Many of the Stars’ youngest prospects, including their newest draft picks selected barely a week ago at the NHL Entry Draft, gathered on Thursday at the club’s state-of-the-art practice facility at the Dr Pepper Arena in Frisco for the first day of the orientation-style event.
Participants in this summer camp have gone on to become important contributors for the NHL squad each of the past three seasons, as Jamie Benn
, James Neal and Matt Niskanen have emerged as pleasant surprises from its ranks in successive years. Who will be next?
The list of possibilities are impressive. The camp features the Stars’ last two first-round draft choices, Scott Glennie
(eighth overall in 2009) and Jack Campbell
(11th in 2010, last week), as well as recent second-rounders Alex Chiasson
(38th overall in ‘09), Patrik Nemeth
(41st overall last week) and goaltender Tyler Beskorowany
(59th in 2008). Also in town are highly-touted prospects like defenseman Philip Larsen
(a fifth-rounder, 149th overall, in 2008) and center Tomas Vincour
(fifth round, 129th overall, in 2009), among many others.
One of the primary objectives of bringing all their prospects together is to have the players get acquainted with the principles of the organization and how they do things, as well as meeting and getting to know each other. There were several events on the schedule designed for the players, who come from various hockey backgrounds across the globe, to bond with each other.
For example, the players took in a Frisco RoughRiders minor league baseball game next door at the Dr Pepper Ballpark Thursday night. They also have a planned trip to tour the Brooks Army Hospital in San Antonio on Tuesday, as well as a visit to the Cedar Park Center, the home arena of the AHL Texas Stars, based just outside Austin, where a good number of them will likely play next season.
“It’s been really fun,” said Chiasson, a 6-foot-4, 187-pound right winger who just completed his freshman year at Boston University. “We’ve been practicing and we’ve been back to basics with coaches and learning a lot of stuff. It’s been pretty fun meeting other guys and being here in Dallas for the first time. So far, it’s been great.”
In addition to making new friends, the players are looking to absorb as much as they can, even if it’s from each other.
“There’s definitely a lot of high-end players out here that have tremendous futures in the organization,” said Campbell, the gold medal-winning goaltender for Team USA at the World Junior Championships last January. “And to be a part of this camp, to learn from those guys, it’s great and I’m going to take it all in.”
There isn’t much evaluation going on, management wants to keep everyone relaxed and loose. And while plenty of on-ice instruction is on the agenda, a primary focus for the week is off-ice conditioning, work extensively with Stars strength and conditioning coach J.J. McQueen. They also will have some sessions at the Michael Johnson Performance Center in McKinney.
“They’ve been pretty long days, but you’ve got to take everything you could get out of it, and it’s been really fun,” noted Glennie, a skilled forward who scored 32 goals and 89 points last year in 66 regular season games for WHL Brandon, which reached the Memorial Cup Final, the championship of the top level of junior hockey in North America. “They’ve been teaching some pretty good stuff on the ice, with all the skill moves that we need to be able to do to play in the NHL, and some off-ice stuff with J.J. He’s been really good teaching us how to train in the weight room.”
“J.J. is teaching you a lot of stuff,” added winger Colton Sceviour
, the Stars’ fourth-round choice (112th overall) in 2007 who collected nine goals and 31 points in 80 games during his first pro season with AHL Texas in 2009-10. “Different things to work on, different things to help your strength and different things you wouldn’t think of incorporating into your workout, whatever your program is.”
Instilling that off-ice work ethic is a key part of the process, as the organization emphasizes to its youngest charges that they need to establish a good physical foundation to build from.
“Guys in the NHL are in the gym all the time, so you’ve got to do as much as them or more to put yourself in the same position,” acknowledged Glennie, who, at 19, will likely be heading back to Brandon for one more season of junior before turning pro. “It’s really good, J.J.’s been really good teaching us stuff. He’s here for a reason.”
Another plus for the prospects has been the presence of some Stars’ veterans, including captain Brenden Morrow
, top goaltender Kari Lehtonen
and even Benn, whose brother Jordie, a defenseman last year with the CHL Allen Americans, is also participating in the camp. Having the opportunity to interact with guys who have been there before and have already made it to where they want to get to has been a valuable experience.
“Just watching some of these guys around here that have played, like Brenden Morrow
is out here skating, watching him and seeing what he’s doing,” said Sceviour, listing his biggest thrill from the camp’s first few days. “And Jamie Benn
, coming into camp last year, he maybe wasn’t expected to make the team but he grabbed the eye of everyone he had to grab the eye of to make that squad - just learning from guys like that.”
All in all, assembling all of the organization’s newest members in one place for the week has been an ideal setting for imparting upon them what it means to be a part of the Dallas Stars family, and what management expects of them going forward, both on and off the ice.
They now will be armed with loads of information to take back with them to whatever teams they play for next season, in various leagues around the world. And if recent history tells us anything, one of them just might end up making an impression in 2010-11 with the big club in Dallas.