2014-15 Record: 41-31-10 (92 Pts.)
THN’s Prediction: 4th, Central Division
What To Expect: Dallas’ identity last season was culturally fitting, as sharpshooters defined the club and paced the Stars to the league’s second-best offense. Jamie Benn won the scoring title, and Tyler Seguin wasn’t far behind. Center Jason Spezza worked out as planned, providing 60 points from the second line. John Klingberg emerged as a 40-point D-man in his rookie year. Yes, weapons were plentiful, but a playoff spot didn’t follow, as Dallas gave up far too many goals.
General manager Jim Nill prioritized goaltending, as his club’s save percentage was pitiful while possession numbers were solid. Nill inked Antti Niemi to split time with Kari Lehtonen. That should give the club decent netminding for 82 games. Read more
When the Dallas Stars rebranded in 2013, they went from having some of the worst jerseys in the NHL to an eye-popping new look thanks to their custom ‘Victory Green’ color. Now their farm club, the Texas Stars, are following suit and bringing Victory Green to the AHL.
As part of the opening celebrations of the Stars’ training camp, Texas players Travis Morin and Julius Honka strutted out on stage in the new dudes. Honka, 19, wore the brand new white jersey while Morin, who was also named captain of the AHL’s Stars at the event, sported the Victory Green sweater.
Fans will notice these aren’t one-for-one replications of the big club’s duds, though. In making their own identity, Texas has thrown a different design on both jerseys. Read more
TRAVERSE CITY, MICH. – Another tourney is in the books, as the Columbus Blue Jackets defending their Traverse City prospects tournament title with a 5-2 win over the home team Detroit Red Wings. There was a lot of talent again this year, so I’ve put together mini scouting reports on many of the big names, plus others who caught my eye.
I was at two days of games, watching double-headers that were staggered between two rinks in the same building. So I saw more of some teams than others, though I tried to keep it even. If you don’t see your fave player here, it’s because he didn’t catch me eye enough – which is not to say he didn’t play well, but rather that there were a lot of prospects in play and I wouldn’t want to pretend to see more than I did.
Also, some teams had a lot of free agents on their squads since NCAA players couldn’t participate due to eligibility issues and some teams don’t have deep prospect pools right now. Chicago and the Rangers – both in contender mode right now – are two examples. They fought for last place, so we’ll start with them and work our way up to the champs.
The hockey season officially got underway Thursday night with Shawinigan stomping Rimouski 7-2 in the QMJHL. My first road trip of the year is this weekend as well, as I head out to the Traverse City prospects tournament in Michigan. Hosted by the Detroit Red Wings, the shindig involves youngsters and hopefuls for eight NHL teams – Detroit, Dallas, St. Louis, Chicago, Carolina, Minnesota, Columbus and the Rangers. You’ll find questions involving a couple of those teams below.
And as always, if you have a question you’d like to see answered, go to my Twitter page (@THNRyanKennedy) and use the hashtag #thnfutures. Let’s get to your queries:
He’s the youngest of three hockey brothers, but that doesn’t diminish the expectations surrounding center Ryan McLeod, a potent offensive force whose OHL rights were just traded to his hometown Mississauga Steelheads.
For two consecutive off-seasons, Stars GM Jim Nill has improved the Dallas roster by adding veteran scorers. Last summer, it was Jason Spezza. This year, it was Patrick Sharp. But one addition that could bolster the Stars isn’t one brought in from outside the organization — it’s a young player who’s set to return from injury.
After missing 61 games in 2014-15 due to hip surgery, Valeri Nichushkin says he’s feeling fit and ready for the 2015-16 season, which could mean trouble for the rest of the league and especially for the Stars’ Central Division opponents.
“Everything feels so good now,” Nichushkin told Mark Stepneski of Inside Edge. “I don’t feel pain anymore. It is great, and it makes me happy. I don’t think about [last season] anymore. I just forget about it and focus on the new season.” Read more
(The AHL has undergone a season of change and one-third of the league has changed locations or logos for the 2015-16 season. Leading up to the new season, The Hockey News will be ranking the logos of the league’s teams and offering a brief look at the history of each franchise. See the rest of the rankings in our AHL feed.)
The Texas Stars’ Calder Cup championship defense didn’t quite go as planned this past season, as the Dallas Stars’ affiliate came into the post-season as one of the hottest teams in the league but were swept in three straight games by the Rockford IceHogs. Can the Stars get back to championship form in 2015-16?
One area of interest will be how the club fares without defenseman Maxime Fortunus, who had been a fixture of the Stars blueline for the past six seasons. On top of Fortunus’ departure, the Stars will also be without defenseman Cameron Gaunce, who signed in Florida, and John Klingberg, who will be once again spending an entire season in Dallas. However, the Stars may have gotten a boost from the trade that brought rearguard Stephen Johns into the organization. The AHL could very well be Johns’ destination in 2015-16, which would be a boon for Texas. The AHL Stars also brought in Jesse Blacker and Brennan Evans to round out the backend, so maybe the loss of Gaunce and Fortunus won’t hurt at all.
Up front, veteran Travis Morin will be back to lead the way offensively with the same crew of Brendan Randford, Derek Hulak, Greg Rallo and Radek Faksa. Gone, however, is Scott Glennie — or at least for now. Glennie is currently an unrestricted free agent and has yet to sign a deal for the upcoming campaign. A return to Texas would give the Stars depth scoring that could really help.
In goal, Jussi Rynnas has left North America for a job in Europe, so Jack Campbell could get his first full season as the sole starting netminder in the AHL. However, he’ll have competition from John Muse, who posted better numbers in 29 games with the Charlotte Checkers in 2014-15. Read more
Aside from being a three-time 20-goal scorer, Kris Versteeg is known for some rather ridiculous off-ice moments.
There’s his singing, there’s his rapping and, now, there’s this: Versteeg, alongside fellow NHLer and Dallas Stars defenseman Jason Demers, performing a bizarre, albeit hilarious, interpretive dance to Sia’s ‘Chandelier’. Better yet, the performance came at Devin Setoguchi‘s wedding.
The ‘Chandelier’ music video features a ballerina dancing through what appears to be a deserted home. Shockingly, the, uh, replication of sorts by Versteeg, Demers and Co., wasn’t cause for wedding guests to make like the Sia video and abandon their surroundings. Read more