Friday, September 17, 2010
Players to watch at Stars camp
By Mark Stepneski
CHARLOTTETOWN, Prince Edward Island -- Here are some players to watch during Dallas Stars training camp, which begins Saturday. Everybody's worth a look, but these are some notable ones in my opinion. Some of them will need to be impact players this season. Some will push to play in the NHL this season. And some are expected to big parts of the team in years ahead.
Kari Lehtonen is banking on a new conditioning routine to keep him in shape at goal for the Stars.
1. Kari Lehtonen, G: Some people would look at the Stars’ decision to hand over the No. 1 goaltending job to Lehtonen as a gamble. The talent is there, but Lehtonen’s been injury prone during his career and that’s cause for concern. But the 26-year-old Finn changed his conditioning routine over the summer and said he’s healthy and in the best shape ever as he comes into camp. If the Stars are going to show improvement in the goals against department -- a big sore spot last season -- Lehtonen will need to deliver.
2. Brenden Morrow, LW: Morrow wasn’t himself on the ice last season. Coming off ACL surgery had a lot to with that. The hope is he can move beyond that now because the Stars will need their captain back to form if they are going to push forward and push for a playoff spot this season.
3. Mike Ribeiro, C: Ribeiro, who is Morrow’s center, had a down season as well. He struggled to adjust to coach Marc Crawford’s push the pace style and ended up being the subject of trade rumors this summer. GM Joe Nieuwendyk said Ribeiro is staying put and Ribeiro, who worked hard this summer, looks like a focused, determined player heading into the season. An effective Morrow-Ribeiro combination would be a big boost for the Stars.
4. Jonathan Cheechoo, RW: The former 50-goal scorer is in came on a tryout basis. His production has dropped way off in recent years, but if he can regain some of his old form he’d give the Stars a right shot that can score, something the team could use. He’s going to get a look on the right side with Morrow and Ribeiro in camp.
5. Matt Niskanen, D: He’s coming off a disappointing season that saw him register a team-worst minus-15 rating. He’s worked hard in the offseason and a big improvement in his game would be a big boost for a Stars defense where any improvement will need to come from within at this point.
6. Tom Wandell, C: He’s worth watching to see how he bounces back off ACL surgery. He had the other knee done a few years back, so he knows the routine. He’s looked pretty good skating in Frisco, but if he’s slow starting out of the gate, then Marc Crawford might have to adjust his line plans.
7: Fabian Brunnstrom, LW/RW: The question surrounding Brunnstrom is where he fits among the Dallas forwards. After a solid rookie season in 2008-09, he fell off the map last season. He has NHL level offensive talent, but he’s struggled to find consistency. He needs to play in the top six forward group to be effective, but there may not be room for him.
8. Brent Krahn, G: He’s going to get a chance to land a backup spot in Dallas, but only if he can beat out veteran Andrew Raycroft. Krahn was a first round pick of Calgary in 2000, but has had his career derailed by knee problems. That issue seems to be behind him now and he was excellent in the AHL last season, but missed time due to sports hernia surgery and a concussion. This is a big chance for Krahn to finally break through into the NHL.
9. Philip Larsen, D: He’s the Stars' top defense prospect and he’s close to becoming a regular player in the NHL. He might need time in the AHL to help him adjust more to the North American game, but the smooth skating, highly skilled defenseman is knocking on the door.
10. Severin Blindenbacher, D: The Swiss defenseman was an under-the-radar free agent signing in July. Crawford has liked what he’s seen from Blindenbacher as he’s skated out in Frisco prior to camp. He’s played in the Swedish Elite League and in big tournaments on the international stage, so he has experience against quality competition. Time will tell if he’s NHL worthy, but he’s worth watching.
11. Scott Glennie, RW: The Stars’ 1st round pick (eighth overall) in 2009 didn’t get to skate with the team at last year’s camp due to a groin injury. He’s made nice strides over the past year, and it will be interesting to see how he fares on the ice at his first NHL camp. He’s expected to play his final year of junior hockey in the WHL this season.
12: Jack Campbell, G: The Stars' first-round pick (11th overall) in 2010 is still a few years away and he'll play junior hockey with Windsor of the OHL this season, but the fact that he is a high draft pick and this is his first NHL camp make him worth a look, especially to see how he stacks up against other goaltending prospects Tyler Beskorowany and Richard Bachman.