It’s been a long hockey-less Autumn and Winter for Stars fans, and fans around the league, but the 2020-2021 season kicks off on January 13th.

Our first glimpse of the team this year will come this week, with training camp opening on January 4th. The Stars have several questions to answer, with Stephen Johns not expected to play this year, and Ben Bishop and Tyler Seguin likely out for most of the season.

Johns’ choice not to play is absolutely one that should be respected. The 28-year-old has a very long life to live after hockey, and prioritizing his long term health is the right choice. Given the historical treatment of head injuries in the NHL, the choice is one that he and the Dallas Stars should be given much credit for making. It does, however, leave the Stars with a question mark in their defensive pairings. 

Photo: Louis DeLuca/Dallas Morning News

The expectation, when Johns was first returning to play, was that he would partner Miro Heiskanen. During last season, the most promising pairing for Heiskanen appeared to be Jamie Oleksiak – a defenseman who has developed significantly since his first stint with the Stars – and the assumption has to be that the Stars will continue to roll that pairing. Thomas Harley, who is expected to miss most, if not all of Camp while playing second pair minutes with the, so far,  all-conquering team Canada at the World Junior Championship, is another player who will surely be getting much consideration. However, assuming that the Stars intend to start the season with a top-four of Klingberg-Lindell and  Heiskanen-Oleksiak there would appear to be a collection of players on their roster who can fill the bottom pair including returning players like Taylor Fedun and Andrej Sekera, and off-season depth signing Mark Pysyk.

With his return to North-American play, there is also the lingering question of what to do with Julius Honka. It’s entirely possible, given that teams can carry a “taxi-squad” this year, and the still unconfirmed return to play details of the AHL and CHL that we could see a rotating cast of players fill the bottom pair, at least for the next month or so.

At Goalie it’s expected that Anton Khudobin will step in as the number 1 goalie, being backed up by Jake Oettinger. Oettinger has impressed at the AHL level but lacks NHL experience and is no doubt excited to cement his position as a future franchise goalie.

One would assume that Landon Bow and Colton Point will fill the position for the Texas Stars. 

Tyler Sequin had a down year by his standards last year, exacerbated by injury. Even in a down year, however, Seguin is a driver of offense, plays big minutes, and is the Stars’ number one face-off taker. Both Roope Hintz and Denis Gurianov must be looking to build off their successful seasons last year and be offensive drivers for the Stars (and hopefully, once and for all, putting to bed the debate among fans about Denis Gurianov’s ice time).

While Gurianov was the Stars’ top scorer last year, Hintz would be the more natural fit at the center. The Stars will also be hoping Joel Kiviranta can continue the explosive offensive breakout he had in the play-offs. It will also be interesting to see whether up and coming players like Jason Robertson and Ty Dellandrea and depth pieces like Nicholas Caamano, can make themselves permanent fixtures on the team.

The 2020-2021 NHL season, shortened to 56 games, will be a sprint with teams restricted to divisional play only.
Something to watch for Stars fans will be which player can become the next breakout star in Dallas.

Featured Image: Louis DeLuca/Dallas Morning News
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