The first cut is the deepest, as Sheryll Crow so eloquently reminds us. Relative to the rest of the league, the Stars took their sweet time to relieve this crop from their training camp duties, and not many can blame them. After storming out to three wins, outscoring opponents 17-5, the Dallas Stars have a lot of talent to evaluate. Though there’s not much flash to glean from the preseason, the Stars should feel very confident at the NHL and AHL levels with the product that’s been displayed on the ice.
Dallas Stars First Cuts: The prodigal Benn returns
The only surprise from the Stars first list of cuts for Training Camp 2023 was how late into camp they made these changes. Jim Nill’s patience is one of his trademarks and he was willing to use the first four preseason matches to help guide his roster building.
Stars fans should derive confidence from the calculation he’s shown in constructing the roster as it currently stands and the depth from the top line of the NHL to the 4th line of the Idaho Steelheads. While a lot of teams hand out PTO flyers to tenured players as a depth moves, the Stars only have one situation where that is playing out. A notable name absent from first cuts is the Captain’s brother, Jordie Benn.
The organization was in a much different situation the last time Jordie Benn was in victory green. I had to wipe my eyeballs like a Tom & Jerry cartoon when I saw that he’s been apart from the team since 2017. There’s a sense of nostalgia seeing him guide the youth and keep order on the ice like he did in the 2010’s, when the Lindy Ruff era hit its peak.
Some forget that the Stars won the division the last time he was a part of this team for a full season, along with pacing the league in scoring with 265 total goals. Perhaps a Benn family reunion is what the team needed to inspire divisional dominance once more.
Realistically, Benn is here for a much less pivotal reason. Benn is a league vet that has proven himself as team-first player at every level. He’s been a key contributer in Dallas, Cedar Park, and even in Allen for the Americans.
With as many young players in this training camp as they have, there’s great value in also having a strong, trustworthy presence that’s had his fair share of training camp experience. He can sympathize with the young kids trying to make that next step as a pro at an elite level and also those that are just looking to carve out a career playing this sport.
Dallas Stars First Cuts: The Youth Movement
The deployment of the Dallas Stars youth through four games shows that career path divide and what has been expected of the prospects invited to camp. The interesting part to me, of this divide, is the players drafted and prioritized around other players that are clearly blooming.
Picked in lockstep with Stankoven, Artem Grushnikov has shown flashes when playing with lower competition but stumbled when the spotlight gets a bit brighter. He’ll join fellow former Hamilton Bulldog d-partner Gavin White in the rotation down in Cedar Park.
On the topic of slow-developing defensive prospects and family ties, it was cool to see Christian & Jordan Kyrou get a pregame picture before the Stars’ matchup with the Blues prior to his predetermined reassignment to the AHL. Kyrou has struggled to find footing as he makes the jump from juniors to the professional ranks.
There may be internal pressure on himself or plays being forced since he’s seen the team go out and draft another a bevy of supplemental defenders from Minnetian to Bertucci to Bichsel. Kyrou, like Grushnikov, should see a lot of opportunities to grow into his game further with a good amount of exposure to the AHL. Joining them in the AHL, but at the other end of the positivity spectrum, will be aforementioned Big Bad Bichsel.
The first round of cuts hasn’t diminished hope for the prospect pool, especially given the prospects remaining for these last few games. For those that were worried that Bichsel’s Traverse City dominance would be hindered by the knee tweak that sabotaged the last 2 games, fear no longer. Bichsel took part in the Arizona shellacking to open the preseason and the OT win over the Blues and has registered three points in those two matches.
To borrow from Sean Shapiro’s phrasing in the Spits & Suds Traverse City wrap-up: His peer group is NHL players. Not only is Bichsel sharpening his offensive game, the physical adjustment from the pros in Europe versus the pros in North America is less steep than those coming from the junior ranks.
Dallas Stars First Cuts: Paying it Forward
The buried lead, of course, is the trio of young forwards that the Stars have waiting in the wings in the event of injury down the road. The 13 forwards under one-way contracts at the NHL level leaves little to no room for surprises on the opening night roster, but the AHL talent pool will be fully stocked. With Bichsel’s young game incubating in Cedar Park, the rushing forwards he’ll be joining in Stankoven, Bourque, and Blumel look primed to make huge steps in their game.
Bourque continues to play a sound, patient offensive game as he carries his successes from the back half of last season and Stankoven has the fan base abuzz from the excitement his style of play generates. However, the young Czech Blumel may have the best chance of advancing his game to the next level.
Blumel has a little more tread on his tires, being 23 year’s old, and he’s on the second year of his non-draft entry level contract. Being a contract year, Blu will be given opportunities to cash in on a higher qualifying offer at the end of this season.
If lines to start camp are any indication, he started on Faksa’s left wing that was believed to be slotted for Sam Steel. Steel may well open the season as the 4LW next to Faksa and Smith/Delly, but if a spot opens I’d expect Blu to fill it. It’s also indicative to his long-term role on the team.
Blu projects as a depth forward on the bottom 6 and will fill the need in the event that an injury happens to someone in that group. Bourque and Stankoven have been playing with the middle six, with Seguin, Benn, Marchment, and Johnston. If a top liner goes out, Seguin appears to be the forward slotted for the bump.
Beneath that, the Stars will fill the missing pieces with talent projection. It’s a much more efficient way of replacing injuries and growing up their youth. The last thing the team wants is for the young guns to miss valuable games and lose their rhythm through repetitive call-ups and send-downs.
Dallas Stars First Cuts: Championship Level Pedigree
The largest takeaway from this is the amount of NHL talent the organization has is spilling over. For you Blackout Dallas readers that are reading this from further south on 35 than us DFW residents, I hope you’ve grabbed your season tickets for the HEB Center this year. The AHLers will be as stout a group as we’ve seen, because of the elite roster Nill has built up top. The Cup window for this organization opens now, for both Lord Stanley’s and the Calder.