Monday, August 5, 2019

After Ten Years, Travis Morin Retires as the Face of the Texas Stars Franchise

(Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
After originally joining the Texas Stars on a tryout contract in 2009, Travis Morin announced his retirement last week after ten years in Cedar Park and a career arc that now makes his name synonymous with Texas Stars hockey. A 25-game PTO turned into three visits to the Finals, a Calder Cup championship, an MVP trophy and a playoff MVP trophy for the now 35-year old Minnesota native.

“I’ve been thinking about it the last few years trying to figure out how long I would want to play and how I would want things to go,” Morin told 100 Degree Hockey when reached by phone on vacation in Minnesota late last week.

“At the end of the year, getting hurt and not being able to finish the season the way I wanted, I kind of wanted to come back for another year. But as the summer wore on, the more and more I thought about it, the internal dialogue was that I was ready for it to all be done.”

Morin noted that even if the Stars had won the championship in 2018, he probably would have returned to make it an even ten years in Texas. After this season, an influx of new prospects shuffled Morin out of Texas’s plans and he had a decision to make. There was interest this summer for Morin to head out elsewhere in the league, if he had wanted. His pedigree is well established as both a veteran leader and a scoresheet contributor.

“In the end, I wasn't going to move my family, and I wasn’t going to leave them for a year just to go play another year. I was ready for it to be done. [Texas] offered me the job with them, and it seemed like the perfect thing for me and my family.”

That mantra of thinking about his family first was a huge part of what kept Morin in Cedar Park for ten years. His two younger boys were born in Texas and his oldest moved here as an infant, and every new contract year, Morin considered his family first and himself second, a character trait that shines through in how he comports himself generally.

“To give myself the chance to do my best, whether it was the AHL or the NHL, was to be somewhere I was comfortable. My family loves it there, I love it there, and they kept wanting me back… I felt like if someone told me there were greener pastures, you never know how it’s going to work out. When I go somewhere new, sometimes it’s going to take me a little while to get comfortable and do what I really know I can do. I looked at it that way. My family was happy, I was happy, and there wasn’t really a good enough reason to uproot that.”

(Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
Morin describes his new role as “fluid”, as it will have him jumping into all aspects of what it means to put together a hockey team at the AHL level. He’ll be in the coaching room with Derek Laxdal and Neil Graham and working on ice with players in practice and other coaching sessions. He’ll be there to offer advice and guidance to players off ice as well. The team is also putting him to work in the front office. With ten years of experience in Austin, Morin is the face of Texas Stars hockey to so many and will act as a team representative at events across the city. He summarizes, “Whatever I can do to keep promoting the game and the team in the Austin area.”

“They’re giving me that opportunity to see all facets of what goes into hockey. It’s giving me a lot of avenues to explore and figure out if there’s a role I want with the team moving forward that I can expand into next year and moving forward.”

Being the ‘face’ of a team and having your jersey retired are quite the career accomplishments for a player who, by his own admission, wasn’t sure he’d play more than a few years in the ECHL when he started.

“I thought maybe this was going to be a couple of year thing and then I'll be in the real world working somewhere probably in Minnesota… To see where it’s all gone has been amazing in my estimation, and I’m very proud of what I did, what I accomplished and what the team accomplished.

“Obviously I wish I had played more in the NHL and maybe scored a goal up there, but in the end, winning a few championships and playing twelve years in some of the best places in their respective leagues to play is pretty good to me.”

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Travis Morin Announces Retirement, Will Join Texas Hockey Ops

(Credit: Colin Peddle/AHL)
The only remaining member of the Texas Stars inaugural team has announced his retirement as Travis Morin, through the Texas Stars this morning, announced that he will end his professional career after ten years spent in the organization and twelve in professional hockey. The Stars will retire his #23 jersey; he is the only player in team history to wear it.

Morin did it all with the Stars, winning the scoring title, league MVP, playoff MVP and a Cup in 2014 and holding almost every meaningful offensive record in team history. He sits 8th on the AHL's list of most games played by a player on a single team at 686. He ends his career as the Stars regular season franchise leader with 686 games played, 560 points, 175 goals, and 385 assists.

The center was drafted by the Capitals in the ninth round, back in 2004 when the draft went that deep,  after four years at Minnesota State-Mankato. He got a few games in Hershey but never caught on. After leading the ECHL Stingrays in scoring in 2008-09 and winning a Kelly Cup there, Morin got a tryout invite to Texas Stars training camp in 2009. The rest is history. Shortly thereafter he was converted to a standard player contract and eventually found himself on contract with the Dallas Stars.

He made his way into 13 NHL games, collecting just one point among those contests. However, Morin's impact on the Dallas Stars is not in his own personal score line. It's in the score line of Jamie Benn and the score line of Roope Hintz. It's how Radek Faksa or Jason Dickinson take a defensive zone faceoff. It's how Denis Gurianov sets up on the power play for a quick goal from the half wall. It's how he taught others to prepare everyday to win and ultimately to win.

Morin will continue to have an impact on the organization as he moves into a hockey operations role with the Texas Stars this coming season. He is expected to act as a skills coach for the club and have a role in business development and community outreach as well.

The Stars will retire Morin's jersey in a ceremony at their October 19th game against Grand Rapids. It will be the first time the organization has retired a jersey.

Read the press release after the break:

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Texas Stars Announce Pair of Preseason Games Against San Antonio

(Credit: Texas Stars)
The Texas Stars announced their pre-season schedule, which is exactly what you would expect if you've been paying attention to the Stars for the last 10 years. The Stars will play San Antonio in a home-and-home series the weekend before the season starts. Texas will go to San Antonio on Thursday the 26th and the Rampage will make the return trip on Friday night.

Here's the release:
The Texas Stars, American Hockey League affiliate of the NHL’s Dallas Stars, announced the team’s preseason schedule Thursday. The team will take the ice in a home-and-home exhibition series against the San Antonio Rampage prior to the 2019-20 season.

Texas will travel to AT&T Center in San Antonio, TX on Thursday, Sept. 26 for a 7:00 p.m. puck drop against the Rampage. The two teams will then complete their preseason battle at H-E-B Center at Cedar Park on Friday, Sept. 27 at 7:00 p.m.

Tickets for both the preseason game in Cedar Park on Sept. 27 and the full 38-game regular season home schedule will go on sale at a later date.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Texas Stars Sign AHL Players Tanner Jago and Anthony Nellis

The Texas Stars bolstered their depth for next season with a pair of AHL contract signings. Both are rookies coming off 4-year collegiate careers. Tanner Jago is a defenseman out of Bentley University who picked up 28 points in 37 games last season. Anthony Nellis is a center out of Superior State, nominated for the Hobey Baker Award and picking up an ATO contract with Fort Wayne last season. He picked up eight points in ten games.

Here's the release:
The Texas Stars, American Hockey League affiliate of the NHL’s Dallas Stars, announced Wednesday that defenseman Tanner Jago and center Anthony Nellis have been signed to AHL contracts for the 2019-20 season.

Jago, 25, prepares for his first pro action after captaining Bentley University in 2018-19. The blue liner completed his senior season with 28 points (9-19=28) in 37 games and ranked among the top-five defensemen in the Atlantic Hockey Conference for each of the last two seasons. Jago was named to the 2016 Atlantic Hockey All-Rookie team as a freshman. In four years with the Falcons, spanning from 2015 to 2019, the 6-foot skater logged 86 points (19-67=86) across 151 NCAA games.

Prior to enrolling at Bentley, the Brandon, Manitoba native skated with the Portage Terriers and Winkler Flyers of the MJHL and the Fargo Force of the USHL from 2011 to 2015.

Nellis, 24, turned pro at the end of the 2018-19 season, joining the Fort Wayne Komets of the ECHL. Nellis recorded eight points (5-3=8) in his first 10 games and was second on the roster in scoring across that stretch. Before turning pro, the 5-foot-11 center spent four years at Lake Superior State University. During his senior season, Nellis was tied for second on the team with 33 points (15-18=33) and 18 assists and earned a nomination for the 2019 Hobey Baker Award. The forward turned in 91 points (40-51=91) in 148 NCAA games and was among the team’s top-four scorers in each of his four seasons with the Lakers.

