; it means being tougher to play against throughout the lineup.

A goalie battle is set up in Cedar Park between former Steelheads Landon Bow and Philippe Desrosiers. Graham expects one of the two in Boise to start the season.

"It's always an open dialogue with the affiliation. Right now, it's a wait and see. I know I will see a goaltender from the affiliation. They have to do what's right for their current roster and the long term development of their prospects."

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Texas Stars Announce Preseason Set Against San Antonio

(Credit: Andy Nietupski/Texas Stars)
The Texas Stars have announced their typical preseason schedule, a home-and-home against the San Antonio Rampage. The game will be an early one, starting at 5 PM on a Saturday night.

The Stars and Rampage will play a total of 16 times this season, barring playoff meetings.

Here's the release:
The Texas Stars, American Hockey League affiliate of the NHL’s Dallas Stars, announced Thursday the team will play a preseason home-and-home series against their in-state rival, the San Antonio Rampage, prior to the start of the 2017-18 campaign.

Texas will visit the Rampage at AT&T Center on Friday, Sept. 29, at 7:30 p.m. CST. The following night, the Stars will host the Rampage at 5 p.m. CST for their final preseason tune-up before the start of the regular season.

Tickets for the Sept. 30 preseason game at H-E-B Center will go on sale at a later date.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Texas Stars Add Forwards Samuel Laberge and Max French to the Mix on AHL Deals

The Texas Stars have added two more forwards to the lineup for 2017-18 in rookies Samuel Laberge and Max French. Laberge attended Dallas Stars Development Camp, which wrapped up this week, after closing out a four-year stint with Rimouski Oceanic in the QMJHL. French just finished up four years at Bentley University in Canada. The two will compete for jobs in this fall's training camp. If they are not selected, they will likely head to Idaho to serve as call ups and assist the Steelheads in making yet another playoff push.

Here's the release:
The Texas Stars, American Hockey League affiliate of the NHL’s Dallas Stars, announced Wednesday the team has signed rookie forwards Max French and Samuel Laberge for the upcoming 2017-18 season.

French, 24, begins his professional career after finishing a four-year stretch at Bentley University. The West Kelowna, British Columbia native tallied 143 points (67-76=143) in 138 career games for Bentley. Prior to his time in college, the 5-foot-10, 185-pound forward played from 2008-2013 in the British Columbia Hockey League for the West Kelowna Warriors with 149 points (67-82=149) in 193 games.

Laberge, 20, spent the last four seasons with the Rimouski Oceanic of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and recorded 120 points (55-65=120) in 166 career games. The 6-foot-2, 200-pound forward was teammates with Stars goaltender Phil Desrosiers for two seasons with Rimouski from 2013-2015. The Chateauguay, Quebec native was a member of Rimouski’s QMJHL championship team in 2014-15 and also played in four Memorial Cup games that season.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Gemel Smith Returns to Dallas on One-Year Deal

(Credit: Andy Nietupski/Texas Stars)
The Dallas Stars have signed Gemel Smith on a one-year, two-way deal, leaving Jamie Oleksiak as the only unsigned Dallas RFA. While roster moves at the NHL level are likely to place Smith as a first callup option in Texas, depending on the summer he has he may be able to surprise in camp and earn a spot in Dallas.

Here's the release:
Dallas Stars General Manager Jim Nill announced today that the club has re-signed forward Gemel Smith to a one-year, two-way contract.

Smith, 23, posted six points (3-3=6) in 17 games with Dallas last season in his first NHL campaign. The forward made his NHL debut on Oct. 22 against Columbus and registered his first career NHL point with an assist (0-1=1) on Nov. 5 vs. Chicago. He also appeared in 53 games in 2016-17 with the Texas Stars of the American Hockey League (AHL), registering 33 points (12-21=33). Smith was tied for fourth on the club in assists (21) and his three shorthanded goals last season shared eighth in the AHL.

In his career, Smith has played 186 regular-season AHL games over the span of three seasons with Texas. In total, he has posted 86 points (35-51=86) with a +10 plus/minus rating and 106 penalty minutes. Smith has skated in three career Calder Cup Playoff contests, recording four shots on goal.

The 5-foot-10, 190-pound native of Toronto, Ont. was originally selected by Dallas in the fourth round (104th overall) of the 2012 NHL Draft.

Texas Stars Release Full 2017-18 Schedule

(Credit: Andy Nietupski/Texas Stars)
Earlier than ever before, the AHL has released the league schedule this afternoon. The Texas Stars will play 76 games evenly split between home and away contests. The opponent slate is exclusively Western Conference and heavily Pacific Division, kicking off on October 6th against Chicago.

The Stars' most frequent opponent will be San Antonio, as usual, with 14 contests total between the I-35 rivals. Their longest road trip will span 7 games from Saturday, November 18th to Saturday, December 2nd. During that stretch, they will play in San Antonio, Chicago, Cleveland, Grand Rapids and Rockford. The road trip will be followed by the longest home stand, 5 games from December 5th to 20th.

In addition, Texas has several four-game home stands and makes a six-game trip to California and Manitoba in mid-January.

