May 30th, 2024

The Dallas Stars have a big age gap with players who have come together for No. 1 seed in the West

By Stephen Hawkins, The Associated Press on April 18, 2024.

DALLAS (AP) – The Dallas Stars have quite an age gap.

Top goal scorer Wyatt Johnston is only 20 years old, and was a teenager for most of the playoffs last year. On the other end for the Western Conference’s top-seeded team is Joe Pavelski, who will turn 40 this summer and has more points this season than the kid who again is living in his house.

“Joe’s not an old 39-year-old. He stays pretty young with the youth in this group,” six-time All-Star forward Tyler Seguin said. “It’s just cool because we have so many different layers of age in here.”

The 18-year, 10-month gap between the Stars’ youngest and oldest players is the widest among the Western Conference playoff teams by 2 1/2 years, with Edmonton at 16 years and four months. Toronto is the only team going into the postseason with a wider range.

Maple Leafs defenseman Mark Giordano is the lone 40-year-old who will be part of these playoffs. He is 19 years older than teammate Matthew Knies, the forward who shares the same birth month.

Johnston (65 points, 32 goals) and Pavelski (67 points, 27 goals) are on a Stars roster that boasts a mix of proven veterans, three standouts from the same 2017 draft class and loads of promising youngsters. Dallas players are 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33 and 34. Defenseman Ryan Suter, like Pavelski, is 39.

The 32-year-old Seguin jokes that they all have the same maturity, but maybe there is something to that on the ice and in the locker room. The young guys learn from the veterans, and the older guys are revived by exuberant youth during the grind of a long season.

“Everybody respects each other. Every line can contribute and nobody’s less than anybody else,” said Logan Stankoven, a 21-year-old forward who was the American Hockey League’s leading scorer before his callup in late February. “When the leaders are talking, everybody listens.”

Leading scorer Jason Robertson (80 points, 29 goals), standout defenseman Miro Heiskanen and goaltender Jake Oettinger were all taken by Dallas in the first 39 picks of the 2017 draft. Four players drafted by the Stars since are part of the current run: Ty Dellandrea, Thomas Harley and forwards Johnston and Stankoven, their top two picks in 2021 who now skate primarily on a line with captain Jamie Benn, a 2007 draft pick who is 34.

“Over the last two, three, four years, it’s been a good team. But there’s always going to be some change, and you hope it’s something that’s internal. And we’ve had that,” general manager Jim Nill said. “You start talking about Wyatt Johnston’s taken another step, Thomas Harley. Now Logan Stankoven’s come in. … And then we’ve added been lucky to add a couple of pieces.”

The newcomers this season include 26-year-old forward Sam Steel, a past first-round pick by Anaheim, 33-year-old Matt Duchene and a pair of 34-year-olds: forward Craig Smith in free agency and defenseman Chris Tanev in a trade at the end of February. Steele and Smith are on a line with 30-year-old center Radek Faksa, the Star’s first-round pick in 2012.

“Some of them don’t look like big moves, but they are big moves for our team because they play roles that are important and they play it the right way,” Nill said. “We’ve been able to supplement things in the last few years, and it’s come together pretty well for us.”

Dallas made it to the Western Conference Final last season and topped the West this year with 113 points after wrapping up its regular season with a 2-1 shootout win over St. Louis. The only time the Stars had more was in 1998-99, when they had 114 and won the franchise’s only Stanley Cup title.

“The part I’m most impressed is, look at some of the younger players, they’ve jumped right in and you could throw them in that tier of like players you trust out there,” Pavelski said. “Players that are looking to make the right play in the right situations, committed to winning, not cheating the game.”

All different ages, all good players.

___

AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/NHL

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