Welcome to West Division Wednesdays, where we each week we will take a look at one of the Checkers' division rivals. The focus this week is on the Texas Stars, affiliate of the Dallas Stars.
Created: August 27, 2014 - 4:04 pm
Written by Nicholas Niedzielski
The Calder Cup champs were the second highest scoring team in the league, and their strongest weapon was their goal-scoring depth, as they boasted a league-high five 50+ point scorers and ranked second in the league with 14 players with 20 or more points. Travis Morin, coming off a monster year that saw him net theAHL MVP award and lead the league in points, will once again lead Texas’ potent offense, alongside his linemate, AHL Rookie of the Year Curtis McKenzie. The Stars will be losing some key pieces from their title run, with Chris Mueller, who led the AHL’s top power-play unit in goals, signing with the Rangers, Mike Hedden signing with Zagreb of the KHL, and Dustin Jeffrey following coach Willie Desjardins to Vancouver. Texas will look to replace the production of those players with a young group of talent led by Brendan Ranford, who emerged late in the season and into the playoffs as a top line forward and Brett Ritchie whose size makes him a matchup nightmare. There is also former first-round pick Scott Glennie, who just re-signed by Dallas and will be expected to make a big impact this year.
The 2014-15 Stars’ defensive squad will most likely look very similar to last years, once again led by captain Maxime Fortunus, who, along with Cameron Gaunce and Derek Meech , will bring a strong veteran presence to the locker room. 6’7” blue liner Jamie Oleksiak, another first-round draft pick, will look to build on a strong playoff performance and insert himself as a top defensemen, while Finland-native Jyrki Jokipakka is aiming to improve on a solid first year in North America.
It looks like it will be Jack Campbell's time to shine this season, if he can stay healthy. Cristopher Nilstorp signed with the Vaxjo Lakers in his native Sweden, ) paving the way for the first-round pick to take a bigger role in net, although with the acquisition of Jussi Rynas, the Stars could have another formidable goalie tandem.
The Stars didn’t lose much from their Cup-winning team, so they will continue to be the team to beat in the AHL. A new presence behind the bench and a new fixture in goal might lead to a bumpy start, but Texas has all the pieces to establish themselves as a power in the league.