This past season for the Stars saw many players grow, Roope Hintz and Jason Dickinson being the prime examples. Unfortunately, it also saw some players not make the grade and move on to other teams, Remi Elie and Gemel Smith being the two examples.

It is a part of the business side of hockey unfortunately and ultimately both parties have to do what is best for both the team and the player. A fresh start with a new team can often benefit the player and give them a chance to earn the playing time they desire while also providing an open spot for the team. Much like this past season, this upcoming season will be an important litmus test for a few young Stars. It is time to see if these players can make the grade.

Denis Gurianov

The first name on this list should not come as much surprise to many if any, Dallas Stars fans. He has the talent and the goal scoring ability the Stars desperately crave. This past season, he tallied 48 points in 57 games with the Texas Stars, including 20 goals. The offensive production he put up in the AHL did not translate to his time with Dallas unfortunately as he only tallied 4 points, one goal, in 21 games.

The past few seasons have been much hype around the young right winger, but the substance has yet to be there. His production and attitude this season though certainly did inspire some hope that he has what it takes to take the next step. With the likely departure of Jason Spezza, the opportunity will be there for Gurianov to take that roster spot by the horns and show that he is worth the 12th overall pick the Stars used on him. Hopefully, he can take the next step and see regular playing time with Dallas next season.

Valeri Nichushkin

Speaking of highly drafted young Russian, Nichushkin is under contract for this next season, to the dismay of some Stars fans. While the winger did not tally a goal this past season, there is no denying that he was productive on the defensive end of the ice and was solid on the penalty kill. He also did not take a penalty the entire season which is also impressive and should be worth noting for while he was not contributing goals, he also was not a liability in surrendering them.

The expectations for Val were high entering the year, but offensively he struggled and could not find the back of the net. His offensive opportunities did come, but a lack of confidence likely contributed to his struggles in front of the net. He will likely be competing for playing time and he will need to maximize his opportunities this upcoming season. He will have the benefit of a full year in Monty’s system and ideally, the experience will lead to him fulfilling his potential and gaining the respect and admiration of the fans.

Tyler Pitlick

The Stars have a log jam at right wing and with Tyler Pitlick entering the last year of his contract, this is a very important year for him. The good news is that it means he has an opportunity to make a statement and show his value to other potential teams in the event he cannot re-sign with the Stars. The downside of that is it also makes him potential trade bait with the expiring contract and also adds pressure to the right winger. He plays a physical game and showed spurts of offensive ability this season.

Unfortunately, due to a questionable hit by Dustin Brown, knocked Pitlick out for 8 weeks of the season just when the winger had the potential to put together a really good season. The big thing Tyler will have to do this next season is to show the ability to produce offensively consistently. He goes on streaks of scoring in multiple games and then will go weeks without a goal. He has the makings of a key bottom 6 forward for the Stars, but he is going to need to be able to find the back of the net more consistently to stay on the ice. His ability to defend and be physical on the penalty kill will be incredibly important for the Stars. His health and consistency will be a major factor for the upcoming season.

Fair or unfair, hockey is a business and if players want to continue their dream of playing in the NHL, they have to produce and meet the expectations placed on them both by the organization and their contract. Dallas has a plethora of depth in their AHL and ECHL affiliates. The pressure of knowing that a player who is younger and cheaper can come up and take your spot makes it difficult for some players to succeed. Pressure also can provide the motivation needed to take the next step and be a staple on an NHL team.

Hopefully, for these 3 Stars, they can take the pressure and use it to take the next step to help lead Dallas to the promised land of the Stanley Cup.

Featured Image: Wes Lawrence, DefendingBigD
Photo: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY
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