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The road to opportunity

Long trips to practice in an RV helped begin Jason Robertson's journey to becoming a Dallas Stars draft pick

by Mark Stepneski @StarsInsideEdge / Inside Edge

Jason Robertson's path to becoming a Dallas Stars draft pick began in Southern California, on the roads of Los Angeles. In an RV.

With a long drive to the rink and the Robertson brothers practicing at different times, that RV became a home away from home for part of the day.

"The rink in Los Angeles, with traffic, is probably an hour-and-a-half away," Robertson said. "My older and younger brothers played hockey and their practices would be at three and mine would be at six. We just couldn't have one go and then another guy comes. We go at three and wait until my practice."

Robertson would do typical kid stuff in the RV while waiting for his turn to hit the ice.

"I'd do my school work, watch TV and have dinner," he said. "You were back home at nine, so you had to do your school work at some time.

And it just became part of the routine when he was eight to ten years old.

"It was a lot of trips," Robertson added. "A lot of miles."

And there have been a lot of miles since for Robertson, who got hooked on hockey because his dad and grandfather were Los Angeles Kings fans and would take him to games. That put his hockey career into motion.

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Eager to win

Marc Methot, Martin Hanzal excited for opportunity to win with Stars

by Mark Stepneski @StarsInsideEdge / Inside Edge

Marc Methot's road to becoming a Dallas Star was a bumpy and uncertain one. On June 18, the Ottawa Senators made him available for selection in the NHL expansion draft. On June 21, the Vegas Golden Knights took him in the expansion draft. And then shortly after that he was on the trade market.

But the uncertainty turned to excitement on June 26 when the Stars acquired Methot for goaltending prospect Dylan Ferguson and a second-round pick in 2020.

"I think that state of not knowing where we were going was tough initially. I think anybody could say the same thing playing in this league or any sports league. But finally, when I got the call and was told that I was going to be a Dallas Star, I was practically shaking," Methot said. "I was at dinner with [my fiancée] and her parents. I was at a steakhouse in Ottawa and had to leave the table to run outside. It was really exciting for us. It's such a great situation. We are going down to a nice, warm climate with a good, good hockey team."

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Something to prove

Getting passed over in the NHL Draft has provided plenty of motivation for defense prospect Gavin Bayreuther

by Mark Stepneski @StarsInsideEdge / Inside Edge

Stars defense prospect Gavin Bayreuther was passed over in three NHL Drafts, but he turned it into a positive. Disappointment provided motivation.    

NHL teams passed over Bayreuther in the 2012, 2013, and 2014 drafts. In his final year of eligibility - the 2014 NHL Draft - he was coming off an impressive freshman season at St. Lawrence University in which he ranked third nationally in points per game among defenseman with 36 points (nine goals, 27 assists) in 38 games. NHL Central Scouting had him ranked 48th among North American skaters, but no takers.

"I was very upset, to be honest, but it was the best thing that ever happened to me," Bayreuther said. "It made me work so much harder, take nothing for granted. Prove everyone wrong."

Now, Bayreuther hopes he is on his way to proving his point. After three more solid seasons at St. Lawrence where he was among the top scoring defensemen in the nation, he was one of the more sought after free agents coming out of college. And after sorting through offers from a handful of NHL teams, he signed a two-year entry-level contract with the Dallas Stars in March.

"A dream come true," Bayreuther said at the time of the signing.

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Job well done

by Scott Burnside @OvertimeScottB / DallasStars.com

For the record, there's no trophy where a National Hockey League team gets to inscribe the names of their general manager and scouts and players for winning the off-season.

If there was such a trophy, it would be small and likely made of popsicle sticks because winning the off-season is something akin to going undefeated in pre-season; it's better than the alternative but in the grand scheme of things, it means little.

And the only time you really find out if you did actually win the off-season, the focus is on more tangible things like playoff positioning and the possibility or probability of making a run at the Stanley Cup.

