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The road to opportunity

Long trips to practice in an RV helped begin Jason Robertson's journey to becoming a Dallas Stars draft pick

by Mark Stepneski @StarsInsideEdge / Inside Edge

Jason Robertson's path to becoming a Dallas Stars draft pick began in Southern California, on the roads of Los Angeles. In an RV.

With a long drive to the rink and the Robertson brothers practicing at different times, that RV became a home away from home for part of the day.

"The rink in Los Angeles, with traffic, is probably an hour-and-a-half away," Robertson said. "My older and younger brothers played hockey and their practices would be at three and mine would be at six. We just couldn't have one go and then another guy comes. We go at three and wait until my practice."

Robertson would do typical kid stuff in the RV while waiting for his turn to hit the ice.

"I'd do my school work, watch TV and have dinner," he said. "You were back home at nine, so you had to do your school work at some time.

And it just became part of the routine when he was eight to ten years old.

"It was a lot of trips," Robertson added. "A lot of miles."

And there have been a lot of miles since for Robertson, who got hooked on hockey because his dad and grandfather were Los Angeles Kings fans and would take him to games. That put his hockey career into motion.

At age ten, he moved from Los Angeles to Detroit where he played in three youth leagues. Then it was on to Canada at 15 to advance his hockey career. He starred in the Greater Toronto Hockey League, which led to getting drafted by the Kingston Frontenacs of the Ontario Hockey League. He has played in Kingston the past two seasons, catching the eye of NHL scouts and the Stars took him in the second round (39th overall) in last month's draft in Chicago.

"It's exciting. It's an honor to be a Dallas Star," Robertson said. "It's been a long time coming. Going from California to Michigan to Toronto to Kingston. Looking back, it's been really special and worth it."

Some saw the Stars getting a steal in the second round with Robertson, who tallied 81 points (42 goals, 39 assists) in 68 games with Kingston last season. He scored another 18 points (five goals, 13 assists) in 11 playoff games as the Frontenacs advanced to the second round.

Red Line Report, an independent scouting service, called Robertson the most underrated prospect in the draft and had him ranked ninth overall.

"Has all the tools, including a great combination of strength and super soft hands," Red Line said in its 2017 Draft Guide. "His offensive numbers were hampered by the lack of a quality playmaking center on the worst offensive team in the OHL, yet he was able to create chances for himself and score 42 goals."

Other independent scouting services had the 6-2, 192-pound left wing projected to go anywhere from late in the first round to early in the second. The Stars had him going on day one of the draft.

"We had him rated in our first round," said Joe McDonnell, Stars director of amateur scouting. "It was the old cliché that we were shocked that he was still available."

The selection of Robertson, a natural goal scorer, came after the Stars had grabbed a top defenseman in Miro Heiskanen (3rd overall) and a top goaltender in Jake Oettinger (26th overall) in the first round of the draft.

"We're excited," Stars GM Jim Nill said of Robertson. "He's a great scorer, and I think he is going to be a good fit for us."

Robertson didn't know he was on the radar of Dallas for the draft, but the personable teenager was quick with some slick answers just moments after being drafted.

When hit with the trick question of his favorite NHL team he was ready.

"No, no," he said with a laugh. "Dallas is my favorite team."  

On if he's ever been to Dallas.

"I don't think I've ever been to Texas," he said, "but I like the Cowboys."

Robertson made his first trip to Texas earlier this month, attending Dallas Stars development camp in Frisco where he got acclimated to the organization and soaked in some advice on becoming a professional hockey player.

"Camp was really fun," Robertson said. "It was really cool to come to Texas for the first time. I made some new friends and learned a lot from the coaching staff."

Lessons he hopes to take with him as he moves forward in his development, which will continue for now in Kingston where he will play for a third straight season. Last season was a breakthrough for Robertson, whose 42 goals tied for sixth in the league. His 1.64 points per game in the playoffs ranked second in the OHL.

"Individually, I had a very strong season," Robertson said. "And as a team we did. I was glad my teammates and I were able to grow and get to the second round [of the playoffs]. I put a lot of work in and with the help of my teammates and the coaching staff, they allowed me to have that success."

And he hopes there will be more success this season as he tries to achieve his goal of adding more stops on his hockey journey and eventually work his way up to the NHL.

"Getting drafted is one step. The next goal is to work to get to that team," Robertson said. "I've been to a lot of places, and I just try to focus on each one. I am heading back to Kingston to do what I do and try to get better and then try to push for a spot in Texas next year."

This story was not subject to 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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