Friday, September 14, 2018

Dallas Stars Training Camp Kicks Off in Boise with Many Texas Stars Storylines to Track

The wheels are down in Boise, Idaho as the Dallas Stars organization is set to kick off training camp on Thursday at 11:00 AM CDT for the first time ever in the Pacific Northwest. Camp will conclude on Sunday the 16th with an intrasquad scrimmage. In regards to the Texas Stars, here are some interesting storylines to follow pertaining to each position group.

Forward Roope Hintz can speed up his career trajectory with a strong camp.
(Credit: Andy Nietupski/Texas Stars)
Forwards

Good news for Texas Stars fans: the AHL club is shaping up to be good on paper, and it starts with the talented forward group. The logjam in the bottom six at the NHL level might not be ideal for organizational health in the long term, but it provides some intriguing options for a top six that can do some major damage in Cedar Park.

The Texas Stars are all but assured to end up with an NHL caliber forward to soak up top six minutes. It’s only a matter of whom. With center Martin Hanzal recovering from spinal surgery and only Devin Shore likely locked in for fourth line duty with the parent club, there are four contenders for two spots on that line: Jason Dickinson, Remi Elie, Gemel Smith, and Roope Hintz. Dallas’ new head coach Jim Montgomery will conduct his first camp without any sense of loyalty or expectation as to where these players should be slotted. Dickinson is as overripe of a prospect as they come and has the inside track for one spot either at center or wing.

Following a strong showing in the Traverse City tournament, Hintz has a solid chance of upsetting the balance and earning full time NHL duty. The safest course of action, in my opinion, is for him to spend another season adding to his game in the AHL, much to the chagrin of some Stars fans. Look at it this way: Hintz is much better served soaking up top minutes in Cedar Park than spending time in the press box as a thirteenth forward in Dallas. The offseason addition of Blake Comeau to the bottom six ensured that a player like Hintz could be relegated to that possibility should he struggle in the NHL.

Hintz has a higher ceiling as a prospect than either Dickinson or Shore, but Dallas will be better in the interim with either of those players subbing for Hanzal. Meanwhile, the AHL club would obviously benefit from a dominant season from Hintz. I prefer that to be the case, but there is room for disagreement.

If and when Hanzal returns to the ice, bottom six minutes will be even more scarce to go around. Depending on who Dallas wants to utilize as a thirteenth forward there is a really good chance that Gemel Smith winds up in Cedar Park this season, provided he clears waivers. Though Smith won’t be tickled by the idea, Texas Stars fans would welcome an established forward to help offset some of the top players Texas lost to free agency. Should Smith be demoted, he would provide a nice call up option for the parent club.

No matter how it all shakes out, the Texas roster will come out of this camp sitting pretty in the forward department, which is a different tune than expected considering they lost some important players. Strong play in the Traverse City tournament from Nick Caamano, Adam Mascherin, and Tony Calderone should translate to a good camp for all. These, along with previously mentioned players, will form a forward group to get excited about.

Defensemen

The curious signing of veteran defenseman Roman Polak during the offseason sends mixed signals about what the Stars think of Dillon Heatherington. He would’ve provided a cheaper and perhaps more effective option as a seventh defenseman in Dallas. Is there anything that he can do in camp to force the Stars’ hand to clear up space amongst the defense corps? If not, Texas will gladly take him as one of their top defensemen.

After Heatherington, the most intriguing question is where Chris Martenet fits into the shuffle. The left-handed Indiana native only put up five points over 52 games in Idaho last season but possesses an interesting mix of size (6’7”) and skill. The coaching staff was unable to give the prospect blue liner a good look in last year’s camp as he was dealing with a case of mono for a considerable period. With all that behind him, Martenet will have a good chance as anyone to slot into a crowded defense corps in Cedar Park.

The ink is still wet on a three-year entry level contract for Ben Gleason, who turned in an eye-catching tournament. Suddenly, there aren’t as many seats to sit in and the music stops after training camp. The obvious hole in the defense corps is the dearth of right-handed shots, a common issue among several clubs. Can former sixth round pick Jakob Stenqvist show enough in camp to force the Stars brass to make a tough decision? The Swedish prospect notched a couple of points in Traverse City and saw some time on the power play. That should be enough to provoke Jim Nill and company to think long and hard about Stenqvist’s potential in Cedar Park versus heading back to Europe.