Given the Western conference slant, the Stars will not see new additions to the league Belleville or Laval.

The schedule, as always, is heavy on Fridays and Saturday both home and away. There are no Monday home games at all and only two on Tuesday. As in prior years, all weekend home games start at 7:30 PM, and Saturday games start at 7:00 PM.

Texas will play its only three-in-three weekend much earlier this season. In 2016-17, the team's only 3-in-3 came in the last month of play. This year, the third weekend will see a home-home-away setup with San Antonio.

Finally, the Stars will of course be competing in a division with the California teams and Tucson, who only play 68 games.

Find the full schedule on TheAHL.comhttp://www.TheAHL.com.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Matt Mangene Signs On For Fourth Season in Cedar Park

(Credit: Andy Nietupski/Texas Stars)
The Texas Stars added to their experience on the backend this afternoon as they announced the signing of Matt Mangene to an AHL contract. Mangene has played for Texas over the past three season, often being called upon to play as a forward during more sparse roster stretches. He is on the official roster as a defenseman and quarterbacks the power play quite often regardless of where he plays at even strength that night.

Defensemen under contract and expected with Texas now include Gavin Bayreuther, Andrew Bodnarchuk, Ludwig Bystrom, Niklas Hansson, Dillon Heatherington, Chris Martenet, Brent Regner and Matt Mangene. Shane Hanna will likely head to Idaho unless he can push past those players.

Here's the release:
The Texas Stars, American Hockey League affiliate of the NHL’s Dallas Stars, announced Thursday the team has signed defenseman Matt Mangene to an AHL contract for the upcoming 2017-18 season.

Mangene, 28, returns for his fourth season in Cedar Park. Last season, the 5-foot-11, 190-pound blueliner tallied 27 points (8-19=27) in 66 games for the Stars. In his three previous seasons in Texas, Mangene (MAN-jeen) has appeared in 143 games with 54 points (13-41=54).

The Manorville, N.Y. native has competed in 245 AHL games in his career with Texas, the Adirondack Phantoms and Bridgeport Sound Tigers with 71 points (21-50=71).

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Greg Rallo Returns to Texas Stars for Third Stint

Greg Rallo in 2015 (Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
The Texas Stars announced this morning that they have signed forward Greg Rallo to an AHL contract. It will be the third stint with the Texas Stars for the American-born forward, who was part of the inaugural squad in 2009. Over four seasons with Texas, Rallo accumulated a number of franchise records, placing him behind only Travis Morin in power play goals, third in total goals, fourth in points and seventh in games played.

Rallo went overseas last season, playing with the Iserlohn Roosters in the German league, DEL. He had 25 points in 45 games, missing some time due to injury.

Rallo's return gives Texas another solid veteran in the forward ranks, already bolstered by the constant presence of Travis Morin. Interestingly, the Stars could have a veteran rule issue with the addition of Rallo. The AHL is primarily a development league and limits the number of veteran players who can be dressed in each game. The rules allow for 5 players with more than 320 games of professional experience and one 'tweener' who has between 260 and 320 games. Goalies are exempt. Texas has currently Travis Morin, Greg Rallo, Andrew Bodnarchuk, and Brent Regner north of 320 games. Mark McNeill, Justin Dowling, and Ludwig Bystrom are all between 260 and 320 (counting Bystrom's time in the SHL, which qualifies). This means someone from that group will need to be scratched regularly. The last time Texas had this issue was late in the 2013-14 season. Francis Wathier, a veteran, was sent to Milwaukee for Kevin Henderson, who was not a veteran, to alleviate the issue.

Here's the release:
The Texas Stars, American Hockey League affiliate of the NHL’s Dallas Stars, announced Wednesday the team has signed veteran forward Greg Rallo to an AHL contract for the 2017-18 season.

Rallo, 35, returns for his third stint with the Stars. The 6-foot, 195-pound forward is third all-time in franchise history with 94 goals, fourth with 191 points and seventh with 276 games played. His 39 power play goals are also second-most in team history. The Gurnee, Ill. native spent last season in Germany and recorded 25 points in 45 games for the Iserlohn Roosters of the Deutsche Eishockey-Liga.

The 2017-18 season will be Rallo’s 11th in the AHL and fifth with the Stars. The veteran has appeared in 586 AHL games in his career overall and tallied 330 points (160-170=330) with Texas, the San Antonio Rampage, Manitoba Moose, Albany River Rats, Rockford IceHogs and Iowa Stars. Previously in his career, Rallo (RAH-loh) skated for Texas from 2009-2011 and 2014-2016. He has also competed in 11 games for the NHL’s Florida Panthers with a goal.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Texas Stars Get Big Upgrade In Net Among Several UFA Signings

(Credit: Andy Nietupski/Texas Stars)
Despite all my predictions and preconception, the first few days of free agency were exceptionally relevant to the Texas Stars. Usually you won't see deals rolling in for players with AHL impact until after Independence Day. This yea, Jim Nill and Scott White attacked players with big time potential to improve their AHL team by a wide margin.

