With just a couple of signings still to be added to the Stars’ 16/17 roster, it’s a good time to have a look at the players who are set to hit the ice at the Dundee Ice Arena this coming season. How do they compare to the previous roster? How are they likely to fare in the Gardiner Conference? The general consensus is that most teams have raised the bar in terms of player quality this season so how will the latest Dundee Stars roster compare?
The signing of the 2005, Round 6 Chicago Blackhawks Draft Pick has attracted envy from other locker rooms and fans around the league. Joe Fallon brings huge experience from some of the best leagues in the world including Germany, Norway and the AHL and is sure to be a dependable figure at the back for the Stars. Interestingly, Joe Fallon has hit a Save percentage of above 0.90% 12 times from the 15 teams he’s iced for. He’s also won various team awards over the last few seasons including Best GAA of 2.29 in Denmark and making the ECHL 2nd All Star Team which arguably shows he will be a consistent performer for the Stars this season.
The Stars have a pretty good track record with Goalies with notable stand outs like Dan Bakala – EIHL Goalie and Player Of The Year 2013/2014, Nic Riopel – EIHL 2nd All Star Team 2012/2013 and massive characters like Vlasto from last season, Chris Whitley from 11/12 (Who remembers doing the Whitley?!) and Ladislav Kudrna from 10/11 who performed some acrobatic heroics to become a fans favourite. So, Joe Fallon has some big footsteps to follow in but all the signs are that the 6ft 3 American will turn out to be another star performer between the pipes and can hopefully back stop the team to compete for some silverware this season.
If you’re going to have a back-up netty, you may as well have a 6ft 2 guy who has worked alongside some top goalies, one who has been awarded for this team work at the Stars and one who has worked to improve his numbers along the way. Look no further than Craig Holland. At only 23, it seems incredible that he has 7 EIHL seasons under his belt, most of those with the Edinburgh Capitals but now heading into his 3rd year with the Stars. With a highly respectable GAA of 1.85 and Save Percentage of 0.92 last season, Coach LeFebvre should have no worries about sticking the Sheepdog between the pipes if the need arises.
Fans around the league, for the most part, love their back up. Every time they come on, they get a rapturous welcome and every save is greeted with a cheer. At the same time, they don’t really have the same expectation as the starting netty so, you could argue they don’t have much responsibility as the fans will appreciate their effort regardless of result. With Craig Holland, similar to some others around the league – Gary Russell and Brad Day to name a couple, you can actually rely on them to get the job done when they are called upon and even threaten the Number 1 spot if the import goalie is off form. That can only be a positive for the Coach, and the team.
After making his EIHL debut last season, Kevin Hart returns to Dundee again for the 16/17 term. He will have a different partner this time around with Coach LeFebvre changing things up on the blue line but will be looking to better his points tally from last season where he hit a career best of 7+15 from 61 games. Interestingly, Hart also took a career low PIM total during 15/16 with only 16 minutes in the wee box (or plastic chair in Fife). Add in the fact that he also had one of the highest +/- scores on the whole team, it’s no wonder the 6ft 2 American is back at the D.I.A for another shot at the Gardiner Conference title.
After playing 4 NCAA seasons at Providence College, Kevin Hart had a successful season with the Elmira Jackals where he teamed up with last season’s Stars Captain, Riley Wetmore and ex Braehead Clan forward, Thomas Nesbitt, before heading over the Atlantic to Dundee last year. This will be only his 3rd professional season but if he keeps playing his solid game and putting up numbers like last season, there’s bound to be many more to come.
Josh Grieveson is one of many new faces Coach LeFebvre has brought to the Stars for 16/17. At only 19 years of age, he joins the Stars from the Middlesex Black Bears of the United States High School League where he captained the side last season while notching up 2+15 from 34 games. Josh also has 2 seasons with the Team GB under 18s and 2 with the Under 20s and will surely be looking to progress his career under the guidance of Coach LeFebvre. Craig Moore came in last season under very similar circumstances and that turned out pretty good so with any luck, and given the ice time to prove himself, Josh Grieveson may well develop into a full GB International and a dependable figure at the back for the Stars. It certainly won’t be easy though as, at 5ft 9 and 165 lbs, he is by far the lightest and smallest D man on the roster so it will be interesting to see how he manages against some of our larger opponents, especially given the step up to Elite League level.