Goaltenders

Rookie goaltender Colton Point had an up and down tournament in Traverse City and is looking to further establish himself as a starter with the Texas Stars. Point is pencilled in at the AHL level this season, so the biggest question mark is Philippe Desrosiers. He should be in the AHL at this point in his career based on when he came out of juniors and his draft positioning, but he keeps getting jumped by others on the depth chart. First, it was Landon Bow and now it appears to be Colton Point. This year is the last chance for Desrosiers. If he’s going to be in the Dallas system long-term, then he has to make the AHL team call him up and use him. That starts this week with a strong showing in camp.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Stars Finish 5th with 7-3 Thrashing of Hurricanes

Dallas got out to a 2-0 lead, gave it up and then came back strong to finish with a 7-3 margin in the final game of their tournament. The Stars came out of Traverse with 5th place, a distinction that really has no bearing on the regular season of any team whatsoever, so don't worry about it too much.

Here's a few notes:

  • Dallas scratched a few players that are expected to see a lot of action in Dallas training camp this coming weekend. Miro Heiskanen, Roope Hintz and Colton Point were all scratched along with Joel L'Esperance.
  • Texas Stars forward Sam Laberge wore the captain's "C" today and scored a shorthanded goal in the third period.
  • Defenseman Ben Gleason continued to impress, scoring two goals and potting an assist today. He's got to be working his way to an AHL camp invite at this point.
  • Tony Calderone, who wore an "A" today, had the opening goal. I have a feeling that he is going to break out for Texas this season as a more mature player coming out of college (age 23).
  • When you're thinking about how many games the Texas Stars have played later on this season, don't forget these four games for this select group. A huge number of these guys will now proceed to Dallas camp and play in multiple preseason games as well. Every game is a battle.

AHL Comms VP Jason Chaimovitch on How AHL TV Was Born

(Credit: Texas Stars)
Last week, the AHL announced a revamped video streaming platform all games this season, AHL TV. The announcement was the culmination of more than a year long project helmed by the league offices and VP of Communications, Jason Chaimovitch.

“The contract with Neulion was up at the end of the past season,” said Chaimovitch when reached via phone late last week. “We owed it to our stakeholders, the fans and teams, regardless of the perception of the product, to take a step back. There have been quality improvements, but it’s essentially been the same product for ten years. What do we want the product to be?”

Around this time last year, the AHL put together a group of about a dozen senior executives from teams across the league along with representatives from the league offices itself to explore a new video streaming platform. The group sat down to hammer out the most important aspects to consider in making the transition, settling on four.
  1. Video quality: “In 2008, the thought process was, ‘How do we get our games on a video internet stream?’ What worked in 2008 wasn’t going to be what worked in 2018.”
  2. Price point: “We all recognized that. The prices were set as they were ten years ago, and there wasn’t a lot of flexibility on our part to set it.”
  3. Multiplatform: “Games aren’t being consumed just on your computer.“
  4. Customer service: “We got feedback on dealing with problems on game nights. We need the infrastructure from our partner to handle that.”
With those key elements in mind, the league sent out a request for proposal, getting fifteen back, and then whittled that down to a smaller group. At the All-Star Game in January, the Board of Directors moved to select Hockeytech as the winner and began implementation. Chaimovitch really liked the choice of Hockeytech because they are a platform that specifically serves hockey leagues. “They know hockey, and they won’t be afraid to make improvements as we go. We don’t want to be in the position we were in before where it felt like it was the same thing every year.”

Making the decision to go with Hockeytech midseason gave the league a chance to test their technology with live games.

“We actually used the Calder Cup Finals as a test run internally to make sure. Otherwise we would be stuck waiting until opening night. We were able to test the feeds from Toronto and Texas, the integration of LeagueStat, and the cutting of video highlights to share inside of AHL TV.”

While the “proof will be in the pudding” for Chaimovitch and his team, the league has been working with each of the 31 teams to ensure buy-in from everyone from camera operators to video board operators.

“We’re making a real concerted effort with the new platform to make sure the teams are bought into it. They’re not just going to throw up whatever’s on the video board.”

