NHL: Top 5 Dallas Stars You Don't Know
Hockey. Ice. Texas. Sun. Dallas Stars?
Whilst most of us are interested in our Pittsburgh Penguins, Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens, hockey does exist in the deep south. Even in Texas.
I suppose that's a bit harsh on the average NHL fan, but I'm fairly certain you haven't heard of these players before, or if you have, it's just in passing (or your unfortunately a fan of one of the Pacific teams).
Nonetheless, this young Stars team has players flying under the radar left right and center, and its time to take a look at the top 5 players that fall into this description.
Honorable Mention: #21 Loui Eriksson
This guy is my favourite player and I couldn't really not mention him.
Drafted in the 2nd Round (33rd overall) in 2003, the 25 year-old Swedish winger has been something of a sensation in Dallas, but not outside it.
In 354 games, he has 106 goals and 137 assists, with a plus-minus of 25.
His play is normally compared to that of Jere Lehtinen's, but he has far more upside that the great Fin.
The reason he doesn't quite make the list, is because the league is finally taking notice of the 6' 3", 193lb winger, after being selected to this year's all star game.
He is quite often regarded as the most underrated player in the league (along with Ryan Kesler).
Jamie Benn may have made this list, had he not been scoring highlight reel goals every few weeks, and Mark Fistric, whilst solid, has not been the plus-27 player he was last year.
In at Five: #81 Tomas Vincour
Tomas Vincour, a 20 year-old Czech center, was drafted in the 5th round (125th overall) in 2009.
He's been called up to the big team from AHL affiliate Texas Stars, to cover the injury bug (or should I say plague) that hit the Stars in February.
Vincour has been relatively unlucky scoring wise, having no points in 9 games and is a -2. This can be misleading though, as he has performed consistency during the drought, often putting in good shifts.
He's created good chances, and has started taking good shots (was robbed by the edge Pekka Rinne's glove the other night).
Look out for this 6' 2" 199lb center in the future. He looks quite comfortable in the NHL.
Number Four: #44 Jeff Woywitka
St. Louis fans have probably heard of Jeff "Wildcat" Woywitka.
Often being the "seventh-defenseman" the past few seasons, Woywitka got his chance, as a result of injuries to Matt Niskanen (since traded) and others, to form a stable partnership with Trevor Daley.
In fact, his presence has improved Daley's defensive play, and that's probably the reason why he's managed to find a way into this team. Coach Marc Crawford has stuck with this defensive pairing for the majority of the season.
This year, in 43 games, he's managed one memorable goal, which came on the powerplay against Atlanta. He also has 6 assists and is a plus-7 for the the year.
He's by no means Chris Pronger or Shea Weber, but the 27-year old former 1st round pick has certainly made a positive impact this year and is playing well enough to be considered to remain as a starting D-man if a big shut-down D is found.
Coming Third: #17 Toby Petersen
Toby Petersen was signed as a free agent on July 6th, 2007 and has been a staple of the Stars' depth at forward since.
While the 32 year-old American is not renown for his scoring prowess, he brings hard skating and checking to the 4th line, while also having the ability to step it up for a game or two on the 3rd line. He is also a very adept penalty killer.
His main problem is his size, he's only 5' 10", but has enough bulk to overcome some of that deficit (197lbs)
Originally drafted by Pittsburgh in 1998, he scored 2 goals and 16 assits in 91 games for the Penguins between 2000-2002, with a rating of minus-12.
After stints in Edmonton and the minor leagues, his success really has started with the Stars. In 184 games he's posted 14 goals and 19 assists and a minus-4.
Although his stats are nothing to shout about, his PK time is. He manages on average 2.01 minutes a game on the kill. His energy brings a huge improvement to the Stars, and the team is looking better ever since he returned in February, after missing 16 straight games with a lower body injury.
In Second Place: #23 Tom Wandell
24 year-old Swede Tom Wandell is often overshadowed by the club's other Swedes. The 6' 1" 197lb center has had a rather mixed tenure in Dallas.
Wandell is blessed with incredible skating ability and has a scorer's touch, when he has the confidence to shoot. He also has a habit picked up similar to that of Jere Lehtinen, where he will skate around the goal and then suddenly shoot the puck whilst turning.
The 5th round (146th overall) 2005 draftee has played 120 games for the Stars, tallying 11 goals and 13 assists, with a minus-1 rating.
That doesn't seem like a lot, but you have to factor in Wandell lost 32 man games last season with a torn ACL, much like the injury captain Brenden Morrow suffered. It takes quite a while for a player to reach full game speed after suffering an injury like this.
It was a shame for him, because again an injury last year helped Wandell into his current position. When Mike Ribeiro was injured against the New York Rangers in January 2010, Wandell stepped up and played very well, considering his lack of experience, and was fast improving into an NHL regular.
Look out for this smooth skating center. He is just finding his scoring touch again after lighting the lamp in consecutive games, once against Nashville and the other against Phoenix.
And Finally: #2 Nicklas Grossman
Everyone knows Stephane Robidas, but does everyone know his top pairing D partner?
In German, Gross means "big", and whilst Grossman is Swedish, using that logic would suggest what sort of player Nicklas is.
He is big, very big.
The 6' 3" 227lb defensive-defenseman has been steadily improving his game every year. He is certainly showing glimpses of shut-down D the Stars have been missing for a long time.
Drafted in the second round in 2004, the 26 year-old Swede has ammased 3 goals and 32 assists in 276 games, with a rating of plus-2. In 18 playoff games he has 2 points and is a plus-2.
This year has seen him start to turn into the physical monster that Dallas thought he could be. While not being blessed with the fastest skating ability in the world, he certainly makes up for it in very good defensive play.
One of his most memorable moments came when he nailed San Jose's Devin Setoguchi into his own bench in November 2010.
What a great name for a defenseman. Fortunately he's rather good at that job too.