“They all hear what it takes, but they need to live it,” said Nill. “They need to understand, they need to hear it from our coaches in Dallas, and they need to hear it from our trainers. It’s a preparation and a going back to school to gain knowledge about what it takes on and off the ice to become a pro hockey player.”
There are 35 players at this week’s camp, and 28 are in the Dallas system. Nill has made it clear to the players that there is no evaluation taking place. He wants to take the pressure off and allow them to soak up information.
“We’ve already done the evaluations. These kids are all here because somebody on our staff, our scouting staff, our coaching staff or somebody has seen them and recommended that they have the potential to be a Dallas Star,” Nill said. “I want them to be here, be comfortable and just learn. I don’t want them to worry about falling down in the corner or I haven’t skated for two months. This is all just educational.”
The prospects are learning what it takes to become a pro, but they are also learning what it takes to be a Dallas Star and what the team expects from its players.
Nill has talked to his NHL players about being every day pros, and he delivered the same message to the prospects at the opening of this week’s camp.
“That’s the speech I gave them the first day,” said Nill. “It’s about how you live your life every day on and off the ice. When you do it every day it becomes a habit. You want to have the right habits and you want to do it all the time, and when you do that you are going to give yourself a chance to have success moving forward.”
“That’s what they are all about – being an every-dayer,” said forward Brett Pollock, Dallas’ second round pick (45th overall) in this summer’s draft. “Doing things every day to make yourself better, pushing yourself to be in a position to be a Dallas Star. It’s stuff like that that is going to help guys get to the next level.”
There’s work both off the ice and on it for the prospects. The players spend plenty of time in the gym, learning different workouts and techniques. They get tips on nutrition. There is advice on conducting themselves on social media and dealing with media interviews. There is also instruction on how the Dallas Stars play.
“We’ve had some meetings with Dallas coaches on forechecks, neutral zone and we’re going over the D zone coverage here in the next couple days,” said forward Branden Troock, a fifth round pick (134th overall) in the 2012 NHL Draft.
On the ice, there is a little different look this year. In past years, a lot of the instruction has been done by skills coaches that the Stars brought in to help with the camp. This year, Stars assistant coaches Curt Fraser and James Patrick have been out there with the prospects, along with goaltending coach Mike Valley. Andy Moog, Bob Bassen and Stan Tugolukov, who does work with the Stars, have been out there as well.
“There’s still some skill development,” said Nill. “We’ve got Stan out there and Curt and James teach some skills, too, but we wanted them to get a feel for the Dallas Stars and the Texas Stars, what systems they use, what the expectations are for forechecking and different things like that.”
With Fraser and Patrick running the on-ice sessions, the prospects are getting a taste of how the Stars practice. The Stars play up-tempo, so the practices are up-tempo.
“Skills and doing things at a high pace,” Pollock said of the on-ice work. “They talked about that they are a fast-paced team and they like to play a quick game and we’ve been working on doing things at a high speed.”
And being around guys such as Fraser and Patrick, Bassen and Moog allows the prospects to get some quality advice from guys who had long NHL careers.
“They’ve been through a lot, playing long careers and then coaching,” said Pollock. “It’s neat to hear the stories about what they have gone through and their experiences. To go through practice with them and get some tips, it is a great experience.”
And it’s an experience that Devin Shore, who is attending his third camp, said can pay dividends when the prospects go back to finish their summer training and return to their teams for next season.
“You have to go into a camp like this with an open mind, just be a sponge and soak it all in,” said Shore, a second round pick (61st overall) in 2012. “It’s something that not a lot of players get to experience, to get coaching and teaching from the guys we are being taught by. You have to take advantage of it as well as you can, and utilize it the best you can.”
Catching up with Niklas Hansson
Prospects scrimmaged Thursday afternoon in Frisco and defenseman Niklas Hansson scored a couple of highlight reel goals, one in a shootout and then another on a breakaway during three-on-three play.
The 19-year-old from Sweden was a third round pick (68th overall) in the 2013 NHL Draft. He spent most of last year playing for Rogle in Sweden’s second highest league. He had 13 points (2 goals, 11 assists) in 47 games. Hansson, who leans towards the offensive side of things, tied for fourth in scoring among junior defensemen in the league and tied for second in assists.
“It went pretty well,” Hansson said. “I had a tough start. It was a new league for me, I was playing with the pros, but I was getting better and better and I think I was ending on top.”
Hansson had 10 points (1 goal, 9 assists) in 16 postseason games as Rogle tried to qualify for the Swedish Hockey League, the top league in the country. But Rogle fell just short, losing a tiebreaker based on goal differential.
“It was tough,” said Hansson. “It was two goals or we would have made it to the SHL.”
Hansson will play for Rogle again this season. He also is under consideration to play for Sweden at the 2015 World Junior Championship.
“That’s a big dream for me,” Hansson said. “I am going to work my [butt] off to make it.”
Friday camp schedule
Prospects are scheduled to be on the ice from 11:00 a.m. to noon on Friday at the Stars practice facility in Frisco. All on-ice sessions are open to the public.
This story was not subject to the 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.