Ahead of Dallas Stars training camp opening on Sept. 13, The News is examining 10 questions facing the team this season. This is the first installment.
10. Which prospects can make an impact?
For the most part, the Stars’ roster is littered with veterans and few openings for young players to crack the roster, make the lineup or capture an impactful role. It’s part of the deal when your Stanley Cup window is open and you decide to go for it with free-agent signings over the summer.
At minimum, 11 spots for forwards appear to be occupied (Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn, Alexander Radulov, Joe Pavelski, Roope Hintz, Corey Perry, Andrew Cogliano, Blake Comeau, Radek Faksa, Mattias Janmark and Jason Dickinson), and six spots for defensemen are taken (John Klingberg, Esa Lindell, Miro Heiskanen, Roman Polak, Andrej Sekera and Jamie Oleksiak). That leaves four roster spots potentially up for grabs.
Up front, Denis Gurianov is the most NHL-ready prospect in the Stars’ system and coming off his best season in North America last year, when he had 20 goals and 28 assists in 57 AHL games. He couldn’t translate that success to the NHL, where he had just one goal and three assists in 21 games.
The speedy Russian is still only 22 years old, the same age that Roope Hintz was when he burst onto the scene during the second half last year and into the postseason. Last season in the NHL, the Dallas coaching staff wanted to make sure Gurianov still played a complete game even when he wasn’t scoring goals. That was part of the reason Gurianov yo-yoed so often between Dallas and Cedar Park.
Ty Dellandrea is a candidate to make the team out of training camp due in part to a rule that allows him to play nine NHL games without burning a year of his entry-level contract. Once he is assigned to Flint in the OHL, he cannot play in the NHL (or AHL) until his OHL season is over.
Jason Robertson is turning pro after leading the OHL in scoring last season. Justin Dowling (who turns 29 in October) became a cog for the Stars during the playoffs last season. Joel L’Esperance was four goals behind the AHL-leading goal scorer despite playing 22 fewer games.
Adam Mascherin, Nick Caamano and Tye Felhaber appear long shots to make the Stars out of camp.
On defense, Gavin Bayreuther will try to beat out Taylor Fedun and Joel Hanley, with Ben Gleason and Dillon Heatherington with outside chances to make an impact this season.
European imports Joel Kiviranta and Emil Djuse are intriguing entering training camp after signing with the Stars. Kiviranta (16 goals in 48 games in Finland’s Liiga) could challenge for a roster spot up front, while Djuse (six seasons in Sweden’s SHL) has more bodies to jump on the blue line.
The Stars also have talent in goaltender Jake Oettinger and defenseman Thomas Harley, but it’s unlikely either makes their NHL debut this season. Oettinger sits fourth on the goaltending depth chart and will be playing his first full professional season, while Harley is still an unsigned 18-year-old playing in the OHL.
10 questions facing the Dallas Stars this season
10. Which Prospects can make an impact?
9. What can the Stars do with the money freed by Martin Hanzal?