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Stars sign Hobey Baker Winner Lessard

by Staff Writer / Dallas Stars

April 16, 2004

Suddenly, the Stars' pool of prospective talent just got deeper.

That's because the Stars added the nation's best collegiate hockey player Thursday morning when they signed 2003-04 Hobey Baker Award winner Junior Lessard to a one-year contract.

And remember: The last time the Stars signed a Hobey Baker Award winner, his name was Neal Broten.

"Hopefully, your career with us will go like Neal's," Stars General Manager Doug Armstrong told Lessard Thursday, "and we'll see your number up in our rafters."

OK, so that's not much pressure.

Then again, Lessard has never been one to back down from any challenge.

Somehow, he went undrafted when he was the eligible age, and after failing to be chosen by an NHL team, opted to go the collegiate route at the University of Minnesota-Duluth.

From that point on, he made his top priority proving those who said he couldn't play in the NHL wrong. He's not a strong skater, they said. Maybe not big enough. Whatever reason, he knew better.

"There were many people who counted me out who never thought I was going to make it," Lessard said. "Today I'm proud I showed a lot of people were wrong."

He started doing that in college for UM-D, increasing his point total in each season of college. As a freshman, he put up 12 points (four goals, eight assists), then upped it to 30 his sophomore season (17 goals, 13 assists). By his junior season, he was a full-fledged scoring machine, putting up 37 points (21 goals).

But his senior season is when he truly became a collegiate star. On his way to earning the nation's top individual honor, he also led the country in both goals (31) and points (61) in just 44 games played. He was selected to the American Hockey Association first team, the All-America first team, and was named both the and National Player of the Year.

His success, however, wasn't just individual. He also led the Bulldogs to their first NCAA Frozen Four appearance since 1985, where they lost in the national semifinal to eventual national champion University of Denver.

Quite the career. So when it was finally over, Armstrong and the Stars decided to make a push for his services.

"If he won the Hobey Baker Award, you know he's got some scoring talent," Armstrong said. "When someone wins that award, he grabs everyone's attention."

In fact, Lessard said he had several offers to sign a free agent contract, but that Dallas seemed to be the perfect fit for him.

Now, hopefully, he'll prove that's the case by putting up the same kind of numbers for the Stars as he did for the Bulldogs.

"It's been an exciting last couple of weeks," Lessard said. "But today has got to be the biggest day of my life."

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