Skip to main content
The Official Site of the Dallas Stars

Stars camp journal: Portents? Signs? Harbingers of things to come?

New head coach Ken Hitchcock shakes up the lines and defensive pairings on a high-paced first day of training camp

by Scott Burnside and Mark Stepneski /

CEDAR PARK, Texas -- Folks who were hoping for indicators of exactly what head coach Ken Hitchcock has planned for the Dallas Stars vis-a-vis line combinations and defensive pairings, we have one thing to say: 

Patience, grasshopper.

For instance, those hoping to see Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn and newly-acquired right wing Alexander Radulov working up early chemistry as the team's top offensive unit will have to wait. Seguin didn't even skate in the same group with Benn and Radulov. Those two took line rushes with veteran center Jason Spezza.

Meanwhile, Seguin skated in the second group with Mattias Janmark, who is trying to return to everyday NHL action after missing all of last season with a rare knee injury, and another new addition, Tyler Pitlick.

Both of those units, by the way, clicked nicely with the caveat being, of course, that this is the first day of training camp.

What about that Marc Methot/John Klingberg pairing -- how did that look?

Sorry, not today.

Methot, the veteran defender who was acquired from the Vegas Golden Knights in the offseason and has been penciled in by many as a partner and mentor for the talented Klingberg, worked with Julius Honka and to a lesser degree Greg Pateryn. Meanwhile Klingberg skated alongside veteran defender Dan Hamhuis with whom he played some early last season.

Still, things that make you go, 'Hmmm'

Well, what about Radek Faksa centering a line with hard-working wingers Curtis McKenzie and Adam Cracknell?

That's a fourth-line-type unit that has sustainability.

For us, the most interesting unit of Day 1 of training camp was Jason Dickinson, 22, a former first-round pick of the Stars in 2013, centering another youngster, 22-year-old Remi Elie and veteran R.J. Umberger, who is in camp on a professional tryout.

Hitchcock, who was extremely vocal outlining drills and reacting to drills from the bench area throughout the day, has identified all three as players who have a chance to make the club out of camp.

In general, he had high praise for the youngsters in pushing what was a high pace on the first day of camp.

"'It's a group, it should be their time, and they're stepping forward," Hitchcock said. "There comes a time when your younger players have got to grow up, and they've got really take advantage of the position they're in, and if Day 1's any indication they all did a great job today. Very impressive."

Honka makes an impression

Speaking of Honka, the Stars' first-round pick in the 2014 NHL Draft (14th overall), is expected to be an NHL player this season and coach Ken Hitchcock said he looked like one the first day of training camp.

"He looks more than ready to play in the NHL," Hitchcock said of the 21-year-old. "It's one practice, but when you stood out as much as he did at practice today in a good way, this doesn't look like a player with any inclination of going back to the American Hockey League. He stood out in a big way today with his composure, quickness, ability to think, and tenacity on one-on-ones. He looked like a National Hockey League player to me."

Dickinson in the mix

The chance to be at camp and be in the discussion for a roster spot isn't something that Dickinson is taking for granted.

A year ago, Dickinson was still in recovery mode after having surgery on his hip a procedure that cost him all of training camp and the first month of last season.

"At times, it was really frustrating, obviously," Dickinson said Friday after the first session at the Stars' training camp.

"Feeling how behind I was, and then how much I missed in the summer, I had no training, I basically I didn't train at all it seemed like. So it was really frustrating at times, but I tried my best to see the light in it, and kind of learn exactly what my body needs. It was a real learning experience for how to take care of myself and how to really prepare for even practices or a workout."

The 22-year-old has played in 11 games with the Stars since being taken 29th overall in 2013, all but one of those games came last season as the Stars battled through injuries throughout the season and Dickinson was among those young players who were called on to fill in from the Stars' American Hockey League affiliate in Austin.
"At first last season I was worried," Dickinson admitted. "It was nerve-wracking."

Now, he's as close to 100 percent as he'll get and he's in the hunt for a roster spot.

"And I feel great on the ice so that's all that really matters to me," he said. "I just try not to think about (being close to an NHL job). I just think about doing my job and doing what I have to do. And if they don't want me for what I do then there's not much else I can do really. It comes down to just worrying about myself and that's all I can control.

"I can't really control what they think or what the other guys on the ice are doing. It comes down to me, really."

Tryout for Hitch

Hitchcock admitted he was a little nervous before Friday's opening training camp. He said he changed the practice plan four times in the past two days and even called an "audible" ten minutes before the team hit the ice for the first session of camp.

"I am nervous that we are going to make a good impression too," Hitchcock said. "It's not just the players trying out here. We are trying out too. We want to make a good impression. It's a privilege to coach this team and we want to make a darn good impression, so we are nervous about that."

Quote of the day

 "My first camp was with Hitch, so I know that feeling -- what it's like going out there, the nerves, the drive you have to have. You have to have a short memory when something goes wrong. You've got to just shake it off and get ready for the next one. Because I know Hitch has a short memory so you've got to just keep going, and fight and battle. They want to see the compete level, they want to see the grit, the determination that you have. Being a young guy or a guy that's trying to make it you can't show that you're afraid of anything, you've got to just keep going." -- Umberger

This story was not subject to approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club. Mark Stepneski is an independent writer whose posts on reflect his own opinions and do not represent official statements from the Dallas Stars. You can follow Mark on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.

You can follow Scott on Twitter @OvertimeScottB

View More