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Random Thoughts: Preseason Stories to Watch

The Dallas Stars will play 5 exhibition games in 8 days. Several storylines are worth watching

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While going through a box of old VHS tapes, I came across a TV report filed on a premier event in the history of the Dallas Stars. The date was September 12, 1993, as the franchise opened their first-ever training camp at the freshly updated rink, renamed the “Starcenter”, in Valley Ranch. Maybe I drew the assignment because I knew hockey. Maybe because I was the play-by-play man for the Dallas Freeze. Most likely it happened because everyone else at the WFAA-TV Sports department wanted to cover the Cowboys-Bills Super Bowl rematch taking place at Texas Stadium that same day. 

Watching the report from 29 years ago, I was horrified to see my wardrobe choice of the day was a denim shirt paired with a maroon-colored Yves St. Laurent knit tie. As the slew of soundbites from Bob Gainey, Russ Courtnall and Andy Moog lit up the screen, it became apparent how quickly time has passed. A lot has changed since that day, including what was acceptable during those first practices. For example:

  1. Most players were expected to get in shape during camp. Today, they arrive ready for full-speed hockey.
  2. Most of the team bonding was done over the bar. Today it is done over birdies.
  3. Fights amongst camp attendees was expected. If you wanted to prove your determination to make the NHL roster, gloves would be dropped and dropped often. Most training camps today will go three days without a single hard body check being thrown.

As the 2022 version of training camp wrapped up, it was highly unlikely that anyone arrived out of shape, needed to “sweat out the night before” or even considered throwing down with a teammate.  

All that is about to change, as starting Monday night, the Stars will play five exhibition games in eight nights. Emotions and intensity ramp up as players will try to prove they belong in the NHL.  

Here are just some of the storylines to watch during the preseason:

Can any (or how many) of the Big Three Prospects stay with the NHL team?

Mavrik Bourque, Wyatt Johnston, and Logan Stankoven come with resumes to back up the hype. No Canadian teenager has ever cracked the Stars roster while still Junior Hockey eligible. Johnston and Stankoven will have every opportunity to prove they should be the first. Bourque is guaranteed to remain in Texas this winter, but where?

Will any other forwards join the Must Watch list?

Riley Damiani and Matej Blumel announced their future intentions with dominant performances at Traverse City. Stars front office expects Ty Dellandrea to vie for an Opening Night spot and maybe greater things. Riley Tufte scored his first NHL goal last year, is he ready for a permanent spot in prime time? This will be fun to watch.

Log Jam at Defense

Miro Heiskanen, Ryan Suter, Esa Lindell and Jani Hakanpaa are locks.  

Colin Miller is likely a sure thing. Joel Hanley, Thomas Harley, and newcomer Nils Lundkvist will try to prove they belong in the starting lineup when games count. Stars front office does not want to healthy scratch young developing talent. This decision may come down to the final preseason game.

Anton Khudobin

There are some who wrote off Dobby after season-ending hip surgery last year. That notion underestimates the inner drive of the affable netminder. Khudobin didn’t climb from Siberia to the Stanley Cup Final without overcoming adversity. The preseason will show the status of Anton’s health and if he can contribute. Don’t count him out. The man famous for saying “we’re not going home!” is not ready to leave just yet.

Five games in eight days. Some will prove they are NHL-ready, some won’t. Roster spots are available. It’s time to see who will grab the opportunity. 

 

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