On the Radar: Examining the Texas Stars-Defensemen and Goaltenders
On Tuesday night the Dallas Stars top minor league affiliate, the Texas Stars, won their first Calder Cup Championship in franchise history, thanks to a thrilling 4-3 overtime win over the St. John’s Ice Caps in Game 5 of the Calder Cup Finals. The Stars capped off St. John’s (pun intended) in five games, including three straight in OT – all on the road, no less. Last week we showed you a breakdown of Texas Stars forwards and their current ties to the Dallas Stars organization. This week we take a look at the defensemen and goaltenders who helped bring Texas their first AHL Championship, some of whom could serve as the next wave of players in Victory Green.
Derek Meech, D – He signed an AHL deal with Texas in January after playing earlier in the year in the KHL. He is a veteran of more than 550 pro games, and 144 NHL games. The 30-year old led all Stars blue liners in scoring this postseason with 11 points (3g, 8a) in 21 games. His most recent NHL experience was 16 games for Winnipeg in the 2012-2013 season.
Jyrki Jokipakka, D – A native of Finland, Jokipakka adds blue line size at 6’ 3”, 193 lbs. The Stars drafted him in the 7th round (#195 overall) in the 2011 Draft. He finished third in Texas defenseman scoring this season as a rookie. The 22 year-old is on an entry-level contract for one more season, through 2014-2015.
Patrik Nemeth, D – A second round pick (#41 overall) of Dallas in 2010, Nemeth was very impressive in a late-season call-up to the NHL. He appeared in eight regular season games and five in the playoffs. After Dallas was eliminated, he joined Texas and played in 18 postseason games. He finished the Calder Cup Playoffs with one goal and four assists, but his goal just happened to be a highlight-reel play for the OT Cup-winner. At 22 years-old, he has one season remaining on his entry-level contract. He is a front-runner to win a blue line spot in what should be a highly-competitive Dallas training camp next season.
Jamie Oleksiak, D – Selected by Dallas with the 14th overall pick in the 2011 Draft, the Stars have big hopes for Oleksiak - big being the operative word. The 21 year-old is a towering 6’ 7”, 250 lbs. He was called-up for 7 games in Dallas this season, and played 16 last season. He had five assists in this year’s Texas cup-run, and led the team and AHL with a +13 rating. The Stars are hoping he can develop his physical play to accompany his size and make him a NHL mainstay. This offseason and next year are key, as the 2014-2015 season is Oleksiak’s last on his current, entry-level contract.
Cameron Gaunce, D – Originally a 2nd round (#50 overall) selection of Colorado in the 2008 Draft, Gaunce was acquired from the Avalanche for Tomas Vincour in a trading deadline deal in 2013. Dallas signed him to a one-year, two-way deal last summer. With a thin blue line due to injury, Gaunce was respectable in nine NHL games this season. He appeared in 65 games for Texas, and played in 18 playoff games, notching four assists. The 24 year-old will be a RFA this summer.
Maxime Fortunus, D – The captain of the Texas Stars, Fortunus signed a two-year, one-way AHL deal last summer. However, he was signed to a NHL contract in December after Dallas’ blue line was decimated with injuries and played in one NHL game for the Stars (tallying an assist). He becomes a NHL UFA this summer, but has been with Texas since 2009. While not on the NHL radar, the 30 year-old is part of their AHL plans going forward.
William Wrenn, D – Originally drafted in the 2nd round (#43 overall) by San Jose, Wrenn was assigned to the Texas Stars during the 2012-2013 season. The 23 year-old spent the entire 2013-2014 season in Texas, playing 40 regular season games and appearing in 2 postseason games. He is on a one-way AHL contract with Texas.
Hubert Labrie, D – An undrafted defenseman, Labrie signed an entry-level contract with Dallas in 2009. After not turning pro until 2011, his contract expires this season, making him a RFA this summer. The 22 year-old has split his time with the Stars between the AHL and ECHL, playing in 40 regular season games and 4 playoff games for Texas this season.
Jack Campbell, G - Selected by Dallas with the 11th overall pick in the 2010 Draft, Campbell has played in 72 regular season and playoff games for the Texas Stars dating back to 2012. He spent much of the season injured, although he did make his NHL debut back in October. He got very little help in front of him, and looked better than his 41 saves of 47 shots stat line. Next year will be the final year of his entry-level contract. Hopes remain high for the future prospects of the former Gold Medal-winning, U.S. Junior goaltender. However, Kari Lehtonen has four years remaining on his contract and other goaltenders in the Stars system have also emerged. What Dallas elects to do with their backup role next year is one of the organization’s offseason questions, and Campbell’s upcoming season will certainly be affected by how they choose to proceed.
Cristopher Nilstorp, G - Originally an undrafted goaltender, the Swedish native spent the majority of his career playing in Europe. After a few different stops, including four straight seasons in the Swedish Elite League – one of which ended in a 2011 postseason championship – he signed with Dallas in the summer of 2012. The 30-year old just completed his second straight one-year deal with Dallas and will be a UFA this summer. He anchored Texas all season, appearing in 45 regular season games and 19 of the 21 postseason games this year. He was terrific, going 13-5 in the playoffs with a 2.17 GAA and .919 save percentage. He has six games of NHL experience over the last two seasons, including one relief appearance this year – a 14 saves on 17 shot performance in 40 minutes at Winnipeg in March. Overall he is 1-3-1 with a 3.26 GAA and .890 save percentage in the NHL. Considering his age, contract status, and the other goaltenders for the Stars at the NHL and minor-league levels, both Nilstorp and the Stars have decisions to make on his future this summer.
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.