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Blueline prospect Nemeth progressing in Sweden

by John Tranchina / Dallas Stars

There were some impressive prospects on the ice at the Dallas Stars’ annual development camp last week, but one of the more pleasant surprises was Swedish blueliner Patrik Nemeth.

Chosen by the Stars in the second round (41st overall) in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, the 6-foot-3, 212-pound Nemeth stood out amidst a large contingent of defensemen, helping validate the club’s recent practice of selecting bigger players.

Following an excellent rookie season with AIK in the Swedish Elite League, during which he compiled one goal and six assists, while also registering an even plus/minus rating and averaging 17:42 of ice time in 38 games, the 19-year-old Stockholm native has demonstrated significant improvement over the past year, despite several physical setbacks.

“He had a really strong season,” said Stars Director of Scouting and Player Development Les Jackson. “He played regular in AIK and participated in the World Juniors, played hurt and looked good there. He’s a big boy, very mature. He’s in a good spot, we’ll send him back there for another year. I don’t see many barriers in his game, mostly just playing and gaining experience.”

“Last season was a good season for me, I played a lot in the Elite League in Sweden with my team,” confirmed Nemeth, who grew up idolizing former Colorado star Peter Forsberg. “I’ll be staying there this year as well, so I get another year to develop and then we’ll see what happens.”

Competing in the World Junior Championships, which took place in Buffalo, was a huge part of Nemeth’s 2010-11 season, proving his abilities on one of the biggest stages possible. In the glare of the international spotlight, Nemeth thrived, contributing one assist and a +1 rating in six games as Sweden advanced to the bronze medal game before losing to Team USA.

“It was a fun tournament,” said Nemeth, who is also eligible for the 2012 tournament. “Hopefully, I will play there this year as well and hopefully we’ll win this year. It was fun there, it was a good experience for me.”

With the strides he’s taken since joining the Dallas organization, Nemeth, who was ranked the club’s sixth-best prospect by The Hockey News recently, has insinuated himself into the mix for a possible Stars roster spot in a couple of years. Certainly, club management views him very highly.

“Patrik is a very promising prospect in our system,” said Stars General Manager Joe Nieuwendyk. “He is a solid and physical player on the defensive side of the ice. We are looking forward to watching him develop as his career progresses.”

“He’s a smart player, he’s big, he can skate and he’s a good first passer,” Jackson added. “He manages the offensive blue line pretty well. He’s just a smart, two-way guy. He’s a guy you watch play and you don’t see many mistakes. He’s just kind of quietly good. His desire to be in Dallas is high, he’ll find a way.”

Nemeth’s unique blend of size and skill, not to mention his determination, will be key factors towards making that happen. He acknowledges that he still has aspects of his game he’d like to focus on improving next season when he returns to Sweden for another year in the Elite League.

“Probably my skating,” Nemeth said last week of the one area he’d like to upgrade most, noting that he would also be receiving some instruction from team management. “I’m a big guy, so I need to be a little bit quicker in my first three or four steps. But we’re going to have a talk and they’ll say what they think I should work on.”

As one of several big, young blueliners that could find their way onto the NHL squad over the next few years (a group that includes 2011 first-round pick Jamieson Oleksiak, recent fifth-round selection Troy Vance, and highly-touted Texas Stars blueliner Brenden Dillon, among others), Nemeth exemplifies the possible future of the Dallas defense corps.

“He’s a big, 6-foot-3 defenseman who plays a very aggressive, in-your-face type of game,” said Stars’ Director of Amateur Scouting Tim Bernhardt. “We think there’s some untapped offensive potential there, he’s got a big shot. He’s going to be a big player when it’s all said and done.”

Of course, only time will tell who makes it and who doesn’t, but for the Stars, having a wider field to harvest from can only help their chances of developing their own standouts.

“There’s a number of guys that have a chance to play,” Jackson said. “It’ll be interesting to watch them grow and move ahead, but now with the big club, we have enough guys that we can be patient with some of these guys and let them grow in the minors and in junior and Europe, in the Swedes’ case. I think we’ve stocked that cupboard pretty good, and I think it’s just a matter of time. They’ll all have to go through their learning experiences and their trials, but it definitely looks like a good group of young guys.”

The latest step on that long and winding journey brought Nemeth to town for a week to participate in his second Stars development camp, which wrapped up last Thursday at the Dr Pepper StarCenter in McKinney.

“I think it’s been a good week,” Nemeth said. “We’re working with skating and passing and shooting and all the skills we could work on. It’s been a good week. It’s mostly the same things that we did last year. When you got here, you know what was expected from you, but it wasn’t that much different. It’s been a lot of fun.”

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