The Breakeyville, Quebec native produced 80 points (32-48=80) in 58 games with the Pembroke Lumber Kings and was third in scoring in the CCHL before enrolling at Lake Superior State.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Texas Stars 2019-20 Schedule Adds Toronto, WBS, Foregoes Most of Pacific Division

(Credit: Texas Stars)
The American Hockey League announced their full season schedule for 2019-20 this afternoon with big shifts in the opponents that Texas will face. The Stars will not see the majority of the Pacific Division, playing only Colorado and Tucson. In return, Texas gets four matchups each against Toronto and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. This will be the first meeting between Texas and Colorado as well as Texas and WBS.

The rest of the schedule is made up of the Central Division with 12 games against San Antonio and eight each against the remainder of the Central Division.

Traditionally, the Stars have not crossed over the conference line very often, especially in the last six years or so. A few select games against Syracuse were the lone exception, aside from the Stars three visits to the Calder Cup Final. In that regard, Texas will get a rematch of the 2018 CCF with two games in November in Ontario and two more in January in Cedar Park. The Stars head to Pennsylvania in December for two in WBS and the Penguins make the return trip in January.

The Stars will have a season-long road trip from February 4 to 12, a total of 9 days spanning three cities. Their longest home stand will come in February as well, eight games across twenty days. Texas has just two 3-in-3 weekends this year, the same as last year.

Full release after the jump.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Dallas Stars Ink D Dillon Heatherington to One-Year Deal

(Credit: Andy Nietupski/Texas Stars)
Dallas knocked out another RFA signing this afternoon, securing defenseman Dillon Heatherington for another season on a one-year, two-way deal. He was part of the caravan of defensemen that filed up 1-35 during the 18-19 season to backfill for the injured blueliners in Dallas.

Ultimately, Heatherington got five regular season games and played in one playoff game as well. He played in all but three of the Texas Stars' games this season as well. It is expected that he will be part of the Texas Stars roster to start the season but be a recall option as the season progresses.

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

Heatherington, 24, skated in five NHL regular-season games for the Dallas Stars during the 2018-19 campaign and collected one assist (0-1=1). He made his Stanley Cup Playoffs debut in Game 5 of the 2019 Western Conference Second Round vs. St. Louis, recording one hit and one blocked shot in 7:56 time on ice. The blueliner also appeared in 73 regular-season games for the Texas Stars, Dallas' top development affiliate in the American Hockey League (AHL), tallying 24 points (2-22=24). Heatherington ranked second on the team with 75 penalty minutes and shared third with a +8 plus/minus rating.

The blueliner has appeared in 11 career NHL contests, all with Dallas, and has recorded two assists (0-2=2) with a +7 rating and 26 penalty minutes. Heatherington has registered 75 points (11-64=75) in 254 career AHL regular-season contests over parts of six seasons with Texas, Cleveland and Springfield. He has made two appearances in the Calder Cup Playoffs, skating in 36 postseason contests and posting six assists (0-6=6).

The 6-foot-4, 215-pound native of Calgary, Alberta was originally selected by Columbus in the second round (50th overall) of the 2013 NHL Draft. Heatherington was acquired via trade from Columbus in exchange for left wing Lauri Korpikoski on Oct. 10, 2016.

Neil Graham Ready for the Next Challenge in Texas

(Credit: Noah Saucerman-Pitts, Idaho Steelheads)
Sitting in his office in Boise back in January 2017, then head coach Neil Graham told me about his recruiting strategy for ECHL players, which he summarized, "Take care of business for Idaho, and we help to advance you up the hockey ladder."

The sales pitch has become reality for the salesman himself this week as Graham was announced yesterday as the Texas Stars assistant coach.

He spent last week in upstate New York with his family celebrating his father’s 70th birthday. Once the departure of Bob Jones to Ottawa became official, “things picked up” and he balanced celebrations with some conversations about his future in the AHL. It only took a few calls before Graham was cemented as the next assistant.

“I think it was more talking about the scenario than any formal phone interview. Last summer we had a lengthy interview, but we talk 3-4 times a week. To already have that relationship is what made it such a good fit.”

Texas GM Scott White mentioned the extra year of head coaching experience that Graham acquired since last summer, which White felt was key to the hiring. Combined with his familiarity with the system, it was an easy hire.

“I think that’s something that excites me. It’s not a lot of introductions. I’ve coached a lot of these players in Traverse or exhibition. I’m familiar with the roster, scouts and staff. That transition should be fast tracked so now it’s for me to work with the players and staff.”

At the ECHL level, the head coach is also the GM. Back in 2017, Graham was undecided, at least publicly, about which way he wanted to go if he moved up to the AHL. Now, he’s explicit about his passion for the coaching role.

“As much as I enjoyed the GM responsibility, I’m most excited about honing my craft on the coaching side, learning from a great coach like Derek Laxdal. Being under his tutelage is one of the things that excites me the most. To go down the coaching path is my calling.”

With Graham on staff, Texas now has two former Steelheads in its coaching ranks. Laxdal coached the ECHL club from 2005-2010. Graham notes this speaks to the strength of the affiliation overall.

Now, he, his wife Meg and their 3 year-old son are anxious get to Cedar Park and begin their time in Texas. Meetings with a Cedar Park realtor are already on the calendar for today. The young family (Graham is just 34) is looking forward to putting down roots in the community, a key aspect of his coaching philosophy.

“Something we embraced in Boise was really being a part of the community. The fans, the neighbors, our son making friends. That’s the same way we want to approach this. We want to dive in with two feet, be good members of the community and good neighbors. I believe a lot of what you accomplish in hockey stems from first being good people.”

Monday, July 8, 2019

Gavin Bayreuther Returns on One-Year Deal

(Credit: Andy Nietupski/Texas Stars)
The Dallas Stars announced this afternoon that they have re-signed defenseman Gavin Bayreuther on a one-year, two-way deal. The blue liner was a restricted free agent for Dallas coming into the summer. He spent an unexpectedly long stint in the NHL this season with many injuries on the NHL roster. Dallas used 12 defensemen in all last season, and Bayreuther logged 19 games.

Bayreuther is expected to be back with Texas next season and also one of the first call-up options for the big club in Dallas. The undrafted pickup has turned into a solid find for a team that has had trouble in the draft.

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

Bayreuther, 25, made his NHL debut in 2018-19, registering five points (2-3=5) in 19 regular-season games with the Dallas Stars. The defenseman also appeared in 53 regular-season American Hockey League (AHL) games with the Texas Stars, posting 25 points (7-18=25). Bayreuther finished the campaign tied for second among Texas defensemen with seven goals and ranked third with 25 points, while he paced team blueliners and shared eighth among all Texas skaters with three power play goals.

The blueliner has recorded 62 points (16-46=62) in 139 career regular-season AHL games, all as a member of the Texas Stars. The defenseman has also skated in 22 career games in the Calder Cup Playoffs, tallying eight points (3-5=8). Additionally, he played for four seasons at St. Lawrence University (NCAA), posting 111 points (35-76=111) in 142 career games.

The 6-foot-1, 195-pound native of Canaan, N.H. was originally undrafted and signed by Dallas as a free agent on March 15, 2017.

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Confirmed: Neil Graham Hired as Next Texas Stars Assistant Coach

(Credit: Steve Connor)
UPDATE: 100 Degree Hockey has confirmed that the Texas Stars have hired Neil Graham as their next assistant coach. Additional quotes have been added below from GM Scott White.

First reported by Mike Prater of the Idaho Press and confirmed this morning by 100 Degree Hockey, the Texas Stars will announce the hiring of Neil Graham as assistant coach Monday.

The Idaho Steelheads head coach and general manager has spent four years in the role after being a player/coach for the Steelheads under Brad Ralph and later an assistant. The Stars previous assistant coach, Bob Jones, was hired over the weekend to DJ Smith's staff in Ottawa.

"As an organization, you always look over your shoulder to know what's coming next in terms of coaches," said Texas Stars GM Scott White when reached by phone Monday morning. "There was a lot of movement this year. Derek [Laxdal] and Bob were both involved in searches. We were prepared."

Graham brings seven years of playoff experience as an assistant and head coach in Boise, part of Idaho's 20+ year playoff streak. The Steelheads have made it to the second round each of the last two years with their high-water mark for wins coming in 2017-18 with a 44-20-8 record.

"We've always considered him [for an AHL role]," continued White. "We interviewed him last year for the assistant coaching job. I like that he's got another year of head coaching experience. He's been to Traverse City and development camp. He knows our group well, our players. He and Derek have talked a lot over the last four years. They have a relationship professionally and socially."

