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Stars defense prospect John Nyberg making steady progress

The 2014 draft pick is coming off a strong season in Sweden's top league

by Mark Stepneski @StarsInsideEdge / Inside Edge

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. -- The NHL Prospect Tournament in Traverse City is Stars defense prospect John Nyberg's first time playing games in North America. He's making a quick adjustment.

After a scrambly performance in Game 1, he was better in Game 2. And after Game 3 on Monday, he drew high praise from Texas Stars coach Derek Laxdal.

"Nyberg had a way more improved night. He was moving his feet and was up on the play, making better reads," said Laxdal, who is coaching Dallas prospects at the tournament.

"If you look at his game over the [three games], you see a huge improvement. His role is a shutdown defenseman but it's a different circumstance when it is a smaller rink, and things happen a little quicker. If he is getting better every game, that is all you can ask."

Nyberg, who is from Sweden, has picked up one assist and a plus-one rating in three games for Dallas prospects so far in Traverse City.

"It's been fun," Nyberg said. "You get so much more time with the puck in Sweden with the big ice, so you need to be ready [here]. The first game was different, but now it feels better."

The 21-year-old Nyberg, a sixth-round pick (165th overall) in the 2014 NHL Draft, is coming off a good 2016-17 campaign, his first full season in Sweden's top league. He tallied 15 points (seven goals, eight assists) in 49 games for Frolunda, tying for sixth in goal scoring among Swedish Hockey League defensemen.

"I go defense first, but it is always fun to score. I join the rush as much as I can, but I always go defense first," Nyberg said. "It was a good year. I played a lot, and I worked hard, and I developed."

The Stars liked the progress Nyberg is making, especially the work he put in last season and his dedication to being a pro.

"Last year, he was really good. He has taken huge steps over the last year. He really committed in the off-ice, in terms of becoming a pro, the way he worked," said Stars scout Rickard Oquist. "And he scored seven goals without playing on the power play for a defenseman, which is pretty good."

Nyberg is 6-foot-3, 203 pounds and shoots left-handed. He defends well, has good puck skills, makes a good first pass and has a good shot.

"He's a two-way guy. He's really strong and has gotten stronger the past year," Oquist said. "And with strength comes confidence, too. He's been very good defensively as well."

Nyberg will play again in Sweden this season. He'll return to Frolunda as soon as the Traverse City tournament ends. He's expected to play a bigger role, including on the leadership front. He'll be an assistant captain for Frolunda.

And the Stars are hoping Nyberg takes another step forward.

"He's going to go back to Sweden and be a number one shutdown guy, be a number one penalty kill guy," Laxdal said. "If he can come back with that much more confidence next year, he's going to be a defenseman that we'd like to see where he can get to. Expectations are high of every player, but we see a good progression in his development."

Stars prospects fall to Wild, 4-2

Stars prospects played their best game of the NHL Prospect Tournament Monday afternoon, but fell, 4-2, to the Minnesota Wild. The Wild scored two power-play goals to jump to a 2-0 lead and then extended it to 3-0. The Stars cut the lead to 3-2, but couldn't get the equalizer.  

Roope Hintz (second round/2015) and Denis Gurianov (first round/2015) scored goals for the Stars. Jason Robertson (second round/2017) chipped in two assists. Goaltender Jeremy Brodeur (free-agent invite) stopped 28 of 32 shots.

"I thought our guys played great," said coach Derek Laxdal. "We played a total, 60-minute hockey game. I liked the effort. I thought we dominated 5-on-5. We gave up two [power-play] goals, one of them at the end of a five-on-three and on the fourth goal we had a little bit of a defensive breakdown. But that's part of this tournament with young kids playing. I liked the way our group has gotten better every day.

"Today's game was totally different from Day 1, so I can't ask more from his group."

The Stars, who are 0-2-1, will play in the seventh-place game on Tuesday at 2 p.m. Central Time. For full tournament coverage and streaming information, click here.

Notes

* Forward Roope Hintz had a game-high six shots on goal and was a plus-two.

* Forward Denis Gurianov had four shots on goal and was a plus-two.

* Forward Jason Robertson had two shots on goal and was a plus-two.

* Defenseman Chris Martenet did not play Monday due to illness. He is expected to miss Tuesday's game as well.

* Landon Bow is expected to get the start in the final game of the tournament for the Stars.  

Stars Lineup

Jason Robertson - Roope Hintz - Denis Gurianov

Nick Caamano - Sheldon Dries - Tomas Soustal

Samuel Laberge - Shaw Boomhower - Max French

Cole Tymkin - Brett Davis - Vince Loschiavo

Gavin Bayreuther - Niklas Hansson

Eric Sweetman - John Nyberg

Shane Hanna - Ondrej Vala

Jeremy Brodeur

Landon Bow

Scratched: Chris Martenet (illness), Zach Roberts 

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 DallasStars.com reflect his own opinions and do not represent official statements from the Dallas Stars. You can follow Mark on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.

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