The NHL season is nearly upon us, and the Dallas Stars have already capitalized on another opportunity to showcase the franchise’s bright future.
Although they came up short in the championship game Tuesday night, the Stars had a successful run in the Traverse City Prospects Tournament. A tough 3-2 overtime loss in the final to the Columbus Blue Jackets should not damper the strong showing by Dallas’ prospects. The Stars defeated the New York Rangers, Carolina Hurricanes and Buffalo Sabres to reach the championship game, which they last won in 2008 behind the leadership of Jamie Benn and James Neal.
Laxdal and Top Prospects off to a Strong Start
The tournament provided an opportunity for the prospects and newly-appointed Texas Stars head coach Derek Laxdal to get a head start on the upcoming season. Laxdal was hired in July to replace Willie Desjardins, who left to coach the Vancouver Canucks after winning the Calder Cup with the Stars last season. Laxdal spent four seasons with the Edmonton Oil Kings and the previous five seasons with Dallas’ ECHL affiliate, the Idaho Steelheads. He won two WHL championships with the Oil Kings and led them to the Memorial Cup championship last season.
Captain Brett Ritchie and this summer’s 14th overall pick, Julius Honka, headlined this year’s Dallas roster at the tournament. Ritchie tallied two goals and an assist before suffering a broken finger early in the second game, but several returning prospects stepped up to fill the void. Ritchie’s injury is expected to sideline him for approximately two weeks, so he should be ready for the start of the regular season.
Stars Prospects Shine in Traverse City
Brendan Ranford took over the captaincy after Ritchie’s injury. He and Matej Stransky, Dallas’ sixth-round pick in 2011, led the Stars with three goals. Two former first-round picks also helped contribute. Jason Dickinson, drafted 29th overall in 2013, and Radek Faksa, drafted 13th overall in 2012, each tallied two goals. Honka, Gemel Smith, Ludwig Bystrom, Remi Elie and Collin Shirley each added a goal in the tournament. Smith led the Stars with six points.
Honka made the most of his opening act in a Stars jersey. The highly-touted right-handed defenseman’s play has received positive reviews from Laxdal. “He moves east-west as well as he moves north-south. He gets pucks to the net,” he told Stars writer Mark Stepneski. “He’s an exciting player to watch, and he’s going to be an exciting player for the Dallas Stars for years to come.”
Two picks from the 2012 draft manned the crease for the Stars over the tournament’s four games. Second-round pick Philippe Desrosiers started three games and finished the tournament with 66 saves on 75 shots while fifth-round draft pick Henri Kiviaho wound up with 21 saves on 23 shots.
Stars Future Looks Bright
It was good to see the depth of Dallas’ farm system come together for another successful tournament in Traverse City. Jim Nill is committed to building a winning formula throughout all levels of the franchise, and two consecutive successful Traverse City tournaments along with a Calder Cup championship are good signs that the Stars have a strong base to continue building off of.
The next step for most of the prospects is preparing for the Stars’ NHL training camp, which opens on Friday.