100 Degree Hockey traveled to Boise in the 2016-17 season to report on Graham, a story you can read here.

Objectively, it's a great move to bring in Graham from multiple angles. He's an up and coming coach that Texas can hone under Derek Laxdal. With Laxdal's tenure in Texas hitting six years this coming season and the growing potential of an NHL job for him, Texas is well justified in having a good succession plan. In Graham, they have someone who knows the system already, has existing relationships with all the key people, and can hit the ground running on day one.

Further, just as with players, Idaho will get more interest from future head coaching prospects if they know Idaho is a place that Dallas views as a training ground for coaches as well.

White added, "We're about developing people and giving them opportunity when it's deserved. It's a big day for him. It's been his goal to get to the American League."

With the GM role off his plate, Graham will be able to focus on coaching and hone his craft there. White concluded, "Instead of spending two hours working the phones, he can devote that to coaching. He's ready. He'll become an even better coach and he's already a good coach."

Monday, July 1, 2019

Texas Stars GM Scott White Talks Free Agency at Day 1 Close

(Credit: Texas Stars)
100 Degree Hockey was able to catch up with Texas Stars General Manager Scott White this afternoon after the flurry of day one signings died down. When asked how his summer was going, White quipped back, “Ask me again in a few days.”

The headline signing of a player like Joe Pavelski may be what catches the eye of most hockey fans, but White’s work will continue this week as he builds depth for the AHL team and works with Idaho GM Neil Graham to provide AHL/ECHL players for the Steelheads. Dallas made three signings today that are likely to affect the Texas Stars, one at each position.

First, Landon Bow was locked up on a one-year, two-way deal after being qualified last month. White was hesitant to definitively say that Bow and Oettinger were the pairing in Texas, leaving room for Colton Point to make his case, “Their play is going to dictate how that goes. I don’t think we’ve ever strayed from that. Landon has a bit more experience, but he’s still young in goalie years. He’s got to grab it. He wants to get to the NHL, he’s got to push because the other two are going to push him.

Second, Dallas added center Tanner Kero on a two-year, two-way contract. The 26 year old was captain of the Michigan Tech Huskies in his senior year before spending time in the Chicago and Vancouver systems. Scott White is a former Husky himself and recruits heavily from the school. Kero played all of last season in Utica, but has 72 NHL games to his name, all in Chicago.

“He’s a motivated player,” said White. “I obviously have knowledge of the player and know his family. We’ve got a competitive player who spent time in the NHL two seasons ago and didn’t get there as much last season. He’s motivated to get back and the way our cap situation is in Dallas is that he just needs to come in and play.

“The I-35 route was well traversed last year. Tanner knows there are opportunities. He’s a smart, two-way player that will help our young players out if he’s there but I know he can play in the NHL as well.”

Finally, Reece Scarlett has been re-signed to Dallas, a two-way NHL contract for a single year. After being injured just two periods into the last season, Scarlett worked hard on his recovery and making himself useful for the Texas Stars, a story we chronicled here.

White added that Dallas is in conversation with Dillon Heatherington and Gavin Bayreuther, who were both qualified last month. He also confirmed that forward Diego Cuglietta is under contract for Texas this coming season.

Based on the veteran numbers, including the addition of Tanner Kero, it seems like Travis Morin and Erik Condra do not fit in the plans for the Stars this year. Morin’s status may not be certain for a few more weeks, but the way the roster has filled up, it does not look likely. The question at that point is whether he finds a spot elsewhere in the league. He certainly could, if he were willing to go.

Sunday, June 30, 2019

AHL Free Agency: What to Expect for the Texas Stars

(Credit: Texas Stars)
Tomorrow is the start of free agency in the NHL and AHL alike. While Dallas looks at forwards like Joe Pavelski, the Texas Stars also have important gaps to fill as the free agent period opens on July 1.

First of all, it's important to note that NHL/AHL signings are traditionally not taken care of first thing on Day 1. NHL clubs have to see who wins the various sweepstakes for top line players like Pavelski, Mats Zuccarello and Matt Duchene to see where everything else will shake out. That being said, the introduction of the free agency interview period in the most recent CBA has given more clarity to that process and put more AHL-relevant deals on day 1 of free agency.

Among Dallas unrestricted free agents who played in Texas last season, only Erik Condra and Reece Scarlett remain unsigned. Taylor Fedun, who played just three games with Texas, and Justin Dowling both had extensions announced earlier this summer.

Texas will want veteran scoring up front as always, but may not have a lot of roster spots to get it done. With the massive influx of top prospects such as Tye Felhaber, Jason Robertson and Riley Tufte, it is likely to be a leaner veteran year.

As previously reported, Dallas plans to make an offer to D Reece Scarlett, but he is a group six UFA, which means he can sign anywhere tomorrow.

The big UFA question mark for most Texas fans is the status of Travis Morin. The 10 year Texas Star has been cagey about his status for next season with the media. Texas would like to bring him back if the numbers work out but the knock-on effects of signings in Dallas may push him out of the plans for 2019-20.

Based on the way Colton Hargrove was deployed at the end of 2018-19, I would expect him to be re-signed to Texas. Hargrove was a healthy scratch in the final two games of the season to preserve his non-veteran status for AHL rosters.

Of course, Texas has done well in recent years to find a stable of players that populate the Idaho roster and serve as in-season callups. Last year, the Stars were so successful in this regard that they did not sign a single PTO player. These signings won't happen on Day 1, or if they do, they won't be announced for a few more days.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Dallas Stars Qualify Six; Philippe Desrosiers Headed to Free Agency

Philippe Desrosiers (Credit: Texas Stars)
The Dallas Stars announced today that they have qualified six players who were restricted free agents at the end of the 2018-19 season. Four of these, Gavin Bayreuther, Landon Bow, Niklas Hansson and Dillon Heatherington, spent significant time with the Texas Stars this season. For more information on what a qualifying offer means, check out the 100 Degree Hockey Glossary.

Goalie Philippe Desrosiers was among the group not qualified. Desrosiers was set to be the odd man out next season for the Texas Stars with the emergence of Jake Oettinger at the end of the year and the expected return of Landon Bow. This move means that Bow and Oettinger will be your tandem in net for Texas with Colton Point and Tomas Sholl heading to Idaho. Desrosiers becomes an unrestricted free agent on July 1st.

Notably, former Texas Star Brett Ritchie was also not qualified.

Here's the release:
Dallas Stars General Manager Jim Nill announced today that the club has issued qualifying offers for the following players, this retaining their negotiating rights:

Gavin Bayreuther - D
Landon Bow - G
Jason Dickinson - C
Niklas Hansson - D
Dillon Heatherington - D
Julius Honka - D

The following players were not issued a qualifying offer and will become an unrestricted free agent on July 1:

Philippe Desrosiers - G
Ryan Hartman - RW
Chris Martenet - D
Brett Ritchie - RW

Thursday, June 20, 2019

What the 2019 NHL Draft Means for the 2019-20 Texas Stars

(Credit: Texas Stars)
The effect of the NHL Draft on an AHL team is usually long in the pipeline. I have written pieces like this in the past outlining how basically no one from this weekend's draft in Vancouver should be expected to make a meaningful impact in Texas for several years. However, the 2018 Draft broke the mold, and that's worth discussing a bit.

Generally, it takes several years for any draft pick to hit the AHL. Between the general skill level of drafted players and the AHL-CHL transfer agreement, the AHL has a de facto age floor of 20. That has been the case in the past but recent trends are beginning to change that.

As AHL teams continue to mature their development models and NHL teams take more direct ownership over player development in the minor leagues to the extent that most of the clubs in the league are owned by their NHL parents, it has become more and more advantageous for NHL teams to bring in younger prospects to the AHL for the full minor league experience. Players like Denis Gurianov and Julius Honka fit this mold. There was more for them to learn under Derek Laxdal and the Texas coaching staff than there was in Russia or Swift Current, respectively.

If the AHL-CHL agreement disappeared tomorrow, Dallas would show no hesitation in assigning Ty Dellandrea to the Texas Stars for all of next season to get him out of a bad situation in Flint and put him on a path to the NHL immediately. As is, he must play in the NHL or go back to a bad Flint team that will hopefully trade him to a contender before the OHL stretch run.

And that brings us to the oddity of the 2019 Draft. Two players picked up in that draft played meaningful minutes in Texas this season but for different reasons.

First, Ty Dellandrea being on a non-playoff team helped him a bit in his pro journey. After Flint's season was done, Texas still had about a dozen games left and the chance at playoffs. Since he was signed to an NHL contract, Texas could bring him in for the end of the year. I'll also note that Riley Damiani had the same situation but only played one game.

Second, Adam Mascherin. Mascherin came to Texas via a different path. After being drafted in 2016 by Florida, he re-entered the draft as a 20 year old and was picked up by Dallas. Without the limitation of his age as a factor, he was able to jump right to the pros and was Texas's #2 goal scorer behind Joel L'Esperance.

With those two exceptions, the Stars were mostly composed of draft picks longer in the tooth. Full list of Dallas draft picks that played in Texas last season follows below with notations for players who were late season additions. As you can see, generally you're going to be looking at 2-3 years before anyone whose name is called this weekend pulls on a victory green jersey in Cedar Park.

Adam Mascherin - 2018, 100th overall
Colton Point - 2016, 128th
Denis Gurianov - 2015, 12th
Jake Oettinger - 2017, 26th (late add)
Joseph Cecconi - 2015, 133rd (late add)
Nicholas Caamano - 2016, 146th
Niklas Hansson - 2013, 68th
Philippe Desrosiers - 2013, 54th
Rhett Gardner - 2016, 116th (late add)
Riley Damiani - 2018, 137th (late add)
Roope Hintz - 2015, 49th
Ty Dellandrea - 2018, 13th (late add)

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Mark Your Calendar: Texas Stars Announce Opening Night, Other Dates

(Credit: Texas Stars)
In case you missed it last week, the Texas Stars have announced they will open their 11th season on October 4th in Cedar Park. The typical Texas schedule sees sparse October and November home dates due to conflicts with college and high school football that depresses attendance in the fall.

Even with Texas losing a decent chunk of their cheapest, most walk-up friendly seating for several months, the Stars scored their second-best ever attendance figures in their tenth season.

Complete schedules usually are announced later in the summer. With some teams (albeit fewer than before) sharing arenas with NBA teams, the schedule is highly dependent on securing those arenas schedules, ensuring changeovers can be completed in time and that peak nights are equitable distributed. Remember of course that Texas does share H-E-B Center with the G League's Austin Spurs, which is another consideration for them.

Here are those six nights you can already add into your calendar.
  • Friday, October 4 – Opening Night
  • Saturday, November 9 – Military Appreciation Night
  • Saturday, January 4
  • Friday, January 24
  • Saturday, January 25 – Witches and Wizards Night
  • Saturday, February 22 – Pink in the Rink Night

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Numerous Texas Stars Fill Next Week's Development Camp Roster

(Credit: Texas Stars)
After this weekend's draft, the new Dallas draftees and existing prospects in the system will gather for development camp. The week-long camp in Frisco focuses on skills and off-ice work for the least-experienced among the Dallas Stars player pool.

Camp will be held from June 24-28 with practice in the morning each day from Tuesday to Friday, according to the below schedule.

Tuesday, June 25
Group A Practice: 10:30 a.m. - 12:15 p.m.
Group B Practice: 11:30 a.m. - 1:30 p.m.

Wednesday, June 26
Group A Practice: 10:30 a.m. - 12:15 p.m.
Group B Practice: 10:30 a.m. - 12:15 p.m.

Thursday, June 27
Group B Practice: 10:30 a.m. - 12:15 p.m.
Group A Practice: 11:30 a.m. - 1:30 p.m.

Friday, June 28
Practice: 10:45 a.m. - 1:30 p.m.

Here is the roster. Current or expected 2019-20 Texas Stars in attendance will include forwards Nick Caamano, Tony Calderon, Diego Cuglietta, Riley Damiani, Ty Dellandrea, Tye Felhaber, Rhett Gardner, Joel Kiviranta, Parker MacKay, Adam Mascherin, Josh Melnick, Jason Robertson, Riley Tufte; defensemen Joe Cecconi, Emil Djuse, Ben Gleason and Ondrej Vala; and goalies Jake Oettinger, Colton Point and Tomas Sholl.

Development camp is also a chance for some undrafted players without contracts to impress. Some of the players in that group this year include Ethen Frank, Jeremy McKenna, Brodi Stuart, Jerad Rosburg and Jarret Tyszka. Note how many of these players are from Scott White's recruiting hotbed of Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

Texas Adds Goalie Depth to a Crowded Net with Tomas Sholl Signing

(Credit: Andy Nietupski/Texas Stars)
The Texas Stars announced this morning that they have signed goalie Tomas Sholl to an AHL deal for next season.

Sholl came out of Bowling Green like he was shot out of a cannon two seasons ago. He won 14 of his first 17 decisions and didn't take a regulation loss until his 18th game where he was the goalie of record.

This is a solid depth signing for Texas. The Dallas Stars have four goalies under contract as of today (Ben Bishop, Anton Khudobin, Colton Point and Jake Oettinger) and two more as RFAs (Landon Bow, Philippe Desrosiers). Bishop and Khudobin are obviously locked into Dallas and Bow will be qualified and expected to take a heavy workload in Texas. I expect that Jake Oettinger forms a 1a/1b with Bow. That leaves three goalies for just two slots. Either Dallas does not qualify Desrosiers and has Point and Sholl in Idaho or they do qualify him and someone gets sent to another AHL or ECHL team. Jim Nill has a propensity to always qualify players, as he would rather has assets to deal than let someone walk away for nothing. Trading a player for a conditional 7th rounder is better than nothing in his book.

It will be an interesting battle to watch in camp. We know from the last season, where Texas didn't have to make a single PTO signing, that the team prefers to go with a set group through the whole year. This fits that storyline.

Here's the release:
The Texas Stars, American Hockey League affiliate of the NHL’s Dallas Stars, announced today that the team has signed goaltender Tomas Sholl to an AHL Standard Player Contract for the 2019-20 season. The netminder spent the 2018-19 campaign in Boise, Idaho with the clubs ECHL affiliate, the Idaho Steelheads.

Sholl, 24, was the mainstay in net for the Steelheads last season and played 39 games. He finished his first complete ECHL season with a 26-12-1 record, ending the season with the fifth most wins in the league. The Hermosa Beach, California native also ranked third among all goaltenders with a 2.25 GAA and paced the ECHL with a .928 SV%. Sholl helped lead the Steelheads to the Mountain Division Final with a 6-5-0 record, 2.29 GAA, and .926 SV% in 11 games. The rookie was selected to the 2019 ECHL All-Star Classic, named to the ECHL All-Rookie Team and also collected All-ECHL 2nd Team honors.

The 6-foot, 181-pound goaltender skated in one of the Stars two preseason games this year after beginning his pro career in 2017-18. Sholl held stints with the Adirondack Thunder and Steelheads in the ECHL as well as the Macon Mayhem and Evansville Thunderbolts of the SPHL. In his first ECHL action, Sholl was 14-0-3 in his first 19 games with a 1.54 GAA and .947 SV%.

Sholl attended Bowling Green State University and played 19 games across four seasons. He ended his collegiate career with a 7-10-0 record before turning pro

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Dallas Stars Sign Joel Kiviranta, Release Several Draft Picks

Summarizing a few stories from the past week as we work on some longer term projects in the background here at 100 Degree Hockey...

First, the Dallas Stars signed forward Joel Kiviranta to a two-year entry level contract. He's likely to end up with Texas if he comes over the North America this coming season.

Second, Dallas announced that several drafted players had not been signed to an NHL deal and were eligible to become free agents or re-enter the NHL draft. Brett Davis, Liam Hawel, and Jermaine Loewen are eligible to re-enter the draft. Goalie Markus Ruusu becomes a free agent. Among this group, I think Hawel was closest to getting a deal but didn't do enough in the OHL playoffs to make a mark.

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

Kiviranta, 23, spent the 2018-19 season with Vaasan Sport of Liiga, where he tallied 31 points (16-15=31) in 48 games. His 16 goals were third on the team and he finished tied for second on the club with a +12 plus/minus rating. In five seasons with the team, he appeared in 260 games, posting 114 points (60-54=114).

The 5-foot-11, 180-pound native of Vantaa, Finland helped his country earn a gold medal at the 2019 World Championship in Slovakia skating in nine games and recording three points (2-1=3). He scored the game-winning goal against France in the preliminary round.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Local Group Breaks Ground on New Multi-Sport Complex with Two Full-Sized Ice Sheets

Rendering of the facility (Credit: iSports/Perardi Development)
This morning in Cedar Park, the dream of so many local Austin hockey players will get one step closer to reality as Perardi Development breaks ground on the new iSports Training and Performance Center across 183A from the H-E-B Center. Chaparral Ice is the lead tenant at the new facility.

