The latest in a series on some of the top prospects of the Dallas Stars looks at defenseman Patrik Nemeth, who played with the Texas Stars last season.
The 2012-13 season was the first in North America for Nemeth, the Swedish defensemen taken by the Stars in the second round (41st overall) of the 2010 NHL Draft.
As would be expected with a European player, it took a little time for Nemeth to adjust to the North American game and the smaller ice surface.
“You don’t think the transition is that big, but it is,” Nemeth said. “It’s more how you think the game, and how you want to play to the game that is the biggest difference from when I played in Sweden.”
But Nemeth made the adjustment, settled in and played well until his season got sidetracked in the middle of February, when he suffered a head injury that put him out of action for 24 games. He was able to return for the next to last game of the season, but was injured again and missed the playoffs.
“He might have been playing his best hockey just before he got hurt. That was frustrating for him,” said Texas Stars assistant coach Doug Lidster, who handles the team’s defensemen.
Nemeth ended up playing 47 games for Texas, registering 12 points (1 goal, 11 assists) and a plus-11 rating. When he went out of the lineup, his plus-11 rating was third best on the team.
“The first five, six or maybe even the first ten games there was an adjustment for sure into the new level of hockey over here,” said Stars assistant GM Les Jackson. “He got adjusted and once he got going he played a lot of key minutes for us down there. Then, unfortunately, he got hurt.”
There’s nothing fancy about the game of Nemeth, who is listed at 6-4, 233 pounds. He’s a defensive defenseman, who can play with a physical edge and is reliable moving the puck. He also gets high marks for his desire to improve his game.
“He’s a real competitive kid, he really wants to be a player,” said Lidster. “I like his willingness to battle. His one-on-one, small space battle level is really good.”
Nemeth came to North America after playing two seasons in the Swedish Elite League, playing 84 regular season games with AIK and 18 more in the playoffs. He won a gold medal with Sweden at the 2012 World Junior Championship and assisted on two game-winning goals, including the only goal in Sweden’s 1-0 overtime victory over Russia in the championship game.
“It was a career highlight,” said Nemeth, who led all defensemen at the tournament with five assists. “It was fun.”
There were some ups and downs this past season for Nemeth, but the Stars believe the 21-year-old isn’t far from the NHL. But with him missing so much time last season he’ll still need some more seasoning in the AHL.
“He’s a guy that is totally focused, knows what he wants,” said Jackson. “He’s feeling fine now. He’s healthy. I suspect he’ll start down there again just because he missed so much time and then hopefully he’ll take the next step and evolve as an NHL player.”
Patrik Nemeth 2012-13 statistics