We are going to have fun here. With Jason Robertson signed and the Stars approaching their final preseason game, now is the perfect time to project who I believe will be on the opening night roster next week in Nashville. Remember, unless further moves are made, the Stars will likely need to carry one fewer (22) player than a normal roster to stay cap compliant.
Forwards (13): Roope Hintz, Jason Robertson, Joe Pavelski, Tyler Seguin, Mason Marchment, Radek Faksa, Denis Gurianov, Jamie Benn, Luke Glendening, Jacob Peterson, Wyatt Johnston, Riley Damiani, Joel Kiviranta/Ty Dellandrea (injured).
Let’s start with the locks. Hintz, Robertson, Pavelski, Seguin, Marchment, Faksa, Gurianov, Benn, and Glendening will make the cut. Gurianov is the closest guy to falling from this list and has a lot to prove, but his upside secures him to start. Behind them, there are two groups: the leaders, and the true bubble guys.
In the first group, Kiviranta and Peterson. Both players have NHL experience and have proven that they can play at the highest level. With Kiviranta, you know what you get. He is a scrappy winger that is tough on the walls and hard on the forecheck. He has shown offense in the past (hello bubble), but missed a large chunk in 2020-21 due to injury and that offense significantly slowed last season. His ceiling seems to be a bottom-six guy.
Peterson is different. The 23-year-old surprised out of camp last season and finished with 12 goals in 65 games. For a first-year guy that has minimal experience on a North American sheet, that is exceptional. The ceiling is unknown for Peterson, which I believe gives him a leg up.
Finally, come the bubble players. This list includes Johnston, Logan Stankoven, Mavrik Bourque, Damiani, Oskar Back, Fredrik Karlstrom, Olofsson, and Dellandrea. Note: As of Thursday, Bourque, Back, Karlstrom, and Olofsson have been reassigned to the AHL.
Of the so-called “big three”, Wyatt Johnston seems to have the inside edge. He has the OHL pedigree, has shown flashes in the preseason, and would likely not learn much from another full season of junior hockey. He should at least get a nine-game tryout, at which point Dallas will need to decide whether to send him back or keep him and use the first year or his entry-level contract.
Stankoven has done some nice things in camp and the preseason but with Kamloops hosting the Memorial Cup in the CHL, I believe he begins back with his old club.
Of the rest, I think Dellandrea, Riley Damiani, and Olofsson have shown the most. Dellandrea should be ready to return right around opening night after his hand injury, Damiani has continued to prove he can score goals and compete at the NHL level, and Olofsson has been the underdog that keeps finding ways to stay in the lineup. I think he is the first AHL call-up and would have made the roster if Dallas did not have to dress one less skater.
Defensemen (7): Miro Heiskanen, Esa Lindell, Nils Lundkvist, Ryan Suter, Jani Hakanpaa, Colin Miller, Joel Hanley
This group has far less drama than the forwards. The locks are quite obvious in Heiskanen, Lindell, Suter, and Hakanpaa. Heck, I would even throw Miller into that group with his experience and the confidence that DeBoer has shown in him early. So really, it all comes down to the sixth and seventh spot.
Newcomer Nils Lundkvist has earned his chance. He has scored two goals in the preseason, is implementing nearly perfectly into DeBoer’s new system and brings a lot of the tools that Dallas lost in John Klingberg. Behind him, the decision comes down to Hanley or Thomas Harley.
Right now, Harley has not impressed. DeBoer and his staff have publicly asked for more from him and with only one preseason game to go, I do not believe he sees enough to justify starting him in the NHL. I know, I would not have guessed I’d be writing those words a couple of months ago but Hanley is the safer choice.
He is reliable, excels in the seventh defenseman role, and similar to Kiviranta, you know what you are going to get every night. Harley should get his chance at some point in the season but I think he will be forced to earn it in the AHL.
Goaltenders (2): Jake Oettinger, Scott Wedgewood
The crease featured a bit of a storyline with the now-healthy Anton Khudobin. But after three mediocre performances from Khudobin and Wedgewood picking up where he left off, that story has concluded. Oettinger will carry the load but expect Wedgewood to play a huge role on this team and surprise a lot of people this season.
Full Stars Projected Lineup on Opening Night