The preseason can be a weird hodge podge of successes and failures for any team in the NHL, and it has been just that for the Dallas Stars. The team is now 2-1-2 in the preseason after its most recent 3-1 win over the St. Louis Blues, and it is still figuring out many of the kinks in its lines. Despite this, the Stars’ preseason hasn’t been an entire slump, and there are a few players on the roster that can propel them into success in the regular season.
Let’s take a look at some of the surprising — and perhaps not surprising — standout players who may be keys to the Stars having a solid season.
Tyler Seguin is a notable offensive force on the Stars, but spent most of last season away from the ice with hip, labral and knee injuries. He is one of the players who needs to bounce back this season, and he’s been pushing himself at all angles to prove he’s ready to be back in the lineup. He put up his first goal of the preseason in a game against the Arizona Coyotes on Oct.3, and the center has been playing hard, earning his right to get back in the lineup since he started skating again. Perhaps it isn’t all that surprising given his usual role with the Stars, but major surgeries are hard to return from.
He is slowly becoming the powerhouse that he was before his injuries, proving that his extensive rehab has paid off. He even reunited with his old linemates, Jamie Benn and Alexander Radulov, on Oct. 5. With his grittiness and drive, Seguin is shaping up to have a noteworthy return to the team, especially alongside Radulov, who is also coming back strong from an injury.
“They look great, pretty sharp out there…We’re going to try to build more confidence and keep moving forward.”– Stars captain Jamie Benn
The Stars are going to have an interesting decision to make when it comes to their top netminder, and Braden Holtby is the one upsetting the natural selection of Anton Khudobin and Ben Bishop. In their most recent games against the Blues, Holtby stopped 27 of 28 shots and looked sharper than ever between the pipes.
He’s looking like the promising goaltender for the Stars, despite his lack of success with the Vancouver Canucks last season. He looked poised, ready, and attentive during the Blues game.
“I really liked his reads, his confidence, his poise in the net,” Bowness said. “He handles the puck really well, which helps our defense a lot.”– Stars head coach Rick Bowness
Rick Bowness is now faced with a goalie conundrum, considering Khudobin struggled last season, Jake Oettinger needs more experience, and Bishop’s return is still in question. Holtby, on the other hand, now has .954 save percentage thanks to the preseason games with his new team. He has played well since being given a chance to sit in the crease, which comes as a bit of surprise — he isn’t coming into this season with an illustrious history with the Canucks and he’s no longer a young buck in the league.
Related: Stars’ Goaltending Competition Remains Wide Open
He looked comfortable in net against the Blues on Oct. 4 and on Sept. 27, despite the Stars’ losses. If he continues to play this way into the regular season, maybe Bowness will reconsider his role on the team.
Jason Robertson is almost still “the new kid on the block”. The forward has assumed a natural leadership position on the team, following his impressive stint with the Stars at the end of the 2020-21 season. And he has continued to prove he is leaving his mark on the roster (from “Stars depth chart: Combinations and roles, how forward lines are shaping up”, The Athletic, Oct. 4, 2021). He’s confident and doesn’t feel the inane pressure to be the leader on the team when that role has already been filled by so many others on the roster (think Jamie Benn).
With two goals and one assist in the preseason, Robertson continues to rise to the challenge, despite being only 22 years old. His puck-winning ability has improved since last season and his control of the puck continues to be his strong suit. It’s no wonder that he was a Calder Memorial Trophy finalist during the 2020-21 season. His skating has improved too, and his self-confidence shined at the NHL media day when he represented the Stars. He’s maturing quickly, and for good reason, blossoming into a consistent forward, especially on a line with Joe Pavelski and Roope Hintz.
While there are certainly other players that have been pushing hard during the preseason (as well as several prospects looking to make a spot for themselves on the roster ahead of the regular season), these three players weren’t necessarily guaranteed a successful start. Whether it was injuries, a stale 2020-21 season or a slight lack of league experience, while it’s only the exhibition season and these players have to continue to impress for a few more months, a strong start can always make for a better season.