Defenseman Brenden Dillon is aware of all that talk that he’s got a good shot at grabbing a roster spot with the Dallas Stars this coming season. He tries to ignore it, but it’s hard when he’s asked about it almost every time he does an interview these days.
“This summer, I am just trying to give myself the best chance that I can,” Dillon answered when asked about it onceagain during the team’s just-concluded development camp. “You obviously want to be positive and think that way. You want to be confident coming into camp, and show what you’ve got. I am just trying to control what I can control, take care of myself and let the chips fall where they may.”
|Dillon got his first NHL call-up in January of the 2011-12 campaign |
Dillon’s a guy who seems to get the chips to fall his way even when they seem to be stacked against him. He was passed over in the Western Hockey League Bantam Draft at age 15 because he was too small, but two years and a growth spurt later, he made the WHL’s Seattle Thunderbirds.
He wasn’t taken in the NHL draft, but after a stellar final season of junior hockey (59 points in 72 games) with Seattle, he landed a free agent contract with the Dallas Stars.
“He’s a player that showed great perseverance in his junior career,” said Les Jackson, Dallas Stars Director of Player Personnel.
Dillon’s perseverance is one of many qualities the Stars like in the 6-3, 220-pound defenseman, who looked impressive at development camp.
"He’s a big guy who can defend, carry and pass the puck up the ice. He’s got a real heavy shot. There’s a lot to like about his game,” said Jackson. “He’s a good team player and he plays with a lot of heart.”
Since signing with the Stars as a free agent in March 2011, Dillon has made an impressive climb up the pecking order among Dallas prospects. He made a solid impression when he joined the Texas Stars on an amateur tryout contract at the end of the 2010-11 season, and then put together a strong first full professional season with Texas in 2011-12. He registered 29 points (6 goals, 23 assists) in 76 games as an AHL rookie.
“First year pro, you are learning a lot of new things. As much as you want to say that junior is a lot like pro, it is not,” Dillon said. “You learn a lot of new things; you see from the older guys what it is like to be a professional, day in and day out, working hard. That really helped me out. I’m looking forward to bringing those experiences with me next year.”
Dillon also got his first taste of the NHL last season. There was a call up in January, where he didn’t get into a game but soaked up the experience.
“Getting your feet wet, getting around the guys and getting that taste makes you want it that much more,” he said.
Then he played in his first NHL game, suiting up for the Stars’ regular season finale against the St. Louis Blues. It was an impressive performance. He logged 19:59 of ice time, had a game-high six shots on goal, registered four hits and three blocked shots.
Stars coach Glen Gulutzan, who had coached Dillon in the AHL at the end of the 2010-11 season, gave him a favorable review.
“I thought his game was strong,” Gulutzan said after the game. “I can see he’s made strides from when I had him a year ago. I think you guys can judge for yourselves, but I think he’s going to be right around it come September.”
And the Stars still think he’s going to be right around it this fall when the final roster is put together for the 2012-13 season. With the team’s offseason moves there are spots for some young players, and the Stars believe Dillon could be ready to take one of those spots on the blue line.
|Dillon is still working on earning a roster spot for the 2012-13 season |
“He’s made some big strides in the last year,” said Jackson. “He’s looking at this as a great opportunity. Ever since we got him he’s been fully engaged in anything that can make him a better player. I sense he has a chance to open the season with the big team this year if things work out as we’re thinking.”
Dillon, who was just under 5-2 when he was passed over in that WHL Bantam Draft seven years ago, is now just over 6-3. He’s grown a lot, both physically and as a player. But he’s not taking anything for granted because he knows there is work to be done before he reaches that ultimate goal.
“I’ve come a long way, but until I am a full-time Dallas Star, the journey is not over yet,” said Dillon. “This summer is a big summer for me. With what’s gone on in free agency and the offseason you realize the opportunity and it comes down to how bad you want it. That’s what the summer is for.”