Player review: Tom Wandell

Despite being only 23 and being unable to play after Jan. 21 because of a knee injury, Tom Wandell has made a big impression on the Stars. Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images

Center Tom Wandell's 2009-10 season was cut short by a torn ACL on Jan. 21. He missed the rest of the season following knee surgery. It was a truncated season that indicated he has potential to grow into a No. 2 center on this team in the future. At least that's what coach Marc Crawford and others believe.

The Stars are confident enough in Wandell that they signed him to a two-year contract extension in April, paying him $1.55 million the next two seasons ($700,000 next year, $850,000 in 2011-12). Why? Because they believe Wandell is a young player they can build their team around. GM Joe Nieuwendyk has tried to identify those players and get them signed to longer-term deals.

Wandell has the type of personality and work ethic to become a leader in the dressing room. On the ice, Wandell had five goals and 10 assists before the injury. He's a player who has improved with every game. Coaches and teammates talk about how smart he is on the ice and that he's almost a coach out there. Wandell is just 23 and has a bright future ahead of him. He's got good skating ability and knows how to find teammates to generate scoring chances. He isn't afraid to get to the front of the net or go into the corners for pucks. Wandell has shown solid instincts on the defensive side, too.

Look for Wandell to have a big 2010-11 season. Obviously, he has to come back completely healthy, and it does take some time to return from knee surgery (ask Brenden Morrow). But Wandell says he feels good and he's committed to continuing to improve his game.