When it comes to improving the Dallas Stars’ defense from within, they at least have a decent array of young options.
Whether those young options actually pan out remains to be seen, yet they’re giving themselves an array of choices, especially after retaining Mattias Backman via a one-year, two-way deal on Thursday.
Here’s a blurb about the decent-sized blueliner, via the Stars:
Backman has earned 36 points (8-28=36) in 90 career AHL contests with the Texas Stars and Grand Rapids Griffins. The defenseman has appeared in 16 career games in the Calder Cup Playoffs, registering nine points (1-8=9) and 18 shots on goal. Backman also won a gold medal at the 2012 IIHF U20 World Junior Championship with Team Sweden, skating alongside current Dallas Stars John Klingberg and Patrik Nemeth.
That last bit can’t hurt, as familiarity could at least improve his chances of gaining a depth position or call-up opportunities.
His Hockey’s Future analysis gives you the impression that he presents “more of the same” for the Stars:
Despite his size, Backman doesn’t play a particularly physical or powerful game. He is a simple, economical defenseman who makes the smart play and knows to play within himself. He’s an excellent skater for his size, makes a good first pass and makes good decisions with and without the puck. He won’t wow you, but he won’t often be beat or get caught cheating either.
The Stars likely hope that he can develop into another decent option, especially if they decide against splashy moves this summer.
Stars love their young defensemen
Hockey Canada has found the man responsible for getting its junior team back into the medals.
Dominique Ducharme, an assistant to Dave Lowry on the team that finished sixth at this year’s tourney, will be behind the Canadian bench for the 2017 WJC tournament in Montreal and Toronto, per the Canadian Press.
Ducharme, 43, has spent his entire coaching career in the Quebec League, first as an assistant in Montreal, followed a head coaching gig in Halifax — where he worked with the likes of Nathan MacKinnon, Jonathan Drouin and Nikolaj Ehlers.
This spring, Ducharme took the bench boss gig in Drummondville.
A former teammate of Tim Thomas and Martin St. Louis at the University of Vermont, Ducharme played a handful of games in the AHL and ECHL before transitioning to coaching.
Ducharme’s biggest accomplishment as a bench boss was capturing the Memorial Cup with Halifax three years ago.
Remember when Jake Virtanen returned from the World Juniors in Finland and there was that big controversy in Vancouver over the headline in the local tabloid that read “Goat-medal winner”?
Well, it’s only been a couple of months since then, but opinions about the big, 19-year-old winger have improved considerably.
“I don’t know what happened there, but when he came back, for me, he was a different player,” Canucks forward Daniel Sedin told Postmedia.
Not only has Virtanen scored five times in 22 games since Canada’s disappointing finish in Helsinki, he’s been defensively responsible and physically engaged, mixing it up with the likes of Dion Phaneuf, Ryan Kesler, and Drew Doughty.
Wednesday night against Arizona, he leveled the Coyotes’ Connor Murphy:
That same game, he played a season-high 16:55 and assisted on the overtime winner by Markus Granlund:
In other words, Virtanen is starting to emerge into the kind of player the Canucks envisioned when they drafted him sixth overall in 2014.
“I want to be a guy that’s just a hard, honest player,” he told PHT recently. “Coming back from World Juniors…it’s nice to have the coach’s confidence in me to trust me. I felt management trusted me, so it was nice to come back and start to produce slowly. I’ve got to keep on doing that.”
Dane Fox, who once scored 64 goals in 67 games playing alongside Connor McDavid in OHL Erie, has been traded from Vancouver to Carolina in exchange for future considerations, the ‘Canes announced on Monday.
Fox, 22, has spent almost all of this year with ECHL Kalamazoo, a bit of a fall from a guy the Canucks organization was once high on. Back in 2014, former GM Mike Gillis listed Fox — in a letter penned to season ticketholders — as part of a “talented group of prospects” that included Nicklas Jensen (traded to the Rangers), Frank Corrado (lost on waivers to the Leafs) and Hunter Shinkaruk (traded to Calgary).
Fox originally signed with the Canucks in the midst of that banner 64-goal campaign with the Otters, but has since only appeared in one game at the AHL level, spending almost all of his professional hockey career in Kalamazoo.
The ‘Canes did say Fox would immediately report to AHL Charlotte.
Ron Wilson isn’t banking on a return to an NHL bench after leading the Americans to bronze at the World Juniors.
But the former head coach of the Ducks, Capitals, Sharks and Maple Leafs did enjoy his experience with USA Hockey.
“I learned I could still coach,” Wilson told the Toronto Star. “Sometimes I had my doubts there after my Toronto experience. I was getting criticized from all sides. You learn to trust yourself. That’s what I did, I trusted myself and we were rewarded.”
Wilson was as outspoken and self-assured as ever the past few weeks. He called out TSN for hyping up the tournament to the detriment of Team Canada. He called out Team Canada for taking too many penalties versus the Finns. He even quasi-bragged that he “couldn’t tell you any players on the Russian team,” right before the Russians beat his American squad in the semifinals.
Though Wilson said he’d “entertain” an offer from an NHL team, the 60-year-old said he wasn’t “expecting anything” and that the only thing he planned to do now was get back to golfing.
Related: Columnist implores Leafs fans to stop being so mean to Ron Wilson