100 Degree Hockey has been following the story of a suburban ice rink since its early days when the AHL’s Stars first moved to Cedar Park. Last year, Perardi and Chaparral Ice announced their partnership to build this facility and construction begins today.

The complex, which will be located at the southeast corner of Scottsdale Drive and 183A in Cedar Park, will be multi-sport, housing two full-sized NHL ice sheets and a mini-sheet for practice and individual skills work, along with two turf fields, one indoors and one outdoors. All of the fields will also be operated by Chaparral.

“The model is built on the fact we are in a non-traditional market,” Chaparral Ice owner Ryan Raya told 100 Degree Hockey when reached by phone this week. “We have other niche sports that take a backseat to football and baseball.”

(Credit: iSports/Perardi Development)
To that end, iSports looks to house sports beyond hockey and figure skating, such as soccer, lacrosse, gymnastics and cheer squads. Raya calls the concept a “sports mall” where all of the tenants work together to reinforce the value of the facility as a whole. “We’re just a tenant here, and we’re partnering to make sure that the people in the building are working toward the same goal.”

Other potential tenants include medical facilities, such as orthopedics, sports medicine and chiropractic services. As of the current moment, D1 Training is the only announced partner, but Raya notes, “There are a lot of groups in Austin that are well-known that are looking to be a part of this.”

Raya’s project came to fruition thanks to a bit of a chance meeting several years ago. The owner of Perardi Development, Eric Perardi, played Division 1 college hockey at RPI. When Eric came in to interview for a youth coaching opening, he joked with Raya that he should give him a call if he ever wanted to build a new facility.

Raya took him up on the offer. He already had a business plan ready to go for the multi-sport facility. Over the past few years, Chaparral has been using their renovations at the Northcross Mall location as a proof of concept for the market’s appetite for this type of facility. “We needed to see if Austin would gravitate to ice sports using the existing facility as a model. It worked. People are interested in coming out.”
(Credit: iSports/Perardi Development)
While multi-sport is definitely a huge part of the success, Raya also thinks that hockey will be a big winner in the facility. He points to the recent success of the youth teams based at Chaparral, including the 10U state championship, as proof that there is a massive talent base here in Austin that is untapped. “We’re building this facility for [those kids]. We want them to have the access that every kid has up north to develop.” He also believes the seeing is believing factor that every hockey fan knows about will attract even more players, envisioning soccer or lacrosse players walking by the rink and becoming enamored with the game of hockey.

As to the Texas Stars involvement, nothing is formally agreed to at this point. Texas practices at the Northcross location when the H-E-B Center is unavailable. “The Stars have always been interested in what we were doing. They’re sending some representatives to the ground breaking to show support, but it’s really up to them how much they do or don’t want to use the facility. I’m hopeful, but there isn’t anything formal in place.”

The facility is set to open June 2020.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Texas Stars Re-Sign Brad McClure for 2019-20

(Credit: Andy Nietupski/Texas Stars)
The Texas Stars announced earlier today that they have re-signed winger Brad McClure for next season. McClure played most of the season in the ECHL but spent an extended stint with Texas in the back half of the year. He was a goal scorer for the Stars with a Cy Young stat line of 9-2=11. He scored a hat trick on March 30th and notched three game winners in those nine goals.

It appears that McClure is in the plans for the Stars in 2019-20. I would expect that he spends the majority if not the entire season in the AHL after the way he closed the season this year.

Here's the release:
The Texas Stars, American Hockey League affiliate of the NHL’s Dallas Stars, announced Tuesday that the club has signed right wing Brad McClure for the upcoming 2019-2020. McClure began the 2018-19 season with the team’s ECHL affiliate, the Idaho Steelheads, before logging 30 games with Texas.

McClure, 25, earned his first career promotion to the AHL on Jan. 7, 2019 and made his AHL debut five days later against the Iowa Wild. Following his AHL debut, McClure skated in 30 of the 29 of the Stars final 27 games and collected 11 points (9-2=11) in that stretch. Of his nine goals, three were game winning tallies which included his first AHL goal on Feb. 19 against the Iowa Wild in overtime. The 5-foot-11, 191 pound winger recorded his first career hat trick on Mar. 30, netting all three goals in the third period.

Before earning his full time call to the Texas Stars lineup, McClure was one of the leading scorers of the Steelheads. The Stratford, Ontario native produced 39 points (19-20=39) across 42 ECHL games ending the year third on the roster in goals. McClure went on to rejoin the Steelheads in the Kelly Cup Playoffs, helping them advance to the Mountain Division final with five points (3-2=5) in nine games.

McClure Is one year removed from a his collegiate career at Minnesota State University-Mankato. The former Mavericks captain logged 159 career games at his alma mater from 2014 to 2018 and tallied 91 points (45-46=91).

How Reece Scarlett Made the Most of a Season Lost to Injury

With his season over on opening night, Scarlett had to find new ways to contribute...
Reece Scarlett (Credit: Texas Stars)
It goes without saying that it wasn’t the season anyone had planned for Texas defenseman Reece Scarlett.

First game of the season, third period against Grand Rapids at H-E-B Center, “I just went into the corner with… I think it was [Chris] Terry. I don’t know, he sort of bounced off the boards and sort of fell in on me. I almost went into like a butterfly that I was not prepared to go into. Not a goalie, never been a goalie. My knee wasn’t supposed to go that way.

“You know, sometimes you get a charlie horse, or you twist something and you know that it’s just okay, that you’ll be able to come back. But even just trying to get off the ice, I knew it wasn’t right.”

The prognosis for Scarlett was a torn ACL, minimum recovery time of six to nine months. He knew forty minutes into the new season that he was already done for the year.

“Disbelief, just disappointment. I was excited to come into training camp, and I thought I did a really good job of proving myself to be a capable call-up if I ever got the chance. I was really excited to get the season going. And then it was, like I said, just disappointment and disbelief. It was a pretty bleak point.”

Texas Stars head coach Derek Laxdal called the unfortunate injury a big loss for the team, “Any time you lose a player, especially a veteran player who was one of our spiritual leaders in the back end, it’s a pretty big shot. Losing him was a big, big blow.”

But Scarlett never gave up on helping his team even though he wouldn’t play another minute of competitive hockey in the 2018-19 season.

Scarlett set out his mantra for the season from that point out, “Put your head down and go to work. Things might not always go your way, but it’s just how you deal with it. And that was the attitude that I tried to put forward and hopefully instill in others as well.”

Scarlett was a trade acquisition for the Dallas Stars. He put up a couple points in thirteen games to start the 2017-18 season in Springfield and then was swapped with Ludwig Bystrom. As Texas went deep in the playoffs last summer, Scarlett set a steady pairing with Andrew Bodnarchuk, finding his groove in the organization and setting himself up for a big year. Then, October 5th. Opening night was also closing night for Scarlett, and the long road to recovery started almost immediately.

Surgery isn’t always immediate for a torn ACL. Scarlett did some rehab to gain strength and movement in the knee before surgery to improve post-surgical recovery time. On October 24th in Dallas, Dr. William Robertson cut out Scarlett’s left patellar tendon and placed it where the torn ACL had been. Recovery went quickly. “I got to go on the ice probably about a month [later] by myself just messing around. We would just do basic six or seven year old [drills]: skate around in a circle, crossover, stuff like that.”

Within a few months, he noted he felt like a ‘normal human being,’ getting through day-to-day life without any pain. To begin athletic recovery, he and the rehab team had to walk a fine line to avoid re-injury. Even though he wasn’t going to play, the Texas training staff, including head athletic trainer Shay McGlynn, came in early to help Scarlett through his rehab.

“Hats off to Shay and our training staff helper, Hank [Petersen]. They did an unbelievable job being there for me everyday. They were coming to the rink early everyday. That’s their job, but at the same time, I wasn’t necessarily a priority in terms of guys playing, so I really appreciated the effort they put in as well.”

The organization offered Scarlett the opportunity to do his recovery back at home in Canada, but it didn’t even register as a possibility for him. “I’m under contract to play hockey for the Dallas Stars organization, and those are my teammates, those are my friends. And that’s where I wanted to be. So it was never an option for me to go home.”

