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S19 Stars Look to Rebound from S18 Letdown! Written by habsfan93 - October 16th, 2022

Following a big Season 17, the Dallas Stars seemed to take a step backwards in Season 18, though by most standards, they still had a successful season. But when you're coming off a President's Trophy and Conference Finals loss, expectations are high. So even though Dallas finished 6th in a very tight Western Conference (only 4 points out of 3rd), following a devastating Game 7 loss in the quarter-finals to the eventual cup finalist Predators, GM habsfan93 felt more than dissapointed. 

Meanwhile, where CMHL success didn't come easily, the ICHF Minnesota North Stars turned their fortunes around and went from a non-playoff team to finishing 4th in the Western Conference and 5th overall in the ICHF. Sadly, however, they too bowed out to the Predators farm team, the Knoxville Ice Bears, in the quarter-finals. Needless to say, a little rivalry between Dallas and Nashville appears to have taken root.

Let's take a look at what changes are in store for the Season 19 Stars and North Stars...

Presenting the Season 19 Dallas Stars Opening Game Lineup:

Alex Debrincat - Chandler Stephenson - Brayden Point
Alex Kerfoot - JT Compher - Mats Zuccarello
Jakub Vrana - Nicolas Roy - Sam Carrick
Brock McGinn - Nick Cousins - Oskar Sundqvist

Cam Fowler - Darnell Nurse
Oliver Ekman-Larsson - Alex Edler
Mike Matheson - Corey Schueneman

Fredrik Andersen
Cory Schneider

A total of 6 players are new to the roster this year, 4 of which (in bold italics) are making the jump to the CMHL from last year's ICHF squad while the other 2 (in bold) are UFA signings. That said, the roster is very different from the roster that opened Season 18 as GM habsfan93 made a large number of in-season acquisitions to turn the team's fortunes. Only 7 of the 20 players (Point, Zuccarello, McGinn, Cousins, Vrana, Fowler and Ekman-Larsson) were in the lineup to start Season 18. 

Players to watch in Season 19:

- Chandler Stephenson locked up the first line C role with a strong training camp but coach Jared Bednar has been vocal in saying that he's not afraid to mix up the lines if things aren't working and we could very well see JT Compher on that 1st line throughout the year. 

- Likewise, Alex Kerfoot is coming in with high expectations after finding his game in the ICHF last year but Jakub Vrana has, for the last two seasons, bounced around between the 2nd and 3rd lines in Dallas. Vrana has yet to prove that he's capable of maintaining a spot on the 2nd line but the more defensively oriented Kerfoot might wind up a better fit on the 3rd line as things progess. 

- The Stars big UFA splash was signing Alex Edler to a 1 year guaranteed contract. GM habsfan93 thinks Edler still has a lot in the tank and that he can still play the role of a top 4 dman. Edler had 43 points with the Hurricanes last year so it stands to reason that he could do well surrounded by three offensive powerhouse dmen in Fowler, OEL and Nurse. 

- All eyes are going to be on Dallas' big trade deadline acquisition, Fredrik Andersen (pictured above). When Ben Bishop announced his intention to retire at the end of S18, many began to wonder what Dallas would do and they stepped up to the plate, dealing Bishop to Anaheim for Andersen. After a summer of working with Dallas' coaching staff, expectations are sky high for the new goalie but that didn't stop GM habsfan93 from signing grizzled veteran Cory Schneider to fill the backup role and provide some insurance in net. 


Presenting the Season 19 Minnesota North Stars Opening Game Lineup:

Michael Chaput - Josh Bailey - Keifer Sherwood
CJ Suess - Connor Bunnaman - Mike Vecchione
Sakari Manninen - Cam Hillis - Shane Gersich
Nolan Stevens - Ben Jones - Andrei Altybarmakyan

Will Butcher - Dennis Gilbert
Grant Hutton - Paul Ladue
Filip Johansson - Sean Day

Jake Allen
Karel Vejmelka

With Carrick, Roy and Kerfoot all being promoted to the CMHL squad along with Sven Baertschi and Tomas Jurco retiring, the top 6 forward group in Minnesota is getting a big makeover this year. GM habsfan93 dipped into the free agency pool to sign a brand new first line with Josh Bailey (pictured below) being the centrepiece. At the pre-season press conference, GM habsfan93 made it clear that Bailey was signed to a 3 year deal with the intention of him following a similar trajectory to players like Zuccarello and Kerfoot who needed a year of ICHF play to renew their games before making the jump back to the CMHL.

Connor Bunnaman meanwhile found himself on the outside looking in after spending last year on the Stars 4th line, while Sakari Manninen coming over from Europe is an exciting signing that could pay dividends.

On D, its mostly the same crew that defended last year's squad with the only change being Grant Hutton stepping in to the spot vacated by departing UFA Thomas Hickey. Hutton was the 7th man last year but a tremendous training camp sees him jump to 3rd on the depth chart in Minnesota.

In goal, Jake Allen was expected by many to backup Andersen in Dallas this year after a stellar ICHF Season 18 in which he just missed out on a Vezina nomination. But with the Schneider signings, he will look to repeat his performance in the ICHF. Karel Vejmelka, meanwhile, jumped up the depth chart after a great training camp, much like Hutton and will backstop Allen. Some believe Vejmelka might just be ready for a CMHL role and with his salary, its likely that he gets a chance to play for the Stars if the team runs into salary cap issues. 


GM habsfan93 has put together what he believes are two rosters that can compete for the a top 4 finish in each conference yet again and hopefully achieve greater playoff success. Stay tuned!

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