Joining the Stars from the Alaska Aces, Felix-Antoine Poulin comes on the recommendation of ex Stars Goalie, Nic Riopel. Having been a room-mate of Brett Switzer when they played at the Spruce Grove Saints back in the 10/11 season, there’s bound to have been a conversation there before a contract was signed as well.
Last season he notched up 8+11 from 59 games at the Aces and only taking 8 PIMs. Should the left hand shot from Quebec replicate his from the ECHL and other leagues he’s played in where he’s picked up various points awards – Most Points by D Man in the AJHL (61), Most Points by D Man (71) and Most Assists by D Man (57) in the QJAAAHL, he should do well at the Stars.
Having previously played for the Braehead Clan and the Coventry Blaze, most fans will be very familiar with Craig Cescon. He knows about winning having won the 12/13 Gardiner Conference at the Clan and the 14/15 EIHL Playoffs with the Blaze. He also knows about toughness having been the Most Penalised Player in Poland 12/13 and the Most Penalised Player in the OHL 05/06. In his time with previous EIHL sides, he has sat for 229 minutes over 80 games so it would appear that Craig Cescon will be the guy to stop any nonsense that may come the Stars’ way.
The 6ft 2in Canadian is also well experienced with taking it beyond the regular season having been there 10 times over the previous 12 seasons so this may bode well for the Stars’ Playoffs aspirations this season.
At just 20 years of age, Cameron McGiffin, has racked up 137 games in the EPL over the last few seasons having iced for the Peterborough Phantoms and the Slough Jets. He’s already tasted Playoff victory having been on the Phantoms winning 14/15 team and has played for both Team GB under 18s and under 20s picking up a U20 WJC D1B Bronze Medal along the way.
Having worked his way up through the English youth leagues from the Swindon Under 16s and Under 18s then onto the NIHL with Milton Keynes Thunder before stepping up again to play his 3 seasons in the EPL with Slough and Peterborough, it seems logical that the next step is the EIHL where he will be hoping to gain experience through ice time and take his career to the next level.
Joey de Concilys
The dual national, who is originally from St Catherines, Ontario, but who also holds an Italian passport, joins the Stars defensive corps after playing his first pro season last year in France.
He played 25 games for Strasbourg during the 15/16 season and scored 2 goals and 7 assists while picking up 67 penalty minutes. Prior to turning pro, Joey played 4 seasons at Brown University, Rhode Island, icing for 115 games in his time there, scoring 8 times and assisting on 15 goals. Joey played along-side ex Dundee Stars forward Jack MacLellan at Brown in the 11/12 season when Joey was in his first season while Jack was in his last before turning professional himself.
While at Brown University, de Concilys won the Charles A Lanigan Award. This award honours the late Brown trainer and is given to the senior hockey player who shows the most improvement during his varsity career. His points total went from 1 in his first year to 3 in his second year. He then picked up 6 points in year number three before notching up his 6 goals and 7 assists in his senior year. Following that up with 9 points in his first pro season in France, he has now taken another step up to the EIHL this season with the Stars and if continues to improve his point production while helping the rest of the D-men and Joe Fallon keep the puck out of the net at the other end, he should have a successful season at Dundee.
Another returnee from last season in the Stars’ defence is Kirkcaldy born, Craig Moore. Before joining the Stars, Craig played 2 successful seasons with the Ogden Mustangs of the WSHL managing 56 points from 83 games. He also captained the Team GB under 20 team and picked up an U20 WJC D2A Gold Medal in return for his efforts. He seemed to adjust to EIHL life fairly easily and turned in a number of impressive performances, scoring 2 goals and 9 assists in his 61 Stars games. He did attract some harsh criticism from Coach LeFebvre after making an error attempting to clear the zone near the end of one game and firing the puck into the crowd but, like a true professional, he appeared to take it on the chin and just got on with the job at hand.
