Defenseman Mark Fistric was the Dallas Stars' first round selection (No. 28 overall) in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, and certainly made his presence felt in his first professional season with the Iowa Stars in 2006-07. He has brought that presence to Frisco this week for the Stars' development camp, and has impressed observers on and off the ice.
The 6-2, 232-pound blue liner was the only Iowa player to skate in all 80 games last season, and his 24 points (two goals, 22 assists) placed him third among Stars defenseman in scoring. Fistric served as an alternate captain as a rookie, and was selected by Iowa's hockey operations staff as the club's Most Improved Player in 2006-07. He was also honored by his teammates as the 7th Man of the Year, for going above and beyond expectations, on and off the ice.
Fistric captained the Vancouver Giants to the Western Hockey League title in 2005-06, and in five seasons with that club, collected 11 goals and 46 assists for 57 points with 453 penalty minutes.
"Mark Fistric is definitely on the right track and I thought after Christmas, his game really came to the forefront," said Scott White, Iowa's Director of Hockey Operations. "He's a young kid who logged 24-25 minutes a night for us in a defensive role. He's a sound two-way defenseman and I wish people could've seen him in our physical playoff series against Omaha, because he was just a force. He was knocking guys around and blocking shots, and he's grown a lot the second half of the season. In my eyes, he'll be a Dallas Star soon enough."
DallasStars.com had the opportunity to visit with Fistric on Wednesday as the Stars' summer development camp for top prospects continued.
DallasStars.com: Being a 'veteran' of these development camps, what will you take from this camp that will foster your improvement on and off the ice?
Fistric: "This is my third year here at this development camp and I've gotten to know most of the guys, so I feel that when I come here, it's more of a conditioning camp and identifying skills that I can improve upon. I am constantly working on my skating skills and I'm looking to push farther with my fitness and my strength. There are a lot of tips and pointers that we can all take from this camp that will help us improve, so I'm trying to make the most of this week."
DallasStars.com: Do you still pinch yourself when you see Brett Hull and Andy Moog running some of the drills at development camp this week?
Fistric: "Well, it's obviously still pretty neat to be working so closely with former players like that, but I also see it as a great chance to learn from the best. I got to work with Andy Moog quite a bit last season when he would come to Iowa and he's outstanding at encouraging players in the right ways. A theme that I've gathered from the Stars organization is that everyone is working toward the same goal, and Brett and Andy are great examples of that."
DallasStars.com: What would you consider your biggest strengths as a player?
Fistric: "I am a competitor and I don't give up. I play a strong, physical, gritty game and I think I make a good first pass out of the zone. I pride myself on blocking shots and one of my biggest strengths is being able to kill penalties.
DallasStars.com: How did your first professional season go after a successful stint in the Western Hockey League?
Fistric: "It was a really good year for me and I learned a lot. At the AHL level, there are a lot more players who are better, stronger and skilled than the guys I faced in juniors, so I had to elevate my game. I worked on my skating and moving the puck better, and I am trying to think faster and be tougher. I think this was a good development year for me."
DallasStars.com: What was your biggest area of improvement this season?
Fistric: "I think my skating got a lot better. The pace is a lot faster in the AHL obviously, so I worked on making plays a lot quicker. I think my physical play improved and I pride myself on that. I also scored 24 points this year, which is a pretty good improvement offensively."
DallasStars.com: What mindset are you going to bring with you to the Dallas Stars training camp in September?
Fistric: "Well, I'm going to keep working as hard as possible, and really skate hard to get in good shape for training camp. I'm going to bring the mindset to Dallas of making the team, of making it hard for them to send me down."
DallasStars.com: Do you see it as a golden opportunity to advance, knowing that a couple members of last season's Stars' blue-line will not be returning in 2007-08?
Fistric: "I feel that when I come into camp, I'm going to come in the best shape possible and give myself the best chance to earn a spot on the roster. If I can do well, it would be great to make the big team. If not, I'll go back to Iowa and strive to be one of the top defensemen there and continue to get better and hopefully earn a spot in Dallas at some point soon."
DallasStars.com: Have you faced any added pressure in the WHL or in the AHL having been a first round draft pick?
Fistric: "I don't think so. Once you get to the pro level, everyone is focused on taking the next step, regardless of where they were drafted. Guys like Chris Conner and Krys Barch weren't drafted and they played meaningful games for Dallas last season, so I don't think it matters that much. Being a first-rounder, you want to prove yourself and show the Stars you are worthy of that high selection. I feel like I'm doing a pretty good job of that so far."