The Dallas Stars' 2007 Summer Development Camp kicked off today at the Dr Pepper StarCenter in Frisco with more than 30 of the club's top prospects in attendance. For three of those prospects, this week's camp has extra meaning as they hail from the Metroplex and have climbed through the ranks to reach this peak.
Dallas' last three first-round picks are in attendance in defensemen Mark Fistric
(2004), Matt Niskanen (2005) and Ivan Vishnevskiy (2006), as well as seven of the club's eight selections in the 2007 Draft, which took place last month in Columbus.
One of those draft choices from last month is Dallas native Austin Smith
, who is set to play for Penticton in the BCHL next season before attending Colgate in the Fall of 2008. A former student at Jesuit Prep in Dallas, Smith spent last season at The Gunnery, a prep school in Washington, Connecticut. He is joined at this week's camp by two other North Texans, who are presenting themselves well against all the Canadians, Swedes and Minnesotans at the camp.
Goaltender Adam Kraus is a native of Irving and is set to attend Boston University in the fall to play for the Terriers' renowned hockey program. Playing for the Alaska Avalanche of the North American Hockey League last season, the 6-3, 175-pound Kraus posted a 3.50 goals-against-average and a .912 save percentage. He previously spent two years with the Los Angeles Junior Kings at the AAA Midget level.
Ben Van Lare hails from Richardson and has spent the last two seasons with the Des Moines Buccaneers in the United States Hockey League. From 2003-05, he was a member of the Saskatoon Blades in the Western Hockey League, and will be looking to begin his professional career next season.
All three of the North Texans grew up as Stars fans, and while battling to make a positive impression on the Stars' brass in the camp's first day, have stopped to pinch themselves at what they are actually accomplishing. Their opportunity to receive instruction from Stars legends Brett Hull and Andy Moog in the two practice sessions today especially reverberated with the trio.
"I was in awe a little bit when I first got here, with Brett Hull and Andy Moog on the ice with us, and Dave Tippett, Doug Armstrong and Shane Churla watching from upstairs," said Smith, a 2007 fifth-round draft pick (No. 128 overall). "I got to drive over here from my house this morning to compete against some of the top prospects for an NHL club. It's been great meeting all of the guys and learning more about what it takes to reach higher levels. It feels good to finally get out here and start playing within this organization. It's one thing to get drafted, but it's another to hit the ice and show everyone what I'm capable of."
Van Lare's initial reaction to the beginning of this week's camp has been reflection upon how far he's come, and determination to get even further.
"I'm really excited to be out here and it just means the world to me," said Van Lare, 19, who notched 24 points and 101 penalty minutes in 55 games for Des Moines last season. "I grew up watching the Stars and I still remember the first Stars game I went to. It was in the mid-1990s, when Nieuwnedyk and Carbonneau were on the team, and I remember seeing us play Toronto. I said right then and there that I wanted to play hockey. It's been a dream come true to be here so far this week and I'm prepared to work as hard as I possibly can to improve and make a good impression so I can keep climbing the ladder."
Kraus shared an interesting story about the beginnings of his hockey career, and not surprisingly, that story revolved around the Dallas Stars.
"When the team first moved to town, I lived by the old practice facility in Valley Ranch," said Kraus. "About half the team lived in my neighborhood, and one of the Stars, Mike McPhee, had a son who was my age. I would go over to his house quite a bit and we would play hockey. He needed someone to shoot on, so I strapped pads on and became his goaltender and that was my first memory being introduced to the game."
While all of the Stars prospects in town this week are soaking in the atmosphere of the National Hockey League and trying to learn everything they can from each of the instructors, Kraus feels that the camp has extra meaning to the "North Texas trio."
"It's phenomenal to have been a Stars fan since I was little and now to participate in a prospect camp with this logo on my chest, so I'm just delighted to be here," said Kraus. "This is an unbelievable organization, from the people we're getting to work with to the facilities here in Frisco, and of course, downtown at the American Airlines Center. I'm trying to take every little bit that I can from this camp, and represent hockey in this area well."
The Stars development camp continues on Tuesday with a 9:30 a.m. practice that is open to the public at the Dr Pepper StarCenter in Frisco. The prospects will skate from 9:30 to 11 a.m. each of the next three days, and on Friday, will add a 2-3:30 p.m. session to the morning workout. The camp will culminate on Saturday with a skills competition from 10:45 to noon, which is also open to the public.
Fans are encouraged to come get a glimpse of the Stars' future, as well as their first taste of hockey for the upcoming season, all while supporting three of North Texas' finest young hockey talents!