Jason Dickinson has made the most of his call-ups to the NHL. He scored in his NHL debut last season against Colorado, and he scored again in Tuesday's 3-2 overtime win over Arizona, six games into his latest stint with the Dallas Stars.
After Adam Cracknell forced a turnover, Dickinson broke in on net and beat Coyotes goaltender Mike Smith with a wrist shot to give the Stars a 2-0 lead. Dickinson, who has looked better in each game during this call-up - his third this season - finally got a good result.
"I just feel comfortable," Dickinson said. "The team makes me feel more comfortable, all the guys are real welcoming, and the coaches are helping me out a lot. I'm getting a lot of information, and each game is getting a lot easier."
But it's been no easy road this season for the 21-year-old Dickinson, who has had to battle back from offseason hip surgery.
"It's been a work in progress all year," he said.
The surgery kept him out of the lineup until early November, and he missed the first eight games with the Texas Stars of the AHL. And once he started playing, it took another couple of months before finally got going.
"The first couple months of the season I was just trying to figure out a good routine and trying to find things that worked, going through a bunch of different options," Dickinson said. "It took me a good couple of months to figure it out."
These days, he said he feels about 100 percent.
"The only thing I get now is some muscle fatigue, which is completely normal and it is pretty easy to work through muscular problems," he said. "It just takes a little more stretching and a little more attention. It's nothing to worry about anymore."
Dickinson, a first-round pick (29th overall) in the 2013 NHL Draft out of the Ontario Hockey League, is in his second full professional season. Last season, his first as a pro, he recorded 53 points (22 goals, 31 assists) in 73 games with Texas. This season, as he's fought through the hip issue, the numbers have dropped. He has 30 points (nine goals, 21 assists) in 55 games. It's been a tough year all around for Texas, which is on the brink of playoff elimination.
"It could have been better," Dickinson said. "It's been a struggle for the whole team. Right now, we are out of the playoffs. It's a very tough situation down there. It could have been better. I could have been a little more productive. But it was a good learning experience as far as what my body needs and how to take care of myself."
Dickinson, who has scored two goals in nine games with Dallas over the past two seasons, is a two-way forward with speed, skill and can play center or wing. He's played both sides of special teams in the AHL and takes a lot of pride with his play on the defensive side of things, especially on the penalty kill.
Dickinson was recently ranked fifth among Dallas prospects by The Hockey News and is working his way towards becoming a regular NHL player, but for now, he is just trying to get back to where he needs to be after last summer's hip surgery.
"The goal every year is to try to make Dallas," he said. "But right now the main goal is to focus on getting my strength up to where it could be this summer and taking it from there. Obviously, last summer I had to miss a lot of training, so this summer is going to be huge for me. I am just worried about getting myself back to where I need to be."
Notes: Team photo day
*Wednesday was team photo day for the Dallas Stars. All the injured Stars were on hand, including forward Patrick Sharp who had hip surgery last week.
"Talked to him last night and he was obviously in good spirits," Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. "He was happy for the guys [after Tuesday's win]. He was standing in the hallway cheering everybody on the way in. Obviously, he's happy that he got his situation rectified, but still being a team guy and standing there on crutches as guys are walking in after the game."
*Stars forward Brett Ritchie did not practice Wednesday. Ruff said it was a maintenance day for Ritchie, who is expected to play Thursday.
This story was not subject to approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club. Mark Stepneski is an independent writer whose posts on DallasStars.com reflect his own opinions and do not represent official statements from the Dallas Stars. You can follow Mark on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.