Of the three young British Mustangs players who switched to the Elite League last season – David Clements who moved to the Blaze and Liam Charnock who signed on at the Steelers but quickly moved on to the Steeldogs being the other two – Craig Moore has arguably impressed the most. Clements’ performances certainly attracted praise from various sources as well but the regular ice time given to Craig at the Stars has allowed him to develop his game and hit 11 points along the way, supporting the offensive lines. Having made the Team GB extended squad last season, another good EIHL season this year will surely push him towards the 1st Team and give some reward for his efforts in the Stars’ defence.
The Italian international joins the Stars from the Alaska Aces in the ECHL, where he was a team mate with fellow new roster addition, Felix-Antoine Poulin last season.
At only 26 years old, Traversa has already made 19 appearances for the Italian national side scoring 2 goals and assisting on 4 more. In his first professional season last year he iced 67 times for the Aces and scored 17 goals and 8 assists which is a pretty decent return for a first year pro and, in addition to his international experience, should bode well for his season ahead with the Stars in the EIHL.
As only the third Italian to ice for the Stars, he certainly has some big acts to follow. Paddi Lochi and Christian Borgatello made huge impacts in their time with the Stars and if Traversa can live up to his predecessors, he should certainly entertain and provide some scoring prowess this season.
Prior to turning pro, Traversa had quite a long junior career, firstly through the Italian and Slovakian youth systems with Real Torino and MHC Prievidza then into Italy 2 with Valpellice, All Stars Piemonte and Real Torino again before heading stateside. He played 41 games for the Bay State Breakers in the EJHL scoring 9+15 before signing up at Hobart Collage in the NCAA where he played for 4 seasons, competing in 101 games, scoring 32 games and assisting on 41 more.
When Traversa signed for the Alaska Aces in the ECHL Head Coach, Rob Murray, said “Tommaso brings a tremendous amount of energy to the ice…a real ”run-through-the-wall” type of guy. He’s a dynamic player who skates well. If he can replicate that energy at the Stars he should find life in the EIHL is good to him as most fans like a guy who never gives up and challenges for every puck, finishes checks and, most of all, puts the puck in the net and, by all accounts, Traversa can certainly do that.
Hitting the ice for the Stars for the first time this season, Canadian forward Cale Tanaka is a bit of an EIHL veteran. The 16/17 season will be his 5th year in the Elite League after having iced for the Hull Stingrays in 12/13 then 3 seasons with the Coventry Blaze 13-16, picking up the 14/15 EIHL Playoff Championship during his time at the Sky Dome.
At just over 0.5 Points per Game average in his EIHL time, Cale Tanaka does not bring top line scoring to the Stars. What he does bring though is a never say die attitude and plenty of tenacity and those qualities usually endear a player to the fans watching from the stands and I’m sure this season will be no different in the DIA.
Cale Tanaka played 4 seasons in the NCAA at the University Of Alabama-Huntsville with ex Stars Defenceman Matt Baxter as well as previously teaming up with Coach LeFebvre and fellow new addition, Craig Cescon, at the Blaze, so there is plenty of familiarity around for the 5ft 10 left winger and hopefully this will mean he gets settled in nice and early, starts pestering some opposition D Men and rattles some twine.
The highest scorer on last season’s Stars Roster, the return of Justin Faryna was tied up early doors by the Stars Head Coach who clearly knows a good thing when he sees it. Having been initially brought in as a bit of a sandpaper player, Justin quickly became a fans favourite by not only squaring up to the League’s big boys but banging in an incredible 29 goals and notching 35 assists in his 59 games. He outscored every other player with the exception of Bobby Chaumont, who scored 1 more goal, but his contribution to the team was immense and he’s been duly rewarded with a new contract for the 16/17 season.
A points total for last season of 64 put Justin Faryna on the Stars Franchise Record Points per Season table in 5th place in the EIHL era only behind Sami Ryhanen (94), Mike Wirll (78), Nico Sacchetti (77) and Dan Ceman (72). It will be interesting to see how Coach LeFebvre sets up the team this season and where he slots #18 in. Will he keep that famous Yellow Line of Faryna, Switzer and Lidhammar or will he switch things up. Time will tell but, either way, we all keep our fingers crossed that Justin can replicate his heavy points scoring from last season.
