Pete DeBoer’s first look at Stars’ power play options could hint at makeup of roster

The Stars’ top power play unit in Wednesday’s practice featured Miro Heiskanen, Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn.

FRISCO — During the first five days of Stars preseason practice, they barely touched special teams.

Pete DeBoer and his staff introduced video about the power play and penalty kill. They briefly assembled units towards the end of morning skate, in preparation of that evening’s game. But they hadn’t unveiled units or practiced breakouts or split the team into power play and penalty kill.

On Wednesday morning, that changed.


The Stars worked on special teams for about half of each practice session on Wednesday, revealing tidbits about how it could impact the construction of the Opening Night roster.

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In the first session, this is what the top unit looked like: Miro Heiskanen at the point, Roope Hintz in the left circle, Joe Pavelski in the slot, Tyler Seguin in the right circle and Jamie Benn at the net-front. On the second unit, Ryan Suter was at the point, with Nils Lundkvist in the left circle, Logan Stankoven in the slot, Wyatt Johnston in the right circle and Riley Damiani at the net-front.

There were a few notable omissions from the two main units. Denis Gurianov and Mason Marchment were not on the ice for that session because they played Tuesday night in Tulsa. The other missing piece is Jason Robertson, who is still unsigned almost a week since the Stars began training camp.


All three players are expected to be part of Dallas’ power play.

“Philosophy-wise, production is what matters,” Stars coach Pete DeBoer said. “We’ve got the personnel here to have an effective power play. I’m excited about it. I think we’re still working through who’s going to fit where. We’re going to try different guys out in different spots.”

Assistant coach Steve Spott will run the power play in Dallas, one season after Vegas struggled with the man-advantage.


Under DeBoer and Spott, the Golden Knights scored 6.59 goals per 60 minutes on the power play, which ranked 24th in the NHL. However, injuries to skilled, finishing forwards likely played a large part of the lack of production because Vegas was eighth in expected goals for per 60 minutes on the power play.

“Play fast, puck movement and stick the puck in the net,” DeBoer said of his power play philosophy. “When you slow and stagnant, nothing good happens. Probably similar to our 5-on-5 philosophy.”

Here are some other takeaways from the Stars’ special teams usage on Wednesday:

— Suter ran the point on the second power play unit and looks like he’ll assume that responsibility again this season. The weird part is he’s the only Stars defenseman with experience running an NHL power play unit from the point.

Heiskanen played on the half-wall last season. So did Lundkvist in New York. Thomas Harley — who was relegated to penalty killing on Wednesday — did not play on the power play in the NHL last season. Esa Lindell has some experience running a power play, but DeBoer has not used him at all on that side of special teams in the first week of practices.

“I’m excited about Miro and his opportunity to be a No. 1 power play guy,” DeBoer said. “Nils looks like he’s going to be a power play guy for a long time in this league. We’ve got some young players that are really creative that have played power play their whole life. Are they ready for that yet? We’re going to see.”

DeBoer also said the Stars could roll out two differently shaped units: one with four forwards and one defenseman, the other with three forwards and two defensemen.

“We’ll see, we might be two defensemen,” DeBoer said. “We might have those options just because of how we’re built.”


— Wednesday was the first strike in Harley’s quest to crack the NHL roster. If the Stars decide to carry either Lundkvist or Harley (instead of rostering both), Wednesday’s practice showed they currently prefer Lundkvist’s ability on the power play instead of Harley.

Likewise, Mavrik Bourque was relegated to skating on a power play with AHL-contracted Curtis McKenzie and Jordan Kawaguchi. That’s while fellow young forwards like Damiani, Stankoven and Johnston got run with NHL players.

There’s still time in the preseason for Bourque and Harley to show enough to make the NHL roster, but it appears they might be playing catch-up.

— While Gurianov was not part of the main practice Wednesday, he was on the flank during both morning skate on Tuesday and the second practice session on Wednesday. That’s different than the bumper position that Rick Bowness and Derek Laxdal put him in last season.


Gurianov, whose shot makes him a prime candidate for a perimeter spot on the power play, scored just four power-play goals a year ago.

“Gurianov’s a shooter, we’d be crazy not to get him shooting the puck,” DeBoer said. “We’re not going to build power plays around one skill level, but we’d be crazy not to look at it and use those strengths.”

— DeBoer said the Stars would like at least half of their bottom six to kill penalties, as a way to siphon minutes away from aging players like Pavelski — and perhaps Benn and Seguin.

On Wednesday, Jacob Peterson, Ty Dellandrea, Riley Tufte and Marian Studenic killed penalties with the main group.


“I thought Peterson looked good today,” DeBoer said. “I thought Dellandrea looked good today. Those are guys, if they’re in the lineup, they’re going to have to add that to their repertoire.”

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