Scarlett felt he needed to find a way to still contribute to the team in his recovery. He found that in video work. Wearing a suit and tie with a view of the ice from high above, the defenseman would watch the games and construct video breakdowns of plays.

(Credit: Texas Stars)
“I was able to just take some video clips for defensemen, and in the next couple of days after the game do video with the guys and show them what I see, get their perspective.”

Both players benefit from this arrangement. Aside from the coaching that Scarlett provided, he picked up on the finer points of every other player’s game to adapt into his own. “Just being able to watch different defensemen closely. Everybody plays a different style; everybody thinks the game a little bit differently. So for me being able to watch [Bayreuther]’s confidence breaking the puck out or Gleason’s confidence in general.

“It was helpful for me to see different options and different ways of doing things. It was sort of win-win for both of us, for the D corps and myself. Hopefully they got something out of it, I know I did. It also made home games a little more enjoyable. I get to be a part of the team somehow and not just sitting up there.”

Coach Laxdal complimented Scarlett on his work to stay involved and help the team any way he could, “We utilized him at home to help us with the D and a little bit of video work. Just monitor and look for things. Just to take his mind off of not playing and allow him to be part of the team. He embraced it and was great in the room. I think it made the season go a lot quicker for him.”

It was especially tough for Scarlett to see Dallas call up so many defenseman from Texas. It’s nearly certain he would have played his first NHL game this season if it weren’t for the injury. “It was a little bit tough to swallow. You always feel like you have an opportunity, you’re always close. Luckily, for half our D corps, it was the right time right place for them, and I couldn’t have been happier for them.”

Texas Stars General Manager Scott White noted the year he’d had in an interview earlier this summer, “It was a hell of year for him and he’s still got a ways to go. It’s a serious injury when you blow your knee out. He’s done everything right and I think he’s in the best shape he’s ever been in. The coaches will remember Reece from last training camp.” Laxdal agreed, calling Scarlett’s past few months the best training he’s probably had in his career. Scarlett added a few pounds in the weight room with intense rehab sessions.

Still, the circumstances stung for the player, “Guys go up and live their dream, and I was just struggling to move my knee. It was crazy to watch, but at the end of the day, you gotta just put your head down and work and trust that everything you do is worth it in the end. Hopefully I know I’m gonna come back stronger next year and hopefully that luck might come my way.”

It’s barely a month into the offseason, but Scarlett has already started his summer workout routine. He joked it’s hard to justify taking much time off given how rested his body is. It is expected that Dallas will qualify the defenseman and bring him back to the organization for another year. He was also able to get back on the ice with the team late in the season. In a red no-contact jersey, #24 dashed up and down the ice, participating in drills for the first time in six months.

“That was one of the highlights of my year, honestly. Just being able to be out there and be myself. You’re one person off the ice, you’re one person in day-to-day life, and for me when I’m out there playing hockey, that’s who I am. It felt really good to be out there, and I felt like myself again.”

Additional reporting provided by Ryan Pennington.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Texas Stars Announce Renovation Plans for Arena's Retractable Seating

Plan will add glass seating and cross-aisle row for better fan movement
Plans for the new seating in the west 'endzone'
(Credit: Texas Stars and Hussey Seating)
The Texas Stars and H-E-B Center at Cedar Park have announced their plans to replace the telescopic seating platforms in sections 111, 112 and 113. Season ticket holders in the affected sections received an email detailing the below information this morning. The seats were damaged during a routine changeover in the middle of the season and were out of commission since early February. 100 Degree Hockey previously reported on the arena's plans here.

Highlights of the new plan include the addition of 21 new glass seats in the section and a cross-aisle to facilitate movement across the sections, removing rows C and D as a result.

"With the increasing event count at H-E-B Center we had a need for an efficient, operator friendly, and robust system that will see hundreds of conversions per year," said Texas Stars Chief Sales and Marketing Officer Michael Delay, who spearheaded the effort. "Given the opportunity to redesign the seating area for Texas Stars games we felt it was important to add additional glass and second row seats as well."

Current estimates show work may not be completed until the second week of October. Current season ticket holders in these sections are being contacted by the team to begin the process of relocation or upgrade. Existing season ticket holders will be allowed to upgrade into these seats as their season seats during the ensuing two weeks and then the seats will be opened for all new ticket holders. Delay said the Stars are working with Hussey Seating and the arena to take every opportunity to make an opening night completion a possibility, but there are many factors at play.

Several significant changes are included in the project, which will be completed by Hussey Seating.
  • The addition of a total of twenty-one (21) Row A – Glass Seats in Sections 112, 113, and 114
  • The addition of additional second row seats bringing the total to twenty-two (22) Row B seats in Sections 112, 113, and 114 and the corresponding removal of the stairwells at the two center down aisles between sections 111/112 and 112/113
  • The addition of seats in Section 112 Row L – Lowering the height of the Zamboni tunnel by one row
  • An overall reduction of the total seating capacity by 86 seats primarily as a result of the removal of rows C and D in all 3 sections to create a cross-aisle between 111/112 and 112/113
  • The sections will feature fixed, armless seating in all Rows except Row R (top row) which remains folding seats. 
  • The down aisles will be wider in all sections, and row E seats may be entered from the front as they are now on the cross-aisle.
Pricing will be commensurate with other sections: Glass pricing for Row A, Luxury in B, Executive for E-G and everything else at Terrace.

Texas will continue to communicate with season ticket holders in these sections over the summer as the season approaches.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Justin Dowling is the Texas Stars 2018-19 MVP

(Credit: Andy Nietupski/Texas Stars)
Texas didn't have a championship season, but they still had several standout performances. Nominees and the winner for the team MVP award are below...

Runner up: Denis Gurianov
(20-28=48 in 57 games, plus-2, 12 PIMs, 3 GWGs, 4 PPGs)

The Russian winger had a fantastic year in the AHL and probably should not find himself in Cedar Park again. However, this year, he was in the minors and excelled. At times, Gurianov would completely take over a game in the way that he can in the A. His elite speed was put to good use on defense as well as offense this year as he worked to jet out of the defensive zone and create scoring opportunities the other way.

Runner up: Erik Condra
(20-34=54 in 71 games, minus-6, 64 PIMs, 8 PPGs, 16 PPAs)

Condra was a huge get of a signing. In the middle of the season, he was as high as third in the league scoring table. After a callup to Dallas, his performance tailed off and he had a less productive back half of the year. Still, he was prolific. He notched 24 points on the Texas power play, which was ranked #3 in the regular season. One might argue that Condra should be the team MVP, but I point to the club's performance after the departure of our winner, Justin Dowling, to Dallas and how they struggled without him. Condra also had a less consistent season.

Winner: Justin Dowling
(13-40=53 in 62 games, minus-6, 12 PIMs, 4 PPGs, 19 PPAs)

Justin Dowling was named Texas Stars captain early in the season and lived up to the billing as a leader both on and off the ice. He scored a career-best 53 points including another career-best 40 assists. He was deployed in all situations and put up huge numbers on the power play (23 points).

I lean toward Dowling as MVP over Condra because of his consistency across the season and how much the team struggled without him in the lineup. Texas was 0-5 without Dowling in the lineup until March, when he was called up for good and Texas got some ATO reinforcements. Even then, Texas went 5-8-0-1 without Dowling across the year. Condra, by comparison, saw Texas go 4-0-0-1 when he was out of the lineup.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Joel L'Esperance is the Texas Stars Rookie of the Year

(Credit: Andy Nietupski/Texas Stars)
It's been a few seasons since 100 Degree Hockey handed out end of season awards. For some teams, this is something that the organization does itself, even. I'm not going to go super in-depth for these awards though. We'll just have two: Rookie of the Year and MVP. Today, rookie of the year.

Alright, I don't think that we need to have much hemming and hawing over who won this award. However, let's discuss some runners up.

Runner up: Nicholas Caamano
(12-12=24 in 72 games, plus-1, 91 PIMs, 3 GWGs, 2 PPGs)

Nicholas Caamano had a solid season for the Texas Stars. As players started being called up to Dallas midseason, Caamano was one of the players called upon to raise his game. He answered the bell with 10 of his 24 points coming in the last month of the season.

Runner up: Ben Gleason
(5-32=37 in 72 games, minus-8, 34 PIMs, 2 PPGs, 18 PPAs)

From Traverse City tryout to playing an NHL game this season, Gleason has had an eventful year. He was a productive member of the Stars top-3 power play with 20 of his 37 points coming with the man advantage. His puck moving skills were evident from game one and the late season addition of Joe Cecconi to his pairing made him even better. Cecconi, of course, is used to working with high-caliber offensive talent like his Michigan D partner Quinn Hughes.

