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Frisco notes: Stephen Johns in town for visit

by Mark Stepneski / Dallas Stars

Stephen Johns, acquired from the Chicago Blackhawks along with Patrick Sharp earlier this month, is in town and skated with Stars captain Jamie Benn and defenseman Jason Demers Wednesday morning.

The 23-year-old defenseman is spending some time in Frisco to look around and meet some of the staff and a few of his new teammates.

“Everything you see and hear about this organization, it is on the rise,” Johns said. “There’s a lot of youth and a lot of fun being had down here. I am just excited for the opportunity to be in the organization.”

Johns has heard good things about the Stars from one guy in the organization he knows well – goaltender Jack Campbell. Johns and Campbell played together with USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program and at the World Junior Championship.

“He was one of the first guys to text me after the trade and told me how much I was going to love the organization,” Johns said. “He welcomed me with open arms, so that is obviously a good sign.”

The Stars are high on the 23-year-old Johns, who is listed at 6-4, 230-pounds, shoots right and plays a physical game. He is coming off his first pro season, which he spent with Rockford of the AHL, registering 21 points (4 goals, 17 assists) in 51 games. He was particularly impressive in the playoffs, including Rockford’s three-game sweep of the Texas Stars in the first round.

“I’ve known Stephen since he was 17 years of age. I saw him when the U.S. Under-18 team in Ann Arbor and at the World Juniors,” Stars GM Jim Nill said earlier this month. “I saw him play at Notre Dame all four years back in my Detroit days scouting, so I’ve seen him for a long time. I was able to watch him in the American League and watched him play us (Texas Stars) in the playoffs and I thought he was the best player on the ice. We’re excited about his potential and think he’s going to be a good fit for us down the road.”

The Stars already have eight likely NHL defensemen on the roster, but the hope is that Johns will come into training camp, push for a spot and force management to make some tough decisions.

“I am just going to be like every other guy here, battling for a spot, competing and doing whatever I can,” Johns said. “Personally, I think I am ready but it’s not up to me. I am going to do the best that I can, play the best hockey I can and try to impress them.”

Jamie Benn continues to skate

Stars captain Jamie Benn, who had offseason surgery on both his hips, continues to skate in Frisco. He was on the ice Wednesday morning, and it appeared he’s made progress in the past few weeks.

“I am doing good,” Benn said earlier this week. “I am still taking it day-by-day here. I’ve been out skating a few times; it’s feeling a little better, but I am taking it pretty slow. We’ve got a couple more months here, so I am try not to do too much.”

Benn played through pain in his hips last season but suited up for all 82 games and won the Art Ross Trophy as the NHL’s top scorer. He had surgery on one hip in late April and then another procedure on his other hip in early May. He started some light skating earlier this month.

“I’ll be ready for training camp. That’s what we are shooting for,” Benn said. “I’ll definitely be ready by game one.”

Hemsky feeling good after hip surgery, begins skating

Forward Ales Hemsky returned to Frisco over the weekend and has started to skate following offseason hip surgery.

“I am doing pretty good,” Hemsky said. “It’s been two months, maybe a little more, and I skated for the first time (Monday). It feels pretty good for two months, and we still have a long way to go, but I am on schedule, maybe ahead of schedule.”

Hemsky, who had surgery in late April, said he expects to be ready to go when the Stars open training camp in Cedar Park in September. The 31-year-old forward, signed as a free agent last summer, is coming off a rough season. He picked up 31 points (11 goals, 20 assists) in 76 games. The hip issues didn’t help. There was also the adjustment to a new team that likely contributed to a slow start to the season.

But with the hip issue hopefully behind him, Hemsky is looking to put last season in the rearview mirror as well and bounce back in 2015-16.

“I put a lot of pressure on myself, and I worked through it,” he said. “It feels different now.”

Hemsky spent the first month after the surgery in North Texas and then went home to Czech Republic for a while before returning to Dallas just in time to soak in some triple-digit Texas heat. A new experience, but part of the price he is willing to pay to be ready for the upcoming season.

“My goal is to be ready for training camp. That’s why I came here,” Hemsky said. “I wanted to stay here for a month after the surgery to rehab because that is important. I was comfortable I could go home because I was walking and stuff like that. Now, I am at the point where I can train a little bit harder. That’s why I came back. It’s hot, but it is what it is. It’s like a vacation in Turkey or something. It’s a little bit of a change for me.”

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 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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