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Stars Prospects Ready to Hit the Ice in Traverse City

by Mark Stepneski / Dallas Stars

Dallas Stars prospects will get a head start on the season when they hit the ice this weekend at the NHL Prospect Tournament in Traverse City, Michigan.

The tournament, which is in its 16th year, also includes prospects from the New York Rangers, Carolina Hurricanes, Buffalo Sabres, Detroit Red Wings, Columbus Blue Jackets, Minnesota Wild and St. Louis Blues. It begins Friday and runs through Tuesday on two ice rinks at the Centre Ice Arena in Traverse City.

“It’s a great tournament,” said Stars GM Jim Nill. “You get to see how your prospects play against prospects from other teams.”

The Stars are taking 25 players to Traverse City, including 15 forwards, eight defensemen and two goaltenders. The group includes several of Dallas’ top young players.

Right wing Brett Ritchie (second round/2011), who could push for NHL playing time this season, is on the roster. So are first-round picks defenseman Julius Honka (14th overall/2014), center Jason Dickinson (29th overall/2013) and center Radek Faksa (13th overall/2012).

“It was a great experience last year,” said Faksa. “I had a little advantage. I got to play on a line with Alex Chiasson and Valeri Nichushkin, and that was a big help for me. Now I want to help the younger guys who will be there for the first year.”

Among those first-year players will be five of the nine players the Stars selected in this summer’s NHL Draft, including Honka. The Stars also will bring defenseman Esa Lindell (third round/2012) and defenseman Ludwig Bystrom (second round/2012) from Europe to get a taste of playing in North America.

There also are prospects who are turning pro full time this season and will kick off their careers in either the AHL or ECHL. That group includes Faksa, center Gemel Smith (fourth round/2012), right wing Branden Troock (fifth round/2012), defenseman Troy Vance (fifth round/2011) and goaltender Henri Kiviaho (fifth round/2012).

Coaching the Dallas squad will be Derek Laxdal, the new head coach of the Texas Stars, and Texas assistant Karl Taylor. Laxdal coached the 2008 Dallas team to the championship in Traverse City when he was the head coach of the Stars’ ECHL affiliate in Idaho.

“It’s a great place for kids to cut their teeth,” Laxdal said. “For kids going back to junior it is a chance to find what the pro game can be all about. It’s a chance to see guys that are a little bit older than they are, seeing the training and eating habits, the nutrition and how they go about being a pro. It is a great tournament. Dallas has some great kids coming through and it’s a great opportunity for them to get their feet wet.”

Of the 25 players on the roster, seven have played for the Texas Stars and 17 others were at the team’s development camp, so players will have a good idea of how Dallas expects them to play as a team. They’ll be trying to win, but it is not do or die.

“You want to see them compete,” said Nill.

For the prospects, particularly for those in junior hockey, it’s an opportunity to see how they measure up against top prospects from other teams, some who have played at the professional level.

“It’s experience. Everything is experience,” said Dickinson. “Traverse is another chance to measure myself against other pros, other men that are getting ready to play in this league. It’s a great chance to measure myself.”

“It’s the speed and playing against the top prospects and top guys,” said forward Remi Elie, a second round pick in 2013. “It just shows you what you have to do to get to the next level.”

Stars management on the trip

Stars GM Jim Nill and head coach Lindy Ruff will head a large contingent from the Dallas organization and its affiliates that will make the trip to Traverse City for the NHL Prospect Tournament. Also on the list to attend are assistant GM Les Jackson, director of hockey operations Scott White, assistant coaches James Patrick and Curt Fraser, director of amateur scouting Joe McDonnell, the Stars scouting staff, the Texas Stars coaching staff and Idaho Steelheads coach Brad Ralph.

The entire list includes more than 30 people from the Dallas Stars, Texas Stars and Idaho Steelheads organizations.

Molin, Moran out

The Stars made some late changes to their roster for the Traverse City tournament. Forward Emil Molin (fourth round/2011) and goaltender Brent Moran (fourth round/2014) will not play at the tournament due to injury.

Stars roster

Forwards: Jason Dickinson; Remi Elie; Mads Eller*; Radek Faksa; Ludwig Karlsson; Matej Paulovic; Taylor Peters; Brett Pollock; Brendan Ranford; Brett Ritchie; Collin Shirley*; Gemel Smith; Matej Stransky; Branden Troock; Cole Ully

Defensemen: Ludwig Bystrom; Aaron Haydon; Julius Honka; Jyrki Jokipakka; Esa Lindell; Alex Peters; Patrick Sanvido; Troy Vance

Goaltenders: Philippe Desrosiers; Henri Kiviaho

*Amateur tryout contract

Stars schedule (Times are Central)

Friday, Sept. 12: Dallas Stars vs. NY Rangers, 6:00 p.m.

Saturday, Sept. 13: Dallas Stars vs. Carolina, 2:30 p.m.

Sunday, Sept. 14: No game

Monday, Sept. 15: Dallas Stars vs. Buffalo, 2:00 p.m.

Tuesday, Sept. 16: Opponent, time TBD

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

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