Runner up: Adam Mascherin
(18-26=44 in 75 games, plus-10, 30 PIMs, 4 PPGs, 4 GWGs)

There is no question that Adam Mascherin can put up points. He nearly claimed the rookie scoring lead among Stars at the end of the season with his 44 point effort. However, he has a tendency to be streaky and score in bunches. He will be there for a few games and then disappear. Any player knows that consistency is key to time in the lineup. If Mascherin wants to head to Dallas, he needs to score more evenly across all games and have a less lumpy scoring line.

Winner: Joel L'Esperance
(30-15=45 in 54 games, minus-5, 23 PIMs, 13 PPGs, 7 PPAs, 5 GWGs)

This one felt pretty obvious. L'Esperance had a beastly first season. In just 54 games, he notched 45 points. The power play numbers are truly impressive as well. Thirteen power play goals leads all Texas skaters by four and puts him eighth in the league overall for PPGs. Texas Stars head coach Derek Laxdal regularly called him a "horse" of a competitor and compared him to Jay Beagle, an undrafted player who continues to enjoy NHL success after being signed to Idaho by Laxdal out of the University of Alaska Anchorage.  L'Esperance's scoring line also showed what he was: a scorer first. He can distribute, but he's most dangerous when he's the triggerman. His five game-winners show that as much as anything.

I'm expecting that L'Esperance will be a bubble player when the year begins. Under contract for the coming season still on his ELC, he has a healthy chance to make the team out of camp and if not, be the first callup to Dallas when the need arises.

MVP coming soon...

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Reviewing the Texas Stars' Best Games of the Season

(Credit: Andy Nietupski/Texas Stars)
Two weeks ago, we looked at the worst games of the season. After last night's outcome, it feels like a good time for an injection of positivity with the best games. In chronological order, here are some of the best...

Texas Stars Crush Rampage 8-1 with Balanced Attack
November 10, 2018 - Texas 8 vs. San Antonio 1

It's going to be a going trend here that a lot of the best games of the season were against San Antonio. It's almost not fair. It starts with this 8-1 affair in November. Texas got a hat trick from Erik Condra and four points out of Justin Dowling. With Morin, the trio combined for nine total points. Joel L'Esperance, Colton Hargrove and Colin Markison also scored as the Stars impressed a capacity crowd. Landon Bow also made 30 stops.

Mascherin's First Pro Hat Trick Headlines Heated 7-3 Win for Texas
November 25, 2018 - Texas 7 at San Antonio 3

Goals galore in San Antonio put this one in the conversation. Coming off a loss at home to the Rampage, Texas needed its depth players to step up and bring them across the line. They responded. Adam Mascherin notched a hat trick. Elgin Pearce and Brady Norrish scored their first goals of the season, and there were multi-point nights for depth players Shane Hanna and Robbie Payne. The game is also famous for Jordan Binnington's slash on Joel L'Esperance after the Stars rookie made it a 7-2 game. He was assessed a major and a game misconduct.

Erik Condra's Five Points Power Texas Stars to 7-4 Win Over Chicago Wolves
December 2, 2018 - Texas 7 at Chicago 4

Erik Condra's five-point night is absolutely in the conversation for the best individual performance of the season. At the end of a three-in-three weekend, Texas had plenty of gas in the tank to take the Wolves to task. Nick Caamano had a pair, as did Travis Morin. The top performance, however, came from Condra, who was in the midst of a fantastic points streak. This game was his eighth straight with points and pushed him to third in the league scoring table.

Key Timeout Spurs Texas Stars Past San Antonio Rampage 6-4
March 9, 2019 - Texas 6 at San Antonio 4

Texas had a 4-2 lead but gave it up late. A well-timed timeout by the Texas coaching staff helped to re-center the club and push them past in-state rival San Antonio 6-4. Denis Gurianov and Niklas Hansson each had three-point nights, and several others had two in the contest. Landon Bow picked up a rare road win, just his fifth of the season, stopping 22 shots. Texas got scoring from all over the lineup, including a game-winner from rookie Tony Calderone and the reappearance of the streaky scorer Adam Mascherin, who had two points. It is in the best of list because the Stars came back to win it and because they got contributions from all over the lineup.

Colton Hargrove's First Career Hat Trick Paces Texas to 6-3 Win Over Grand Rapids
March 20, 2019 - Texas 6 vs. Grand Rapids 3

This game was good for more than a few reasons. First, obviously the scoring line against a team like Grand Rapids is a big plus. Second, the fact that a depth player like Colton Hargrove scored a hat trick is a bonus as well. Finally, this was the first game where ATO depth started to affect the lineup. Ty Dellandra, Josh Melnick, Rhett Gardner and Joe Cecconi all made their professional debuts in the game. None looked out of place, and their debuts set a strong path forward for the coming year.

Jake Oettinger's Strong Debut, McClure's Hat Trick Lead Stars Past Wild 4-1
March 30, 2019 - Texas 4 at Iowa 1

A late season road trip to Iowa saw Texas capture all four points available. Brad McClure did his thing, scoring goals as he does to notch a hat trick, his first. Jake Oettinger made his professional debut just a few days after being bounced from the NCAA tournament. He stopped 23 of 24, aided by the depth offense ahead of him. These were huge points for the playoff race, helping to keep Texas in it right until the bitter end.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Dallas Stars Sign Emil Djuse on Entry-Level Deal, Likely a Texas Player

The Dallas Stars announced this morning that they have signed left-handed defenseman Emil Djuse on a one-year entry-level contract. Djuse is already 25, thus the one-year ELC. He played the past three seasons with Skelleftea AIK in Sweden.

Based on blue line depth in Dallas and his experience level, I would expect to see him in Cedar Park in the fall.

Here's the release:
Dallas Stars General Manager Jim Nill announced today that the club has signed defenseman Emil Djuse to a one-year, entry-level contract.

Djuse, 25, spent the 2018-19 season with Skelleftea AIK of the Swedish Elite League. He registered 21 points (3-18=21) in 50 games, recording career-highs in points (21) and assists (18). In three seasons with the club, Djuse skated in 149 games and amassed 56 points (13-43=56) with 136 penalty minutes. The blueliner qualified for the postseason in all three campaigns with Skelleftea and has posted four assists (0-4=4) in 20 postseason contests.

Prior to his time with Skelleftea, Djuse spent two seasons with MODO (2014-15, 2015-16) and two seasons with Frolunda (2013-14, 2014-15). The defenseman registered 85 points (21-64=85) and 158 penalty minutes in 252 career Swedish Elite League games over seven seasons.

The 5-foot-11, 190-pound native of Ostersund, Sweden helped his country earn a silver medal at the 2013 World Junior Championship in Russia, skating in six games and tallying two points (1-1=2).

Friday, April 26, 2019

Texas Stars Season Recap: Worst Game of the Season Contest Has More Than a Few Entries

(Credit: Andy Nietupski/Texas Stars)
"Take out the trash" is a phrase often used in media organizations to refer to putting out stories that you don't want anyone to read on a Friday afternoon. We decided to twist that around and talk about some of the garbage that the Texas Stars had in their season this Friday morning.

That's right, it's time for season superlatives. We're kicking off with a negative one, and it's our only one. We'll also be covering best game, best performance and MVP. But, for today, we're getting started with the worst game of the season. There are a few candidates that we discussed, but staff writer Ryan Pennington was adamant that he had covered the clear winner. Let's start with the runners up.

Texas Stars Lose Fifth Straight, Complete Winless Road Trip with Loss in Tucson
January 23, 2019 - Texas 0 at Tucson 4

This was a stinging defeat for Texas. Already in a four-game winless skid on the road trip and eight game road losing streak overall, everything sort of fell apart in a 4-0 shutout loss in Tucson. Landon Bow stopped just three of six shots before being pulled. The offense never went anywhere, and a third period penalty parade killed any chance to gain momentum in the game. These were key points in the season that Texas didn't collect. It was deflating overall in the arc of the January to February span that GM Scott White told us last week that he believes were the death knell of the season.

