There's something to be said for a team with a lot of youth. Usually it's in respect to a losing season and how one day the team will be tough veterans, but for the Dallas Stars youth is like a good cocktail, mixed in just right with strong veteran presence.
The Stars are blessed—they have the ability to let a lot of young talent depth develop in the AHL, while having amazingly skilled youth such as Loui Eriksson and James Neal learn by doing in the NHL. Below I've highlighted my favorite NHL and AHL Stars players/prospects under age 25.
Loui Eriksson- Dallas Stars: It's hard to talk about Stars players under 25 and not with Eriksson who led the team in goals last season. The 24 year old winger is a constant threat on the ice and has the speed to outskate any defender.
James Neal - Dallas Stars: First in goals and second in points currently on the team, sophomore James Neal doesn't know the meaning of second year slump. After a solid rookie season, Neal has elevated his game and become an integral part of their winning mentality. Neal is sure to be a fan favorite in Dallas for years to come.
Jamie Benn - Dallas Stars: As a prospect Benn was compared to Brenden Morrow, but he has quickly shown he has a style and talent all his own. With 16 points in 29 games the Stars can only expect him to improve.
Tom Wandell - Dallas Stars: Wandell was unheard of by many coming into the season, but with a long term injury from the Stars to veteran Mike Modano, Wandell got the nod and filled the veteran's shoes very well. Wandell became a determined forechecker and punishing forward on both sides of the ice. His numbers don't scream amazing but his heart on the ice more than makes up for his lack of numbers.
Matt Niskanen - Dallas Stars: For the sake of mentioning more prospects, I'll only mention one of the three under-25 defenseman. Niskanen at only 23 has become the workhorse youngster of the defense and is slowly stepping into the void left by veteran Sergei Zubov. Niskanen is a solid puck-mover and can score from the blue line when given time.
Mark Fistric and Niklas Grossman have been bounced in and out of the lineup at times to make room for veterans, but both show a lot of promise as they mature in the NHL level of play. With such experience early on they will learn and grow quickly and will likely backbone the Stars team along with Niskanen the next time the Stars lift the Stanley Cup
Aaron Gagnon - Texas Stars (AHL): The Stars minor league club's leading point getter with 17 points in 25 games seems poised to see some NHL action next season. His aggressive style is likely the reason he leads the baby Stars in points and could end up being a solid third line center in Dallas in the future.
Greg Rallo - Texas Stars: Rallo is the goal scoring leader with 10 for Texas; unfortunately in my limited time scouting the baby Stars Rallo is not one who's truly caught my eye. Why mention him? His goal scoring lead on the team is worth noting, while also ensuring Dallas Stars fans and my readers check him out for the rest of the season—I know I will.
Maxime Fortunus - Texas Stars: Although his numbers are earth shattering, Fortunus is a fun defenseman to watch, he skates well, protects the net well and always seems to make the solid crisp pass or is in the right place when you need him. I look forward to seeing Fortunus in Dallas in the coming years.
Ivan Vishnevskiy - Texas Stars: Another solid defenseman prospect who puts up solid numbers in the AHL. His time in the NHL has been very limited even though he has been touted as a talented future blueliner for Dallas. He could be on the big club in the next year or two.
Raymond Sawada - Texas Stars: Another of my favorite Texas Stars, Sawada really knows how to throw around his big frame, and while playing during recovery from a broken hand was tossing bone-crushing hits left and right. During this recovery he even got into a fight, although he did protect his injured hand. Sawada backs down from no man, no fight, and no battle in the corner and would be a valuable gritty forward next season in Dallas. Then again, I was predicting Sawada in Dallas this season.
Brent Krahn - Texas Stars: Although the goaltender pulls even time with Matt Climie in Ceder Park, Krahn was recently voted the AHL goalie of the month. Stopping 95 percent of shots in his 12 games played, recording a 10-2 record certainly makes it easy to win such honors, especially when three of those wins were shutouts. Can't wait to see Krahn stacking the pads in Dallas, especially if Turco is gone next year.
After this look at the players and prospects within the Stars system it can be seen that the future is bright for the Stars. With depth pouring at every position the youth movement in Dallas will only be a positive in the near future. If your interested in witnessing the young prospects you may not have heard of it is certainly worth the trip to the Austin area to witness the Texas Stars, unless it means missing a Stars game.
Ken Armer is a Community Leader for the NHL and the Dallas Stars for Bleacher Report. He also covers the Anaheim Ducks for SoCalSportsHub.com and covers the Texas and Dallas Stars for Hockey54.com. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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