Skip to main content
The Official Site of the Dallas Stars

Stars camp journal: Veteran session gives possible look at what's to come

While the prospects impress, Dallas' prominent players gather together for the first time

by Mark Stepneski and Scott Burnside / DallasStars.com

CEDAR PARK, Texas -- Sunday marked the first time at the Dallas Stars' training camp that all of the team's prominent players gathered on the ice together revealing at least an initial indication of what might transpire come opening night on Oct. 6 versus the Vegas Golden Knights.

No surprise, but head coach Ken Hitchcock had captain Jamie Benn playing with Tyler Seguin and newcomer Alexander Radulov. It's been long speculated that Hitchcock would use the team's new No. 1 right winger, Radulov, with the team's two most dynamic offensive players.

Well, there they were.

Another interesting (to us, at least) forward combination included Jason Spezza centering Mattias Janmark and Brett Ritchie. Janmark, who missed all of last season with a knee injury, had good chemistry with Spezza two seasons ago when the Stars won the Central Division.

On the back end another much-discussed combination became a reality (or at least a training camp reality) as veteran defenseman Marc Methot, longtime partner of two-time Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson in Ottawa, was paired with John Klingberg.

Also of interest was an Esa Lindell and Stephen Johns pair and veteran Dan Hamhuis lining up with Greg Pateryn.

As for the initial looks at power play and penalty killing units, the Benn/Seguin/Radulov line was joined by Klingberg and Spezza, with Seguin occupying a spot on the point, which is a unit that, in theory, should make opposing defenses tremble.

Devin Shore, Ritchie and Janmark got second power-play unit time with Esa Lindell and Julius Honka.
What might be of more interest given the team's 30th ranking last season on the penalty kill were some nice looks from Tyler Pitlick and Radek Faksa defending against the first power-play unit.

What must be remembered in considering the meaning of Sunday's workouts is that they do not include top two-way center Martin Hanzal, who has been resting a wonky ankle through the initial days of training camp. The free-agent signee will play a large role in killing penalties as well as filling a role as one of the top-three centers.

With the team skating in the morning at Cedar Park, and then returning to Dallas in anticipation of the team's first pre-season game Tuesday, Hitchcock said no roster cuts would be made until after Monday's two sessions.

Video: Highlights from the Future Prospects Scrimmage

Prospects scrimmage delivers surprises for Hitch

Hitchcock was looking for some players to stand out in Sunday's prospects scrimmage, and he ended up with a few surprises.

"The scrimmage, for me, changed our mind on three or four players," Hitchcock said. "That's what was really unique. The tempo of the scrimmage was excellent and we were surprised by some of the people that emerged, people that weren't on the radar that came through."

Justin Dowling and Nick Caamano both scored two goals in the scrimmage, and were among the players that were singled out by Hitchcock.

"For me, Dowling stepped up, [Gemel] Smith stepped up and Caamano stepped up," Hitchcock said. "They put themselves back on the radar. It is nice to see."

Dowling and Smith both have played in the NHL, so they aren't that far off the radar. Caamano is a different story. He just turned 19 and is slated to play junior hockey for Flint of the Ontario Hockey League this season.

"I am probably going back to junior, but I want to be here," Caamano said. "I want to know that I can play with these guys. I definitely want to make an impression."

Hitchcock said Sunday's scrimmage has led to some changes in how the Stars move forward.

"It's changed our mind in the roster for the exhibition game," Hitchcock said. "It's changed our mind in who is going to stay and who is going to go. That's what that stuff does."

Among the other highlights of the scrimmage, a slick goal by forward Roope Hintz, who split two defenders and then snapped the puck past goaltender Philippe Desrosiers.

The best save of the game belonged to Desrosiers, who made a sharp glove save on a quality bid by Caamano.

And now over to Tyler Seguin ...

Of all the off-season stories we've heard leading into training camp perhaps the most interesting was Seguin's description of his week in China as part of a BioSteel sports nutrition products goodwill trip last June.

The North American group, led by Seguin, put on a clinic attended by about 40 youngsters and Seguin was amazed at the discipline these youngsters showed.

