The 19-year-old right wing, a sixth round pick (165th overall) in 2011, has climbed the ranks of Dallas prospects over the past year, and it’s easy to see why. He led the Western Hockey League’s Saskatoon Blades in goals (39), assists (42) and points (81) in 70 games played. The 81 points were more than triple the 26 points he put up in his rookie season with the Blades.
“Of all the players in our organization, he probably took the biggest strides in improvement this year,” said Les Jackson, Dallas Stars Director of Player Personnel. “He really is an impressive player.”
Stransky’s improvement was impressive enough to land a three-year entry level contract with Dallas, which he signed during the spring. It’s a contract he might not have right now if he hadn’t decided to change the course of his hockey development two years ago.
“The junior hockey in Czech (Republic) is not really that good and my agent asked me if I wanted to go to North America,” Stransky said.
And he did, heading to play for Saskatoon which picked him 61st in the 2010 CHL Import Draft on the recommendation of his agent.
“I made that step and I am really happy I did. It really helped me a lot,” Stransky said. “If I had stayed in the Czech Republic, I probably wouldn’t have been drafted in 2011 so it was a good step for me.”
But there was a learning curve for Stransky, who joined the Blades at age 17. The first season in North America meant getting used to a different style of game, a new language and a new culture. He played 71 games in his rookie season with Saskatoon, registering 14 goals and 12 assists.
“He had some ups and downs and some consistency issues,” said Stars scout Dennis Holland. “I think that has to do with coming to North America, being away from family and being in a different culture.”
But the Stars saw plenty to like in Stransky and they took him with that sixth-round pick in 2011. Stransky didn’t disappoint, finishing 15th in the WHL in goal scoring and tying for 19th in points in 2011-12. His 14 power play goals were tops on the Blades and tied for 15th in the WHL.
“The first season was the experience in North America. We had a good team and I didn’t play on the power play,” said Stransky. “The second year, I knew what I had to work on, I played a lot and we had a good team. The English was better and that helps, too.”
|Stransky skates for the Saskatoon Blades |
“He took another step,” said Holland. “He was one of their go-to guys in Saskatoon. He’s taken a step forward offensively and was one of their leaders. We were very happy with the jump from his draft year to his 18-year-old year.”
The Stars see a lot of strong attributes in Stransky, who is listed at 6-2, 196 pounds and possesses good hands, skills and instincts.
“He’s a big man and an elusive, slippery forward,” said Jackson. “He has great puck skills and a nose for the net.”
There is one attribute that stands out.
“His puck possession,” said Holland. “In my opinion, he might have been the best puck possession guy below the dots in the Western Hockey League. He’s a big guy who sees his options so quickly and is tough to defend for defensemen because his body position and his puck protection is probably second to none out there.”
As with any young player, there is plenty to work on. Holland noted that Stransky needs to work on his skating, speed and strength. Stransky, who is right-handed, has shown he is capable on the offensive side of things. The Stars would like him to shore up matters in other areas.
“I think he’s got to become more responsible in the 200-foot part of the game, play both sides of the puck and become a little more responsible defensively,” Jackson said. “He’s got unique skill. There’s some work to do, but the foundation is pretty impressive.”
Stransky, who is expected to play with Saskatoon one more year, has plenty to look forward to this coming season. He’s expected to take part in his first NHL training camp, and there is a bonus with the addition of fellow Czech Jaromir Jagr to the Stars’ roster.
“He’s a legend in the Czech Republic, so I was like, wow,” Stransky said of the Stars signing Jagr. “I am hoping I can skate with him (in training camp). That’s going to be big.”
Last season, Saskatoon was swept in the first round of the WHL playoffs. This coming season, expectations are high for the Blades, who are guaranteed a spot in the Memorial Cup as the host team.
“I am looking forward to it,” he said. “We are going to have a good team, we made some good trades and we’ll see who my linemates are going to be. I’m excited.”
And the Stars are excited about the Stransky, and believe he is poised to take another step forward in 2012-13.