The Texas Stars closed out their abbreviated season on May 15th with a 3-2 win over the Iowa Wild in Des Moines.
It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster year for the AHL club, and they fell to an overall losing record of 38-17-18-3.
Of course, they definitely weren’t helped by the relentless schedule of the Dallas Stars, the injuries, the taxi squad, and the fact the two goaltenders would have been expected to start in Cedar Park (Jake Oettinger and Landon Bow) spent the entire season in Dallas.
One bright spot has been the emergence of Riley Damiani who notched up a point per game on the way to leading all rookies in scoring with 11 goals and 25 assists, kicking off the season with a 3 point game on February 5th. The 21-year-old was a 5th round pick of the Stars in 2018 and played 3 seasons in the OHL with the Kitchener Rangers. He Captained the OHL team in 2019-2020 as well as leading the team in points, notching up 28 goals and 50 assists. On his way to the rookie scoring title, Damiani beat out some notable young players.
Jack Dugan, a 5th round pick in 2017, and Vegas Golden Knights prospect was a finalist for the 2020 Hobey Baker. The players that ranked 3-9 were all first or second-round picks. This includes, in more good news for the Stars, 2018 first-round pick Thomas Harley, coming in at number 9 on the list.
While not the biggest player (listed at 5’10’ and 173) scouting reports of Damiani from his time in the OHL note his exceptional skating and work ethic as assets while noting that his smaller size is something of a detriment. The Hockey Writers had him listed as one of their most under-rated prospects of the 2018 draft. Even now teams do tend to overlook an undersized center.
In April, the AHL rookie of the month notched up 15 points, his first hat trick, and 5 consecutive multipoint games.
Highlights posted by the Texas Stars suggest a player able to use his acceleration and shifty skating to get behind defenders, as well as demonstrating a very handy one-timer.
It remains to be seen if Damiani’s skills will translate to the NHL. As a player who relies on speed and skill rather than physicality, with time and correct development, his skills may translate well to a league that is increasingly about those aspects of the game and less about the grinding style of hockey that can sometimes be seen in the AHL.
We can speculate that the Stars learned their lesson from the 2016 draft when they passed over the absolutely stellar Alex DeBrincat.
DeBrincat is a player that slipped to the second round, for reasons that can only be to do with his small size and not his very definitely outsize skill. As a Blackhawk, he’ll likely torment the Stars for years to come. In that draft, the Stars took Riley Tufte, who at 6’6” is very definitely outsized but one of only 2 players taken in the first round in 2016 who is yet to play an NHL game.
Stars fans should keep their fingers crossed that in Damiani, much like they have in the past with players like Jamie Benn and John Klingberg, the Stars have found a diamond in the rough.
Featured Image: Mollie Kendall/Texas Stars