Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Lincoln Stars 2008-09 Preview

Fresh off a Division Finals appearance in Jimmy McGroarty's first season as a head coach, the Stars will need to replace a lot of firepower if they want to try and repeat last season's success.

Key Departures:
Jason Gregoire-One of the best players in the league.
Ryan Kretzer-Big offensive threat for the Stars.
Matt Bartkowski-Quality, physical defenseman.
David Reekie-Top goalie in the league.

Goalie (1):
Kevin Murdock (1990) - Played just 15 games, not overly impressive numbers.

Goalie Evaluation:
Murdock made the Stars as a free agent and quickly became the more reliable goalie to start the season. Lincoln eventually added David Reekie, and he played virtually every game. Murdock only saw action in five games, with just three starts. The biggest concern I see here is the lack of experience Murdock has in USHL game situations. In his starts since Reekie arrived, he went 1-1-1, so he can win and keep his team in it, but how will he handle more than 15 games in a season?

Defense (5):
Mike Dalhuisen (1989) - Greatly improved since his Chicago days.
Jake Newton (1988) - Quality defenseman with good offensive upside.
Taylor Kuypers (1990) - Played in very few games, so I won't comment.
Ross Henry (1990) - One of the league's best, but doesn't get much praise.
Michael Sdao (1989) - Probably one of the most improved players on Lincoln's roster.

Defense Evaluation:
This group of returners is, for the most part, large and physical. Dalhuisen stands out as one who could step up as a team leader as well. Newton loves to carry the puck up the ice and seems to do well with it most of the time. The way he goes up the ice reminds me of Dan Lawson, only a little slower. Kuypers was a standout in high school in Wisconsin, so he should be able to step in and be a dependable player after he gets a few more games under his belt. Henry rarely makes mistakes on his end of the ice, and that makes him extremely valuable to any team. He also likes to play physical, so if he were to become more offensive, he'd be the total package. For the sake of the Stars fans, let's just hope he can become more offensive, but not get Eli Vlaisavljevich syndrome. Sdao was drastically improved from the start of the season, and will continue to be a big physical presence on the ice.

Forwards (5):
Chris Forfar (1988) - Big power forward, best returning forward.
Travis Erstad (1988) - Could this finally be the year he breaks out?
Josh Myers (1990) - Early season addition, but spent most of his time on the 4th line.
Tyler Brickler (1991) - Highly regarded by Lincoln coaches, should have a bigger role.
Eric Meland (1989) - Hard working forward, played a big part in Lincoln's playoff run.

Forward Evaluation:
Lincoln has a LOT of offense to replace, but Forfar is a good guy to start with. He started off with Waterloo, but wasn't able to do a whole lot. He ended up in Lincoln, and quickly became a fan favorite, and now has the chance to be the main guy up front for the Stars. Erstad had a lot of promise coming out of high school, and even earned an NHL draft selection. However, he has not tapped into that potential, and Lincoln, Wisconsin, and St. Louis are all hoping this last season of juniors can be the year he breaks out. Myers played in 45 regular season games, but didn't factor in on the scoresheet too often. He spent most of the time of the 4th line, and that line didn't seem to get a whole lot of shifts during games. Brickler saw action in a limited amount of games, but has a lot of potential to breakout this season. Meland ventured south to Lincoln after his high school season was complete in North Dakota, and was only able to score one goal. Come playoff time, Meland was more of a force, putting up five points in eight games, so I feel he is ready to have an increased role for next season.

Futures Evaluation:
David Toews appears to be the gem of this group, though he will most likely be suiting up for North Dakota come next fall. Matt Bruneteau is a little small, but he is bulky and plays a physical game. I think his style will fit well into what Lincoln wants. Cory Hibbeler and David Gerths offer up a lot of potential, and both were teammates at Culver Academy with current Star, Michael Sdao. That could be enough reason for those two to give Lincoln a shot. Former Star, Carter Camper, has his little brother Jay looking forward to getting a shot to play in Lincoln. 1991 born goalie, Ryan Walsh, will likely be given a shot to earn the #1 spot out of camp, though I feel he may be too young and inexperienced for that job right now.

Overall Evaluation: C

No comments: