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Which Stars prospects stood out in Traverse City?'s Mike Heika breaks down the top performances at the 2019 NHL Prospect Tournament

by Mike Heika @MikeHeika / Senior Staff Writer

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. -- A springboard to training camp was the goal of the Stars at the 2019 NHL Prospect Tournament at Centre ICE Arena, and general manager Jim Nill said this group accomplished just that.

"It was so good for so many players," Nill said. "I like the way Riley Tufte played, (Ty) Dellandrea. I just felt most of the players played to their strengths and did what they were supposed to do. The leaders led, the skilled players played with skill."


[RELATED COVERAGE: Stars tested, learn valuable lessons with runner-up finish at NHL Prospect Tournament]


Dallas went 2-2-0, making it to the championship game Tuesday before losing to the Detroit Red Wings prospects, 6-5. That gives the Stars the official second place finish in the eight-team tournament. The Stars outshot their opponents in every game and had the most shots on goal in the tournament with a 122-90 edge.

"It was like a 10 out of 10 for success for the organization," said Texas Stars coach Derek Laxdal, who led the prospects team. "I'm very proud of the effort of four games in five nights. This tournament is high octane, and I thought we handled it well."

Laxdal said he is excited about coaching several of these players at the AHL level and said the cupboard is full for the Stars right now, as far as prospects go.

But there will be players from this group who would love to be in the NHL this season. Official training camp starts Friday at Comerica Center in Frisco, as the team brings together 63 players heading into an eight-game preseason schedule that begins Monday night against the defending Stanley Cup champion Blues at American Airlines Center.

The Stars have 11 forward spots pretty much locked up and can carry as many as 14 forwards, so that means several of the good young forwards could be fighting for a place on the opening night roster. Nill said he feels the prospects will be ready.

"This is what we wanted, a springboard into camp for these players," Nill said. "We want them to show us what they can do. Jobs are there to be taken, so go out and make our decisions hard."

Here is a breakdown of some of the performances over the past five days:


Joel Kiviranta

Dallas signed Kiviranta to a two-year deal after watching his performance with Finland in the IIHF World Championship in Slovakia. Known as a fast, two-way player, Kiviranta had two goals and an assist as the Finnish team won the gold medal.

Kiviranta continued that type of play in Traverse City. He is 23 playing against a lot of younger players, but Kiviranta led the Stars in scoring with four goals and one assist in four games, and led the entire tournament in shots on goal with 19.


[READ MORE: Kiviranta makes strong case for jump from Finland to Stars]


He is a smaller player at 5-foot-10, 180 pounds, but he moved in and out of tight spaces easily, anticipated where the puck would be, and had good chemistry with a number of linemates.

Kiviranta signed a two-way deal that pays him at a rate of $925,000 a year in the NHL or $70,000 a year in the AHL. He is waivers exempt, so he can go back and forth between the NHL and AHL. Several Stars players are in that same situation, so they will all be battling for one of the forward spots.

Kiviranta has a head start on one of those spots right now.


Ty Dellandrea

The 13th overall pick in 2018, Dellandrea falls under an agreement between the NHL and Major Junior Hockey. To help keep its star players in Major Junior, the agreement means that Dellandrea must play in the NHL or OHL this season. He cannot play in the AHL.

As such, Dallas has to make a decision whether to let the 19-year-old play all season in the NHL. The collective bargaining agreement allows teams to play a prospect nine games in the NHL without burning the first year of the three-year, entry-level contract. If Dellandrea plays 10 games, his contract will kick in. That would mean he would get to the completion of this three-year deal at a younger age and he would move more quickly onto a more lucrative contract.


[READ MORE: Dellandrea not looking ahead in quest to make Stars' roster out of camp]


That's a lot of take in, but it also allows fans to speculate on what the Stars' strategy might be.

Dellandrea is playing for a Flint team in the OHL that has struggled in past seasons. That means it might be the best idea to at least look at him for nine games. And those are nine games he plays in. They actually could keep him for more than nine total games and let him soak up practice experience as well as game experience.

But that plan only works if Dellandrea can handle the level of play in the NHL. He looked great in Step 1 at Traverse City. Dellandrea had two goals, three assists, 10 shots on goal and was a team-best plus-5 in four games. He was one of the team's best penalty killers and also did a great job battling for pucks and playing hard.


Emil Djuse and Ben Gleason

The Stars have seven defensemen under contract, and most teams carry seven defensemen at the NHL level. But if Stephen Johns, who missed all of last season with a head injury, is not ready to play, then one of the AHL level defensemen will get a chance to jump up and start the season in the NHL.

