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Sceviour looking to take another step next season

by John Tranchina / Dallas Stars

Deep down, he probably knows he’ll likely be spending the coming season in the minors, but that hasn’t stopped right winger Colton Sceviour from aiming high.

The second-year pro, who made great strides last season with AHL Texas, has his sights set on claiming a Dallas Stars roster spot in September’s training camp.

The thing is, that’s not such a far-fetched notion - especially if Sceviour continues to progress at the same rate he did last season, ending the year skating on the Texas Stars’ top line in the Calder Cup Finals alongside Dallas rookie phenom Jamie Benn.

“I see his game on the right track,” said Texas Stars General Manager Scott White, who also serves as Director of Minor League Operations for the parent squad. “He’s a real good two-way player, a very smart hockey player and when (Texas Coach) Glen Gulutzan can play him left wing, center, right wing, that shows that he’s smart defensively, understands the game and that’s the good thing. He’s a coachable guy and that’s a positive.”

Sceviour, who completed his junior hockey eligibility in 2008-09 following a 29-goal, 80-point season with WHL Lethbridge, wasn’t even sure he would be in the AHL last season. So the fact that he avoided a trip down to the Stars’ lower-level ECHL affiliate in Idaho and spent the entire season in the Austin suburb of Cedar Park, was a major plus.

“Going into it, I wasn’t sure where I’d be playing,” admitted the recently-turned 21-year-old Sceviour, who recorded nine goals and 31 points as just one of two Texas Stars to play in all 80 regular season contests. “Obviously, I hoped I would be playing in Austin, that was my goal. I wasn’t sure if I was going to be there all year or if I was going to go down to Idaho or spend the whole year there. I should be happy, I played a full 80 games, so the season went well and as the season went on, I started to feel more and more comfortable. I was overall happy with it and hoping to build off it coming into this next year.”

“Colton, he’s had a very, very good first year,” White added. “He’s a player that took full advantage with Jamie Benn and Tom Wandell making the big club, because we didn’t know where he would end up. And you never know. A 20-year-old coming out of junior, expectations were kind of average with him, we wanted to see where he fit in, but Colton has been really sound.”

And, as White pointed out, one of the most impressive aspects of Sceviour’s performance has been his eye-opening versatility. The 6-foot-0, 201-pound native of Red Deer, Alberta excels at many different areas of the game.  

“He’s played left wing, he’s played center, he’s played right wing, he’s done a variety of things,” White said. “He’s killed penalties, he’s scored some big goals, he’s been solid.  I really like his development.”

Sceviour, who was the Stars’ fourth-round selection (112th overall) in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft - one round and 17 picks before they chose Benn - also proved to be something of a shootout specialist, scoring on all four of his attempts. Overall, his performance helped him secure the coveted spot on the wing next to Benn and center Aaron Gagnon during the playoffs. 

“Playing with those two guys, it was great,” said Sceviour, who registered one goal and seven assists in 24 post-season games as the Stars advanced all the way to the Finals before falling in Game 6 to Hershey. “Jamie, obviously everyone has seen him up here and know what he can do and at the AHL level, he was even more dominant, so it was fun to play with him. Those two guys were both easy to play with, they would find you if you got open, it made it a real easy game and I just tried to keep my game simple playing with them.” 

Experiencing the ups and downs of the long playoff journey had quite an impact on Sceviour, who was amazed at the intensity level as the Stars advanced deeper and deeper.

“That playoff run was unreal,” marveled Sceviour, who contributed two assists in the Stars’ Game 7 victory over Chicago in the Western Conference Semi-finals, including one on the series-clinching goal by Benn in overtime. “I went to the Finals in the Western Hockey League (in 2008 with Lethbridge), but this - it doesn’t even compare. It’s a whole different level, and just playing a team like Hershey, who have had so much success. And we had such a great fan base, it just makes it that much better. Two Game 7 wins and that kind of stuff, it makes it a memorable playoff run for sure.”

“I think the playoff run has been good for him internally, mentally, the grind of it, I think is really good for his growth,” White said. “And I think he knows what it takes - he’s learning what it takes.”

While the experience of performing in such high-pressure situations was valuable enough, having the opportunity to skate alongside a successful NHLer like the 20-year-old Benn has helped infuse Sceviour with additional confidence. It made him feel like he might not be as far from his dream as he previously figured. 

“Knowing that that’s what the next level is like and that I was playing beside him, that gave me a little more confidence, that maybe this is closer than I thought,” Sceviour acknowledged. “You never know, but hopefully I can play with him again some time.”

Sceviour got that chance briefly last month during the Stars Development Camp, held at their practice facility inside the Dr Pepper Arena in Frisco. While Benn is obviously no longer considered a prospect, he and a few other Dallas veterans were on the scene as well. Just having the opportunity to observe and interact with them was inspiring for Sceviour.

“Watching some of these guys, there are some guys around here that have played - Brenden Morrow’s around here skating - watching him, seeing what he’s doing,” Sceviour said of his time attending the Development Camp. “And Jamie - he’s the kind of guy that came into camp last year and maybe wasn’t expected to make the team, but he came in here and grabbed the eye of everyone he had to grab the eye of to make that squad. So just learning from guys like that.”

Another significant benefit Sceviour derived from his trip to the Metroplex in early July was visiting with Stars strength and conditioning coach J.J. McQueen, who devised a custom workout plan.

“J.J.’s teaching us a lot of stuff,” Sceviour noted, “like different things to help with different kinds of strength and different things that normally you wouldn’t think of, incorporating those into my workout program.”

McQueen’s input was particularly valuable because it addressed one of the two components of his game that Sceviour is concentrating on improving heading into 2010-11.

“Going into the off-season, as short as it is, I’m working on my shot - I have some stuff set up back home to get a better shot, more of an NHL-type shot, release and that kind of stuff, and then, my first couple of steps,” Sceviour revealed. “I’m happy with my speed once I get going, but my first couple of steps, I’d like them to be quicker. Those two things I’m going to spend most of my time working on. Obviously, overall conditioning, that’s just general stuff, but I think those are the two hockey-based things that I’m going to strive for, that will give me the best chance to start the season up here in Dallas.”

While club management feels he will likely need some more development time in the AHL, seeing the determination Sceviour has demonstrated in his quest to reach the NHL is impressive and will only aid his cause going forward.

“He’s going to need a couple of years in the American League, but I feel he has the tools to advance,” White said. “Now, his game’s got to grow and he’s got to do his part to take that next step - next year, we expect him to take a step based on what he’s done this year.”

“I’m willing to do whatever, but obviously, going into camp, my goal is just to make the Dallas Stars,” Sceviour stated. “Coming into training camp, I’m going to push and I’m going to do everything in my power to catch the eye of (Dallas General Manager Joe Nieuwendyk) and (Director of Scouting and Player Development Les Jackson) and (Stars head coach Marc Crawford) - all those guys that are making those decisions. That’s my goal, just to play a full season up here in Dallas. If that doesn’t happen, if I do have to start the season in the AHL, I’m fine with that, but going into training camp, my ultimate goal is to be up here all year.”

Stranger things have happened. For example, at this time last year, few believed Benn would have the year he did, so it isn’t out of the question that his former WHL opponent could make the jump as well.

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