WINNIPEG - For the first time in a long time, Marko Dano got to spend his full off season in his home country of Slovakia.
"It was different between those couple years before because they made me come overseas for six weeks," said Dano. "Now I spent the full summer back home which was nice. I had time to focus on things that I want to improve."
The 21-year-old came to the Winnipeg Jets last season in the trade that sent Andrew Ladd to Chicago. In the 21 games Dano played since the trade, he scored four goals and eight points.
"The good thing was I came here last year so I got to know the guys around. It's easier for me to be around the guys in the locker room right now," he said. "I feel comfortable. I had a good summer back home, so we'll see how the preseason games are going to go, and we'll start from there."
But Dano doesn't want to only be "comfortable." He wants to get better. That was his focus this summer, starting with his speed.
"(I wanted to) get a little faster. The first couple steps a little quicker," Dano said. "We were working on that, and I got a little stronger too."
Video: CAMP | Marko Dano
He isn't taking those 21 games with the Winnipeg Jets last season for granted either. Since being drafted by the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2013, Dano has spent time in both the NHL and the AHL.
In total, the forward has played 83 AHL games (split between Springfield and Rockford), and 69 NHL games (with Columbus, Chicago, and Winnipeg).
This year's training camp in Winnipeg has 60 players vying for only a few roster spots. Dano knows if he wants to stay in the NHL, he has to bring it every day.
"We have tough practices, and a little conditioning. There's a lot of guys here so it's a pretty big competition battling for a spot," said Dano. "That's how it is with every team. It's good for us. We have to be on our toes and play our best, and try to make the team."