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Stars prospects go camping in Frisco

by Mark Stepneski / Dallas Stars

The NHL season is more than three months away, but many of the top prospects of the Dallas Stars hit the ice in Frisco Tuesday afternoon for the first on-ice session of the team’s development camp.

Thirty-two players are attending the camp, including all six players selected by the Stars in last month’s 2016 NHL Draft in Buffalo.

“I got here yesterday, and I love it so far,” said forward Riley Tufte, Dallas’ first-round pick (25th overall) in the 2016 draft. “I am really impressed with the organization and the facilities. It’s really impressive.”

The prospects at the camp, which include 18 players in the Dallas system, will spend the next week in Frisco, getting an up-close look at the organization. For first time campers like Tufte, it’s a chance to get acclimated to the Dallas organization and soak in some knowledge about what it takes to become a professional hockey player.

“I am just hoping to get better and develop, working on what the coaches have to say,” Tufte said. “I am looking forward to the drills. It should be fun.”

Running the drills for Tuesday’s one-ice session were Dallas head coach Lindy Ruff and his assistants Curt Fraser and James Patrick. Texas Stars head coach Derek Laxdal and Texas assistant Karl Taylor were on the ice with prospects as well. So was Dallas player development coordinator Rich Peverley. Working with the goaltenders were Dallas goaltending coach Jeff Reese and Dallas director of goalie development Mike Valley. Prospects went through drills for a little more than an hour.

“These guys, they’re going to school now,” said Stars GM Jim Nill. “They hear about how hard it is, how you have to work out and they are going to live it now. They are going to hear from our coaches. They are going to match up against a guy like [Texas Stars forward] Devin Shore and realize that I do have to get stronger and here’s what I do have to do training-wise. It’s a good eye-opener, and it’s a chance for us to get to know them. “

Shore, a second-round pick in 2012, is coming off his first full professional season and is a veteran of these camps. He’s someone the younger players can lean on over the next week and learn from his experiences.

“Just get better in all the areas you don’t have a lot of time to focus on when you are worried about the team system, like your individual skill level,” Shore said. “And to learn how the Dallas Stars do things. I think you learn pretty quickly when you are at these camps how first class everyone in the organization is. And you get to know the guys who hopefully get to become your future teammates someday, so you can build some relationships when you are here. That’s a bonus.”

While fans can attend the camp and watch what goes on with the on-ice workouts, there is a lot of off-ice work as well. Players get advice on training, nutrition and how to be an everyday professional. Advice that Shore has used as he has worked his way from Whitby of the Ontario Junior Hockey League to the University of Maine to playing in both the AHL and NHL last season.

“You learn a big part of being a pro is the 365-day part of it and taking care of yourself away from the rink,” Shore said. “Everyone works their butt off when they are out on the ice, but you’ve got to get the right rest and put the right things in your body. You learn a lot from the seminars in this camp, so that’s good.”

And although Shore and some others have been to several development camps before, there is always new things to learn and try.

“With some of the skills stuff you get taken out of your comfort zone, and that’s a good thing. That’s how you get better,” Shore said. “If you are staying in your comfort zone you are not getting better. It’s all about trying stuff and working on things or trying a move that you are not ready to try in a game yet. It’s pushing your boundaries with all your different skill sets and trying to improve on them.”

Goaltender Philippe Desrosiers, a second-round pick in 2012, is coming off his first full professional season. He played with both Texas (AHL) and Idaho (ECHL).

“This is my fourth camp, and I am happy to be back. I am looking forward to having some good practice time with Mike Valley and Jeff Reese, which is always good for my game,” Desrosiers said. “It’s always good to be a good pro. I have one year of professional hockey under my belt, so I know what to expect, but now it is take a step forward to be a full AHLer.”

And someday he hopes to be an NHLer, and that’s what this camp is about, laying the groundwork for some of these prospects to hopefully become Dallas Stars someday.

“It’s just a chance to get to know the organization, know the city, get to know the other players,” said Nill. “A lot of these guys are going to grow up together and hopefully someday become Dallas Stars.”

*Among the players making their first appearance at Stars development camp is Russian forward Denis Gurianov, the team’s first-round pick (12th overall) in 2015. Gurianov was unable to attend last year’s camp since he was still under contract in the KHL and had obligations to his team. Gurianov is now under contract with the Stars and is expected to play with Texas of the AHL this season.

“He’s been here now for about a week already, and it’s amazing his English how quick he’s picked it up. He’s picking it up and talking well,” Nill said. “He’s getting acclimated, first time here. I think this will help him. He’s going to come over here and turn pro now. At least now he knows the area, has been in the airport, he’ll be more comfortable.”

*Also attending development camp for the first time is Finnish forward Roope Hintz, a second-round pick in 2015. Hintz missed last year’s camp due to injury. He had a solid season in Finland’s top league and won a gold medal with Finland at the 2016 World Junior Championship.

“Very impressive player,” said Stars assistant GM Les Jackson. “He plays with speed and skill.”

*Forward Devin Shore said he is feeling great after missing the second half of last season due to a shoulder injury that required surgery. Shore, who racked up 26 points (15 goals, 11 assists) in 23 games with Texas (AHL), was injured in early December and missed the rest of the season.

“It feels fantastic,” said Shore, who also played three NHL games last season. “I feel 100 percent now, so I have the rest of the summer to get into game shape.”

Stars GM Jim Nill said this week’s camp will give Shore an opportunity to see just how well that shoulder is doing.

“He can get out and do some drills, and get some bumping in and see where he’s at,” Nill said. “Probably a good thing for him, peace of mind if he does feel a little bit sore, he knows he’s got lots of time, still got the whole summer to rehab it and if it feels great, he knows he’s in a good spot.”

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 reflect his own opinions and do not represent official statements from the Dallas Stars. You can follow Mark on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.

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