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Honka gaining confidence at World Championship

Defenseman looking to secure full-time roster spot next season

by Aaron Vickers @AAVickers / DallasStars.com

PARIS, France -- His own expectations, Julius Honka admits, are sky-high.

So too are the expectations his teammates have of him.

And while Honka is hoping to become a full-time member of the Dallas Stars this fall, the expectation is that he is already there.

"He's a really good player," Stars forward Antoine Roussel said. "He moves the puck really well. His feet are really good. He reminds me a little bit of John Klinberg when he came in. He's maybe a little bit more dynamic in his style. They both can create a lot.

"I'm not the coach, but I think he's a really good player and I wouldn't be surprised if he makes the team next year, for sure."

In his third full pro season and fourth in North America, Honka had seven goals and 31 points in 50 games with the Texas Stars of the American Hockey League, and added one goal and five points in 16 skates with Dallas, too.

And it was in that 16-game audition that he caught eyes.

"Obviously he's a really good skater and an offensive guy," Klingberg said. "We're really similar in how we play. I'm pretty sure he's going to play with us next year. I think it's time for him to move up and play with us. He's an unbelievably skilled player.

"I think next year will be a great chance to grab a roster spot."

The comparison to Klingberg, both from Roussel and Klingberg himself, is flattering, Honka admits.

But the Stars prospect doesn't quite see the direct comparison between he and Dallas' leading defenseman.

"How I see that is Klingberg is a little bit different style of player than me, but both of us are offensive guys," Honka admitted. "That's the biggest similarity between us. I do think we're a bit different players though."

Both are currently on the same stage, though.

Klingberg, with Sweden, and Honka, with Finland, are representing their respective countries at the 2017 IIHF World Championship.

The experience, Honka admitted, is helping push himself towards that coveted full-time spot with the Stars come October.

"Of course it brings lots of confidence," he said. "You want to show what you can do. That's the biggest strength, what it gives you. But I'm not trying to think about it too much.

"I'm just trying to play my game and enjoy it."

His game has showed through.

Through round-robin action, Honka ranks seventh in the tournament with 23 shots on goal. He also has one goal and three points through his seven-game schedule, leading into a quarterfinal match against the United States at LAXNESS Arena in Cologne on Thursday.

The step up in international competition hasn't slowed the 21-year-old.

"The men's games are a little bit different," said Honka, who has twice represented Finland at the IIHF World Junior Championship (2014, 2015). "Every game is a tough game. The level is a little bit higher. The level between good teams and bad teams in junior are a little bit different. It's not that different.

"I'm enjoying it."

He knows what playing in the World Championship long-term can do to help his chances with the Stars next season.

It's not his focus, however.

"I just want to go and enjoy every day," he admitted. "I don't want to think about that too much. I just want to play well."

He has.

And it'll certainly help his chances.

It's already helped his confidence.

Simply put, Honka feels he's ready to contribute in Dallas in a significant way.

Soon?

"Yes," he said.

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