FRISCO, Texas -- Development camp and the ensuing trip to the Traverse City Prospect Tournament next week is a multi-faceted experience for the next generation of Dallas Stars players.
So, when Stars player development coordinator J.J. McQueen started camp Saturday in Frisco with a tribute to those who died in the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, it was a part of understanding what's important to the organization and the people within.
McQueen said he came up with the idea in coordination with Stars general manager Jim Nill, and felt it was the right way to honor the 20-year anniversary of the events.
"I talked to Jim about it a little bit and I just thought it was important that we recognized it," McQueen said. "I remember when it happened like it was yesterday. We were downtown doing the medicals before we went to Colorado, and it was quite devastating. I just thought it was important to do some kind of recognition and don't let people forget about it."
Hockey is a sport that brings together people from all over the world, and Saturday's opening day of development camp included players from Canada, Sweden, Belarus, Russia and the United States. That's one of the reasons remembering was part of the learning process. In fact, McQueen said there's a lot going on as 24 players are not only bonding on the ice and trying to become a team that can compete against other team's prospects next week, but also living together and getting to know each other as people.
"We call it a learning session," McQueen said. "We're trying to develop good habits on and off the ice, and this is one of the stages to it."
The time on the ice is relatively short as players were engaged for about 90 minutes Saturday, but there were some intense competition drills, as well as simply showing assignments at different times of a game.
"In general, nothing is too different," said 2021 first-round pick Wyatt Johnston, who was getting his first on-ice interaction in the Stars organization. "It's just learning different little systems and getting some chemistry with different players and as a group."
The Texas Stars coaching staff is running workouts and will coach the team in Traverse City, where Dallas will play four games against prospects from the Maple Leafs, Blue Jackets, Red Wings and Blues. On Saturday, a few lines fell into place that might stick over the next two weeks:
Conner Roulette - Ty Dellandrea - Yauheni Aksiantsiuk
Tye Felhaber - Mavrik Bourque - Logan Stankoven
Fredrik Karlstrom - Wyatt Johnston - Jordan Kawaguchi
Francesco Arcuri - Oskar Back - Riley Damiani
Riley Tufte - Jacob Peterson - Antonio Stranges
Thomas Harley - Dawson Barteaux
Max Martin - Ryan Shea
Jacob Holmes - Artem Grushnikov
The mix is intriguing, as players like Ryan Shea and Jordan Kawaguchi are 24 and players like Johnston and Logan Stankoven are 18. Thomas Harley just turned 20 but played in the AHL last season. Kawaguchi and Adam Scheel played last season at the University of North Dakota before joining the Texas Stars.
"I'm super excited to be here and to be on the ice with these guys and see where I stand right now and see what I have to do to get to where I want to be," Kawaguchi said. "Just to hang out with them and getting to know them, it's been good. It's a lot of fun."
While some players might be competing for a spot on the NHL roster or at least more ice time with the Texas Stars, Kawaguchi said bonding is a huge part of the development process.
"For me, personally, if you're a good teammate, you want to see everybody succeed," he said.
In the meantime, they're trying to learn and understand the Stars' system, and they're trying to do it quickly and efficiently. McQueen said the staff has been in touch with players via specific websites and through social media to track progress with training. He said that players nowadays are conscientious about keeping up but added that nothing beats getting together in person.
"They're a lot more in tune with what's important in terms of training," McQueen said. "They all have their own trainers now and nutritionists, and they think they're really working hard until they get here. Then, they have to take it up another step."
Or two...or three. The rest of the camp will tell in that regard.
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This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club.
Mike Heika is a Senior Staff Writer for DallasStars.com and has covered the Stars since 1994. Follow him on Twitter @MikeHeika, and listen to his podcast.