Kevin thanks for the update if Lessard and Erikkson develop that would be great. How are some of the other key prospects doing. I know Belle and Grossman have been hurt but both are back. I hear Grossman looks good , way better than Belle. What about Polak ? who are his linemates? No real creative centers down there so that hurts. They should have signed Hisey to fill that role. Can progress out of guys like Hagos, Crombeen? Holtet to mean may end up better than both in alower line role? Thanks in advance
Right now Yared Hagos is out with a rib injury. One thing about Hagos, he doesn't look as tall as he is on the ice, for some reason. I don't know if it's because he wears his jersey Gretzky-style or what. But you meet him in person and he's definitely as tall as they say he is. Hagos plays a responsible game defensively and shows playmaking abilities from time to time. Despite having decent size, he gets knocked off the puck too easily and isn't able to fight through checks as well as will be needed in the NHL. He has a lot of the tools.
B.J. Crombeen is also out now, shoulder I am told. I like Crombeen's stride, it's fairly powerful. He finishes his checks and with some force. I think he has a shot of playing in Dallas on the fourth line before his three-year entry level contract expires.
Vojtech Polak: Polak was on the lower lines the last game. I'm not certain if Allison and Jerrard are sending a message or trying to even out the lines. If so, Polak does not seem to be able to carry a line in the AHL yet, but he's only 20. This last game was a switch, Eriksson looked like how Polak had been playing and Polak like Eriksson. Polak isn't real big. He's a stretch at 6'0."
Janos Vas: Is back in the line-up after having his wrist broken against Peoria. I suspect he's not 100% yet with that hand and wrist, but he had so much jump in his step last game. He a few two-on-one situations, he showed pass each time, but got the passes through still. (That's why I think he's not 100%, otherwise he might have tried shooting a couple, and he has a nice shot.) Vas is becoming more and more like Holtet.
Marius Holtet: Is every bit as big as they say he is. He is a tank. It's not appreciated until you meet him in person. I'd swear he's closer to 6'1" that 6'0". He has decent speed and forechecks hard, although sometimes not efficiently. He's getting better at it though. Holtet also has some offensive upside, like Vas. Holtet has an excellent shot and uses his stickhandling and passing to create plays as well. I think there's a chance Vas and Holtet could be Dallas' wing pair on the fourth line some day.
Shawn Belle: Back in the line-up. He likes to join the offensive play, despite what the stats show. He's always had the speed to make it back until now. (Not that he's any slower, just the competition is mostly guys with some speed as well, although I'd put Belle up in a lap around the rink against a large fraction of players.) Belle's quickness and agility appears to need work though. His power usually gets him to top speed forward quickly, but in close confines...He has a lot of tools though, I think he's been able to rely on his power up until this point. Now he has to hone some of his skating and stick skills, and develop his awareness. He's young though, no reason to abandon hope.
Mario Scalzo: Now that Traverse is in the line-up, Scalzo is not the top offensive defenseman in the line-up. This is good for Iowa though. Traverse looked really good before he went down to injury too. He's back now though. Scalzo is slowly starting to win more physical battles. His skating, stick skills and offensive vision are pretty much already NHL caliber.
Dan Jancevski: He's 24, but he could be an emergency recall. He's the captain of the I-Stars, and he's been their rock on defense. It had been him and Matt Greene, but Greene is up with Edmonton. (Greene is the best prospect defenseman Iowa had/has.) Jancevski has been pretty reliable all season. In an NHL capacity, he's going to be a 7th/8th defenseman at best. He's good to have on the farm team though.
David Oliver: Has had to battle through a lot of nagging injuries. When he's close to healthy, you can see why he's played in the NHL. If the I-Stars ever have a healthy roster, they're going to have some tough decisions to make.
David Bararuk: He can hold his own, but that's not enough. Last game ECHLer Krys Barch made a statement and played a good physical game. Jamie Johnson has played his way into the line-up, so, it's possible for Bararuk. He's going to have to play a better defensive game and make more hits to ever become a regular with Iowa. However, his offensive game is not nearly as good as Johnson's, not in the AHL anyway. The season is half way done though, so...I would bet this is his last season in the Stars organization. The I-Stars have looked more willing to play D'arcy McConvey over Bararuk as well.
Wathier is out for the season, although he has a his cast (of sorts, it was a contraption) off. He's very tall, that is certain. Allison liked how he played when he was in, moreso than Stortini. We'll have to see how Wathier comes back from this setback. He could become a 5th liner, so to speak, someday. He can fight, but he brings a solid energy game as well. He's not devoid of skill. (Neither is Stortini, but Wathier's skill looked a little more developed, and Wathier is a bit older.)
Both goalies have been quite good. They occasionally make more work for themselves than they need to. Ellis shut out Cleveland, and he had some huge saves towards the end. I would expect that the Stars will not need Hedberg next season, they could give Ellis or Smith a shot. Smith is like Turco in how well he plays the puck. In the new NHL with two-line passing, he can launch it to players at the blueline. (He can launch it a lot further than that, but he doesn't need to in that scenario.) Smith is a big goalie too, who moves quite well. Neither Ellis or Smith were hyped in their draft years, but in a league full of highly touted goalie prospects, Ellis and Smith compare well. They are older though, than some of the highly touted guys. Ellis got the nod already this season, and he's 25, so he might be the guy to get the nod in Dallas. The Stars have a solid third and fourth goalie in the AHL if ever they need them, should Dallas go through the problems Atlanta and San Jose (for a short time) have had.
