It’s been about a week and a half since the Dallas Stars season came to a close. But there is another group of Stars that is still alive and fighting for a championship. The AHL’s Texas Stars will begin the second round of their quest for the Calder Cup on Thursday when they meet the Grand Rapid Griffins.
One of the many reasons fans were so excited about this year’s Dallas Stars team was the emergence of young talent on display. Whether it was Cody Eakin, Alex Chiasson, Brenden Dillon, or even Tyler Seguin, the Stars were overflowing with key members of their roster in their early 20’s that are expected to be in Victory Green for years to come. A large number of Dallas’ talented youngsters climbed through Cedar Park on their way north. And there are still a number of players on the Texas Stars that could very soon be making an appearance at the NHL level.
To find out just how big of an impact the AHL Stars have had on the NHL Stars, all you have to do is look at this postseason. Of the 24 men on the Stars Stanley Cup Playoff Roster, 13 of them had previously played for Texas. That includes a half-dozen that played there this season alone. Conversely, nine current members of the Texas Stars playoff roster played for Dallas this year. Included on that list are Patrik Nemeth, Chris Mueller, and Dustin Jeffrey who were all with Dallas for the playoffs before being reassigned after the series loss to Anaheim.
The emphasis on a strong, young nucleus and developing key players through the draft and minor leagues is a big part of the Stars philosophy moving forward. Replenishing the talent pool with a new wave of young players was a strength of the Detroit Red Wings during Jim Nill’s 19-year run in Hockeytown, and he plans to follow that model in Dallas. He has said many times this season that with the CBA’s younger age of unrestricted free agents, more players are being signed to long-term contracts earlier in their career, reducing the number of high-end free agents that hit the market in their prime. While there will still be pieces acquired in free agency, and trades also remain a possibility – as in the case of Seguin – Nill’s long-term goal for this team is to grow and maintain a strong pipeline.
As of right now he’s got a great setup in place to do just that. Texas finished the AHL regular season with the best record in the league, and we’ve already examined the number of players they graduated to Dallas. When scouring the Texas roster, there are a number of candidates for who might be next. Forwards like Curtis McKenzie, Travis Morin and Brett Ritchie turned heads with their numbers all season. Young defensemen like Jamie Oleksiak, Jyrki Jokipakka, Cameron Gaunce, and (currently injured) John Klingberg are all expected to be in training camp fighting for a Dallas roster spot four short months from now. Goaltenders Jack Campbell and Christopher Nilstorp will give Nill and company something to think about regarding their plans for a number two netminder next season.
If you’re a Stars fan, chances are you were thrilled with what you saw in terms of the Dallas youth movement this season. If you’re interested to see who’s coming over the horizon next, you might want to keep an eye on Cedar Park for the next several weeks. Rest assured the Dallas Stars front office and coaching staff will be doing the same thing.
Josh Bogorad is the Pre-Game, Post-Game, and Intermission host for the Stars radio broadcasts. He can be heard 30 minutes before face-off and immediately after games all season long on SportsRadio 1310AM and 96.7FM The Ticket. Follow him on Twitter at @JoshBogorad.
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