The first one to mention, while it wasn't the first one announced, is in the net. Goaltending was a bit of a mess for the Texas Stars last season. Justin Peters was supposed to calm the waters and provide a veteran presence, but he was unable to right the ship and the Stars missed the playoffs.

To remedy that, Texas swung big. Scott White has added Mike McKenna, a quality AHL veteran who is coming off a trip to the Calder Cup Finals with Syracuse. Through an AHL career that spans back to 2005, McKenna has been solid and reliable for almost a dozen different teams. Over more than 400 games, he's 206-163-21 with .913 SV% and 2.70 GAA inluding 26 shutouts. He brings 45 games of AHL playoff experience, including his most recent stint in Syracuse where he was 13-9 with .911 SV% and a 2.68 GAA.

Regardless of what happens in the backup slot for the Texas Stars, the veteran #1 position is solidly filled by McKenna. For what it's worth, he's also a great quote, so it should be fun to hear from him more this season.

Brent Regner, a defenseman, is the next pick-up. He comes from Springfield most recently but will be more familiar to Stars fans as a Chicago Wolf. He put up 13 points in just 28 games last season and fits solidly into the AHL lineup for Texas.

Finally, Brian Flynn is a player who could spend time with Texas. While he did play 51 games with Montreal last season on a one-way deal, Dallas has signed him to a two-way deal with a guaranteed total contract value of $350,000, according to CapFriendly. The forward hasn't seen time in the AHL since 2013, however.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Dallas Stars Announce Signings and Qualifying Offers

Gemel Smith (Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
Yesterday brought a flurry of signings and other activity for the Dallas Stars. Let's break them down.

First, the Stars signed Esa Lindell, formerly of the Texas Stars, to a two-year deal. This puts Lindell firmly in the plans for the Dallas Stars going forward here. 

Next, Mark McNeill was re-signed on a one-year, two-way deal. McNeill is expected to be with the Texas Stars, where he finished the season after being traded from the Blackhawks in return for Johnny Oduya.

Finally, qualifying offers were announced (and therefore, players who weren't qualified were also revealed). 

The following players were qualified:
    • Radek Faksa - C
      • Patrik Nemeth - D
        • Jamie Oleksiak - D
          • Brett Ritchie - RW
            • Gemel Smith - C
              • Has a chance to fight for a spot with the Dallas Stars after first taste this season.
            • Matej Stransky - RW
              • Already signed in the KHL but this move retains his NHL rights for Dallas.
            The following players were not qualified and will become free agents on July 1:
                • Mattias Backman - D
                  • Was re-assigned to Hershey at the deadline and is likely to head to the Swedish League if he can't find an NHL deal that puts him in the NHL.
                • Nick Ebert - D
                  • Could come back on an AHL deal somewhere.
                • Justin Hache - D
                  • Acquired in the trade for Justin Peters and spent much of his time with the organization in Idaho. Signed in Denmark for 17-18.
                • Henri Kiviaho - G
                  • Injured and played one single game this year, already signed in Finland for 17-18.
                • Maxime Lagace – G
                  • Unclear what the next step is but it could be an AHL two-way type deal or an AHL training camp deal.
                Elsewhere, the following former Stars were not qualified by their clubs.
                • Alex Chiasson (Calgary)
                • Joe Morrow (Boston)
                • Jyrki Jokipakka (Ottawa)
                • Branden Troock (Arizona)

                Saturday, June 17, 2017

                Ludwig Bystrom Rejoins the Squad with One-Year, Two-Way Deal

                (Credit: Andy Nietupski/Texas Stars)
                Defenseman Ludwig Bystrom has signed a one-year, two-way deal with the Dallas Stars to rejoin the team for 2017-18. It is likely he will spend the season with the Texas Stars.

                Bystrom played in 55 games this season with a plus-9 rating. The rating, however, may have been assisted by some sheltered minutes. Bystrom was preferred for offensive zone starts over defensive. Of course, that's just on the eye test. The AHL does not release zone start data.

                In addition to prepping for the coming season, Bystrom and his girlfriend are also spending the summer preparing for a new addition to their family. At exit interviews, Bystrom said he had spent a lot of time talking to the team's then-newest father, Andrew Bodnarchuk, about how much having a child changes everything. Of course, best wishes to his family as they get closer to the date.

                Here's the release:
                Dallas Stars General Manager Jim Nill announced today that the club has signed defenseman Ludwig Bystrom to a one-year, two-way contract.

                Bystrom, 22, registered 16 points (2-14=16) in 55 games played for the Texas Stars during the 2016-17 regular season. He finished tied for second on Texas with a +9 plus/minus rating. In 132 career games for Texas, Bystrom has accumulated 35 points (4-31=35). He has also appeared in four career AHL Calder Cup Playoff contests without recording a point.

                The 6-foot-1, 175-pound native of Ornksoldskiv, Sweden was originally selected by Dallas in the second round (43rd overall) of the 2012 NHL Draft.

