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Friday, July 8, 2011
Development camp thoughts

By Mark Stepneski

Here are some thoughts on the just concluded Dallas Stars development camp in McKinney.

*People with the Stars and those who were on the ice with the players said it was the most impressive group they’ve had at one of these development camps and definitely one of the most skilled.  I have to agree. As a group, it was pretty impressive. The Stars have some good prospects in the pipeline in all areas. The goaltending group is very good, the group of defensemen has improved over the past few years and there are some talented forwards with some offensive upside.

*As I say every year, I don’t read a ton into what I see at development camp. You aren’t seeing the players in game situations. A lot of these drills are challenging them and they’ll struggle with them at times. But you can pick up some things about them by watching and talking to people. And I’ll be honest, I watch some players more than others. Also, players are at different stages of their development. I don’t look at Player X vs. Player Y, but how Player X looks today vs. Player X a year ago or two years ago if he’s been around a bit.  If he’s a new guy, it’s a first impression.

Anyway, here are some thoughts on some of the players at the camp, not all of them.  This is based on watching them play in gaes, observations at the various camps and talking to people. I’ll discuss them by position.

GOALTENDERS

Jack Campbell, G: He looked good in the camp. He can be spectacular at times. He got off to a rough start in juniors last season, but he was great at the World Juniors and finished the season strong at Windsor. Campbell seemed to learn some lessons from last season, and that’s a good thing. He’s probably going to play in Windsor again next season and then turn pro after that. The debate over whether the Stars should have drafted Cam Fowler instead gives me a headache. The Stars drafted Campbell, so the focus should be on Campbell. He looks like a very good goaltending prospect and the Stars are going to be patient with his development, and they should be.

Tyler Beskorowany, G: He looked in camp as well. He usually looks good every time I watch him. He’s got great size and he’s coming off a very impressive first professional season. He was outstanding in the ECHL and played well as a backup to Richard Bachman in the AHL. He’s going to play in Texas again next season. He sort of gets overshadowed now that Campbell is in the system, but he is a really good prospect.

DEFENSEMEN

Brenden Dillon, D: The Stars signed him as a free agent out of the AHL late last season; he finished the season with the Texas Stars and was impressive. He played in key situations during the Calder Cup playoffs, which says a lot about a player coming right out of junior hockey. He has good size, mobility, a good shot and defends well. He’s a late bloomer. He looked fine in the camp and is close to the NHL. How close? Time will tell.

Jamie Oleksiak, D: The first round pick (14th overall) in this summer’s draft was impressive. He’s 6-7, 244 pounds, skates well and moves the puck well. Has a hard shot, too. He’s still got a ways to go in his development, but you have to like where he is right now. He’s a mature kid too and handled the questions about whether he would play next season at Northeastern and the questions about whether he would try out for Canada or the USA’s World Junior team well.

Patrik Nemeth, D: One of the things you can see in a development camp is how much a player has progressed from one year to the next. Nemeth is a guy who looks a lot more polished out there on the ice. He played a full season in the Swedish Elite League in 2010-11, played for Sweden at the World Juniors and fared well. Plays with an edge. Looks like a good two-way defenseman.

John Klingberg, D: What you notice about Klingberg is that he’s a lot bigger than he was a year ago. He’s added some weight. He’s still silky smooth out there. He has a high skill level, great hands and has the potential to be an excellent offensive defenseman. His shot has gotten a lot better of the last year as well. He’s going to play for Jokerit in Finland next season, which the Stars and Klingberg believe will be great for his development.

Hubert Labrie, D: He was one of the players that really caught my eye at camp. He’s nothing flashy, but he battles hard. He was relentless in some of the competitive drills. Really held his own in puck battles with a much bigger Oleksiak and just out-willed others. I asked him to describe his playing style. His response: “In a word? Warrior.” I’d have to agree. He missed most of last season with a knee injury, returned for the end of the season and then played in the QMJHL playoffs with more injuries. I believe one of them was a broken hand. I think there are still some questions where he’ll play next season, but turning pro is a possibility.

Troy Vance, D: He’s the fifth round pick from this summer’s draft and another one of those big kids at 6-6, 200 pounds. He moves well and has some nice skill, but as someone who was working with the players on the ice noted, he is not as polished as Oleksiak. He made the jump from the EJHL to QMJHL in the middle of last season, and handled it well. He’s still a raw prospect, but it looks like there is a lot of potential there.

