The Stars began training camp on Thursday with three on-ice sessions, some off-ice work, and a whole lot of smiles to go around. Here are the notables from Day one.
Intriguing Line Combinations
First, we have learned to take everything from training camp with a grain of salt. Second, Jason Robertson is still unsigned and was not on the ice for camp, likely forcing some swapping of lines. However, three of the line combinations really stuck out as something I could see as a real possibility during the regular season.
The first group featured a line of Jacob Peterson, Tyler Seguin, and Joe Pavelski. The skill on that line is apparent but the combination of veterans with youth and three different styles is what excites me. Peterson has slick hands and can finish but also knows how to create, Seguin is capable of high speed and quickness with a wicket shot, and Pavelski just knows where to be to make plays and score goals. That line would bring a totally different dynamic to this Stars lineup.
Group B trotted out the combination of Mason Marchment, Roope Hintz, and Denis Gurianov. First, the speed of Hintz and Gurianov on the same line would be terrifying to opponents. Second, Marchment should bring the snarl and grit needed to make that line tough to play against and can also get into the tough areas, win pucks, and finish off the high-flying plays made by the two speedsters. Hintz looked like his normal self, driving the play and backing off defenders or blowing right through them. Gurianov uses his speed differently, mostly down the wing to create space and force defenders to turn. It is an intriguing one indeed.
“I think it’s an initial look at guys together,” Stars Head Coach Pete DeBoer said. “You look at Hintz with Gurianov and Marchment, that looks like a big, fast, and hard line to play against.”
Finally, Group C’s top line had a bit of everything. Jamie Benn, Radek Faksa, and Wyatt Johnston are three different players that could come together nicely. Benn is the captain and a veteran that is looking for more offense this season. Faksa is defensively responsible and also is looking to re-find his offensive production. Johnston is the young, speedy prospect that has proven his playmaking ability is elite. Perhaps the veterans can protect the rookie while he uses his speed and creativity to drive more offense out of them in return. If Johnston stays with the NHL club, this could be a very effective third or fourth line for Dallas.
“It was great,” Benn said when asked about skating with Johnston. “You can already tell that he is well beyond his years. Smart player, sees the ice well, and not scared to make plays. It is fun to see and great to be alongside him.”
Fast-Paced Hockey Under Pete DeBoer
It was only one day but the pace of practice was very noticeable. From the speed of each drill to the constant hustle between drills, after drills, and all over the ice, it is clear that he wants this team to be fast-paced.
“For me, I believe in short, hard, and game speed as opposed to longer, drawn-out practices,” DeBoer said. “You won’t see us practicing an hour and a half at all or very often. We will be more in the 40-50 minute range with a lot of pace and guys executing at game speed.”
Possibly even more noticeable was the focus on engaging the defense within the offensive game. Throughout each and every drill, the D-men were forced to retrieve pucks, rapidly pick their head up and turn to get the puck up the ice, and then get on their horse and join the rush. Heck, he even had defenders driving the middle of the ice and crashing the net. In a league that is trending towards more speed and defenseman activation, I like how DeBoer is approaching this.
“We spent a lot of time on breakouts today,” DeBoer said. “I think it starts there for us. If we can get out of our own zone cleaner and more often with better spacing and more possession, I think it sets up the rest of our game.”
Thursday was also the debut of newly acquired defensemen Colin Miller and Will Butcher.
Lundkvist, Marchment Make Their Debuts
Thursday marked the first official skate with Dallas for newcomers Mason Marchment and Nils Lundkvist. Marchment has been skating with his teammates for a few weeks in Dallas and says he has learned a lot and developed some good connections over that time.
“Getting the chemistry and getting comfortable with each other is definitely huge,” he said. “To be able to be yourself and go along throughout your routine and not have to bother anyone and get comfortable, it's good.”
For Lundkvist, his story is drastically different. Not only was he acquired in a trade just a few days ago, but he also faced a long travel day to get him from Sweden to Austin in time for the start of camp.
“I flew Stockholm to New York, New York to Austin [he was also delayed in Newark for hours and did not arrive in Austin until 1:30 a.m. local time], so it was a long day yesterday, but it is fun to be here,” he said. “I am a little tired but it is fun to get going, so I am trying to stay awake now and hopefully get a good night of sleep today.”
“When you get on the ice at ice level with these guys, it is always surprising the skill level,” DeBoer said. “Watching Roope Hintz from the other bench as opposed to standing there at practice watching him get up and down the ice, you realize how big and how fast and how talented those guys are, and he is not the only one. I caught myself a bunch of times today with an excitement level about the players that we are going to have the opportunity to coach here.”