Nicholas Caamano was the latest young player to be thrown into the fire.
The Texas Stars rookie started his very first professional game last Wednesday night and tallied his first professional point in a Stars’ 4-3 win against the Bakersfield Condors. He continued to play in his first stint with Texas, seeing the ice in both Stars’ losses to the Charlotte Checkers last weekend.
“It’s definitely faster than juniors and the guys are a lot bigger,” he said. “It’ll take some time to adapt, but I felt good out there. This is a big learning opportunity since I have two more years in juniors. I’m just trying to learn from the older guys and play my hardest out there.”
The Stars have made a flurry of moves in the last couple weeks of the season. The team has been gutted by call-ups to the Dallas Stars, losing the likes of Remi Elie, Gemel Smith and Julius Honka.
The AHL club has added 10 new players in the last month, either by assignment, a call-up from the ECHL team in Idaho, or signing them to an amateur tryout agreement, which limits the player to 25 games with the team.
Head coach Derek Laxdal hasn’t been afraid to throw the young kids into the fire. Four players had less than 10 games with the team last Wednesday and nine players that saw the ice on Sunday have recently been brought aboard.
Laxdal looks at what Dallas head coach Lindy Ruff has done by infusing youth into the lineup. It might give the team a fresh energy that can sometimes lift them out of a slump or provide a different look that works in their favor.
“They’ve got good young legs and they’re excited to be here and play,” he said. “That’s good for the whole group. They’re going to make mistakes, but all the other guys make mistakes too. Moving forward, hopefully, the adrenaline stays high. They were effective for us and they didn’t look out of place at all.”
Gavin Bayreuther joined Texas on March 15 and made an impact immediately. Winger Reid Sturos was next to come along on March 30 and forward Will Merchant donned a Stars jersey two days later.
Chris Martenet, a former fourth-round pick, was assigned to the team after the Ontario Hockey League Season ended on April 4 and Ondrej Vala was also assigned after finishing his year with Western Hockey League’s Kamloops Blazers.
They then added forwards Brandon Alderson, Allan McPherson and Angelo Miceli and defenseman Joe Houk to professional tryout agreements ahead of the trip to North Carolina.
All of this while the Stars were in the thick of a playoff race. They missed out for the first time in four seasons. Texas ends the season on the road against the San Antonio Rampage Friday at 7:30 p.m. and hosts San Antonio Saturday at 7 p.m. in the season finale.
Laxdal will continue to rely on the youth to make an impact as everybody, from coaches to players, are looking to impress to get the next contract.
“I started (Caamano) to get the butterflies out of him,” Laxdal said. “His line did a good job of getting pucks in deep and just grinding. He’s a good young player and has a huge upside. He skates well, can score and is hard on the puck. The future is bright for Caamano.”