But, just for argument sake, if there was such an award handed out every July, is there any doubt the Dallas Stars would be at least a finalist if not the runaway winner?

"Not many red flags at all really," offered one longtime NHLer and professional scout. "Good job by their staff to recognize weaknesses and addressing them nicely with their moves. Never an exact science but I like them for the most part."

When you take a 30-point dip in the standings from one year to the next as the Stars did and fall (plummet? Nose-dive?) from Central Division champs to being a playoff afterthought by Christmas, it would be an understatement to suggest this off-season was critical to a team hungry to climb back to the elite status it knew for years in the 1990s.

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Future of the crease

by Scott Burnside @OvertimeScottB / DallasStars.com

Where does the future begin?

Does it begin with the dream-like call of a name in the first round of the National Hockey League draft as was the case for promising young netminder Jake Oettinger less than a month ago?

Does it begin with gutting it out after a bout of mononucleosis early in a college freshman year to finish with solid performances as was the case for Colton Point last season at Colgate?

Does it begin with a pair of back-to-back wins in your first American Hockey League games including a 2-1 shootout win which was the case last season for Landon Bow?

Does it begin even earlier with the moment you put on the goalie pads and how you can't wait to get them on again even if you weren't very good, which was the very beginning of the goaltending story for Markus Ruusu?

"I sucked that first time," Ruusu says now with a laugh.

"Yeah. It wasn't fun. But then I tried it another time and I loved it. All the gear and stuff, I liked that. I liked those things. Maybe that was one reason [I became a goaltender]," offered Ruusu, 19.

Regardless of when the future begins for the Dallas Stars, it finally appears to be here now in terms of the team's stockpiling of young goaltending talent.

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Heading in the right direction

Stars prospect Riley Tufte looking to build on freshman season in college

by Mark Stepneski @StarsInsideEdge / Inside Edge

You can't read a lot into what you see on the ice at Dallas Stars development camp. Players aren't there to be evaluated but to get acclimated to the organization, work on some skills, learn how to train and soak in what it takes to be a pro hockey player. But it was hard not to notice forward Riley Tufte at this year's camp.

Tufte, who is listed at 6-6, 210 pounds, was one of the biggest guys on the ice. And he stood out in drills with his skating, his ability to control the puck and being able to dominate along the boards with his size and strength. If you had seen him one year ago at camp, the growth in his development was evident.

And growth is what the Stars saw from Tufte, the team's first-round pick in the 2016 NHL Draft, over the course of his freshman season at the University of Minnesota Duluth. After a slow start due to missing time with a wrist injury, the big left wing finished the season with 16 points (nine goals, seven assists) in 37 games.

"Big step for him," said Stars GM Jim Nill. "What really excited us is the last half of the season is he really took off. He was a dominant force in the playoffs. We are looking for great things from him this season back in Duluth."

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Earned Never Given

by Scott Burnside @OvertimeScottB / DallasStars.com

The Dallas Stars annual development camp starts at 6:45 p.m. on a recent Thursday evening. Actually, it starts when General Manager Jim Nill steps to the podium at about 6:40 p.m.

That's Eddie Shore time, Nill explains to the 34 young men gathered before him, and that means whatever time you're supposed to be somewhere for anything related to this camp and this hockey club be five minutes early.

"You guys passed the first test, good job," Nill tells the group.

Then Nill jokingly suggests that when the boys get home they can look up Eddie Shore whose only reference point for these young men might be from the iconic hockey movie Slapshot.

A little while later J.J. McQueen, the longtime player development coordinator for the Stars, calls Niklas Hansson to the front of the room. Hansson is a 22-year-old defenseman from Hoganas, Sweden (we know this because Hansson later obligingly writes the name of his hometown out for us in our notebook), who is expected this fall to make the jump from the Swedish elite league to Dallas's American Hockey League affiliate in Austin. This is Hansson's third development camp after having been drafted by the Stars with the 68th overall pick in 2013.

McQueen leads a short round of applause for Hansson whose HV71 Jonkoping team won the Swedish championship this season. Then he begins calling up Dallas Stars staff who've helped organize flights and lodging for the attendees of the development camp including Hansson. They are followed by training staff, equipment managers, public relations team, strength and conditioning coaches and athletic therapists.

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Dallas Stars re-sign Gemel Smith to a one-year contract

by Dallas Stars Staff / Press Releases

Dallas Stars General Manager Jim Nill announced today that the club has re-signed forward Gemel Smith to a one-year, two-way contract. 

Smith, 23, posted six points (3-3=6) in 17 games with Dallas last season in his first NHL campaign. The forward made his NHL debut on Oct. 22 against Columbus and registered his first career NHL point with an assist (0-1=1) on Nov. 5 vs. Chicago. He also appeared in 53 games in 2016-17 with the Texas Stars of the American Hockey League (AHL), registering 33 points (12-21=33). Smith was tied for fourth on the club in assists (21) and his three shorthanded goals last season shared eighth in the AHL.

In his career, Smith has played 186 regular-season AHL games over the span of three seasons with Texas. In total, he has posted 86 points (35-51=86) with a +10 plus/minus rating and 106 penalty minutes. Smith has skated in three career Calder Cup Playoff contests, recording four shots on goal.

The 5-foot-10, 190-pound native of Toronto, Ont. was originally selected by Dallas in the fourth round (104th overall) of the 2012 NHL Draft.

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Catching up with the captain

by Scott Burnside @OvertimeScottB / DallasStars.com

The players at the Dallas Stars development camp were just getting through lunch Monday when there was a ripple of excitement. In short order, many of the draft picks and prospects attending the camp at the team's practice facility were peering through the windows in the lunch room overlooking the ice surface, focusing on one figure among a handful working out on the ice; Dallas Stars captain Jamie Benn.

Benn, along with his brother, Jordie, now with the Montreal Canadiens, and forward Mattias Janmark were among a handful of players working on a variety of drills after those involved in the Stars development camp were done with their on-ice sessions.

It was a brief, surprise visit from the Dallas captain who, like everyone connected with the team, is trying to put behind him a disastrous 2016-17 campaign that saw the team miss the playoffs after winning the Central Division title and advance to the second round of the playoffs a year earlier.

Benn, the NHL's leading scorer in 2014-15 and a finalist for the Hart Trophy as league MVP the following season, saw his point totals drop from 89 in 2015-16 to 69 last season and the team fell out of contention early, wracked by injury and poor defense and goaltending. Benn also finished third in Hart voting in 15-16 and was a finalist for the Ted Lindsay award as the MVP as voted on by the players.

But when we caught up with the 27-year-old Benn after Monday's impromptu workout, he seemed enthused about the myriad off-season changes including the hiring of former Dallas head coach Ken Hitchcock, the acquisitions of netminder Ben Bishop and defenseman Marc Methot and recent signing of free agents Martin Hanzal and Alexander Radulov, moves that have dramatically altered the team's outlook for the coming season.

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Dallas Stars re-sign Radek Faksa to a three-year, $6.6 million contract

by Dallas Stars Staff / Press Releases

Dallas Stars General Manager Jim Nill announced today that the club has re-signed center Radek Faksa to a three-year, $6.6-million contract. 

Faksa, 23, posted 33 points (12-21=33) in 80 games for Dallas during the 2016-17 regular season, his first full season in the NHL. On the season, he finished fourth on the team with 101 hits and his 33 points were tied for fifth. He finished second amongst team forwards with 62 blocked shots, which were tied for 21st amongst all League forwards.

In his career, Faksa has played 125 regular-season games over two seasons with Dallas. In total, he has posted 45 points (17-28=45). He also appeared in 13 games for the Stars during the 2015-16 Stanley Cup Playoffs, tallying five points (3-2=5) and two game-winning goals.

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