The Stars’ top minor league affiliate, the Texas Stars, based in the Austin suburb of Cedar Park, are currently facing the Hamilton Bulldogs in the Western Conference Finals in the AHL, although they are now down in the best-of-seven series 2-0. Meanwhile, Dallas prospects on the ECHL’s Idaho Steelheads are participating in that league’s Kelly Cup Finals, also trailing their series 2-0.
And on one of the biggest stages in the amateur hockey world, Dallas’ first-round selection (eighth overall) in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, Scott Glennie
, leads his junior hockey squad into the prestigious Memorial Cup tournament.
The highest possible team achievement for players 20 and younger, the Memorial Cup pits the playoff champions of the three top junior hockey leagues in Canada against each other, along with a previously-determined host team that rotates each season amongst the leagues. This year, Glennie’s Brandon Wheat Kings of the WHL serve as the host, even though they lost in five games in the Eastern Conference Finals to the eventual league champ, the Calgary Hitmen.
Glennie, who was rated the Stars’ top prospect by The Hockey News in March, enjoyed a standout regular season, finishing 10th in the WHL with 89 points, including 32 goals, in 66 games, while also posting a stellar +36, good for 11th in the league. In the playoffs, the 19-year-old Winnipeg native chipped in three goals and 10 points in 15 contests.
“Scott brings a lot of speed and skill,” noted Dallas director of amateur scouting Tim Bernhardt. “He has very good vision and sees the ice well.”
Glennie himself has compared his own style of play to the Philadelphia Flyers’ Jeff Carter, and hopes to fulfill an offensive role when he eventually gets to Dallas.
“Probably they think I’m a pure goal scorer and maybe they think that’s what they need right now and I’m going to fit pretty well in that role in Dallas,” Glennie said. “A lot of speed, goal-scoring and playmaking ability, that’s what I’m going to bring to Dallas.”
Unfortunately for Glennie, the big tournament got off to a disappointing start, as the Wheat Kings were routed 9-3 by the OHL champion and defending Memorial Cup champ Windsor Spitfires in their opening contest on Friday.
Led by 2010 top draft prospect Taylor Hall’s two goals, Windsor built up a 5-0 lead after one period and led 9-1 after two on the way to the lopsided triumph. It was a bitter pill for Brandon to swallow, on their home ice no less, although their rust from a 20-day layoff undoubtedly played a role in their defeat.
“We all have to play a lot better,” admitted Glennie, who picked up an assist in the loss, but registered a -3 plus/minus rating. “They definitely came ready to play and I don’t think we were ready for that team. We didn’t play for 20 days and we’re not really looking for any excuses of why we didn’t win. Our team is a lot better than that and that was just a bad game for us.”
While embarrassing, though, the setback is not too debilitating for the host team by itself, but it does put them in jeopardy of not advancing to the knockout stage of the tournament. Each club plays the other three squads once in the round-robin portion, with the second and third-place teams after that initial round facing off in a one-game semi-final. The first-place club then plays the winner in the Memorial Cup championship game.
Because of their opening loss, the Wheat Kings’ 4-0 win Sunday afternoon against the QMJHL representatives, the Moncton Wildcats, became even more crucial, especially since Moncton lost their first game Saturday 5-4 in overtime to Calgary. A win would go a long way towards ensuring they finish ahead of the Wildcats in the round-robin standings.
“I’m 100 percent confident we will all be ready to play,” Glennie said prior to the game. “We’re going to be a completely different team and we’re going to have a completely different mind-set.”
But even if Glennie and his teammates don’t advance in the tournament, just going through the process of skating in such pressure-packed situations, in front of a raucous home crowd, will serve him well in the future.
For example, just last season, current Stars rookie Jamie Benn
(who is still excelling in the AHL right now) absorbed valuable lessons as he led his Kelowna Rockets squad to the WHL championship, leading all scorers with 13 goals and 33 points in 19 playoff games. He then topped all Memorial Cup players with five goals and nine points in just four contests as Kelowna lost in the Final. Having those memories to draw upon has undoubtedly helped him now in the AHL playoffs.
“It was a good experience and that helps you a lot,” Benn said of playing in such high-stakes scenarios. “Whenever you can play in high-end situations and with lots of pressure on you, it’s good for you, I think and you can learn a lot from it. I think it just makes you better.”
Glennie, a 6-foot-1, 188-pound forward who can play center or either wing, will attend Stars training camp again next September, but will likely return to Brandon for one last season of development in junior before turning pro.
In fact, Benn remembers facing Glennie several times during the WHL’s 2008-09 season and was impressed with what he saw.
“He’s a great player and he’s got lots of speed and a good shot and I think he’s a great fit for this organization,” said Benn.
“He’s just a young kid, he’s got tons of talent,” said Stars director of scouting/player development Les Jackson. “He’s a real outgoing kid and he has a real passion for the game.”
And his current experience of dealing with the intense spotlight at the Memorial Cup will only help him down the road when he will one day be patrolling the Dallas ice at the American Airlines Center.