Both Djuse and Gleason could be in that competition.

Djuse was the oldest player for the Stars in the tournament at 25. He signed a one-year, free-agent contract with Dallas that pays him at a rate of $925,000 a year for time in the NHL and $70,000 a year for time in the AHL. He is waiver exempt, so he can go back and forth.

Djuse has been a regular in the Swedish Hockey League for the past four seasons and has played 251 total SHL regular season games and 20 more in the playoffs, so he has great experience. He's not huge, listed at 5-foot-11, 190 pounds, but he moves the puck well, reads play well and had a solid start in Traverse City with a goal and two assists in four games.

Gleason played all last season with the Texas Stars and also played four NHL games with Dallas. He is a skilled defenseman who tallied 37 points (five goals, 32 assists) in 72 AHL games. He had no points in the Traverse City tournament, but he was a leader in lugging the puck and helping the power play.

Gleason is just 21 and waiver exempt, so he can move back and forth. He and Djuse will be in competition with a significant group of defensemen who will be fighting for one potential spot (or to help out when injuries pop up).

Taylor Fedun (54 games), Gavin Bayreuther (19 games), Joel Hanley (16 games), and Dillon Heatherington (five games) each played NHL games last season.


Riley Tufte

The big winger made a nice statement coming out of college hockey. Tufte, who is listed at 6-6, 230, had a goal and three assists, and put 11 shots on goal on four games in Traverse City.

The 25th overall pick in 2016 is 21 and helped the University of Minnesota-Duluth win two NCAA championships in the past two seasons. However, he saw his role decrease last season, so there was some worry about his transition.

At the very least, he has put himself in the conversation for a spot on the opening-night roster. The expectation is he will go to the AHL and start his pro career there, but this was a great statement for Tufte to show he can adjust his game from the college level.


Jake Oettinger

The Traverse City tournament debut for Oettinger was almost perfect. The 20-year-old is starting his pro career after three seasons at Boston University and he was on the path to being the team's MVP in a potential championship performance in Traverse City.

Oettinger allowed one goal in a 2-1 win over Minnesota and three in a 5-3 win over a very good Columbus team that vaulted Dallas into the championship game. He had a 4-2 lead on Detroit with 13 minutes to go in the third period when he allowed four goals in 8:48. The toughest was a Joe Veleno shot that somehow snuck between Oettinger and the post and gave Detroit a 5-4 lead.

Still, the 6-foot-3 backstop was steady and calm for most of the tournament, and Stars management was happy with how he played. Oettinger will likely split time with Landon Bow in the AHL, but he could become a candidate to be called up if either Ben Bishop or Anton Khudobin is hurt.


Other notables

» Thomas Harley: The Stars' first round pick in 2019 (18th overall) skated very well and looked great against some pretty strong competition. Harley finished with three assists in four games. He will stick around for training camp and then head back to Mississauga (OHL), where he had 58 points (11 goals, 47 assists) in 68 games last season.

» Jason Robertson: The leading scorer in the OHL last season didn't show the productivity the Stars were expecting. He was good with the puck and displayed flashes of real skill at times as he moved in and out of places, but he finished with one goal, no assists, and five shots on goal in four games. Robertson will have to step up his game in training camp.


[STARS MAILBAG: Will Robertson be in mix to make Stars' opening-night roster?]


» Adam Mascherin: The 21-year-old forward had a four-point game with two goals and two assists against Columbus, and is showing some of the form that helped him to a couple of strong junior seasons. Mascherin had 44 points (18 goals, 26 assists) in 75 AHL games last season, and he is expected to be one of the AHL leaders again this year. He was an alternate captain in the tournament.

» Nick Caamano: The 21-year-old forward served as captain of the prospects and did a great job, Laxdal said. Caamano had 24 points (12 goals, 12 assists) in 73 AHL games last season, and is expected to be a big part of a young group in Cedar Park.

» Colton Point: The 21-year-old goalie allowed six goals on 22 shots in his one appearance, and struggled finding the puck. He is expected to return to the ECHL, where he will be in a battle to be the No. 1 goalie for the Idaho Steelheads.

» Riley Damiani, Nicholas Porco, Curtis Douglas, and Dawson Barteaux (along with Harley) gained experience and all will return to their junior teams at some point.

Photos by Dave Reginek, Detroit Red Wings

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club.

Mike Heika is a Senior Staff Writer for and has covered the Stars since 1994. Follow him on Twitter @MikeHeika.

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