"It was actually pretty crazy," he said. "We were doing drills with the kids and they didn't really mess around in line at all. You know you're a young kid and you're playing hockey and you're messing around in the line and stuff. They didn't mess around at all they were all just pretty much standing still."

They must have been in awe of their instructor.

Seguin also got a chance to provide some analysis of a Stanley Cup final game between Nashville and Pittsburgh with the top sports channel in China.

"They had a translator there and asked me questions," Seguin said. "And before the interview started they were like, 'Hockey's not big in China. It's a pretty small sport out there as far as people watching.' So we did the interview and I went back to the broadcasting room, where all the cameras are and stuff were and I asked them so how many people were watching and they said oh, 5.4 million. I said, 'excuse me?' And they said, 'Yeah, I know, not that much."

Right. Just roughly one-sixth the population of Canada.

So far, so good for Janmark

The first three days of training camp have gone well for Janmark as he tries to return after missing all of last season due to surgery to correct a congenital joint issue in his knee.

"It's good, and it's nice to be back," Janmark said. "The knee feels good. It's probably the best part of my body right now. It's a grind coming back, there's some soreness in the body. It feels good to be back, and I feel I am getting into it."

There have been questions about Janmark's status going forward because his condition, which is called osteochondritis dissecans, is uncharted territory for a hockey player. A lack of blood supply in the joint causes bone to weaken and then break loose.

It's been almost one year since Janmark had his initial surgery. He then had screws removed from his knee in the spring. The knee is holding up well so far, and Janmark said he expects it to get better as he moves along in preparation for the regular season.

The Stars are taking it one step at a time with Janmark. Training camp practices have been one test and preseason games will be another.

"What [Hitchcock] has been telling me is that it's a marathon, not a sprint. It's just taking my time," Janmark said. "First real practice of camp is a step that I've been looking forward to and the first preseason game will be another thing and an excitement. And the first regular season game will be a totally different thing, and then it's about playing it each and every day on that same level.

"There are going to be steps to be made. I see how I feel after every session, but I don't think about it too much."

Video: Hitchcock on prospects scrimmage

Ritchie looking for more

We mentioned Ritchie, the big 24-year-old who was selected 44th overall in 2011, getting a look on a second power-play unit, as well as skating with skilled veteran center Spezza. Coming off a 16-goal season the Orangeville, Ontario native has his sights set on a bigger role with the Stars.

"I just want my role on this team to expand and not only expand from year to year but from maybe 10 game segments," Ritchie said after Sunday's workout. "I just want to keep becoming a more important piece and work on different things so I can earn the coaches' trust and gain ice time and help the team win."

As for camp, Ritchie said the torrid pace isn't unexpected.

"I know I came into Dallas early and all the guys were saying that Hitch wants us to be flying, full ready to go by the first day of training camp. So the drills we were doing even before training camp were up tempo and training camp-like."

Another wrinkle is the absence of scrimmages involving the veteran players with the focus on learning Hitchcock's systems.

"That's the other thing that's different is that there's no scrimmages this year," Ritchie said. "The one year (at camp) I did three scrimmages. That's all I did. I didn't even practice."

Hitchcock reiterated that he's looking for lots of the team's younger players to step up and take on bigger roles with more complete games.

"Ritchie's got a great shot," Hitchcock said. "He gets it away quick. He knows where to pay a in the slot so he looks, quite frankly, like a natural fit on the power play."

Quote of the day

"As far as the big-boy group I think the thing that stood out was the tempo. When you see all NHL players practice together and they're in the right spots the whole tempo goes up to where at times you're almost running out of drills. You've got what you think is a 45 minute practice and the next thing you know the whole thing's over in 30 minutes." -- Hitchcock on seeing his top players all working together for the first time in training camp.

This story was not subject to approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club. Mark Stepneski is an independent writer whose posts on DallasStars.com reflect his own opinions and do not represent official statements from the Dallas Stars. You can follow Mark on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.

You can follow Scott on Twitter @OvertimeScottB

View More