Experienced American, Joey Sides, joins the Stars this season after icing for both the Wichita Thunder and the Reading Royals during 15/16.
So far in his career, Joey Sides has played in 6 AHL games for the St John’s Ice Caps, 123 CHL games for the Arizona Sundogs, 149 ECHL games for the Colorado Eagles, Rapid City Rush, Wichita Thunder and the Reading Royals. He also played the 11/12 season in Holland with the Friesland Flyers where he put up an impressive 19 goals and 30 assists from 29 games.
In terms of Stars connections, there are plenty. Sides has played with Mark Kolanos in Arizona, Nikita Kashirsky in Reading as well as Scott Brannon and Justin Faryna while at Rapid City. Any excuse to mention the legend that is Mark Kolanos is welcome – I wonder if he might be the last signing to arrive this season? Or his brother? He’ll do!
With his multi league experience, the Stars’ new number 19 should do well and will hopefully be continuing his scoring record in the EIHL.
The 6ft Swede from Lulea returns to the DIA for 16/17 after impressing with his gritty, physical play last season. A Career high point total of 45 made him a target for re-signing especially given the on ice cohesion and chemistry with Faryna and Switzer on that Yellow Line that was so fruitful for the Stars.
3 seasons in the SHL for this hometown team of Lulea plus 219 Allsvenskan games has certainly given the 15/16 Stars TV Player of the Year great experience. His speedy play really stood out and allowed him to bag 16 goals and 29 assists throughout the season. Ice Hockey Commentator extraordinaire, Aaron Murphy, once told me that there are no bad players in the SHL as it’s such a high standard and said that, even after a defeat by the Panthers where the Stars were poor overall, Lidhammar stood out and was a player to watch. He certainly was and we get the chance to do so again this season. Only question is, will the Coach stick to the same line that was so productive last year or try something different with the new roster? At least it won’t be too long until we find out.
After 2 seasons in the ECHL with the Indy Fuel, Matt White joins the Stars for his first season overseas. Matt played alongside Ex Stars players Kevin Quick and Kyle Gibbons at Indy Fuel so, assuming he talked to those guys before signing, he should have a decent idea of what EIHL and Dundee Stars life is like. You never usually have to look too far to find other EIHL connections with incoming players and Matt White is no exception – he played with ex Fife Flyers forward, Michael Dorr, at the Des Moines Buccaneers in the USHL.
4 seasons in the NCAA with the University of Vermont set up his professional career and he duly signed on with the Indy Fuel where, on signing, Head Coach Scott Hillman said “Matt is a big rangy centerman with a strong skill-set and great attention to detail in the defensive zone.” He joined the Fuel alongside three college room-mates and his best friend, Nick Bruneteau which no doubt helped him settle into his pro career.
Having scored a decent 38 points in his time at the Fuel, here’s hoping Matt White can put his strong skill set to good use for the Stars and help the team challenge for silverware this season.
A massive points tally last season of 74 (31+43) surely had Vinny Scarsella on numerous Coach’s call sheets. Marc LeFebvre came out on top or got in there first and it’s fairly certain that the Stars will reap the benefits as a result.
Since turning pro, Vinny Scarsella has built a good career and has put serious points on the board almost everywhere he’s gone. He moved to Germany 3 to ice for the ECC Preussen Juniors and notched up 1.62 Points per Game on average during the 11/12 season. Then onto Swedish Division 1 to suit up for Kallinge/Ronneby where he knocked in 15 goals and assisted on 21 more over 43 games across the 12/13 season. 3 seasons followed in the ECHL with the Utah Grizzlies and then the Stockton Thunder. In 142 games, Vinny Scarsella managed 28 goals and 61 assists in his time in the East Coast Hockey League before flying to Blighty to ice for the Storm last year where he was so impressive.
His strong, multi-league experience and high point scoring will surely make Vinny Scarsella a first line pick for Coach LeFebvre and he will give Justin Faryna a serious run for this money in trying to become the Stars top point scorer for the 16/17 season.
This season, Ben Edmonds will work a 2-way between the Dundee Stars and the Solway Sharks in the NIHL.
