The Dallas Stars have had a busy morning, signing Rhett Gardner (two-year), Joe Cecconi (two-year) and Josh Melnick (one-year) to entry-level contracts. All three deals will start next season, as the trio will join the Texas Stars on amateur tryouts for the rest of this year. Gardner and Cecconi were both drafted by the Stars, while Melnick was an undrafted college free agent who just finished his fourth year at Miami University (Ohio). The team has also assigned top prospect Ty Dellandrea to Texas after his season with the Flint Firebirds came to an end.
Gardner, 23, was selected by the Stars in the fourth round of the 2016 draft after an encouraging freshman season at the University of North Dakota. The 6’3″ center had scored 11 goals while playing behind the likes of Brock Boeser, Drake Caggiula and Nick Schmaltz and looked like he might develop into a real offensive threat down the road. Unfortunately that offensive touch never did really materialize, with Gardner topping out at 21 points during his sophomore season. Still, Gardner will bring another big powerful forward presence to the AHL Stars next season, one capable of playing at center and on the penalty kill if necessary.
Cecconi meanwhile brings a much higher ceiling in terms of NHL potential. The 21-year old defenseman was picked in the fifth round of the 2015 draft, but has developed into quite the player for the University of Michigan. In his first two seasons with the Wolverines, Cecconi recorded just 15 points in 71 games but after being paired with Quinn Hughes partway through the 2017-18 season really took off. The two formed one of the best defensive pairings in all of college hockey, and Cecconi ended up recorded 27 points in 40 games. He maintained that production this year with another 20 points in 36 games, and now joins the Stars as more than just a late-round lottery ticket. The 6’2″ defenseman seems to be more than the sum of his parts in terms of individual skill set, and will attempt to take another step in his development at the next level.
Melnick, the lone free agent of the bunch is the classic overlooked forward prospect. Measuring in at just 5’10”, he nevertheless recorded four excellent seasons at Miami and will try to show off his playmaking skills at the professional level. The 23-year old has produced at every level, and could be a big offensive threat in the AHL next season.