                Friday, June 9, 2017

                Texas Stars Announce Six Guaranteed Home Dates

                (Credit: Andy Nietupski/Texas Stars)
                The AHL schedule is still forthcoming, but the league has released six home dates for each team to lock in some hype and promotional nights. Texas's six dates are as follows:

                Friday, Oct. 6 – Opening Night
                Friday, Nov. 10 – Military Appreciation Weekend
                Saturday, Nov. 11 – Military Appreciation Weekend
                Friday, Dec. 8 – Sing for Santa Night
                Saturday, Jan. 6 – Girl Scouts’ Night
                Saturday, Jan. 27 – WatchDOGS Night

                The league does expect to release its schedule earlier than usual this summer. With several teams competing with NBA basketball for arena dates, the AHL had to wait until August to make a full schedule. Now that Milwaukee no longer shares an arena with the Bucks, the Rampage are the only team in the league competing for home dates. Given that the Spurs own the Rampage, it seems like an easier than usual problem to figure out. All that said, no actual definitive date has been set for the full schedule release. The ECHL has already released its schedule and the NHL usually follows suit in late June.

                Friday, May 19, 2017

                Texas Stars Sign Captain Travis Morin to AHL Deal

                (Credit: Andy Nietupski/Texas Stars)
                One of the big question marks for Texas is back in the fold for the coming season as Texas has signed Travis Morin to an AHL deal.

                It's a change from the past seven seasons, which have seen him on an NHL contract with Dallas. However, it's the right call. Morin is no longer a lineup option for the Dallas Stars but has the veteran experience and scoring touch at the AHL level to be an extremely valuable piece of the development puzzle. Putting him on an AHL deal frees up some contract space for other players. In the end, it's all coming out of the same account since Dallas owns the Texas Stars.

                Morin is the only player to skate in every season for Texas and leads the team in almost every offensive statistical category. He won both the regular season and playoff MVP awards when Texas won the Cup in 2014.

                Here's the release:
                The Texas Stars, American Hockey League affiliate of the NHL’s Dallas Stars, announced Friday the team has re-signed forward Travis Morin to an AHL contract for the upcoming 2017-18 season.

                The Texas captain returns for his ninth season with the team and is the only player to skate each season for the Stars since their inception in 2009.

                Morin, 33, led the team in scoring last year with 55 points (21-34=55) in 72 games. The 6-foot-1, 200-pound veteran is the franchise career leader in games played (543), goals (157), assists (310), points (467), power-play goals (42) and power-play assists (140). During his time with the Stars, the Brooklyn Park, Minn. native has been selected to four AHL All-Star Classics (2011, 2014, 2015, 2016), appeared in two Calder Cup Finals (2010, 2014) and won the Jack A. Butterfield award as the Most Valuable Player of the playoffs in the Stars’ 2014 run to winning the Calder Cup.

                Morin was named the fourth captain in team history on Sept. 18, 2015. He and his wife also sit on the board of the Texas Stars Foundation, which issues financial grants to charitable causes throughout Central Texas.

                Morin is also a former winner of the Les Cunningham Award and John B. Sollenberger Award as the AHL’s regular season Most Valuable Player and scoring champion back in 2014. He has also appeared in 13 games for the NHL’s Dallas Stars during his playing career.

                Thursday, May 18, 2017

                Texas Stars Re-Sign Austin Fyten for 2017-18

                (Credit: Andy Nietupski/Texas Stars)
                Forward Austin Fyten is back with the Texas Stars for the next season.

                The Alberta native was signed on an AHL deal this past season and was key in stemming the tide of injuries that the Dallas organization suffered. After playing just six games with Hershey in 2015-16, Fyten played 59 with Texas in 2016-17. It is Fyten's third season with the Texas Stars, though non-continguous. He also played for the Stars in 2012-13.

                Fyten signed the contract on his birthday, May 3rd.

                Here's the release:
                The Texas Stars, American Hockey League affiliate of the NHL’s Dallas Stars, announced Tuesday the team has signed forward Austin Fyten to an AHL contract for the upcoming 2017-18 season.

                Fyten, 26, returns to the Stars organization for the second straight season and his third overall. Last year, the 6-foot-2, 200-pound forward appeared in 59 games with 12 points (6-6=12) for Texas. Fyten (FIGH-tehn) has appeared in 70 career games for the Stars and 187 games overall in his AHL career with Texas, the Hershey Bears, Lehigh Valley Phantoms and Oklahoma City Barons. The Sundre, Alberta native also has 76 points (32-44=76) in 102 ECHL games in his career.

                Wednesday, May 10, 2017

                Texas Stars Add Pair of College Players on AHL Deals

                The Texas Stars added two players on AHL deals this afternoon, forward Sheldon Dries and defenseman Shane Hanna. Both come from schools with strong connections to Texas GM Scott White, who went to Michigan Tech and recruits heavily from Michigan schools historically.

                Here's the release:
                The Texas Stars, American Hockey League affiliate of the NHL’s Dallas Stars, announced Wednesday the team has signed forward Sheldon Dries and defenseman Shane Hanna to AHL contracts for the upcoming 2017-18 season.