Making his EIHL debut last season at the Stars, icing for 12 games, while continuing to play for the Stars under 20s and notching up 27+18 over 10 games, it was certainly a busy season for the Dundee born forward. In addition to that, he played 5 games for the Team GB under 18s where he put 2 plus 2 on the board. He scored two goals in the one game for the Stars against the Caps last season – his positional play and quick thinking had him in the perfect spot to beat Kevin Forshall and had the Stars fans out of their seats not once, but twice, and got a richly deserved Man of the Match Award.
With, no doubt, an eye on his future career and Team GB aspirations, the 2 way contract should let Ben Edmonds have the best of both worlds. The opportunity to train with and play the odd game with the top level Stars players In the EIHL while also getting plenty of ice time and experience in the NIHL with Solway. The Stars don’t have a particularly great record of keeping a hold of local talent but Ben Edmonds, at only 18 years of age, presents a great chance to nurture and develop one of our own to become a Stars regular over the next few seasons.
The term Buzz Bomb was used almost every week to describe Brett Switzer last season and it’s hard to think of another player who fits the description more perfectly.
Having signed straight out of the NCAA from Bentley College for his first pro season, no one could have predicted the immediate impact Brett would have on the Stars scoring charts. 19 goals and 32 assists over 57 games put him almost on a par with experienced forward and first liner, Curtis Leinweber, in terms of point scoring and really gave Coach LeFebvre scoring depth – something that could be said was missing from previous Stars’ rosters. On top of that he only took 8 penalty minutes and was the only Stars player (who played a full season) to take single digit PIMs.
For the 16/17 season, as mentioned already, the big question is who Brett Switzer will line up with. The superb interlink play with Faryna and Lidhammar last season will give the Coach a headache as he tries to figure out the best combinations although, that is a bit of first world problem and one, I’m sure, most coaches would happily accept.
Joining the Stars late on in the 15/16 season, Scott Brannon added some grit and firepower down the stretch. He managed 5+4 in his 11 games and Coach LeFebvre obviously saw enough as he was quickly on the list to bring back for the next campaign.
The Canadian from New Glasgow, Nova Scotia, headed to the Stars on the recommendation of ex-team mate Justin Faryna. They played together at the Rapid City Rush in the ECHL alongside ex Stars forward, Jarrett Konkle. His penalty kill play is possibly something Coach LeFebvre is looking to work with for the upcoming season as special teams is something he will be looking to improve. Brannon’s’ previous Coach, Joe Ferras, said “Branny is the type of player that does all the little things that a lot of players won’t do and that don’t show up on the score sheet. He was instrumental on our PK last year.”
As tough as it may be break up the #18, #20, #25 line, it seems that Brannon and Faryna have played very well together in the past and a ready-made PK combo may be something the Coach won’t want to overlook when he is putting the squad together for the 16/16 season.
Compared to Last Season’s Squad
The Stars were blessed with major firepower last season with Lou Dickenson, Bobby Chaumont, Justin Faryna and Curtis Leinweber all bagging over 60 points. These guys, with the exception of Faryna obviously, will be hard to replace however, if Faryna, Brannon, Switzer and Lidhammar pick up where they left off, Scarsella replicates his Storm form from last season and new signings Matt White and Joey Sides get acclimatised reasonably quickly, the Stars could well find themselves at the top end of the scoring charts once again.
It was the inconsistency and fragility at the back, particularly with Special Teams, that caused the Stars some issues last season. So out go Turon, Porejs, McCluskey and Gray and in come Cescon, Poulin, Grieveson and McGiffin with Hart and Moore making a return. With still one more addition to be announced, this will be the combination that Coach LeFebvre will look to work with to improve the defensive situation which will hopefully bring some consistency to results and help with a push towards the Gardiner Conference and the Playoff Weekend in Nottingham.
I’m sure there will be many who would argue that new Goalie, Joe Fallon, is an upgrade on Lakosil and Koenig and the Coach has done a great job in securing his services for the 16/17 season. As good as Vlasto and Koenig were and as big characters they were, Joe Fallon is younger, brings solid big league experience to the Stars and will hopefully repeat his recent form and put up some impressive numbers on the board.