Chaimovitch is most excited about the new ViPr view, which will be offered in addition to the regular game feed. ViPr offers a panoramic, 360-degree view of the ice that fans can pan, tilt and zoom on using their phones. It’s like you’re sitting in the jumbotron and moving your head around to watch the play as you move your phone. One really interesting aspect of this feature is the ability to look at things that aren’t on the regular feed. Fans, and importantly scouts and coaching staff, can look behind the play to see what’s going on just off camera. They can look at the bench to see what the coaches are doing. They can look back at the crease to see if their club has pulled the goalie late for an extra attacker.

“With ViPr, you can essentially become the director of the game.”

Chaimovitch is nervous for opening night but is very encouraged by the positive fan response so far to the changes. With price point and quality improvements, more eyeballs could be tuning in to watch the AHL than ever before.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Dallas Comes Back Strong Against Minnesota But Falls in Shootout 5-4

After trailing 3-1 going into the third period, Dallas came back to make it to overtime 4-4, ultimately falling in the shootout, 5-4.

Here are a few notes:
  • Adam Mascherin had the first fight of the season with Minnesota's Louis Belpedio after the latter crushed Ty Dellandrea on a legal hit on the near boards. Mascherin figures to be a big part of the plans for the top six in Cedar Park this season. It's interesting to see that he might have a physical edge to his game as well. That's not really been big part of the Stars' game in a while, but it could add a new wrinkle.
  • Sam Laberge had a quick fight in the second period, but it didn't amount to much.
  • Jason Robertson scored in the first and third and assisted on the go-ahead tally in the third as well to tally a tourney-lading seven points. Robertson is too young to come directly to Texas this season thanks to the NHL-CHL Transfer Agreement, but he will likely be another ATO at the end of the season in March/April, depending on how his Kingston Frontenacs fare in the OHL playoffs.
  • James Phelan got a penalty shot chance in the third period with Texas down 3-2. The five hole shot was denied. Phelan is on an AHL contract to Texas after finishing up his major junior career with Moncton, collecting a total of 74 points in his final season on 64 games between Victoriaville and Moncton.
  • Miro Hesikanen scored twice in the third period to tie the game and then push it to a 4-3 Dallas lead. Do you need to say much else about the first rounder at this point?
  • Ben Gleason has been Heiskanen's power play partner, and he's looked pretty good. The defenseman won the OHL championship with Hamilton this past year and had 3-15=18 in 21 playoff games to get there. He was the top scoring defenseman on the squad in the regular season as well (9-39=48).

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Stars Fall to Red Wings 3-1 in Game 2 of Traverse City Tournament

The Stars prospects were mostly listless in a 3-1 loss against the Red Wings in Game 2 of the Traverse City tournament. Offense was hard to come by against, and the Stars only managed a couple of shots on net in the second period. Michigan native Tony Calderone scored the lone goal for the Stars which provided a fun moment for his family in attendance. After squinting really hard to find them, here are some takeaways:


  • Colton Point had a much better showing in game 2 than in the previous game. He only allowed two goals on about 25 shots. The Stars will count that as progress. More than that, Point never really made the type of mistake that he made in game 1 and was rarely out of position. He made several key saves on the penalty kill against some dangerous Red Wing forwards. This game can go down as a positive for Point.

  • Calderone's goal was set up nicely by Nick Caamano. Caamano, who found the score sheet a couple times in the previous game, has had a good tournament so far. These two players could potentially find themselves on the same line in Cedar Park this season--an intriguing possibility considering the early returns.

  • Roope Hintz has been good but not great. For a forward expected to take the next step and cement himself as one of the top prospects in the Stars' system, you would hope that he excels in this type of setting. That just hasn't been the case. Not all top players are going to have an amazing tournament, but strong play in Traverse City has a way of gaining the trust of the coaching staff (see Dries, Sheldon). Look for Hintz to turn it on a bit over the next couple of days.

  • Joseph Veleno is a name that Stars fans are familiar with. He was a conventional pick for the Stars at number thirteen in the 2018 draft in most mock drafts. Instead he fell to thirty, where the Red Wings were happy to take him. Veleno was one of the better players on the ice during this game. Ty Dellandrea, whom the Stars took instead of Veleno, was pretty invisible. Dellandrea did notch three assists in game 1, so there's nothing in particular to be concerned about. It will just be an interesting thought experiment to compare the two forwards as the years go by. 
The Stars prospects will be back at it on Monday at 2:30 CDT against the Minnesota Wild. 

