That's how the old saying goes. You can't teach speed and young Stars defenseman Trevor Daley
A poll among Ontario Hockey League (OHL) coaches in 2001 named Daley as the best and fastest skater in the league. The young blue-liner built a reputation during his junior career for having the skills to take over a game, often being called an "offensive wizard" with exceptional passing and shooting.
Drafted in the second round (43rd overall) of the 2002 NHL Entry Draft, Daley has been what Dallas management expected and more from the moment he attended his first rookie camp later that summer.
"He looked good as most players with talent do during skill sessions," Assistant General Manager Les Jackson said. "We knew what we were getting in Trevor. He wasn't a surprise. When we drafted him, his skating, overall skill and offensive abilities were all attributes that stood out that gives him the potential to become a good NHL player."
Daley was one of the last cuts in his first NHL Training Camp in the Fall of 2002 and returned to his junior club in Sault St. Marie for the season. It was clear to the Stars that he had the talent and skill to play at the NHL level soon.
That first opportunity came this past year, as Daley played in his first pro season, including 27 games with the Stars, scoring one goal and five assists. Daley took a lot out of the experience.
"It was great to learn and get to play with some great players," Daley said. "I had the chance to play with elite NHL players every day and that was an outstanding experience for me. To have the older guys around to show me the way and guide me along was awesome for me. Guys like Don Sweeney and Bill Guerin were a big help to my development and confidence."
Daley made several trips back and forth from the minor leagues last season, playing 40 games with the Utah Grizzlies of the American Hockey League (AHL).
"Going up and down from Utah to Dallas was also a huge help," Daley said. "Going down made me realize what I needed to do in order to get back up there."
Daley's skating skills enables him to take the puck from one end of the ice to another with ease. He has shown good offensive instincts, knowing when to join or lead the rush. Armed with a great shot and good vision of the ice, Daley is very competitive and does not back down to challenges. Despite his size (5-10, 201 lbs.), he also showed durability and toughness, taking hits from NHL players and not missing a beat.
The Stars are happy with where Daley is in his development, but also know it takes time.
"Trevor still has a long way to go to be an everyday NHL player but he's still going through the development stages now," Jackson said. "To pinpoint where a player is in his development is a hard thing to measure sometimes, but Trevor had a lot of great experiences this year : he played in the American League for a period and he played at the NHL level. He experienced a lot of different aspects of the game in the NHL, played on the point in the power play with (Sergei) Zubov and worked with our coaches quite a bit.
"Over the years, I'm sure we'll look back at this past season as a key stretch of his development. It is forming his foundation to become a solid NHL player."
Daley has a good handle on what he needs to work on to continue his upward development.
"My whole game in general I need to improve on. You can never stop learning this game and never stop getting better, if you want to," Daley said. "I also want to be more consistent every night. I think that comes with experience and maturing as a player."
Still, Daley knows what his bread and butter is.
"I would definitely say that skating is my strength," Daley said. "I have to be a little more careful with my awareness on the ice depending on what time of the game it is and what the score is, but I believe that my skating is my biggest asset to this team."
Daley had the luxury of having defensive veterans Teppo Numminen, Sergei Zubov, Jon Klemm and Philippe Boucher around to help show him the ropes. But he found his biggest influence to be his roommate on the road, who just happened to have the most experience on the team as an NHL blue-liner.
"Without a question, Don Sweeney gave me the most guidance this past season," Daley said. "Rooming with him on the road and having him as the oldest player (on the team) and me as the youngest was quite comical. There was a joke around the room that he was my Dad this past year. Just getting the chance to meet him, play with him and room with him was an honor for me. He's a small guy, just like me, and he has been in the league now for 16 years. That's an amazing accomplishment to be in the league for that long and continue to contribute."
Daley is looking forward to his chance to contribute as a full-time defenseman for the Stars. He'll get another shot at next season's training camp.
"The philosophy of this hockey club is to make the player earn his position on the team and Trevor isn't any different than the rest that report to camp," Jackson said. "He's a talented young player and there's going to be an opportunity to make our team and become a player. It's all about winning in this league and all of the players earn their spots. He certainly should challenge for a position at this point."
Daley thinks he can take the next step in 2004-05.
"Yes, I definitely hope I'm on the roster next season. I hope they expect that too," Daley said. "I've had some good talks with our hockey people in the organization and I think there are good things to come. I'm going to come to camp this year expecting to be a Dallas Star, just like I did last year."
Trevor has already begun preparing his body for training camp, working out in his hometown of Toronto.
"I'm going to be working out with Rob DiMaio this summer. He's going to be one of my training partners up here," Daley said. "I'll take some time to have some fun and visit with my family, but my first priority will be working out in preparation for next season.
"I just want to be ready."