After Dallas Stars prospect Mattias Janmark rolled out a strong showing in Sunday’s preseason game against the Florida Panthers, the 22-year-old forward, who is always thoughtful with his comments, kept things in perspective.
“It’s not about one game; you have to establish yourself and keep continuously playing well,” said Janmark, who scored Dallas’ first goal in the game. “I think that is the hard part about the NHL. Today was a good game, but you have to put up a few more to be able to play here.”
Well, he made it two games Tuesday night, scoring the Stars’ only goal against St. Louis and putting forth one of the team’s better performances on a night when Dallas dressed close to a full NHL lineup. Stars coach Lindy Ruff put in perspective from his end.
“I thought skating-wise and competing-wise, he was one of our best,” Ruff said. “It means he’s really trying to make this hockey team. It puts a smile on your face.”
Ruff admitted he didn’t know anything about Janmark –acquired from Detroit last season in the Erik Cole deal – prior to seeing him play at the NHL prospect tournament in Traverse City earlier in September. Now, he’s getting plenty of looks. And so is everyone else.
“I didn’t know him coming into camp, but I saw him early in camp and I liked him,” said Stars center Jason Spezza, who played on a line with Janmark Tuesday night. “He’s got hockey sense. That’s the first thing for me that jumps out. He knows where to go; you can tell he has played pro. He’s not a kid where he is feeling his way around. He’s asserting himself and has a lot of upside. He protects the puck well, skates well.”
Janmark, a third-round pick by Detroit in 2013, does have plenty of pro experience. He’s played 173 games in Sweden’s top league, the Swedish Hockey League. Last season, he ranked second on his team (Frolunda) and tied for 17th in the league with 36 points (13 goals, 23 assists) in 55 games.
“Very smart player,” said Stars scout Rickard Oquist, who is based in Sweden. “Two-way, plays a 200-foot game. Skilled, elusive down low. He knows where the puck is going. He has really good offensive instincts and can really find plays.”
Janmark is under contract with Frolunda this season and had already played preseason and tournament games with the Swedish club this season prior to coming to North America for the prospect tournament and training camp. The plan appears to be that if he doesn’t make the NHL he’ll return to Sweden. But right now he is making a very strong case for the NHL.
“I look at the pace, can he separate himself from the opposition? In most cases, the answer has been yes,” Ruff said. “I look at the endurance part of his game; is he finishing shifts and can he get back or is it 25 seconds and done? No, he has been able to finish shifts. He can create opportunities from tight spaces. He’s got a good feeling for where to be and being responsible at the same time.”
For Janmark, this excursion to North America was an opportunity to see how close he was to the NHL. At the prospect tournament in Traverse City, there was an adjustment to the smaller ice and the North American game. Janmark said he struggled early on, but he caught on and led Dallas with six points (two goals, four assists) in four games. He’s scored two goals in four NHL preseason games and leads the Stars with ten shots on goal.
“I am just trying to become a better player every day. Hopefully, I’ll get to stay here but no matter what happens I learn every day here, and that’s good,” Janmark said. “I think the step isn’t that big, but I’ve got things to work on. I am glad the organization gives me great looks. Now that I am here I get to play on the power play, and I get to play with good players. It’s a great opportunity for me, and I think I should be able to learn from it to become better. One day maybe I’ll be able to play, but I don’t know when.
“Obviously I am under contract, but I really wanted to come over to training camp so I could find out where I am at and where I am supposed to be to be able to play over here. I am really happy that I came over. I feel that I have learned a lot, and I’ve become a better player in the few weeks I have been here. Right now I am just trying to take it day by day, hopefully [the Stars] are happy with me. We’ll see what happens.”
Oh, the Stars are happy. It’s just that Janmark isn’t making it easy on them when it comes to roster decisions.
“He has shown that he can play. It’s going to be interesting because he’s going to get possibly one or two more looks, and we’re going to have to make a decision. He’s impressed us so far,” Ruff said. “He is doing his part to make us make a tough decision.”
*The Stars worked out off the ice on Wednesday.
*The Stars will practice Thursday morning in Frisco and then head to Tampa, where they’ll play Lightning Thursday night in their sixth preseason game.
This story was not subject to the 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.