On today’s continuation the Dallas Stars Prospect Series, we’ll take a look at the first defensive prospect of the series: Lian Bichsel. For further insight on prospect’s we’ve already covered, you can check out Brian’s articles on top young guns Logan Stankoven & Mavrik Bourque.
Bichsel stands at a much different crossroads than the young forwards, as most of his storyline will most certainly be tracked at the AHL level. So much of the defense’s projections over the next 3 seasons hinge on Bichsel’s development this year and the implications of this path will be outlined below.
Dallas Stars Prospect Series: Lian Bichsel’s Hockey Background
Lian Bichsel was the Stars’ first round pick at #18 last offseason, developing in the professional Swiss League for Biel HC at the age of 16 and for Leksands of the Swedish League for his age 17 and 18 seasons. Back and forth between their junior league and pro league, he registered 2g, 7a, for 10 pts across 71 games in two seasons. He saw more offensive output at the junior level with 4g, 6a, for 10 pts across 19 contests.
What stands out immediately about Bichsel is his imposing physical stature at 6’5” 225 lbs. If he bumps into an assistant coach down in Austin while he’s with the Texas Stars, they might offer him a scholarship to play defensive end (he has all 4 years of eligibility). Reaching physical maturity often slows the progression of defenders looking to make the jump a couple years, something Bichsel has already overcome at the age of 19.
Dallas Stars Prospect Series: Likeliness he makes Stars’ roster this season
As things currently project for the 2023-2024 season, Bichsel will be more of a “break in case of emergency” player at the AHL level. The Stars have been outward with their expectations for him and want to utilize this season for his development.
To serve as a protectorate, the Stars re-signed Alex Petrovic and signed Gavin Bayreuther for double insurance if Hakanpaa has to start the season on LTIR (knee). The AHL is the perfect place to incubate Bichsel’s game as he progresses as a player and a young adult moving far from home.
Dallas Stars Prospect Series: What he needs to work on
With all of the tools at Bichsel’s disposal, the next one he’s asked to add to his arsenal is a more active offensive game. His last teenage year being spent at the AHL will help him acclimate to North American speed of play and protecting the puck from more skillful forechecks.
He was drafted with excellent defensive instincts and raw tools to develop an offensive game. Once tapped into, given that he progresses properly, he will slot next to Miro Heiskanen for the last 5 years of his current 8-year extension.
The balance between defense pairings that this staff employs is of an eliminator and a facilitator. After Miro posted 73 pts last season, he’s proven to be one of the league’s elite facilitators on the back end.
The eliminator role is best exemplified by Esa Lindell’s role in past years as a rush condenser with solid puck retrieval. In order to fill that role adequately, he just needs to prove that he can hold his own offensively and that his gritty style of play translates to the top level of competition.