|(Credit: Andy Nietupski/Texas Stars)
With Travis Morin sick with the flu and Colton Hargrove transitioning back to wing, the Stars elected to roll three brand new centers down the middle. Captain Justin Dowling was the only player on the faceoff dot not in his first pro game.
"I thought they got through the first rotation of shifts and probably had some butterflies," said Coach Laxdal postgame. "It was important to get through the first three or four shifts and feel like 'I can play in this league.' It was a good chance for these guys to get their feet wet. And the next time they play we know we can put them in different situations and try and grow their game a little bit."
After Thursday's practice, these players should be even more integrated into the team, including systems and even special teams. ATO winger Diego Cuglietta, who was at the game last night but didn't get there in time to play, is also a potential player for Friday as well.
Let's go down the slate of players and see what we can see.
Ty Dellandrea, Dallas's top pick in 2018, made a mark on the game even if he didn't score. Late in the first, he went straight at Chris Terry on a hit. Perfectly legal though it was, Terry took exception and knocked Dellandrea back, shoving him in the chest, at the benches. That generated Texas's first power play of the night.
"I thought Ty Dellandrea was really solid early on. He got under the other team’s skin a little bit. They were chasing him around, and he drew a penalty."
Dellandrea even had a few chances to set up Colton Hargrove for the eventual hat trick, Hargrove noted. It should be interesting to see if Dellandrea figures into the power play on Friday after a day to practice with the team today.
Gardner was less noticeable but still had a fine game for his first. The centerman, who was a fantastic faceoff specialist at UND, didn't win a bunch to start the game. Turns out the pro game is a little different. Surely he'll work on that to improve and make it a solid part of his game at the pro level.
"I thought Gardner was real simple. His game’s only gonna grow once he gets used to the speed, size, and strength of the league. So it’s a lot of promise there."
Melnick had the good fortune to be put in the middle of two speedsters with Denis Gurianov and Colin Markison. There was one particular play in the second period where it felt like all three of them went from the center line to right on top of Harri Sateri in the blink of an eye. In speaking with some folks who saw him during his USHL days, Melnick is a player to watch for Texas and at an essentially no-risk level of contract.
Joe Cecconi was a big get for Dallas. Even though they drafted him, the fact that he signed with Dallas instead of going to free agency was huge. He was paired with Ben Gleason in a setup reminiscent of his pairings with Zach Werenski and Quinn Hughes.
"I thought Cecconi was very good tonight. He was very simple in his game, and he made a lot of good plays with the puck. Didn’t panic very much. It was promising. They’re going to have moments moving forward, and we’ll just have to grow with them and take advantage while they’re here."