TRAVERSE CITY, Michigan -- Here are some thoughts after watching Dallas Stars prospects play two games at the NHL Prospect Tournament this weekend in Traverse City, Michigan.
First off, I don’t read too much into what I see at these games. I don’t think you can judge a player based on what you see at something like this. It’s just a snapshot. A better determination will come over the course of the long season, and beyond. I don’t read a heck of a lot into the results of the games either.
Still, it’s another chance to see them play against some quality competition. There is usually a small group of players that I am interested in seeing and I don’t look at them all the same way. I also like to see if anyone I wasn’t really planning on watching a lot catches my attention.
One of the guys on my list was forward Scott Glennie. First round pick (8th overall in 2009) and all. I always watch Glennie to compare him against how he looked the last time I saw him. I liked what I saw. He was more noticeable, more confident. There is no doubt he has some skill, but what I notice is that he is better at fighting through checks, winning puck battles. He’s trained hard and I think it’s paying some dividends. He was outstanding in the Carolina game and so-so in the loss to the New York Rangers. But a lot of guys were so-so in the New York game. And even in the NY game I saw a few glimpses of what I saw the day before with Glennie. I think he’s matured as a person. I enjoyed talking to him in Cedar Park last spring, development camp in July and in Traverse City. Sometimes I think we forget that when these guys get drafted they are just kids. Development takes place on several fronts. Overall, I think he’s made a lot of progress. It will be interesting to see how he does in his first full season of professional hockey.
Defenseman Brenden Dillon is a guy who impressed me when I went to watch the Texas Stars play in the Calder Cup Playoffs last season. Nothing’s changed. He still impresses me. I expected him to be among the better Dallas players and he has been. During Sunday’s game I was standing next to some NHL execs and they were talking about what a good prospect this kid is. He moves well, he’s solid defensively, he’s physical and he is pretty good about picking his spots and getting involved offensively. It will be interesting to see how he does at the Dallas training camp because he is a guy that should be pushing for NHL time. This kid could end up being a real nice free agent signing.
Another guy on my radar was left wing Matt Fraser. I liked Fraser when I watched him last season in the WHL playoffs and in the Memorial Cup. Smart player, good skater and he can shoot the puck. I thought he was quietly good. You didn’t really notice him at times, but he’d end up with some points. In talking to Stars scout Shane Churla, he pointed out that Fraser sort of flew under the radar because Kootenay played a very team oriented game. I think this weekend was an opportunity for Fraser to shine a little more as an individual and he did. He was a dominant player in the first game against Carolina – he looked like he was shot out of a cannon, and he popped in another goal against the Rangers. This will be his first professional season, so we’ll see how that goes. But he has a lot of upside and this could turn out to be a real nice free agent signing by the Stars.
I’m not going to read a lot into Jack Campbell’s first game in goal here. I was hoping he would have a better result than the six goals against on Sunday because he had a rough first game a year ago. But the game was what it was. I thought the play was pretty sloppy in front of him at times. It’s one game at a tournament. I’ll be interested to see how he does in his second season with Windsor of the OHL. He finished strong with the Spitfires last season, helping carry them to the conference finals and you’d like to see him build on that strong finish. That’s what I’ll be watching. Then there is the World Junior Championship, where he has excelled the last two tournaments for Team USA. Can’t get too caught up in analyzing his performance in one game. He is still young, still learning.
The other goaltender at the tournament, Tyler Beskorowany, was solid in the Stars’ 8-2 win over Carolina on Saturday. He wasn’t very busy, but he made a couple of nice stops when Carolina finally got going in the second period. He’s a big kid who covers the bottom of the net well. He’s coming off an excellent first pro season, where he was excellent in the ECHL and played well in the AHL. This should be an interesting season for him to see if he can push Richard Bachman for playing time with the Texas Stars.
Jamie Oleksiak, the number one pick in this last draft, was obviously a player I wanted to see and he didn’t disappoint. The most impressive part of his performance was how well he did in his first performance here. You have to remember he’s just 18 and some of these players have more experience, including some pro experience. I would have been OK with it if he had been OK, but he was better than that. He was pretty good in the first game and I thought he was better in the second game even though the team lost 6-2. The size is evident and the positives that entails, and then there is how well he moves and can create some stuff in the offensive end. He’s still young and developing and he needs games, which he’ll get moving to the OHL this season. It will be fun to watch how he does in the OHL. But you take his showing at the development camp, Canada’s World Junior camp and Traverse City, and all signs point to optimism with the big guy.
Right wing Brett Ritchie, the second rounder from this summer’s draft, obviously was another player on the radar. Here’s another kid who did really well in his first appearance here. I haven’t seen a lot of him but have liked him each time I’ve seen him – at development camp, online at Canada’s World Junior development camp and then this weekend in Traverse City. He was outstanding in the first game and really clicked on a line with Fraser and Glennie. He’s got a nice mix of size and skill. He was slowed last season by a bout with mono, but he should be poised to have a real good season with Sarnia of the OHL this season. He looks like a real good prospect.
One guy who caught my eye was forward Matej Stransky, the sixth round pick from this summer’s draft. He wasn’t at development camp in July, so this was a first chance to get a good look at him. He stood out in the first game, scoring a goal and picking up two assists. He has some skill, nice hands and a pretty good shot. We’ll see how his season goes with Saskatoon (WHL), but he looks like he has some potential.