With Dallas Stars development camp now in the books, here’s a quick recap of where some of the team’s top prospects stand after spending more than a week in Frisco. Stars Director of Player Personnel Les Jackson and Player Development Coordinator J.J. McQueen provided some insight on the players.
This first installment looks at some of the team’s top prospects on defense.
Signed as free agent March 2011
2011-12 Team: Texas (AHL)/Dallas (NHL)
Dillon is coming off his first full pro season and was impressive in his NHL debut against the St. Louis Blues in the Stars’ season finale on April 7. He’s expected to push hard for a roster spot in the NHL this coming season.
Jackson: “I don’t know what I can say about him. He’s just an all-in type of player. He’s a total pro for a young guy. He takes all the resources around him, he uses everybody who has NHL experience in the different areas –whether it is J.J. or the coaches – and he absorbs anything the guys have to share with him. He’s on the verge of pushing for the big team. He’ll have some growing challenges initially because he’s young and it’s a tough league. There will be some nights where he’ll have his moments, but I think the raw ability and the attitude is a pretty good package. He’s a big man, he plays hard, he has some physical attributes, he has some bite and he has talent. I think he has a lot of attributes we can work with and polish him into a pretty good player.”
McQueen: “He’s a total pro. He’s one of the most focused kids in the group. He’s one of those guys, you can call him a late bloomer, but he gets it. He understands the time he has to put in both on the ice and off the ice, and he spends his time wisely. He spends his time on the things that need to get done.”
Drafted 7th round (195th overall) of 2011 Draft
2011-12 Team: Ilves Tampere (Finland)
Jokipakka, who spent time in Finland’s top league last season, signed an entry-level contract with the Stars in June. He’s expected to play in Finland again this season. Jokipakka, who weighed 176 pounds when he was drafted, weighed in at over 200 pounds at this year’s camp.
McQueen: “He became a man between last year and this year. Last year, he was quite slight and he put on weight. He’s very, very strong. We were really pleased with the way he came into camp here. On his fitness, he’s gained some confidence in his training. He’s good.”
Jackson: “He’s really grown and matured the last year. He’s moving forward quickly. He’ll go back and play in the Finnish league with Ilves. He’ll be an every-night player there, so I sense that he’ll be right on track. He’s really been a good surprise for us.”
Drafted 2nd round (41st overall) of 2010 Draft
2011-12 Team: AIK (Sweden)
After two seasons in the Swedish Elite League, Nemeth will come to North America to play this season. Nemeth, who signed an entry-level contract in April 2011, is expected to suit up for the Texas Stars of the AHL.
Jackson: “Here’s a kid who has played two years against men. In some ways, he’ ahead of a lot of the guys going into Texas. He’s had two years in the Swedish Elite League, he’s played in the last two World Junior Championships for Sweden. He’s a kid with a great attitude, he’s a great teammate and he has a great base of abilities. I sense he is going to go in there and do well right off the hop.”
McQueen: “He came over a week before camp, spent some time with me and we set some goals and set up his training. He’s one strong human being. I’d put him at the strength of (Nicklas) Grossmann and (Mattias) Norstrom. He’s a very strong man.”
Drafted 1st round (14th overall) of 2011 Draft
2011-12 Team: Saginaw/Niagara (OHL)
After playing college hockey at Northeastern in 2010-11 and spending last season in the Ontario Hockey League, Oleksiak, who signed an entry-level contract in October 2011, will turn pro this coming season. The 6-foot-7, 240-pound Oleksiak is expected to play for the Texas Stars of the AHL this coming season.
Jackson: “He’s on the fast track. He’s a kid that had some great experiences coming into the Canadian Hockey League last year and he played on the world stage in Edmonton and Calgary for Team Canada at the World Junior Championships. That was a great experience for him to measure himself against the best players in his age group in the world. He did well there. I sense he has all the physical elements to be a real good player. When he gets here and goes into Texas, he’ll have Willie Desjardins (head coach) and Doug Lidster (assistant coach). He’ll get good instruction, good competition and he’s going to get challenged against men every night. I suspect he’ll have some bumps as most first-year guys do, but he certainly has the ability to absorb those bumps, grow and develop. I look for big things from him.”
McQueen: “I knew he was a strong guy, but I was surprised by how strong he is. He carries his weight really well. One of the things we’d like to see is for him to become quicker. For a big guy he’s actually pretty quick, but we’d like to see him get a little quicker and work on his strength. He’s going up to Toronto to train with Gary Roberts for another four or five weeks. He was up there for a couple of weeks once his season ended. He’s coming along well.”
Drafted 5th round (135th overall) of 2011 Draft
2011-12 Team: Victoriaville (QMJHL)
Vance signed an entry-level contract with the Stars during development camp. He is expected to be back in junior hockey this coming season. Vance, who is 6-foot-5, has bulked up in the last year and is now over 220 pounds.
McQueen: “He probably put on 18 pounds for us between last year and this year. Last season I went up to Quebec to see him and go over training. We brought him in a week early as well. He has a trainer in Philadelphia and we talk once a week. He was a slight guy, but he’s starting to put on the weight and is 223 pounds now. He’s going to another camp in the Maritimes that will be really good for him.”
Jackson: “He’s really made some great steps in the past 12 months. He’s advancing quickly. He’ll take a bigger role in Victoriaville this year. We need him to step up and express his game more consistently. He’s really matured both physically and mentally, so I suspect that kid is going to have a real good season.”