Radek Faksa’s postseason run in junior hockey was shorter than anticipated, but he’s glad to be on a nice run now with the Texas Stars in the AHL’s Calder Cup playoffs. And Faksa isn’t just along for the ride with Texas; he’s been a key contributor.
Faksa, Dallas’ first round pick (13th overall) in the 2012 NHL Draft, scored two goals in the Stars’ 7-1 victory over the Grand Rapids Griffins Sunday that sent them to the Western Conference Finals against the Toronto Marlies. His line, which he centered, had a strong showing in the series against Grand Rapids, the defending Calder Cup champions.
“They were so good. They were good the whole series. They made a big difference,” Texas coach Willie Desjardins said after Sunday’s victory. “Guys commented in here the first two games how good they were. Then on the road, you don’t get your matchups and I was able to play them against their top lines. That says a lot about the line. I thought Faksa and [Matej] Stransky were good and [Derek] Hulak stepped in [for the injured Toby Petersen] and played well.”
Faksa’s play is a sign of how much progress the 20-year-old Czech native has made over the last year. He played with Texas late last season and struggled. It’s a much different story this time around.
“I know what to expect this time, I know most of the guys on the team. It’s a huge advantage for me now,” Faksa said. “It helped me that I could play a few games in the regular season.”
Desjardins has noticed the difference. He started to see it when he coached Dallas prospects at the NHL Prospect Tournament in Traverse City, Michigan in September. Faksa was impressive at that tournament, centering a line with Valeri Nichushkin and Alex Chiasson on the wings.
“Faksa has been way better than when he came up [to Texas] last year. Last year, for whatever reason, he wasn’t ready to come in,” Desjardins said. “I don’t know if he thought he couldn’t make a contribution, but this year in Traverse City he was a different player than he was at the end of last year and now coming in he was a different player.”
The 6-3, 210-pound Faksa was a different enough player that he came into Cedar Park after his junior season ended and earned a regular spot in the lineup, taking over the fourth line center position in the playoffs.
“He’s real good defensively, he’s hard on the puck, he’s smart, and he doesn’t beat himself,” said Desjardins. “He’s just a real good solid player.”
Since joining Texas, Faksa has found some good chemistry on and off the ice with Stransky, a fellow Czech and a 2011 Dallas draft pick. The two spend a lot of time together. That’s helped with Faksa finding a comfort level in Cedar Park.
“It’s been nice. It’s nice to have someone to talk to in Czech,” said Faksa. “My few years in juniors I didn’t have anyone to speak Czech with, so it’s nice to finally have someone on the team who is Czech like me.”
Faksa had an eventful season prior to joining Texas. He played for Dallas at Traverse City. He attended Dallas’ training camp and played in one preseason game. He played for both Kitchener and Sudbury in the Ontario Hockey League, registering 48 points (21 goals, 27 assists) in 59 games. He also spent a couple weeks in Sweden playing for Czech Republic at the World Junior Championship.
After the World Juniors he was traded from Kitchener to Sudbury, considered a strong contender for a deep playoff run in the OHL. But Sudbury stumbled down the stretch to lose home ice in the first round of the playoffs and then fell in five games in round one.
“It wasn’t bad,” Faksa said of his junior season. “The change after World Juniors gave me a chance to try something different, meet new people. I got to play in the playoffs. It was a tough loss in the first round, but I think it helped me.”
Faksa played six regular season games with Texas, registering one goal and two assists. All that scoring, which included his first professional goal, came in one game, an 8-4 win over San Antonio, and earned him first star honors.
He’s played in all nine playoff games for Texas, registering two goals and getting high marks from his coach and his teammates for his play. He’s feeling comfortable on the ice and with his new surroundings in Texas, and it’s paying off for Faksa and the Stars.
“I really feel good on the ice now, I know what to do, I know the system here,” Faksa said. “The people here are nice to me. The fans are great. There is nothing to complain about. It is good.”
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.