Texas Stars Mailbag: Looking at defensive depth from the air

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Well, this is a historic moment.

Welcome to the first Texas Stars mailbag where the questions were answered at 40,000 feet above sea level.

To clarify, I’m somewhere over Indiana right now on my way to Traverse City, Michigan for the 2015 Prospects tournament.

(Shameless plug upcoming)

I’ll be in Traverse City for the week covering the tournament, which includes a team of Dallas prospects coached by Texas Stars coach Derek Laxdal.

Check back here each day for game recaps, updates, and other news tidbits from the tournament.

(Back to the mailbag)

Ok, now let’s start with the most important question:

“It’s a religious holiday.”

Don’t think you can go wrong with that.

Let’s combine these two questions.

Before Brett Ritchie’s injury, I would have expected him to compete with Curtis McKenzie for the 13th forward spot in Dallas.

Now, that Ritchie is out for at least three months, I would expect McKenzie to start in Dallas.

However, that doesn’t mean he’ll stay up there very long. I would expect Dallas to do it’s best job to keep McKenzie playing as many games as possible.

That could mean McKenzie playing in Cedar Park one day, and then serving as a healthy scratch the next in Dallas.

If Esa Lindell is one of the top-six defensemen he will be on the opening night roster.

Dallas general manager Jim Nill has made it clear — both in words and in actions — that he wants to give opportunities to his young defensemen, if they’ve earned the spot.

Nill also harps on the importance of playing time. So, if Lindell is close to NHL-ready, but still isn’t in the top-six, he’ll start in the AHL.

Better to have him play every night in Cedar Park then watch from Dallas’ press box.

Stephen Johns is in a similar position to Lindell. He’s a good young defenseman who will be given a chance in training camp, but he’ll have to earn that NHL opportunity.

Right now — and this opinion could change after watching the prospects tournament this week — I would expect Lindell and Johns to start the season in the AHL.

Let’s start with Jack Campbell at No. 1.

The goalie is in his “do-or-die” year with the Dallas organization, and he’s being given all the tools to succeed for the first time in his career.

Campbell will be Texas’ opening-night starter, and should play more games than he’s ever played in his career.

How will he respond to that challenge?

2. Radek Faksa

Another first-round pick, and another one that’s trying to shake off an injury-riddled past.

Faksa has the tools to be an NHL player, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he becomes a player to watch at training camp.

And that comes with added pressure. Faksa will be expected to take a larger role in Texas this season, and won’t be able to fly under the radar.

3. Matej Stransky

He doesn’t have the first-round pedigree of Faksa, a fellow Czech, but Stransky is going to be under heavy scrutiny this season.

The right winger had 19 points in 70 games last season and regressed from his 2014 Calder Cup playoff form. If Stransky doesn’t have a strong training camp and start to the season, he could end up with the Idaho Steelheads in the ECHL.

Probably too early to dive into lines and ice time.

I think it really depends on the make up of this team and how the centers shake out.

And I would guess players will probably be encouraged not to partake in grilled cheese hot dogs — which are new to the Cedar Park Center menu this season.

But, that doesn’t mean I won’t be eating one in the press box next week at training camp.

This is a long list, but I think Radek Faksa and Stephen Johns top the list.

I’m interested in seeing a fully-healthy Faksa and tracking his progress from July’s development camp.

I’m also interested to watch Johns closely in his first formal activity with Dallas.

Highly unlikely, but not impossible.

Texas general manager Scott White has said he’s happy with the group he has in place now, and I don’t expect too much to change.

And from those player’s perspectives (the Kevin Henderson and Scott Valentine types), why would you sign a PTO with a team that’s made it clear you’re not part of the future plans?

Nothing new to report now. Dallas and Texas seem content in seeing what they have in the system first.

I don’t know too much on Scott Valentine’s situation, but he’s probably waiting for the right fit.

He took the wait-and-see approach last season as well. If you remember, he signed an ECHL deal with the Idaho Steelheads while waiting for an AHL opportunity to open up.

Yes. Because, I’m an expert sleepwalker.

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