Texas Stars Mailbag: Thoughts on defensemen, Dowling, and Shore

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Yes, it’s finally October, which means the Texas Stars open the regular season in nine days.

It’s also a Thursday, which means it’s time for a Texas Stars Mailbag.

Let’s get started:

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Happy to say that no matter what answer I give to this one, I can’t be proven wrong since time on ice is not an official statistic in the AHL.

First, let’s establish which eight defensemen will be with Texas: Julius Honka, Esa Lindell, Ludwig Bystrom, Stephen Johns, Mattias Backman, Brennan Evans, Matt Mangene, Jesse Blacker.

Now, let’s rank potential ice time:

1. Esa Lindell — Lindell is probably going to be on one of the top pairings with Julius Honka. He’s also a strong candidate to work on the first power play unit and top penalty killing unit.

2. Julius Honka — Honka will likely man the point on the power play, while he’ll also play big minutes in 5-on-5. Honka will get some work on the penalty kill, but I not in the same frequency as Lindell.

3. Stephen Johns — Likely the anchor of the second defense pairing and should be a shutdown defenseman on the penalty kill. Should also get his share of power play time.

4. Mattias Backman — Could spend most of the season playing with Johns, which should increase his ice time.

5. Jesse Blacker — Offensive-minded defenseman, who could create a nice offensive push from the back with Bystrom. Played on the power play a bit last season with San Antonio.

6. Ludwig Bystrom — Think he’s a dark horse to work the power play — he certainly has the skill to do so. Before this season I wasn’t expecting much out of Bystrom, but my expectations have risen after seeing him in training camp.

7. Brennan Evans — Veteran of the group with Calder Cup-winning experience. Can be counted on in late-game situations.

8. Matt Mangene — Only eighth on this list since someone had to be last. Feel like we could see Mangene on the power play and 3-on-3 overtime hockey fits his game perfectly.

To be clear, I don’t see a big divide in ice time from top to bottom. While Lindell and Honka may play 22 or 23 minutes a night, the third pairing will probably be close to 20 minutes a game.

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It’s going to be fun to watch.

Honka and Lindell have worked well together in training camp and both have that offensive mindset to quarterback a power play.

It will be interesting to see how often Texas uses two defensemen on the power play. In the past, Texas has consistently used four forwards on the first unit, while the second unit has often consisted of two defensemen and three forwards.

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I think Justin Dowling is a great example for younger hockey players when you consider his career path.

He was undrafted, worked his way through the ECHL and earned his first NHL contract.

I think Dowling will play in NHL games, possibly this season, but he could spend most of his career in the AHL.

And, to be clear, that’s not a bad thing.

For one, the AHL is the second best league in the world (yes, I would argue it’s better than the KHL). Second of all, AHL lifers make a nice living, for example Travis Morin’s 2015-16 salary is $325,000 in the AHL.

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He’s technically going to be a rookie, so I’m going with Devin Shore after his 19 game stint with Texas last season.

Shore can be slotted into a number of roles for Texas, and has that “team-first” attitude that coaches love to utilize.

He learned about the AHL last season after finishing his collegiate career and showed off a grittier side to his game. This season I’m expecting him to flourish more offensively, similar to how Curtis McKenzie approached his rookie season after an AHL cameo during the 2012-13 season.

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