One of the more intriguing prospects attending the Dallas Stars development camp this week is John Lammers, a hard-working, skilled left winger who split his first professional season last year between the Stars’ American Hockey League affiliate in Iowa and their secondary farm club in Idaho of the ECHL.
Lammers, 21, is looking to parlay his experience at the Stars prospect camp into a successful summer of preparation enabling him to arrive at training camp in September ready to show he’s a more mature, consistent player. The 5-foot-11, 184-pounder is determined to have an impact on the team’s fortunes in Iowa and eventually earn a spot on the Dallas roster.
The Stars’ third-round draft pick (number 86 overall) in 2004, Lammers enjoyed a successful four-plus years of Canadian junior hockey in the WHL, culminating with an impressive 2005-06 with Everett, when he broke through for 38 goals and 75 points in 70 games before adding five goals and 11 points in 15 post-season contests.
But upon turning pro last fall, Lammers, who identified Colorado’s Joe Sakic as a player he’s tried to pattern his game after, struggled a bit while trying to adjust to the faster, bigger brand of professional hockey. He began the year in Iowa, but after posting six goals and 14 points with limited ice time in 52 games, the Stars re-assigned him to the Idaho Steelheads, based in Boise.
“It was definitely a big difference between junior hockey to pro hockey,” Lammers admitted. “I think (last year) went pretty good, a lot of learning curves and I had to deal with it as they came. I mean, I got sent down to Boise at the end of the year, and I never like to get sent down, but I made the most of my opportunity.”
“For a first-year pro, for lots of players coming in, going to the American Hockey League is a big step,” said Stars assistant general manager Les Jackson, who oversees scouting and player development. “We just had so many players in Iowa that he wasn’t able to get in the lineup on a consistent basis. So we just thought it was better that he goes to Boise, and he had a chance to participate in all parts of the game, especially the power play and the offensive side. That was a good experience for him.”
While Lammers was disappointed with dropping a level, he didn’t get down and resolved to use his time in Idaho to his advantage.
“At the initial time, you’re not happy,” Lammers acknowledged. “You want to be in the best league you can be, but at the same time, you want to play. Getting sent down is never good, but I just tried to make the most of it and played as hard as I could when I got down there and never stopped working.”
Over the final nine regular season games in Idaho, Lammers contributed two goals and four points, before finding his stride in the playoffs, as he helped the Steelheads roll through the ECHL post-season and capture the Kelly Cup. Lammers contributed seven goals and 19 points, both third on the club, in 22 playoff contests en route to the championship.
Winger B.J. Crombeen, also in town for the Stars development camp, was another member of the Cup-winning squad.
“We had a good team down there, we ended up winning everything,” Lammers said. “That was awesome, it was tons of fun. We had great guys, B.J. Crombeen here was with me, it was just a lot of fun. It’s great experience in a pro league.”
“I think that’s experience that he’ll be able to take and he’ll probably be able to advance his level of play this year in the American League,” Jackson said of Lammers. “He knows what he’s up against, he’s seen both levels, the American League and the East Coast League, so I suspect that his determination will push him to be a good, consistent American League player. We’re counting on him to do that this year.”
Lammers aims to be a difference-maker in the AHL in 2007-08.
“Just work as hard as I can, and be more consistent,” he said of his expectations for the coming season. “Maybe try and stay in Iowa the whole year is my big plan and try to contribute to the team in Iowa, and hopefully one day play here (in Dallas). That’s everyone’s goal and it’s been my dream since I was a kid.”
After camp concludes with the skills competition at 10:45 Saturday morning that’s open to the public, Lammers will return home to Langley, BC in Canada and continue his off-season workout regimen.
“I do a lot of biking,” he revealed. “I actually train a lot on road bikes, like the Tour de France, those bikes. I do that every day for about an hour, two hours.”
While confident in his ability to continue developing on the ice, Lammers acknowledges he still has much to do in order to accomplish his goals.
“I just think my all-around game,” he responded, when asked if there was any specific aspect he needed to focus on. “Just learning the pro game, keeping it more simple and making the transition from junior to pro - more simple and more defensive-minded. And working as hard as I can every day.”
As long as he continues to do that and can apply the many lessons he learned last season while battling through adversity, the Stars will be pleased with his progression.