The Dallas Stars will once again carry eight defensemen. Fortunately, one of those eight will be the young Julius Honka. Two players were placed on waivers Monday, signaling that the Stars have settled on their final roster for opening night.
Curtis McKenzie and Patrik Nemeth have hit the waiver wire. Given the time of the year, both players clearing is a real possibility, but both could help many clubs. Colorado still doesn’t have much in the way of NHL talent on the blueline. Nemeth seems like exactly the type of guy they should be claiming off of waivers.
Gemel Smith has made the opening night roster. The 23-year-old forward had six points in 17 games with the big club last year. In 53 games in the AHL, Smith had 33 points. He’s a fast player who will get in on the forecheck and provide quality depth. He’s exactly the type of player you would expect Ken Hitchcock to gravitate towards.
The big news comes from Honka making the club. Reports from early in camp were that Honka was drawing rave reviews and making Hitchcock almost giddy. As time went on, those reports weren’t as frequent, and we started to see more and more of those reports about Jamie Oleksiak instead.
Now, both have made the NHL roster.
Esa Lindell and John Klingberg appear to be the likely top defensive pair at the outset. The assumption here at this point is that Oleksiak will be in the lineup from the beginning paired with Marc Methot. Two spots remain for Dan Hamhuis, Stephen Johns, Greg Pateryn, and Honka. Hamhuis and Johns sounds like a reasonable pairing, but I don’t see why Honka would make the NHL roster not to play when he doesn’t have to clear waivers.
Technically, the Stars could have a defenseman like Oleksiak or Hamhuis on the market. Giving Oleksiak top-four minutes still feels so strange so I can’t say I would be shocked if this were the case. At face value, Honka being on the roster suggests he is going to play, and you would expect him to be on the right side in Oleksiak’s or Johns’ spot. We’ll see how it plays out.
The forward lines shaped up about how you would expect. Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, and Alex Radulov will be the top unit. Mattias Janmark and Brett Ritchie should flank Jason Spezza on the second line. Newcomer Martin Hanzal will be centering the third line with Devin Shore and Tyler Pitlick. Antoine Roussel, Radek Faksa, and Adam Cracknell are a good bet for the fourth line.
That’s not too shabby, but I still wonder where the offense is coming from. To be an offensive force, the Stars really need a bounce back from Spezza and/or more growth from Ritchie. They should be a good team regardless, but to push into the contending area the Stars will need some depth scoring to rise up in support of the top line.
Barring something unforeseen, these are your 2018 Stars. We won’t fully know what they’re going to be for a while, but we can at least be confident that they’re leaving camp in one piece. That fact alone makes 2018 way more promising than 2017 ever was.