                Dries, 23, joins the Stars after wrapping up a four-year career at Western Michigan University. During his senior season, the 5-foot-9, 180-pound forward tallied a career-high 16 goals and 30 points in 36 games to help lead the Broncos to the NCAA Tournament. The Macomb, Mich. native recorded 84 points (44-40=84) in 148 career games overall at Western Michigan. Prior to his college career, Dries (DRIGHS) scored 87 points (41-46=87) in 116 games with the junior-level Green Bay Gamblers of the United States Hockey League from 2010-2013.

                Hanna (HA-nuh), 23, comes to Texas after appearing in 163 games over a four-year stretch at Michigan Tech with 90 career points (21-69=90). The 5-foot-11, 200-pound blueliner set career highs this past season with 45 games and 27 points (8-19=27) for the Huskies, who earned an NCAA Tournament berth before falling to the eventual champion Denver Pioneers. Before attending Michigan Tech, the Salmon Arm, British Columbia native spent three years in the junior-level British Columbia Hockey League with 74 points (15-59=74) in 108 games from 2010-2013.

                Monday, May 8, 2017

                Justin Dowling Gets Two Year, Two-Way Deal with Dallas Stars

                (Credit: Andy Nietupski/Texas Stars)
                One of the Texas Stars big question marks was veteran forward Justin Dowling, who was an unrestricted free agent as the team headed into the summer. The Dallas Stars announced this morning that they have re-signed the Alberta native to a two year deal.

                Dowling had a break through year, playing in the NHL for the first time in his career. He totaled nine games, earning a pair of assists. Dowling was injured in Dallas in a late season call up and despite being reassigned to Texas, didn't play any of their final games. It gave him a chance to get an early step up on summer's recovery period.

                The two year nature of the deal is a vote of confidence in what Dowling has been able to do and his importance to the NHL and AHL club alike.

                Some remaining question marks include captain Travis Morin (Dallas UFA), Matej Stransky (Dallas RFA) and Brandon DeFazio (Texas UFA).

                Thursday, May 4, 2017

                Dallas Stars Sign Forward Roope Hintz, Expected to Play in Cedar Park Next Year

                The Dallas Stars have signed forward Roope Hintz to an entry-level contract. Hintz, a second round pick in 2015, is expected to start the season in Cedar Park next year.

                Here's the release:
                Dallas Stars General Manager Jim Nill announced today that the club has signed forward Roope Hintz to a three-year, entry level contract.

                Hintz, 20, registered a career-high 30 points (19-11=30) in 44 regular-season games with HIFK of SM-Liiga, the highest level of hockey in Finland. Hintz (ROO-pay HIHNZ) shared ninth in the league and first on HIFK with a career-high 19 goals on the season, while he ranked second on the club with 30 points. The forward also appeared in 14 postseason games with HIFK as the club fell in the bronze medal game. Hintz led the league with 11 assists and 14 points (3-11=14) in the postseason.

                Hintz has amassed 67 points (32-35=67) in 126 career regular-season SM-Liiga games with HIFK and Ilves. The forward has also recorded 20 points (5-15=20) in 34 career postseason games with HIFK and Ilves.

                The 6-foot-3, 205-pound native of Tampere, Finland was selected by Dallas in the second round (49th overall) of the 2015 NHL Draft.

                Big Plans for Local Rink Chaparral Ice Under New Ownership

                (Credit: Chaparral Ice)
                Chaparral Ice has been part of the hockey community in Austin for over twenty years. Originally started by the Collins family, who wanted to see a place for their children and others in the community to figure skate, new ownership with a hockey background has reinvigorated the local rink and set out a plan to further grow hockey in Austin.

                The man behind that plan is Ryan Raya. In January, he completed the purchase of the rink from the Collins family and put into motion numerous plans to grow the game and all of the programs at "Chap".

                "I never expected to be here for hockey. When I came for a job interview [for another local company], I also interviewed to be a coach. Over the three years, I learned the story of Chaparral."

                That story was a tough one and familiar to anyone in the local community. As recently as 2010, Chaparral Ice was a multi-rink facility, operating three sheets across two locations in Austin. Poor management, fines from the city and the economic climate forced the closure and sale of the facility on I-35, closing two of the three public rinks in Austin.

                "The hockey community shrunk, having three programs on one sheet of ice, operating from 5am to midinight. After the other rink closed, [ownership] walked away and left Angie with the instructions, 'Just don’t close the doors. Don’t loose too much money.'

                "So they operated at a baseline level, but the hockey community wanted to grow. I’ve had years outside knowing how organizations run, so I approached the family with an unsolicited offer to buy the rink."

                Raya grew up in the Northeast and has been coaching since high school. He grew up "being on the ice seven days a week." After a move to Virginia, Raya got involved in running multiple programs at rinks in the area. When he moved to Texas, he didn't expect to be involved in hockey but quickly got wrapped up in coaching at Chaparral.

                Raya's improvements are both small and massive. Simple things like upgrading the rink's internet, point of sale and website will make big differences for regular visitors. Upgrades to add figure skating locker rooms, a warm room for spectators, real locker rooms with dedicated showers, public restroom improvements and stands with infrared heaters will begin this summer and cost $600,000. Much to the delight of adult league players, the rink will also add a bar and concession stand.

