Dallas Stars prospect Radek Faksa is expected to spend a few days at Dallas Stars training camp before he heads back to his junior team, but he is going to soak up every minute of the experience.
Not just because it’s his first NHL camp, but because as a native of Czech Republic he is living a dream by skating with Jaromir Jagr.
“It was my dream to play with him one day. He’s so famous in Czech,” Faksa said. “People back there are jealous now because I can be here with him on the ice.”
The 19-year-old center is trying to take in as much as he can at Stars training camp, getting a feel of how NHL players go about their business. He’s trying to learn not only from Jagr, but from anyone who can give him insight into what it takes to play at this level.
“I am watching all these guys,” said Faksa. “What they do on the ice, off the ice.”
Faksa, Dallas’ first round pick (13th overall) in 2012, is playing with the Kitchener Rangers of the Ontario Hockey League this season. He’s registered 25 points (7 goals, 18 assists) in 30 games. Faksa has had some ups and downs due to illness issues, but says he is feeling pretty good now.
During Sunday’s practice session he centered a line with Antoine Roussel and Brett Ritchie.
“It was awesome,” Faksa said. “I was just very excited for the first time at NHL camp.”
Faksa and Ritchie, who plays for Niagara in the OHL, are the only two junior players taking part in the Dallas camp. Although both are expected to be here just a short time, Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk said it should provide valuable experience.
“Look at all the experiences that Radek Faksa has gone through the last few years,” Nieuwendyk said. “If he can come in and skate with our guys for a few days, get to know them, see what the pace is like and what is expected, I think those are incredibly valuable lessons. It’s the same thing for Brett Ritchie.”
Opportunity knocks for Roussel
There was plenty of speculation in the media and among fans about which Texas Stars players would get an invitation to Dallas Stars training camp. One guy who didn’t get a lot of attention was Antoine Roussel, but he caught the eye of Dallas management and earned himself an invitation to camp.
“I went to Austin and watched the American League team about 12 times and every time he was a player that caught my eye,” said Dallas Stars coach Glen Gulutzan. “He certainly caught (GM Joe Nieuwendyk’s) eye, and our scouting staff’s. He worked every night, and he made an impact every night.”
Roussel, signed by Dallas to a two-way contract as a free agent in July, has been a solid player for Texas. The physical, gritty forward has 15 points (7 goals, 8 assists) in 37 games, and leads Texas with 101 penalty minutes.
“Since day one they had confidence in me, saw where I was coming from and what kind of player I was,” Roussel said. “They put me in situations and I responded well. Here I am, and I’ll try to make the best of it.”
With the Stars looking to fill spots in their bottom six group of forwards, Roussel’s style of play fits the bill.
“I am an intense player, I am a role player,” Roussel said. “I want to finish my checks and bring energy to the team. “
That’s what the Stars saw of him at the AHL level, and that’s why Roussel is getting an opportunity with the big club.
“He was the hardest working guy down there night in and night out, and he deserves an opportunity to come to our camp,” said Gulutzan. “We could use a little sandpaper.”
Gulutzan on Jamie Benn
The one noticeable absence at day one of training camp was forward Jamie Benn, who is a restricted free agent and is in negotiations with the Stars on a new contract.
With Benn not in camp, Tom Wandell slid into the top six group of forwards Sunday and centered Ray Whitney and Michael Ryder.
“Things may change. We have lots of competition here. We want to see how the week goes,” said Stars coach Glen Gulutzan. “Playing without Benny is going to be difficult, but we’re focused on the guys we have here, all the players we have here is what we are focused on.
“Everything that is here is in place for him, the things that Jamie likes as a hockey player are here in this locker room now. We’ll get him under contract I am sure, but we’re focused on these guys that are here.”