Jyrki Jokipakka, D: He’s the Stars’ seventh round draft pick from this summer’s draft. He looked pretty good at the camp and was pretty much as advertised. He skates well and it looks like he has some good puck skills.

Jace Coyle, D : A free agent signing out of Medicine Hat, he’ll turn pro this season and will probably end up with the Texas Stars. He had some injury issues in his final season of juniors, but he’s pretty good with the puck.

Mike Bergin, D: I’ve liked him when I’ve seen him at the Dallas camps. He looks like he has the potential to be a two-way guy. Handles the puck well and has a good shot. He’ll be at RPI again next season.

Alex Theriau, D: He’s the 2010 fourth rounder. He’s a slick skater. He was traded to Medicine Hat from Everett within the WHL last season and the move seemed to do him a lot of good. It will be interesting how he does in a full season in Medicine Hat.

FORWARDS

Tomas Vincour, RW: I am not sure that much needs to be said about Vincour, who played the final third of last season in Dallas. He missed the first couple of days on on-ice work because his gear got lost on the flight to Dallas. He looked fine once he got on the ice. He had his ups and downs last season, but he should be in the mix for a roster spot in Dallas this coming season.

Alex Chiasson, RW: You can really see the strides Chiasson, a second round pick in 2009, has made over the past year. He really stood out at this camp. He has excellent size, skill and a great shot. Plus, he’s a right shot. He had an excellent sophomore season at Boston University and expectations are he’ll improve on that this season. Word is that he could turn pro after his junior year. Projected as a power forward.

Reilly Smith, RW: Smith, a third round pick in 2009, is another excellent prospect the Stars have playing in college. He was impressive at the camp and stood out among the group. He played on one of the highest scoring lines in the NCAA this past season, but his two linemates at Miami University have moved on and he’ll be taking on a bigger role this season. He’s got speed and outstanding skill. He’s added some weight as well. He’s a funny guy, too. Like Chiasson, he could turn pro after his junior season.

Scott Glennie, C: Glennie, the first round pick (8th overall) in 2009, missed the last half of the camp with a sore knee. The tools are all there.  He’s got speed, hands, skill. He’s been training with Gary Roberts. He’s making progress. He got off to a slow start last season in juniors, didn’t make Canada’s World Junior team, but rebounded from all that and finished the season strong with Brandon of the WHL. He played a little with the Texas Stars late last season, which should help him as he turns pro full time this season. He's switching from right wing to center, a process that started last season. It will be interesting to see how he does this season.

Brett Ritchie, RW: The second round pick (44th overall) in this summer’s draft really made an impression at the camp.  He skates well, has a really good wrist shot and you could see his compete level and ability to win puck battles in some of the drills. He’s another right shot who projects as a power forward. He and Oleksiak really stood out among this year’s draft class.

Matt Fraser, LW: He was signed as a free agent out of the WHL, and looks like a good prospect. He has good size, shoots the puck well and has a knack for getting himself into good scoring positions. He had a great final season in juniors and put up excellent numbers in the playoffs as Kootenay won the WHL title and advanced to the Memorial Cup. Seems like a level-headed, determined kid.

Emil Molin, C: He’s the fourth pick from this summer’s draft. He’s obviously got skill and hands and you could see his playmaking ability and smarts in some of the drills at the camp. He was one of the younger players at the camp, but he didn’t always look it. It will be interesting to see how much he develops over the next year.

Mathieu Tousignant, C: He already has a couple professional seasons under his belt and played all of last season with the Texas Stars. He’s a grinder, a pest and a hard worker, and he’s got a pretty good skill set.

Scott Winkler, C: I liked Winkler, a third rounder in 2008, when I saw him a few years ago at camp. Still like him. He has a pretty good skill level. He missed time this season at Colorado College due to wrist surgery, but the Stars believe he could be ready to take a step forward this season.

Alex Guptill, LW: A third rounder in last year’s draft, Guptill has some excellent skills. He didn’t have a very good year in the USHL, and was injured as well. He’ll begin play at the University of Michigan this season.  The word is he’s a little behind the curve on the maturity front and the hope is that going to Michigan will speed up that process.