                "It’s not about sustaining any more. It’s about growing."


                Chaparral is partnering with the UT men's hockey team to create a dedicated locker room for their team, including individual locker stall similar to what you would see in an AHL or NHL locker room. Projectors and white boards will be added to coaching rooms to increase educational opportunities for players. Their continuing partnership with the Texas Stars has them in talks to create an off-site pro shop for the Stars at the rink.

                Even with all this work for the traditional ice sports of figure skating and youth and adult hockey, Raya still views public skate as a key part of what Chaparral does.

                "Your gateway to new participants is public skate. The gateway in a non-traditional market is that 'Hey, let’s do something different' thought."

                Rumours flew, of course, after the purchase of the ever-present possibility of more ice coming in Austin.

                "I’m going to leave the rumours as rumors for now. There’s a serious likelihood something gets started in the next calendar year."

                Raya noted that success for hockey in non-traditional markets comes when facilities partner to create multi-sport complexes.

                "We’re working on it. Part of the reason I made the offer was because I have an economics background and I spent a year making models. Running just an ice rink isn’t sustainable. What we need is to look at places that do multisport facilities and see that’s how hockey survives."

                Austin's geography makes that tough. Raya cites a report that was conducted showing the vast majority of hockey players in the area live in Cedar Park and Leander, making a facility there a viable option. He counters his own argument with the fact that there is another strong concentration, about one-sixth of the players, in south Austin as well.

                Regardless of when or how a new ice surface comes about, Raya's focus is community, quality and competition in everything that he does with the new rink. 

                "We want to keep everyone playing together, do it well and be the center of it all."

                Wednesday, May 3, 2017

                Around the League: Upsets Out East Shake Up Calder Cup Playoffs

                (Credit: Andy Nietupski/Texas Stars)
                Throughout the summer, we'll take a look at some of the stories around the league. Today's article arrives on the opening day of the second round of the playoffs, which is full of surprises.
                • Prohibitive favorite for Calder Cup Finalist (and potentially league champ) Wilkes-Barre/Scranton was bounced in a decisive Game 5 by the Providence Bruins. It was a completely unexpected outcome for nearly everyone. The Penguins led 2-1 after three games but had a disappointing Game 4 where they went down 3-0 in the first period. That set up a deciding Game 5, which the Bruins won 2-1. More from Chirps from Center Ice and Seth Lakso at Citizen's Voice.

                • Another Atlantic Division favorite, Lehigh Valley, was knocked out in Round 1 by Hershey. The road team won every game in the series. More from Tony Androckitis at Highland Park Hockey.

                • Everywhere else, things went according to plan. The higher seeded team won six of the eight first round matchups. Three of those series ended up in a decisive fifth game, including San Jose and Stockton, a surprise given the strength of the Barracuda all season. It even took overtime to settle the series in Game 5. San Jose advanced on Ryan Carpenter's OT goal. More from the Mercury News.

                • Jack Campbell was bounced from the playoffs as his Ontario Reign had goalie injury issues that pressed their third goalie into service. Campbell was expected to be out for the deciding Game 5 against San Diego until Jeff Zatkoff, the expected starter, was injured in warmups. Campbell dressed as the backup as Jack Flinn started. After Flinn allowed three goals int he first, Campbell played through injury, allowing only one goal the rest of the way. The Reign offense could not activate for him and the club fell 4-1. More from LA Kings Insider.

                • Elsewhere, Syracuse and Toronto advanced with 3-1 series wins over St. John's and Albany. Both series wins put an end to hockey in the losing club's cities. The Canadiens will be moving their franchise from St. John's to Laval, QC, next season. The Devils will head to Binghamton, replacing the departed Senators, who will head to Belleville, ON.

                • Grand Rapids and Chicago round out the Round 2 slate. Chicago had fits against a tough Checkers club while the Griffins swept Milwaukee.

                • The upcoming series will take two weeks at most with the last game in three of the four taking place on May 17th, if necessary.

                Tuesday, May 2, 2017

                Las Vegas Prospects Could Make Things Awkward in Chicago Next Season

                (Credit: Andy Nietupski/Texas Stars)
                While everyone in the NHL is excited about seeing another team added to the fold, the Las Vegas Golden Knights have a number of downstream effects on the rest of the hockey world. One of the most immediate is the development of their prospects in the AHL.

                The American Hockey League is not expanding next season. That means there will be 31 NHL teams but only 30 AHL teams. As the AHL has matured even more over the last five years or so, NHL teams have sought to have more control over their AHL affiliates. Several NHL clubs have purchased an AHL team outright to completely control every aspect of their affiliate's operations.

                On the other side, there are the independently owned clubs. They have different motivations (making money) than NHL teams (developing players).

                First of all, Las Vegas will be sharing an AHL team with another club. Regardless of who it is, that's going to be awkward. It's reportedly the Chicago Wolves, one of the premier independently-owned clubs in the league. If true, Golden Knights prospects will be intermixed with St. Louis Blues prospects for at least the 2017-18 season.

