FRISCO, Texas -- Radek Faksa is healthy, and that's a welcome change for the Dallas Stars prospect.
After battling injuries his first four seasons in the Dallas organization, Faksa, the 13th pick of the 2012 NHL Draft, has recovered from shoulder surgery in January and was on the ice with fellow Stars prospects for development camp in early July.
"It feels great (to be back on the ice)," Faksa, 21, said. "After almost a half year, I've been on the ice three times now. There's no problems so far. Even in the gym, I didn't have problems. I'm happy about that."
Last season, the Czech-born center had four goals and 10 points in 32 games for Texas of the American Hockey League before sustaining the season-ending shoulder injury on a hit in mid-January.
Stars general manager Jim Nill is happy to see Faksa on the ice and the progress he's made.
"I think he's back (to where he was before the injury) and maybe even ahead," Nill said. "The surgery was back in January. That's usually a three- or four-month surgery. He's been training now really hard for last two, three months and so he's back better than ever."
Last season was supposed to be Faksa's first full one as a professional. He had played eight regular-season games with Texas over the previous two seasons, the bulk of which he spent in the Ontario Hockey League.
However, after playing 21 games for Texas in the 2014 Calder Cup Playoffs for the eventual AHL champions, it was thought he'd carry that momentum into the following season.
Unfortunately, that wasn't the case.
Faksa previously had battled injuries in the OHL, but this latest one was particularly tough to take, especially at first.
"The first month, first two months, I was so frustrated because I saw all those players on the ice," Faksa said. "(Before the injury) I had big ice time and I felt great, felt comfortable on the ice. The injury came, so I was kind of frustrated."
But the young center quickly resolved to use his time off the ice to work on certain parts of his game, a process he feels should pay big dividends this season.
"I tried to take advantage of it," Faksa said. "I was watching the games for what I should do better. I was working out in the gym. I tried to improve my skating because that's what I need. I just tried to take advantage of it. I had no choice."
Looking back to when he was drafted in 2012, the young center said he wasn't ready, at least from a physical standpoint, to handle the rigors of the pro game.
That's why Faksa has added 15 pounds since, going from 200 to his current weight of 215. Bulking up is one big change. He said he has also improved his overall level of conditioning.
"I had expectations and was under pressure (when I was drafted), but I tried not to look at it," Faksa said. "When I was drafted, physically I wasn't ready. I was such a lightweight. Even in year two, I wasn't the greatest, so I think I've improved a lot in the gym and I got stronger even with my weight. And I feel stronger on the ice. I feel ready."
Even though he has been cleared to return to the ice, Faksa was wearing a no-contact red jersey during the development camp, a precaution to ensure he doesn't re-injure his shoulder before the Stars begin training camp in September.
"I'm basically OK but not risking it still. There are more important things like the main camp coming up. I don't want to get injured again when I can rest it for like a month or two months," Faksa said. "I'm looking forward to start having some contact because hockey's a contact game. I'm enjoying being on the ice again. I'm always excited to go on the ice, getting some practice and looking forward to some games finally."
Should he stay healthy and become a regular contributor in the AHL, the question surrounding Faksa is what sort of role he could fill in the NHL. Some view him as a third- or fourth-line center.
Faksa, however, isn't concerned about such labels. Instead, besides doing all he can to stay healthy, he really has only one other concern.
"I don't want to be just a checking center or something like that. I want to be 200-feet player. I want to be on offense and defense too," Faksa said.
Author: Steve Hunt | NHL.com Correspondent