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Stars' Riley Tufte puts NHL dream on hold

Dallas prospect elects to hone game at Minnesota-Duluth

by Steve Hunt / Correspondent

FRISCO, Texas -- Forward Riley Tufte will spend this season at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, but this week was focused on learning all he can in his first development camp with the Dallas Stars.

Dallas' first-round pick (No. 25) in the 2016 NHL Draft, Tufte, 18, was one of 32 prospects at Stars headquarters for on-ice workouts, media sessions and seminars about everything from dealing with the media to conditioning and nutrition.

A native of Ham Lake, Minn., Tufte spent the past two seasons playing for Fargo in the United States Hockey League. In 34 USHL games, he had 11 goals and eight assists, but he's now ready to take the next step in his career.

"It's good [to be here]," Tufte said. "I'm really impressed with the organization here, the facilities."

Some wonder why he would delay turning pro for at least one year by attending college, but Tufte said his decision was an easy one.

"Being a Minnesota kid, I think that's every kid's dream, is going the college route," Tufte said. "I'm really excited to go to Minnesota-Duluth and develop as a player. I think that's the best way I'm going to develop."

Video: 25th overall pick Riley Tufte on joining the Stars

But before Tufte can start preparing to debut for the Bulldogs, he was focused on development camp, a new experience for him and many of his fellow prospects.

That's where the presence of players including forward Devin Shore, who made his NHL debut last season and has attended several of these camps in the past, can come in handy. 

"You don't need to be their parent or anything," Shore said, "but if they have questions about how things work, they have no problem at all asking myself or any of the other guys that have been here for a few years. We enjoy helping those guys because we've been there before. [They're] a little nervous and not knowing exactly how things go or how to handle things, so if we can take a little bit of stress out their day, we're happy to."

At 6-foot-5, 211 pounds, Tufte's size is a big asset, but the young forward feels confident calling himself "a powerful skater." 

"I'm just looking to develop and get better as a player, just the little things," he said. "Working on just what [the coaches] had to tell us.

Shore, a second-round pick (No. 61) in the 2012 draft who was in Tufte's position several years ago, remembers the off-ice lessons at that camp being just as valuable as everything he learned on the ice.  

"You learn pretty quickly that a big part of being a pro is the 365-day job of it and taking care of yourself away from the rink," Shore said. "I think everyone works their butt off when they're out on the ice, but it's taking care of yourself, getting good rest and putting the right things in your body [that's important]. You learn a lot from the seminars in these camps and stuff too, so that's good."

Not only is development camp a great opportunity for first-time participants to get a crash course on what life will be like in the NHL, but it's also an excellent chance for Stars brass to get acquainted with them. 

"It's a good eye-opener," Dallas general manager Jim Nill said. "It's a chance for us to get to know them. A lot of these guys are going to grow up together, and hopefully someday become Dallas Stars."

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