                Numerous coaches quotes across the league have indicated how much say the NHL club has in which players make it into the lineup. The answer is quite a bit. Texas Stars fans have seen this with players like Jack Campbell played inexplicably for long stretches in the 2015-16 season despite lackluster play.

                So this is where it gets awkward, doubly so. Let's say St. Louis has a top goalie prospect they want to develop who needs 50 games to really get ready for a future NHL career. And let's say Las Vegas picks a third goalie in the expansion draft who is more of the 'one year away' variety than the 'insurance' variety. Who starts more games in Chicago?

                The Dallas Stars were without an affiliate in 2008-09 between their time with Iowa and Texas. Prospects such as Aaron Gagnon were spread out across the league with no more than one on any team. The Golden Knights could still do something like that, as nothing has been officially announced yet.

                There is something also to be said for the fact that Vegas's prospect pool may not be as deep next season as the rest of the league. The most likely conflict is in net, since there are only so many positions available there.

                Of course, the true solution is adding a 31st team to the AHL. I'll editorialize about that later this summer.

                Sunday, April 30, 2017

                Texas Stars Could See Highest Ever Dallas Draft Pick In Near Future Following Draft Lottery

                Scott Glennie is the current highest (Dallas) draft pick to suit up for the Stars.
                It may not be next year, or maybe not even the year after that, but the Texas Stars have a chance to see a third overall pick on the Cedar Park ice in the near future.

                Last night's draft lottery saw the Dallas Stars on the receiving end of some friendly non-puck bounces. With the lottery, the Stars moved up from eighth to third. It will be their highest pick since the club moved to Dallas in 1993.

                Third overall picks don't generally spend a ton of time in the AHL before heading to the NHL, if the past is any prologue. Leon Draisaitl, Alex Galchenyuk and Jonathan Drouin, three of the last four #3 picks, played a combined 25 games for their AHL squads.

                For a bit of trivia, the Texas Stars have had a #3 pick suit up for them before, so it wouldn't be a first for that occurrence. It wasn't Dallas's pick, but defenseman Cam Barker was a third overall pick for Blackhawks in 2004 and played 23 games for Texas in 2012-13.


                Thursday, April 20, 2017

                Your Calendar for the 2017 Texas Stars Offseason

                (Credit: Andy Nietupski/Texas Stars)
                The 2017 offseason is set to be the most tumultuous and interesting in years. Here's the calendar of the top events you need to be ready for.

                April 29 - Draft lottery. This decides who will draft first, a random selection weighted by how each team finished in the standings in 2016-17. Dallas has a 5.8% chance of winning the top draft pick.

                June 17 - Protected lists for the expansion draft are due from member clubs to the NHL. They should be released by the league shortly thereafter.

                June 20 - Las Vegas submits its final expansion draft selections.

                June 21 - NHL announces new roster for the Las Vegas Golden Knights.

                June 23-24 - NHL Entry Draft in Chicago.

                June 25 - Deadline for NHL teams to extended qualifying offers to restricted free agents.

                July 1 - NHL free agency begins.

                Early July - Dallas Stars development camp in Frisco. Usually held almost immediately after free agency, it is often the first time to see that year's draft prospects.

                Mid-September - Traverse City prospects tournament in Traverse City, Michigan.

                Late September - Dallas Stars training camp opens, likely in Cedar Park again.


                Wednesday, April 19, 2017

                2017-18 Contract Status for Every Texas Star

                (Credit: Andy Nietupski/Texas Stars)
                The Texas Stars season has come to a close and the next thing to worry about for many players is their professional contract status for next year. Here is the complete list of contract statuses for everyone who signed a standard player contract or ended the season with Texas.

                Signed to NHL contract with Dallas
                D Gavin Bayreuther
                D Andrew Bodnarchuk
                G Landon Bow
                F Nicholas Caamano
                G Philippe Desrosiers
                F Jason Dickinson
                F Remi Elie
                F Denis Gurianov
                D Dillon Heatherington
                D Julius Honka
                D Stephen Johns
                D Chris Martenet
                F Cole Ully
                D Ondrej Vala

                NHL Unrestricted Free Agents
                F Justin Dowling
                F Travis Morin
                G Justin Peters
                D Dustin Stevenson

                NHL Restricted Free Agents (* - Arbitration Eligible)
                D Ludwig Bystrom
                D Darren Dietz (with Washington)
                D Nick Ebert
                D Justin Hache
                G Maxime Lagace
                D Esa Lindell
                F Gemel Smith
                D Mattias Backman*
                F Mark McNeill*
                D Patrik Nemeth*
                F Matej Stransky*

                AHL Free Agents
                F Brandon DeFazio
                F Austin Fyten
                F Caleb Herbert
                D Matt Mangene
                F Mike McMurtry
                F Reid Sturos
                F Ethan Werek

                Saturday, April 15, 2017

                Texas Stars Finish Season with Pugnacious 6-3 Loss to Rampage

                (Credit: Andy Nietupski/Texas Stars)
                In their home finale, Texas put up a chippy effort but ultiamtely fell to the visting Rampage, closing the season three games below .500 at 34-37-1-4. With neither team having anything left to play for except for pride and contracts, it was a spirited contest.

