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World Championship

Julius Honka bidding to stay with Stars next season

Defenseman gaining confidence playing for Finland at World Championship, eager to have bigger role in Dallas

by Aaron Vickers / NHL.com Correspondent

PARIS -- A disappointing end to his NHL season has given a new opportunity for Dallas Stars defenseman Julius Honka.

Honka joined Finland at the 2017 World Hockey Championship after the Stars failed to qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and hopes the experience can help further his development and earn a full-time role with Dallas next season.

"Of course it brings lots of confidence," said Honka, who had five points (one goal, four assists) in 16 games with the Stars this season. "You want to show what you can do. That's the biggest strength, what it gives you. I'm just trying to enjoy it."

The Stars finished 34-37-11, 15 points of out a playoff spot in the Western Conference.

That gave Honka, 21, a chance to represent Finland at the men's level for the first time, and he had a goal and two assists in seven games for Finland, which will play the United States in a quarterfinal game on Thursday.

It was a new challenge for Honka after playing for his country at the World Junior Championship. 

"The men's games are a little bit different," said Honka, who skated for Finland at the 2014 and 2015 World Juniors and had one goal and two assists in Finland's seven preliminary round tournament games. "Every game is a tough game. The level is a little bit higher. The level between good teams and bad teams in junior are a little bit different. It's not that different [here].

"I'm just trying to play my game and just enjoy it."

There is plenty of optimism surrounding Honka, the 14th pick in the 2014 NHL Draft. 

Along with his stint with the Stars, he had 31 points (seven goals, 24 assists) in 50 games with Texas of the American Hockey League.

Video: DAL@LAK: Honka shows off hands for nifty goal

His small sample size in Dallas left teammates impressed.

"He's a really good player," said Stars forward Antoine Roussel, playing for France in the World Championship. "He moves the puck really well. His feet are really good. He reminds me a little bit of [Stars defenseman] John Klingberg when he came in. He's maybe a little bit more dynamic in his style. They both can create a lot. I'm not the coach, but I think he's a really good player and I wouldn't be surprised if he makes the team next year, for sure."

Klingberg echoed the sentiment, in style and in the likelihood Honka remains with the Stars in October.

"We're really similar in how we play," said Klingberg, representing Sweden in the World Championship. "Obviously he's a really good skater and an offensive guy. He's an unbelievably skilled player. I think next year will be a great chance [for him] to grab a roster spot."

Should Honka do so, he will return to a different Stars team than the one he left.

Dallas fired Lindy Ruff on April 9 after four seasons as coach, and hired Ken Hitchcock three days later. Hitchcock coached the Stars for seven seasons from 1996-02. Dallas also acquired goaltender Ben Bishop from the Los Angeles Kings on May 9 for a fourth-round pick in the 2017 draft, and signed him to a six-year, $29.5 million contract three days later.

Honka's focus, however, remains on making an impact himself.

"I'm pretty sure he's going to play with us next year," Klingberg said. "I think it's time for him to move up and play with us."

 
Results from Tuesday

United States 5, Russia 3: Forward Kevin Hayes (New York Rangers) scored twice and forward Brock Nelson (New York Islanders) had a goal and two assists for the United States (6-0-0-1), which won Group A in a preliminary round win at Lanxess Arena in Cologne, Germany. Forwards Dylan Larkin (Detroit Red Wings) and Anders Lee (Islanders) also scored, and goaltender Jimmy Howard (Red Wings) made 16 saves for the United States, which will play Finland the quarterfinals on Thursday. Russia (5-1-0-1) finished second in the group and will play the Czech Republic in the quarterfinals.

Sweden 4, Slovakia 2: Forward William Karlsson (Columbus Blue Jackets) had a goal and two assists, defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson (Arizona Coyotes) and forward William Nylander (Toronto Maple Leafs) scored and goaltender Henrik Lundqvist (Rangers) made 13 saves for Sweden (5-0-1-1) in a Group A preliminary round game in Cologne. Sweden will face Switzerland in the quarterfinals.

Belarus 4, Norway 3: Defenseman Yevgeni Lisovets scored twice for Belarus in a Group B preliminary round game in Paris.

Switzerland 3, Czech Republic 1: Forward Reto Suri scored the winning goal for Switzerland (3-2-2-0) in the second period in a Group B preliminary round game in Paris.

Canada 5, Finland 2: Mitchell Marner (Maple Leafs) scored two goals and had an assist, Colton Parayko (St. Louis Blues) had a goal and an assist and Matt Duchene (Colorado Avalanche) had a goal in a Group B preliminary round game in Paris. Calvin Pickard (Avalanche) had 18 saves for Canada (6-0-1-0) which finished first in Group B and will play Germany in the quarterfinals.

Germany 4, Latvia 3: Leon Draisaitl (Edmonton Oilers) assisted on the game-tying goal with 33 seconds remaining in the third period and Dennis Seidenberg (Islanders) had a goal for Germany (2-2-1-2) in a Group A preliminary round game in Cologne.

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