In general, the I-Stars are one of the hotter teams in the league right now. They aren't the youngest team in the league, but they are young. There are not a lot of cagey AHL veterans to this team, especially since Traverse and Oliver have missed significant time. More guys are gaining confidence and realizing they can play in the AHL, and some may even see the NHL light at the end of the tunnel now. I don't see any future NHL All-Stars for Dallas in Iowa right now, but the cupboard is not bare.
The facility they play at is NHL caliber, which I think lends to a more positive AHL experience and carries over to the NHL. The I-Stars just need time to develop a core fan base that develops an emotional attachment to the team. It seems like attendance is getting better and better with the winning. If the I-Stars could start playing in front of 10,000 involved fans on the weekend...Even though it shouldn't matter, players gain more confidence with more fan support.
Lessard: He's come back from his shoulder injury pretty strong. He's never been afraid to venture into traffic to take shots and make plays, it's how he picked up the shoulder injury against Hamilton. He shoots a lot, especially slap shots while skating down the inside of the alley, by the faceoff dot. With Tjarnqvist up and Polak no longer on Petersen's line, Lessard is benefitting from Petersen's playmaking and two-way play. Since his 11 games since coming back from his shoulder injury, he has 8 goals and 7 assists. Not all of these are on Petersen's line, but playing with Petersen really helps. If you get Lessard the puck, he can score. (Although he can go get it himself too.)
Eriksson: In his last six games he has 3 goals and 5 assists. Again, not all on Petersen's line, but he has been on the top two lines. Eriksson is seeing more PP time too, that'll help the production. He just seems to have his confidence up and he's burying his chances. Earlier in the year, he wasn't always burying those chances. It'll be interesting to see what happens to the lines if Tjarnqvist is sent back down and Oliver regains his health. Those are two guys normally among the top six forwards. It had been Tjarnqvist-Petersen-Polak. That was a productive line. Eriksson is also using his speed more. If everyone does regain their health, keeping Lessard and Eriksson together on the second line would work, but then the I-Stars don't really have a center for that line. Jamie Johnson, Kyle Brodziak, and Yared Hagos are all close to being able to fit the bill, but not quite, in my opinion. Johnson would probably get the nod. Then a third line of Oliver-Brodziak-Stastny and then Vas-Hagos-Holtet. Crombeen would battle Vas hard for the final spot. Stortini would be on the outside looking in if everyone were healthy.
Grossman: Like Eriksson, Grossman has been adjusting to North American hockey. He had decent numbers in Swedish Juniors last year, this first time he'd really done that, and now the ability is showing itself in Iowa. He began the season playing as a reliable defensive defenseman with a hard shot and a good outlet pass. Now, he's showing some ability to skate with the puck and join the offensive play. I don't think Grossman will be a regular on the Iowa power play, but it's nice to have defensemen who can headman the puck. Hopefully Grossman doesn't end up with an identity crisis though. Where he goes from incredibly reliable defensively to trying to do too much offensively. Grossman might be able to become a larger version of Marcus Ragnarsson if he keeps developing offensively. Ragnarsson developed the opposite way for San Jose (offense then defense, but he became very reliable defensively.) Grossman started defensively but may end up adding offense. If not, the Stars should end up with a defensive defenseman with a hard shot who can move the puck well when needed. Grossman does hit often as well. I think Dallas got a good second round pick on that one.
Eriksson vs. Polak: It's too tight for me to call right now, as Eriksson is the one who has the hot hand and Polak does not. It is possible Polak is playing with an injury I do not know about as well. I will investigate.
One advantage Eriksson has is he's bigger. It doesn't mean as much as it once did, but if you have the skill and balance to go with it, bigger is better.
Even though I've seen quite a bit of both of them this season, I feel like I need even more viewing to better answer this question. I would say that I think both of them have the potential to become second line NHLers. However, watching them is not like watching Valtteri Filppula. (He's VERY good, in my opinion. Pretty much everything about Filppula's game, I like. From his powerful stride, to his offensive skills, to his solid defensive play. I like him better than Hudler, but that's just me.)
Tjanqvist has been sent back to Iowa, so we'll see how this juggles the lines. Given how well he plays, I doubt Tjarnqvist will not be on the first line. Which right wing joins him will be the interesting part. Tjarnqvist is probably Iowa's best forward when he's down, if not, a close second to Petersen.
Why not Petersen in Edmonton? They're not doing to bad. I guess if it ain't broke, don't fix it. They can at least rest assured they have a solid forward in Iowa if they need him. Down the stretch, if someone goes down, it won't be Kyle Brodziak, Brad Winchester or Krys Kolanos called upon, it'll probably be the veteran Toby Petersen. I have to think Jani Rita, Todd Harvey and Georges Laracque could be plucked come playoffs as well. Petersen is speedy, can make plays, and is very responsible defensively. He puts forth a heckuvan effort.