The Gardiner Conference Opposition
The Clan have, once again, brought in some serious fire power. Returnees Matt Keith and Alex Leavitt, along with Defenceman Scott Aarssen will be big players again for the Clan. Last season they put up almost 150 points between them which is a great foundation to build a squad around.
New signing and ex NHL’er, Jay Rosehill, promises to be a show stopper and will be well worth watching after promising he’s in Scotland to do more than just fight and take penalties. Trevor Hendrikx also brings some toughness to their roster after moving north from Cardiff. New goalie Michal Zajkowski could prove a hit after successful seasons in France, Norway and several in the Allsvenskan and the SHL.
With their squad depth and larger budget, the Clan will always be the favourites to win the Gardiner Conference. The challenge is for the other teams to maintain a level of consistency throughout the season that will enable them to push the Clan while they may have their eye on a larger prize. Both the Stars and the Flyers have been close in past seasons and, with their much improved roster this season, the Capitals may well do so in 16/17.
The Flyers seem to like waiting as late as possible before announcing their players. This makes it hard to look at their chances as, even at the start of August, they only have 13 players announced.
Having said that, the roster addition of Sebastien Thinel seems to have provided the long awaited wow factor. An absolute goal machine pretty much every where he has played, it seems highly likely that he will be a top points scorer for the Flyers and will help them push for the Gardiner Conference title this season.
The addition of some of last season’s competition in the shape of Mathew Sisca from the Manchester Storm and Brendan Brooks from the Braehead Clan, will surely strengthen the Flyers and, no doubt, there are some more big players still be announced so the Flyers will definitely be looking to go one point better this season in search of their first Gardiner Conference trophy.
New goalie, Shane Owen, brings some solid ECHL and CHL experience and has a history of achieving plus 0.90 save percentages almost everywhere he’s played so looks like he will be a solid addition for Coach Dutiaume this season.
After a very disappointing 15/16 season, especially after it started so promisingly for the Capitals, Scott Neil has brought in ex Caps player, Michal Dobron, to coach his team this year and hopefully bring a change in fortunes at Murrayfield. Coach Dobron has brought in some excellent looking players and, on paper at least, it doesn’t look like the Caps will be the walk overs they were towards the end of last season.
They have veteran, ex NHL player, Pavel Vorobyov, who could do well – a Round 1 Draft pick for the Blackhawks in 2000 and has 206 KHL, 94 VHL and 57 NHL games under his belt so he is bound to be dangerous for opposition defencemen. Also joining the Caps forward ranks is Karel Hromas who signed from Morzine-Avoraiz in France, has played 323 games in the Czech league and was a Round 4 draft pick for the Chicago Blackhawks in 2004.
Returnees Garrett Milan and Jacob Johnston will be looking to progress this season as well, you’ve got to think. Milan made a good impact after signing late on last season with his speed and skill, and Johnston, who was playing very well and averaging almost a Point per Game, before getting injured and missing half the season. Given a full, healthy season, both these players could put up significant numbers for the Caps.
Making a return to the top tier of the UK hockey scene in 15/16 after 12 years, the Manchester Storm managed to put together not only a hockey team, but a whole organisation, in less than 2 months. They made an immediate social media impact and set about building their team and brand in a way that attracted universal praise.
Players like Scarsella, Salazar and Sisca and their heavy point production will be hard to replace but forwards Mark Heatley and Mario Valery-Trabuco certainly look like they are capable with Trabucco scoring almost a Point per Game in Sweden last season and Heatley doing the same in the DEL 2.
Add to the mix new Goalie, Mike Clemente, who has AHL and ECHL experience and the returning strong defensive pairing of Paul Phillips and Patrik Valcak, the Storm will certainly be looking to get in amongst the Playoff positions come the end of the 16/17 season.
It’s hard to make predictions or guesses as to who is going to win what or finish where until all the rosters are complete. That plus I really don’t have a track record at that type of thing – got it totally wrong last year – but then none of the highly paid and in-game types saw Leicester City winning the English Premier League last season so I don’t feel too bad about tha.