We don’t learn a ton of NHL Training Camps, but we do get a glimpse into what the future will hold and what type of team we will see in the upcoming season. For the Dallas Stars, this year’s training camp features a mess of storylines. With a new coach and plenty of new faces, there will be a lot to digest from the three days on the ice in Cedar Park. Let’s look at the top storylines to keep an eye on as we get going on Thursday.
Jason Robertson Will Not Be in Attendance
Stars General Manager Jim Nill announced Thursday that forward Jason Robertson will not be attending training camp as he remains unsigned with Dallas. While we do not know how much longer this holdout could last, we do know that missing time on the ice, especially with a new coaching staff, can only hurt a player. With Robertson’s high hockey IQ and skill, this should not become a serious issue unless it drags on further and further toward the start of the regular season.
Which of the ‘Big Three’ Prospects Will Impress Most?
It seems likely that either Wyatt Johnston, Logan Stankoven, Mavrik Bourque, or a combination of the three, will be on the Stars opening night roster. It seems likely that at least one of them will remain in the NHL for much of the regular season. But which one?
If you have followed these prospects over the last year, you know that each one of them has their own style of play. Johnston is arguably the most complete player, with a 200-foot game, excellent vision, and the ability to make plays all over the ice. Stankoven is a hard worker, an annoying forechecker, and knows how to put himself in the right spot and finish when he gets chances around the net. Bourque is a bit of a hybrid. His two-way game is solid, he knows how to create with and without the puck, and he has experience at the professional level.
Jim Nill did make it clear on Thursday that the rule which would force Stankoven and Johnston back to juniors if they are not on the Stars roster after nine games, will not play a role in the decisions being made. They hold these three players in very high respect and each will have a chance to prove their value over the next couple of weeks.
“We’ve got some guys that have clearly shown that they are ahead of their peers in their age group,” Nill said. “You are never going to put a young player in a position where he is not going to succeed, you have to be careful with that and his development. Let’s see where they are at when they get on the ice with NHL players.”
What Will Be the Culture Under Pete DeBoer?
Anytime a new coach comes in, the culture of the team is inevitably going to change. For a Stars team that has been largely mediocre over the past few seasons, this might be a good thing. We know that Pete DeBoer likes to push the pace, activate the defense, and control the puck. We know that he wants four lines that can score goals and have the attitude to add to the offense when they are on the ice. But what we do not know is how he plans to run this team on and off the ice.
Will he be a loud vocal leader? Will he sit back and let his staff and the players handle adversity and certain situations? Will he be strict and run a tight ship? Will he allow the team to have some freedom? I can go on and on. But I won’t.
If you followed him in Vegas, San Jose, or even New Jersey, you know that he likes to be honest and give players the chance to prove themselves. Heading into camp with Dallas, he is taking a similar “blank slate” approach.
“I think you are going to see through training camp and exhibitions that we are going to give everybody an opportunity,” DeBoer said. “My goal as a coach, every year but particularly when taking over a new team, is that everybody walks out at the end of the exhibition season, and whether they made the team, they can’t look and say: ‘I didn’t get an opportunity to show you what I am as a player.’ So that’s my goal and we are going to work off that.”
Is Nils Lundkvist NHL Ready?
The Stars made a somewhat shocking trade on Monday, letting go of a 2023 first-round pick and conditional 2025 fourth-rounder in exchange for New York Rangers defenseman, Nils Lundkvist.
The 22-year-old is largely unproven, only playing in 25 NHL games to this point, and is coming off some drama in the big apple. However, with Nill’s reluctance to disperse picks in his tenure in Dallas, this move means that the Stars believe Lundkvist is capable of not only becoming a full-time NHLer but also developing into a legitimate top-four option for the foreseeable future.
“Obviously, we gave up a first-round pick, we are very high on him,” Nill said. “A lot of our scouts loved him, we have been watching him for the last four years. The reason we made the trade is one: he is a very good player, and two: he fills the void that we have. To get something, you have to give up something. Rather than giving up one of our top prospects, which they (NY) wanted, we agreed that a first-round pick would work.”
Nill did emphasize that he is very hesitant to give up a first-round pick for a rental player that could leave the team after a playoff run. But when it comes to a 22-year-old that has shown potential and has the tools needed to be successful, the decision was an easy one.
“The other part of this is that he has gone through his development phase,” Nill continued. “Whoever we draft in next year’s draft is realistically three or four years away. He has gone through his four years and he has gotten his feet wet in North America. I think everybody is going to be pleasantly surprised how good of a player he is. I expect him to be on the roster.”
It is unlikely that Lundkvist will jump right into the top four to start the season. However, Nill does expect him to be at the NHL level and the organization as a whole believes that he is a special player.
Who Will Be the Surprise Player?
The golden question each year is: which player will rise up and surprise everyone in the preseason? Last year, it was a 22-year-old Jacob Peterson, who made his mark after dominating in his first playing time on North American ice. Peterson went on to record 17 points in 65 games for Dallas.
This year, there is a massive list of names that could do it. Is it Matej Blumel, who is coming off four goals in Traverse City? Is it highly-touted defenseman Artem Grushnikov? Does the Swedish trend continue with Oskar Back? Or is it an older guy who has taken his game to the next level? We’ll have to wait to find out. But one thing is certain, somebody will step up.
“Always surprised,” DeBoer said when asked how often he is surprised by certain players at training camp. “Someone always grabs your attention. We like to think we know everything. We watch tapes, but until you are in the trenches every day, there are always guys that surprise you, particularly positively.”