Thursday, August 9, 2012

One To Watch: Dallas Stars

It's not as much the Big 'R' in Big 'D' as the Dallas Stars are reloading as opposed to rebuilding. I guess those both star with 'R' but the point is that while the organization is welcoming an influx of youth it's also adding some veterans to the mix too. 

Netminder Jack Campbell will begin his rookie season as a professional although I expect, and I could be wrong, that he's probably destined for the Texas Stars for the year.

Newly acquired Cody Eakin is a personal favourite and a guy i think will become a crowd pleaser because of his tenacious style. He and former Edmonton Oil King Tomas Vincour should be full time NHLers this season. 

It's a big year for power forward and 2009 8th overall pick Scott Glennie and also for defenceman Brendan Dillon. Both were rookies last year in the AHL and will look to see some NHL action. 

My choice for this series came down to three collegians. Austin Smith was a Hobey Baker nominee in his fourth and final season at Colgate. The Texas native has the local-boy-made-good story behind him but with 36 goals and 57 points in 39 games, I'm very curious to see how he fits in as a pro. 

Alex Chiasson at 6'4 and 190 lbs has NHL size. He racked up 80 points in 73 games at Boston University over the past two seasons so the offence is also there. In 9 games on the farm he chipped in 5 points, just wetting the appetite of fans for next year. 

A lot of worthy candidates above and several others that I didn't mention but in the end I went with the other big name rookie from college. 

Photo: Dallas Stars

Reilly Smith (RW)

Dallas/Texas Stars
6'0, 185 lbs       
Drafted 69th overall in 2009

I wonder if Reilly Smith considers himself a bit of a late bloomer or not. His stock has definitely gone on a steady upward climb since his draft year though three years as a member of the Miami RedHawks.

His final year in the OJHL with St. Mike's Buzzers was decent, 75 points in 49 games, but it was a far cry from the 102 that Andrew Cogliano had with the same program before college. Louie Caporusso totaled 73 one year with the Buzzers, maybe he's a better comparison, at least in regard to where they were in their draft year. 

Unlike other Ontario products like Cogliano, Caporusso and Mike Cammalleri, Smith didn't end up at Michigan with the Wolverines. Not enough Italian in him perhaps?

Miami was the right fit for Reilly who played for coach Enrico Blasi, also from Ontario, and had the luxury of highly offensive linemates in Carter Camper and 2011 Hobey Baker winner Andy Miele

Hockey Canada took notice and invited him to their U20 World Junior camp and although he didn't crack the roster, it was a confidence booster for him.  

Last year the pressure was on Smith to produce without either player, both lost to graduation, and he didn't disappoint. His 30 goals was the second most in college hockey, (Austin Smith had 36), and he achieved it on a team that underachieved to a degree after losing their big guns from the year before.  Finishing 10th in overall NCAA scoring with Miami was a very successful outcome for the forward.

Smith signed on with the Dallas in time to dress for three NHL games at the end of the year. He went pointless and played sparingly but it was a taste of the big time for him, enough to motivate him over the summer I'm sure. 

Photo: Miami RedHawks
The question is where he fits in with the organization this coming season. The Stars website lists him among the NHL regulars instead of "in the system" but that could just be left over from the final regular season game so don't read too much into that. 

Do newcomers Ray Whitney, Jaromir Jagr, Derek Roy and even Cody Eakin plug holes up front that could have been filled by Smith and company?

Does Dallas already have the two Smiths and Chiasson penciled in for the AHL roster or can they legitimately compete for a NHL job once camp opens?

Will Smith's numbers piled up at Miami translate to the pro level? At 6', 185 lbs will he be over-matched against bigger and faster professional competition or does he make a quick adjustment and not miss a beat?

More often than not, the people I speak with suggest that Smith will succeed and that makes him "One to Watch" for me in 2012-13. 

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