The Dallas Stars have forward Nick Caamano penciled in to play junior hockey with the Flint Firebirds of the Ontario Hockey League this season, but they are having a hard time sending him there right now.
Caamano is just playing too well.
Caamano had a strong showing at the NHL Prospect Tournament earlier this month in Traverse City, Michigan where he co-led the Stars in scoring with four points (two goals, two assists) in four games. He then stood out in Sunday's training camp prospect scrimmage in Cedar Park, scoring two goals. Those two performances earned him a spot in Tuesday's preseason opener against St. Louis, and despite playing just 5 minutes, 14 seconds he stood out again and scored a goal, banging in the rebound of his own shot just as a power play expired.
And now, he's going to be staying a little longer. Stars coach Ken Hitchcock said Caamano, who turned 19 earlier this month, has earned that right.
"I like him. I like him a lot," said Hitchcock. "He's got moxie. He's a 19-year-old kid, but he's got the moxie of an older player. He's made a great account of himself, and nobody in this world would have thought he would have hung in this long. He's still here, and when we play on Thursday he'll be here again. That's a good sign."
While the Stars have sent the rest of the junior players on the training camp roster back to their teams, Caamano keeps plugging away and sticking with the big club.
Video: Stars defeat Blues 5-3 in preseason tilt
"I am just trying to impress while I am out there and that is my mentality moving forward," Caamano said. "I want to stay here as long as I can and keep proving myself every game and every practice."
Caamano, an Ontario native, was one of the youngest players available in the 2016 NHL Draft at 17 years old, and the Stars selected him in the fifth round (146th overall). In his draft year, he registered 37 points (20 goals, 17 assists) in 64 games with Flint in his second full OHL season. Last season, Caamano made big strides. He tallied 64 points (35 goals, 29 assists) in 67 games, ranking second on his team in goal scoring and tying for 14th in the league.
"It went really well. It was one of my best seasons," Caamano said. "I was happy with the [offensive numbers], but there is always room to improve, and I am looking to extend those numbers this year."
And round out his game as well.
"I want to work on play in the defensive zone. That separates people at the next level," he said. "You just can't score goals, you've got to try to do everything. I am trying to play PK, power play and play everything, get on the forecheck. I've been working hard to do that."
Video: Highlights from the Future Prospects Scrimmage
The Stars player development staff is helping guide Caamano along the way. He works a lot with player development coordinator Rich Peverley.
"You always want to pick his brain because he knows a lot and he's been around the game a long time," Caamano said. "He's been through the same thing we are going through, so it is nice to lean on him to know what to do and what to expect."
Peverley likes what he sees from Caamano, a 6-foot-2, 195-pound forward who moves well, can play either left or right wing, and can put the puck in the net.
"He's a big, powerful winger," Peverley said. "He's a good skater, really good hands and a good touch around the net. He's come a long way, he's got a great attitude, and he works hard. He's definitely on the way up."
Caamano, who will eventually head back to Flint, has seen his stock shoot way up and his confidence as well thanks to his play over the past two weeks. He'll get another chance to make an impression Thursday night in Colorado, and he is relishing the opportunity.
"When you score you get more confidence," Caamano said. "And being out there with guys like [Jamie] Benn and [Tyler] Seguin, it is huge for me. I just keep moving day by day here and keep pushing the pace."
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 DallasStars.com reflect his own opinions and do not represent official statements from the Dallas Stars. You can follow Mark on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.