Rockford Slips By Texas 4-3 in Shootout, Collecting Key Standings Points
April 6, 2019 - Texas 2 vs. Rockford 3 (SO)

In the end, even collecting the extra point out of Rockford on this evening wouldn't have gotten them into the playoffs on its own. However, the deflating nature of the loss in front of a sellout crowd, especially after Texas led 3-2 late in the contest, was a key element. Rockford was playing for its playoff life, an ultimately fruitless battle, and bested Texas on their home ice. This was more a season flow choice and honestly might have something to do with a recency bias. However, it wasn't a great game and overall put Texas in a rough spot to make the postseason.

Texas Stars Miss Playoffs, Close Season with 3-1 Loss to Rampage
April 13, 2019 - Texas 1 vs. San Antonio 3

The final game of the season. Texas had to win and get help to make it into the playoffs. Just before the end of the second period, Milwaukee closed the book on a 5-0 win against Grand Rapids, and the Stars were eliminated from the postseason. The third period was a disaster for Texas. For the record, this was the game that Texas head coach Derek Laxdal called the worst of the season. "I think you saw the final result of a grind down the stretch finally catching up with our guys," Coach Laxdal said postgame. "I think it was a combination of the grind and that we'd asked so much of these guys down the stretch to stay in the race." Texas went 0-for-7 on the power play and allowed a shorthanded goal as well. It was a rough way to end the season without a doubt.

And now the winner...

Wolves Blow Out Texas 6-1 in Chicago Day Game
December 18, 2018 - Texas 1 at Chicago 6
I'm just going to copy in the opening paragraph of Ryan's recap to give you a feel for this day game in Chicago, which we are deeming the worst of the season.
Right from the drop of the puck, today's game was in the hands of the Wolves. In the first six minutes, Chicago delighted the home crowd with three straight goals. The second and third came just nine seconds apart and truly set Texas on its heels. The final, almost predestined score, was 6-1.
Those first three goals delighted the home crowd of over 12,000 screaming children. Suffice to say if you blocked off some time out of your work day to listen to this game, you didn't miss lunch. You probably cut out after the second media timeout. This was one of the few games that Texas was out of in the first period this year.

Next week, we're looking at best games and more.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Despite Playoff Miss, Texas Stars Score Near Record Attendance in Tenth Season

(Credit: Andy Nietupski/Texas Stars)
In their tenth season in Central Texas, the Texas Stars are still a great draw. The team celebrated a decade in Cedar Park with their second-best average attendance ever: 5,406. This year trailed only the 2011-12 season, which saw an average of 5,470 and was a jump of over a hundred per game compared to last season.

“We had a great response from our season ticket holders for the tenth anniversary year,” Texas Stars Chief Sales and Marketing Officer Michael Delay told 100 Degree Hockey when reached by phone last week. “The sales team did a great job. Groups were up this year. I think we increased groups by over 11%.”

Season ticket holders form the majority of the ticket base in H-E-B Center’s 6,863 full capacity crowd. Incentives for the tenth season including commemorative jerseys and the chance to drop the puck before the game were big draws for retention and growth of those numbers. Winning Wednesday, where fans in attendance for a Wednesday win get a free ticket to the next Wednesday game, also yielded huge dividends as Texas won six straight Wednesday games from December 5 to March 27.

The Stars saw 26 nights with attendance over 5,000. Their record is 27, set during the 2011-12 season. They also set a team best for fewest nights under 4,000, just two.

“Not too bad considering we went two and a half months with a net loss of 570 seats,” continued Delay. “We might have done a bit better if we had had those extra seats for the last two and a half months.”

The missing seats in the visitor’s end zone were definitely a factor in the Stars not getting to record attendance. In the ten weeks after the seats broke, Texas lost twelve homes games worth of attendance in those sections. If Texas had averaged 35% occupancy or better in those sections during that stretch, they would have set a new record.

“We might have been able to get there with all the great nights we had on the back half. It is what it is.”

Texas had some more new variables to deal with as well. It seems second nature now, but this was the first year with a harmonized 7 PM start time for all home games. Delay expects that to continue, “That was a request that came down from the hockey side of things. We looked at those Friday games, and we were one of the last holdouts for 7:30 games. It’s become pretty much a standard across the board that folks are doing 7 o’clock local time start.”

For individual ticket buyers, many received text messages this year reminding them that Texas was in town and tickets were on sale. “There’s a few teams using their peer-to-peer texting platforms, and that was something new we tried. If you think about your personal experience of getting an email versus a text. The email might sit in your inbox if it’s a newsletter or something like that. But if you get a text message, you’re much more likely to respond back to it in one way or another.

“We’re looking to continue it, so I would say that it’s been successful.”

Theme nights were a success again, and Texas is busy planning the coming season. This is the the “busiest time of the year behind the scenes,” according to Delay, with game operations, specialty jerseys, theme nights and giveaways all in the planning stage. “It’s constantly tweaking. We can’t just cookie cutter. We’re always looking to change things up. Two years ago, Harry Potter [night] wasn’t a thing for us, but now it’s one of our mainstays.”

The Stars look ahead to the next season, their eleventh at H-E-B Center, ready to innovate to keep the building packed and loud.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Report: Texas Stars Sign NCAA Tourney MVP, RW Parker Mackay, on AHL Deal

According to the CBS 3 Duluth, Riley Tufte won't be the only UMD Bulldog skating for the Texas Stars next season. Forward and team captain Parker Mackay has been added on an AHL contract for next year.The right winger will be 25 at the start of next year and racked up 16-17=33 in 40 games his senior season. In addition to winning the championship with Duluth, he was also named the tournament's most outstanding player.

The Texas Stars have not confirmed the signing as of this time and have no comment on the report.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Texas Stars GM Scott White: Poor Road Play Killer for Playoff Hopes

(Credit: Andy Nietupski/Texas Stars)
The architect of the Texas Stars for all ten seasons has been general manager Scott White. In that decade, his clubs have only missed the playoffs three times, including this season. 100 Degree Hockey caught up with White this week to go over the Texas Stars season and look ahead a bit to next year.

White diagnosed the team pretty simply in two points: inability to pick up road points and a particularly bad road trip in January and February.

“You have to be able to navigate those circumstances and find ways to win games and get points at various times of the year,” White told 100 Degree Hockey via phone on Thursday. He continued on to the California trip, “We didn't garner points. Instead of finding ways to get to overtime, we’d give up the empty netter. There were no lineup excuses. We didn’t score; we didn’t get the big save.”

The stretch of games that White said “probably cost us the opportunity” kicked off on January 16 in San Diego. Coming off three straight wins at home and a five-game point streak, Texas dropped every one of their five road contests on the trip. Close games in San Diego and San Jose gave way to not close games in Tucson, concluding with a 4-0 defeat on January 23. Texas came home and earned just one win on a three game stand and went on the road for a split at 2-2. In all, they went 3-9 and dropped themselves from 21-11-3-2 to 24-20-3-2, a significant dip.

“Getting that extra point was vital,” said White, clearly thinking back to the Stars’ 2017-18 squad that collected a boatload of points by making it to overtime. “That was some of the messaging for the more experience guys and the young guys alike. You have to find a way to get points on the road. We struggled on the road on the whole.”

Texas finished the year with a .421 road win percentage, sixth worst in the league. Their home percentage (.658) was 12th best. The sting of not getting can be a good motivator for summer workouts though, “It stings, and it should carry over to the fall.”

White is clearly excited by the youth movement with players coming in like Jason Robertson, Tye Felhaber and Jake Oettinger. Another big name is Joe Cecconi, who missed the last three games of the season. 100 Degree Hockey confirmed that Cecconi returned home after the Iowa homestand and had surgery. White expects he will be at Dallas Stars training camp. His surgery, upper body in nature, carries a lengthy recovery, so he will miss development camp and Traverse City as well. Texas definitely missed his defensive steadiness despite his youth in their last three games.

Among AHL contracted players, White called out Brad McClure, Colton Hargrove and Colin Markison as having good seasons for Texas. From the sound of it, Texas has interest in all three. On McClure, he said, “He plays fast and fits into the mold of our character and he scored some big goals.” On Markison, he added, “Colin Markison is Colin Markison. We missed him when he was out. He’s a good AHL player for a bottom six group.”

Even though they didn’t make the postseason, White notes that they played meaningful hockey right up to the very end. “Those were meaningful games all the way through and the level of hockey was good based in what we had. We asked a lot of some young players, especially down the middle.”

At the same time, they are taking a no excuses mentality. “There were some great things with the way the team played down the stretch, but it wasn’t enough to get us in. Our guys have to grab it. These guys get a chance to work on those things to get them ready for next fall.”