Texas Stars recall Zach Kamrass from ECHL

With three games in three nights the Texas Stars have recalled defenseman Zach Kamrass from the Idaho Steelheads.

Stephen Johns is still out with a lower-body injury while Stars coach Derek Laxdal said the team has other “bumps and bruises” that need to be sorted out.

Kamrass is on an AHL contract with Texas, but didn’t appear in training camp with Texas. He has 16 points in 37 games with Idaho.

Here is the official release:

CEDAR PARK, Texas – The Texas Stars, American Hockey League affiliate of the NHL’s Dallas Stars, announced Thursday they have recalled rookie defenseman Zack Kamrass from their ECHL affiliate, the Idaho Steelheads.

Kamrass, 25, is on his first career AHL call-up after appearing in 37 games this season for Idaho with 16 points (3-13=16). The 5-foot-11, 190-pound native of Atlanta, Ga. is currently in his first full professional season after finishing a four-year career at the University of Massachusetts-Lowell (NCAA) from 2011-2015. Kamrass (KAM-rihs) appeared in 147 career collegiate games and scored 64 points (13-51=64) over the four-year stretch.

The Stars begin a three-game road trip on Friday in Bakersfield at 9 p.m. CST.

Texas Stars send Maxime Lagace to ECHL in attempt to maximize playing time

Maxime Lagace has been sent down to the ECHL. (Photo by Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)

Maxime Lagace has been sent down to the ECHL. (Photo by Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)

The Texas Stars decided it’s better to have Maxime Lagace playing in the ECHL rather than sitting on a bench in the AHL.

Lagace was assigned to the Idaho Steelheads on Thursday. It’s a move Texas Stars general manager Scott White felt will get the 22-year-old goaltender playing more games as the AHL club turns to Jack Campbell, who made his season debut in a 6-3 win against the San Antonio Rampage on Wednesday.

“This was always our plan,” White said. “He could stay in Texas and play 20 games. Or he could play 40 games in Idaho … it’s all about maximizing playing time.”

Campbell is a former first-round pick who missed the first month of the season with finger injury. Now that he’s healthy, the plan is for him to play as often as possible, while John Muse will serve as the back-up and play sparingly — a role he signed on for when he inked his AHL contract this summer.

Lagace will take a wealth of AHL experience with him to the ECHL. The rookie started seven of Texas’ first 11 games before Campbell returned and posted a .913 save percentage and 2.60 goals against average.

Idaho plays three games in three nights this weekend, meaning Lagace will probably start at least two of those games. Campbell will likely start both of Texas games this weekend against the Stockton Heat on Saturday and San Antonio on Sunday.

Here is the official release:

CEDAR PARK, Texas – The Texas Stars, American Hockey League affiliate of the NHL’s Dallas Stars, announced on Thursday that rookie goaltender Maxime Lagace has been reassigned to the team’s ECHL affiliate, the Idaho Steelheads.
Lagace (luh-GAH-say), 22, has appeared in seven games this season for Texas with a 4-3-0 record, a 2.60 goals against average and a .913 save percentage. The 6-foot-2, 185-pound native of Saint-Augustin, Quebec split 28 games last season at the ECHL level between the Bakersfield Condors and Missouri Mavericks with a combined 2.85 goals against average and .901 save percentage.

Age just a number for Idaho Steelheads youthful head coach

Neil Graham on the bench last season with Idaho. (Photo courtesy of Idaho Steelheads).

Neil Graham on the bench last season with Idaho. (Photo courtesy of Idaho Steelheads).

CEDAR PARK — At first glance Neil Graham could be mistaken for a player during Texas Stars training camp.

He’s built like a hockey player and Graham could easily pass as a player in his mid twenties, even though he celebrated his 30th birthday this past April.

But, Graham isn’t in Cedar Park to play hockey this week. Instead, he’s here to coach and evaluate AHL camp before embarking on his first season as the head coach of the affiliated Idaho Steelheads in the ECHL.

He’s also aware of some outside perceptions surrounding his age, which makes him the youngest coach in team history and the youngest current coach in the ECHL — the average age of an ECHL coach hovers around 40.

“I’ve felt a few questions about my age,” Graham said. “And to be honest, if you command that respect from the players and you know where to draw the line on professionalism, I don’t think age matters.

“I was ready for the opportunity,” Graham continued. “Age is a number, and we’re going to have a good year.”

Graham was a quick study as an assistant under former Steelheads coach Brad Ralph, who left to coach the WHL’s Kelowna Rockets. He joined Ralph’s staff as a player/coach during the 2012-13 season, before making the full transition to coaching in 2013.

As an assistant, Graham managed Idaho’s penalty kill and defensive responsibilities the past two seasons. Last season, Idaho killed off 86-percent of penalties and only allowed 2.6 goals per game — statistically putting the Steelheads in the ECHL’s top-five defenses.

There are more responsibilities and pressure as the head coach, but Graham said he learned from Ralph on how to manage those.

He’s also used training camp to exchange ideas and learn from Texas Stars coach Derek Laxdal, who coached Idaho from 2005 to 2010.