                "It's not always easy but at the same time we're professional athletes and that's our job." said Brandon DeFazio. "We won two of three and showed we cared, and that's the biggest thing to take from it."

                It being the 14th in the season series between the two teams, it was surprising this was the first one to get so chippy.

                "I think we saw each other too much. I'm surprised it didn't happen more often. That was some old school hockey. Funny to see Petey flying down there."

                DeFazio, of course, is referring to the almost goalie fight following Texas's first goal of the night. Down 2-0 early, the Stars scored to cut the lead in half. Gemel Smith and goalie Spencer Martin had words after the tally and Justin Peters came flying down the ice as Smith and Martin traded jabs. Ultimately, there was no fight though.

                "I haven't seen a goalie fight here in three years and I was hoping to see one," said Coach Derek Laxdal. "I think the fans were too."

                The sellout crowd really got into it as Remi Elie and Dillon Heatherington scored with just 26 seconds separating the tallies. Some broken coverage gave the Stars a 4-3 deficit and was Colin Smith's second of the night. No one stepped up on the forward and he had a clean shot on net. Felix Girard would add another and Texas would look to clear the net for a chance at the 6-on-5 tally. Colin Smith scored his third goal of the night into the vacated net, but it was not an empty net goal as Peters was still on the ice.

                Coach Laxdal summarized, "It was a tough game. Full crowd and the guys wanted to play hard. It's hard to get up when the season's done. Tonight was a synopsis of our year. Power play hasn't been great and penalty kill has been really bad. It's been a tough year with injuries and call ups. It was a synopsis of our year and showed a lot of the places we have to improve next year."

                The Stars will clean out their lockers on Monday as disperse across the country and world for the summer. Caleb Herbert is the only Texas Star remaining who will head to the Idaho Steelheads for their playoff run.

                Tonight's lines:
                Gurianov-Dickinson-Elie
                Stransky-Smith-Caamano
                Ully-McNeill-DeFazio
                Werek-Fyten-Sturos

                Bayreuther-Mangene
                Ebert-Heatherington
                Bystrom-Dietz

                Peters

                Injuries, scratches, and notes:
                Karjalainen, Martenet, Vala, Dowling, Herbert, Stevenson, Lagace (scratch)
                Bodnarchuk, Morin (injury)

                Tonight's attendance was 6,863, a sellout.

                AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. San Antonio - April 15 2017

                Gameday Preview: Texas Stars v. San Antonio Rampage

                Texas Stars
                34-36-1-4, 71 pts, 0.487
                #6 Pacific Division
                v.San Antonio Rampage
                26-42-5-2, 59 pts, 0.393
                #8 Pacific Division
                April 15th at 7:00 PM
                H-E-B Center at Cedar Park, Cedar Park, TX

                For just the second time in eight years, the Texas Stars will end their season without playoffs on the horizon. It's an extremely strong record and one that many teams, including the San Antonio Rampage, for one, should be quite jealous of.

                Last night's game saw Texas continue to play a young lineup. Even with Justin Dowling available, the Stars opted for Caamano, Sturos and other young guns to finish the season.

                The only question mark is who do you start in net. I could make an argument for any of the three netminders currently on the roster. Perhaps Lagace gets one last chance to send the season off right. I think it's extremely unlikely though. Perhaps Desrosiers gets the call since he had such a good showing last night. And finally, Justin Peters may get the start as Texas looks to win out but doesn't know if Phil has enough in the tank to play two nights in a row.

                Stars injury/call up report:
                Honka (World Championships)
                Morin, Bodnarchuk (injury)

                Website: sarampage.com
                Blog (unofficial): Rampage with Tony U.
                Blog (unofficial): Runnin' With The Herd
                Twitter: @SARampage
                Twitter: @DanWeissPBP (play-by-play for SA)

                Friday, April 14, 2017

                Philippe Desrosiers Returns to AHL with 29-Save Shutout

                It was a huge night for goalie Philippe Desrosiers. In his first game back in the AHL since November 16th, he pitched a perfect game, stopping all 29 shots against him. It was Desrosiers's first career shutout. The lone goal in the game came off the stick of Denis Gurianov, a swooping right-to-left move that left Spencer Martin down and out before Gurianov even took the shot.

                Desrosiers's path back to the AHL may have begun tonight. He was sent to Idaho in November and was reassigned to Norfolk earlier this year. Usually, assignment to another minor league club means the end of the road. However, Desrosiers still has another year on his contract, so that seemed unlikely. With Texas eliminated from the playoffs early this year, the Stars gave Desrosiers a chance against the Rampage in the final three games and it paid off. With any luck, this is the game that will serve as a pivot in his career trajectory.

                Texas ends the season tomorrow against San Antonio at home.

                Injuries, scratches, and notes:
                Karjalainen, Dowling, Herbert, Dietz, Stevenson, Lagace (scratch)
                Bodnarchuk, Morin (injury)

                Tonight's attendance was 10,643.

                AHL Gamesheet - Texas at San Antonio - April 14 2017