After the recent roster cuts, it appears the Stars have finally slimmed down their roster to the 23 men they believe can lead them back to the playoffs.
Logan Stankoven was sent back to his junior team in Kamloops where he will attempt to lead his team to the WHL final and look to win the most coveted trophy in major junior hockey, the Memorial Cup. Thomas Harley & Riley Damiani were sent down to the AHL while Will Butcher will have to go through waivers before he can join the Texas Stars.
With that, the roster is set with some really interesting names making the roster including rookie forward and 2021 1st round pick Wyatt Johnston who is only 19 years old and recent acquistion Nils Lundkvist. Although to be honest, I’m not surprised that Nils made the roster given what the Stars gave up for him.
Another player I’m really excited to see make the roster is Ty Dellandrea. He made the opening night roster last year, started off well, but faltered fairly quickly into the young season which lead to his demotion to the AHL.
However, I believe his journey to becoming a full time NHL’er could be similar to Roope Hintz. If you remember over the past several years, Hintz started with the Stars, faltered like Dellandrea did, was demoted, came back, and the rest is recent history with him becoming the Stars’ number one center.
Anyways, here is my projection for what I’d think the Stars’ forward lines may look like on Thursday to begin the season.
I know that Hintz played well together with Marchment and Gurianov before Robertson re-signed with the team, but if I’m Pete DeBoer, I saw what worked last year with that top line and I don’t want to mess with it. I believe it was the second best forward line in hockey behind the now-extinct Flames line of Tkachuk-Lindholm-Gaudreau.
However, it’s nice to have the option in your back pocket of putting Marchment and Gurianov with Hintz if that top line is struggling. We saw throughout the preseason that DeBoer really liked that line. Although, there may be a little bit of struggle from Robertson since he missed most of training camp.
I’m really intrigued by the 3rd line I put together of Benn-Johnston-Peterson. Peterson has played well with Benn in the past, and I believe at this point in his career, Benn is a really good 3rd line player. I would give Johnston a majority of the minutes at center since that is his natural position.
However, it’s nice to have the fallback of putting Benn at center or taking extremely key faceoffs in a game if Johnston is struggling (which he, Johnston, will because he’s a rookie). Plus this line has a bit of offensive potential to put the puck in the back of the net. In today’s NHL, teams really need to have three lines that can score in order to be competitive. I have talked about for years how important the third forward line is to the success of a team’s season.
Anyways, enough about forwards! Let’s take a look at the defensive pairings!
Before Lundkvist was acquired, this defensive core was very easy to project in my opinion. However, after Lundkvist being acquired, this gives DeBoer some ability to move things around a bit.
What I love about this projection is perfect balance between lefties playing on the left and righties playing on the right. Heiskanen, Lindell, and Suter are all lefties while Lundkvist, Hakanpaa, and Miller are all righties. (Hanley is a perfect 7th defenseman by the way. I love him!)
I think the most important goal in all of this is allowing Miro to play on his strong side and really allow him to fully unlock his potential of being one of the premier defensemen in the NHL. Putting Lundkvist with Heiskanen gives the top pairing two puck-moving defensemen which allows for quick breakouts out of the defensive zone.
The second pairing puts the “men” in defensemen with the enormous 6’3″ Lindell and even bigger 6’6″ Hakanpaa as the Stars shut-down pairing. I know normally we would see the top pairing of defensemen going against the opposition’s top forward line, but I believe the two of these guys are more than capable of shutting down every top line in the NHL.
Do we even need to talk about goaltending? It’s Oettinger’s net for as much as he wants to play with a very capable Wedgewood backing him up. I know Khudobin has been less than stellar for a while now, but he’s still a decent number 3 option in case the Stars have some injuries at the goaltending position.
Let us know your thoughts below as to what your projections are for the opening night roster! The Stars will take on the Predators on Thursday night at 7:30 pm in Nashville to start the season! Go Stars!