“It’s been great getting to hang out with those guys the past couple weeks,” Graham said. “Both Karl Taylor, and Laxdal, and (Texas general manager) Scott White have open with me in bringing me in and going over systems that we run that are very similar… It’s been great to pick their brains and talk hockey. Hopefully we take some of the good stuff they have going and take it to Idaho with us.”

Brandon Magee looking to emulate Jordie Benn’s path through pro hockey

Brandon Magee has impressed against NHL competition. (Photo by Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)

Brandon Magee has impressed against NHL competition. (Photo by Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)

CEDAR PARK — Jordie Benn couldn’t remember why he recognized Brandon Magee’s name on the Dallas Stars training camp roster.

Magee wasn’t drafted by Dallas, or any NHL organization, and at 5-foot-9, 185 pounds he doesn’t have the physical size that stands out on paper.

But, for some reason, the name stuck in Benn’s head. And, once he saw Magee’s face at camp here in Cedar Park, everything clicked.

“It’s kind of cool,” Benn said. “I couldn’t put two and two together until I saw his face. It’s just kind of cool to have another little guy that’s experienced the island.”

‘The Island’ refers to Victoria, BC where Benn and his brother, Dallas Stars captain Jamie Benn, grew up. The past couple years the Benns have skated at home during the summer with players from the WHL’s Victoria Royals, where Magee played from 2011 to 2015.

And if the Benns are the favorite sons, Magee is the beloved adopted child who made a name for himself in Victoria.

Magee set a franchise record with 235 career points in four seasons with Royals, but drew little professional attention after his junior career ended.

He attended NHL training camp with the Calgary Flames last fall and was an invitee to the Montreal Canadians development camp earlier this summer. Neither team invited him to training camp and Magee was working on his own this summer, until Dallas invited him to training camp and the NHL Prospects Tournament in Traverse City.

And Magee has seized that opportunity.

In Traverse City he centered a line of free agent invitees with Mads Eller and Chase Witala. He played in all four games and provided a spark for the Stars prospects in the tournament.

Magee built on that momentum and carried it into training camp in Cedar Park.

He didn’t look out of place against NHL talent, and scored a nice goal against Kari Lehtonen in the Victory Green vs. White Scrimmage on Sunday.

“It’s been a little bit of a whirlwind,” Magee said. “Flying everywhere lately. And, I’m just trying to take it all in day-by-day.”

He’s also been trying to soak up as much information as possible, listening closely to coaches and NHL players.

Having an “in” with the Benns has helped.

Jordie Benn, right, has been impressed with Magee's play in camp. (Photo by Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)

Jordie Benn, right, has been impressed with Magee’s play in camp. (Photo by Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)

Benn said he’s been able to ‘BS with’ Magee and he’s been impressed with the 21-year-old’s performance in camp.

“We keep it casual,” Benn said. “But, on a serious note. He’s impressed me.”

And Jordie Benn is the career model that Magee wants to follow.

Benn worked his way up from the ECHL’s Victoria Salmon Kings to the the Dallas Stars, with stops in Allen and Cedar Park along the way.

Now as a member of the Dallas Stars, outside prognosticators keep predicting his demise. But, Benn continues to contribute at the NHL level.

Benn said he sees a little bit of his story when he looks at Magee.

No matter how impressive he’s been in camp, Magee is most likely going to start the season with the Idaho Steelheads, where he’s already signed to an ECHL contract.

There’s simply too many players on NHL or AHL contracts above Magee on the depth chart. So he’s destined for Idaho, but will be looking for his first opportunity with Texas.

“Absolutely. Obviously, it’s been a dream of mine since Day 1 — since I started watching and playing hockey,” Magee said. “You want to play in the NHL. I think there is a lot of doubters there obviously. And, you know, you don’t get a chance right away. But, if you stick with it and keep working hard you can prove people wrong.”

Nill: Jack Campbell needs to play 60 games and continue his growth

Jack Campbell makes a pass earlier this season. (Photo by Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)

Jack Campbell makes a pass earlier this season. (Photo by Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)

Jack Campbell and Philippe Desrosiers are going to get a heavy work load next season.

Potentially 60 games for each.

Campbell will be the starter for the Texas Stars, while Desrosiers is expected to carry the load in the ECHL with the Idaho Steelheads.

“Jack Campbell is still young and needs to play lots of hockey,” Dallas Stars general manager Jim Nill said in a media conference call Monday. “He needs to play 60 games and continue his growth.”

Nill had similar thoughts on Desrosiers.

“We need our young goalies playing,” Nill said. “It’s a big jump from junior hockey.”

While minor-league starters were named Monday, there are still some question marks surrounding the back-up role in Texas and Idaho.

Dallas still has Henri Kiviaho and Maxime Lagace under contract. Neither impressed enough last season with Idaho to earn an AHL look, meaning Texas will likely have to sign an AHL-contracted goalie sometime this summer.

“We’ll see what we have and figure that out,” Nill said.

It wasn’t an exact timeline, but Nill indicated he would watch Desrosiers in development camp next week and the organization will then “go from there.”