I am tantalized by Ivan Vishnevskiy...and a little bit concerned.
Vishnevskiy, to me, is the player who really could jump up and take over as a No. 1 defenseman...and possibly make the pursuit of that player in trade or free agency a moot point. He is a talented skater, he has a big shot from the blueline (especially on the one-timer), he seems to be acquiring a decent read of the game.
So, then, at what point do the Stars try to move forward with the kid? He is 21 and had played three years of major junior in Quebec and one year of AHL hockey. The problem with the one year of AHL hockey is he was an outcast in Peoria on a team that didn't really see him as a viable No. 1 defenseman (6 goals, 13 assists for 19 points in 67 games). Thus, you have to think that was a bit of a wasted season.
So...that means the plan for the Stars this season is to give Vishnevskiy a full year of AHL play (with a possible call-up or two) and see how he handles it. That's probably the smart thing to do, especially when they have other young defensemen ahead of him on the depth chart. It's also probably the fair thing to do when you consider that Trevor Daley has patiently worked his way into more minutes and is just now getting the chance at 25.
That said, I do wonder about the development of a top level defenseman. If indeed Vishnevskiy plays in the AHL most of the season, then does next season become another year of development? Does it become a year when he's not trusted to run the power play or skate the puck? Is the NHL trending toward handing kids more responsibility more quickly? Drew Doughty was the Kings' No. 1 defenseman at 18. Brent Seabrook stepped right into top minutes in Chicago. Couldn't Vishnevskiy handle that load right now?
He probably could. But do the Stars want to be the Kings from last season? Do they want to be the Blackhawks from a couple of years ago? Is that the price for playing a kid on defense?
I'm intrigued by Vishnevskiy and where he is going, and my guess is the Stars are making the right decisions with him by allowing him to take the next step and be the No. 1 defenseman of the Texas Stars this season. But I do wonder if he will feel the pull of the KHL and the possible opportunity to become a No. 1 defenseman overseas. I do wonder if the Stars can keep him happy and make him a better player all at the same time.
We'll see. There are a lot of questions that have to be dealt with on defense for the Stars, and Vishnevskiy as an answer to those questions seems at least a year away. We'll see what happens, but it's clear that a lot of people will be watching what happens to him this season.
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