Friday, September 7, 2018

Stars Prospects Open Traverse City Tournament With 7-5 Win Over Rangers

The first day of the Traverse City prospect tournament is in the books as the Stars won a high scoring affair over the Rangers 7-5. Down 5-3 at the beginning of the third period, the young Stars scored four unanswered goals in a myriad of ways. Here are some takeaways from game one:

  • Unsurprisingly, the best player on the ice for either team was Miro Heiskanen, the former third overall pick from the 2017 draft. Turning in a two point game, his best play was on the power play when he went coast to coast and buried a goal, leaving the building in awe. Sadly for
    Texas Stars fans, he likely won't be seeing any time in Cedar Park.
  • Ty Dellandrea, the Stars' first round draft pick from 2018, tallied three assists, as did Jason Robertson. Robertson figures into the plans of the Texas Stars sooner rather than later, and game one was a testament to his scoring prowess. All three assists from each player came on the power play. If Robertson can continue to improve his skating, he will be an absolute  weapon for Texas from multiple areas of the offensive zone.
  • Two other players who stood out were Adam Mascherin and Nick Caamano. Both will be competing for top six minutes on the wing in Cedar Park this season. Mascherin had a power play goal and an empty netter in the third period. Caamano tied the game early in the first period when he was basically 1-on-1 with New York's goalie prospect. Texas will rely on players like them to replace the scoring they lost in free agency. 
  • The power play was a bright spot for the Stars, but the penalty kill will need some attention. They scored four times on the man advantage and allowed three shorthanded. Roope Hintz saw significant minutes on the kill alongside Caamano. It will be something to keep an eye on throughout the duration of the tournament as Texas will lean on Hintz to fill multiple roles in the upcoming season. 
  • Though expectations for goalie prospects in these types of tournaments should be held in check, Colton Point did not have a strong showing. The former collegiate standout was a bit overwhelmed on the penalty kill and was caught swimming a couple of times. In the first period, he mishandled a puck and the Rangers cashed in as a result. It's a long road ahead for Point, and hopefully he can bounce back with stronger play over the next couple of games. 
The Stars prospects will play game 2 on Saturday at 6:00 PM CDT against the Red Wings. 


Thursday, September 6, 2018

Future Texas Stars Ready to Hit the Ice in Traverse City

Forward Roope Hintz will play in Traverse City this weekend.
(Credit: Texas Stars)
The madness begins this weekend in Traverse City, Michigan. The annual prospect tournament featuring young guns from eight different NHL clubs starts off tomorrow.

Here's your schedule with all times in Central:
Friday Sept 7: Dallas Stars vs. New York Rangers, 6:00 PM
Saturday Sept 8: Dallas Stars vs. Detroit Red Wings, 6:00 PM
Monday Sept 10: Minnesota Wild vs. Dallas Stars, 2:30 PM
Tuesday Sept 11: TBD based on placement

Fans with access to Fox Sports GO can stream all the games online. Links are provided on the tournament homepage on DallasStars.com.

Here is the full roster, and some highlights notable to Texas Stars fans:
  • In addition to a bevy of current Stars, there are a lot of new faces. Many eyes will be on Dallas's first round pick from 2018, Ty Dellandrea. At the draft this year, the pick was a bit of a headscratcher but we've learned more about Dellandrea now, including his recent diagnosis of celiac disease that affected his performance, that puts his pick in perspective. Dellandrea will be going back to juniors this season in all likelihood and definitely won't play for the AHL club for a few more years yet.
  • Adam Mascherin will be with the Texas Stars this year despite being drafted just a few months ago. Technically, he was re-drafted after not signing with the Florida Panthers following his first draft eligibility in 2016. He's a proven scorer in the OHL and we've got him penciled in for top six duty in Cedar Park.
  • Colton Point is coming out of college early and he'll be in a battle for the starting role in Texas this month. This is his first action since making that call. How quickly he comes along in the professional game will be a huge key to the Texas Stars overall season success.
  • On defense, I don't think we can leave the topic without mentioning highly-touted Miro Heiskanen. I would hesitate to call him a player of interest to the Texas Stars though. If Heiskanen is somehow not on the opening night roster for the Dallas Stars, then something has gone very wrong.
  • Keep an eye out for players on AHL contracts making their mark. Sheldon Dries got his fantastic season last year started in Traverse City. Remember that this tournament is coached by Derek Laxdal, so anything good that happens here could set up AHL players for the rest of the year.