The 2020-21 NHL season is scheduled to begin Jan. 13. With training camps opening this week, NHL.com is taking a look at the three keys, the inside scoop on roster questions and the projected lines for each of the 31 teams. Today, the Dallas Stars, who will play in the Central Division.
Coach: Rick Bowness (second season)
Last season: 37-24-8 (.594 points percentage), fourth place in Western Conference, lost to Tampa Bay Lightning in Stanley Cup Final
1. Withstanding Seguin, Bishop absences
Forward Tyler Seguin and goalie Ben Bishop each had surgery during the offseason and will likely be out the first two months of the season. Bishop had surgery Oct. 21 to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee and Seguin had right hip labral repair on Nov. 2; each recovery was estimated to take five months. Seguin led the Stars with 50 points (17 goals, 33 assists) last season, and they will need more production particularly from forwards Jamie Benn (39 points; 19 goals, 20 assists) and Alexander Radulov (34 points; 15 goals, 19 assists) in Seguin’s absence. Anton Khudobin, who was 16-8-4 with a 2.22 goals-against average and a .930 save percentage in 30 games (26 starts) last season and helped Dallas reach the Cup Final, will be the No. 1 goalie while Bishop is out.
2. Better start required
The Stars recovered from a 2-7-1 start last season to finish fourth in the conference but know they must avoid a repeat, especially in a 56-game season. They also must get more production early in games after they finished 30th in the NHL with 49 first-period goals, ahead of only the Detroit Red Wings (44).
3. Heiskanen continues to improve
Miro Heiskanen has evolved into one of the top defensemen in the NHL and should build on last season, when he scored 35 points (eight goals, 27 assists) in 68 games and then led the Stars with 26 points (six goals, 20 assists) in 27 postseason games. The 21-year-old has impressive poise to go along with high-end skill, and he and Jamie Oleksiak gave Dallas a reliable second defense pair behind Esa Lindell and John Klingberg.
Making the cut
There are openings at forward with Seguin injured, Mattias Janmark signing with the Chicago Blackhawks and Corey Perry still an unrestricted free agent. Joel Kiviranta should have an important role after he scored six points (five goals, one assist) in 14 postseason games, and the Stars would also like to provide an opportunity to some of their younger forwards, including Joel L’Esperance (25 years old), Nick Caamano (22) and Jason Robertson (21).
Most intriguing addition
Kiviranta scored one goal in 11 regular-season games but exceled in the postseason; Bowness said how much he loved the 24-year-old’s fearlessness, competitiveness and confidence. Expected to be a mainstay in the NHL this season, Kiviranta has a chance to show his performance in the playoffs was not a fluke.
Biggest potential surprise
With Bishop still recovering, backup goalie Jake Oettinger should get his first regular-season starts in the NHL after he played in two playoff games. Oettinger, who turned 22 on Dec. 18, was 15-16-4 with a 2.57 GAA, a .917 save percentage and three shutouts in 38 games with Texas of the American Hockey League last season and saved all eight shots he faced over 36:40 in relief of Khudobin the playoffs. With a compressed schedule, the Stars want to be careful not to overwork Khudobin, so Oettinger should get chances to play.
Ready to break through
Robertson led Texas with 47 points (25 goals, 22 assists) in 60 games last season and made his NHL debut, scoring one point (an assist) in three games. Stars assistant general manager Scott White said Robertson has top-six forward potential in the NHL. He’ll receive a chance to gain more experience this season and is expected to bring size (6-foot-3, 210 pounds) and a scoring touch.
Kiviranta (undrafted on average in fantasy) scored five goals, including a hat trick, and was plus-7 in 14 games during the 2020 postseason. His shooting percentage (23.8) will likely regress over a 56-game season, but Kiviranta could take on a big role offensively with Seguin (hip) expected to miss significant time. Kiviranta is one of the top 10 fantasy rookies in NHL.com’s rankings and worth selecting in deeper leagues with potential exposure to goal-scoring forwards Denis Gurianov (led Stars with 20 last regular season) and/or Roope Hintz (19; tied for second). — Rob Reese
Jamie Benn — Joe Pavelski — Alexander Radulov
Joel Kiviranta — Roope Hintz — Denis Gurianov
Andrew Cogliano — Radek Faksa — Blake Comeau
Jason Robertson — Jason Dickinson — Joel L’Esperance
Esa Lindell — John Klingberg
Jamie Oleksiak — Miro Heiskanen
Andrej Sekera — Taylor Fedun