Stars prospect Brett Ritchie added a little twist to his offseason preparation this summer, heading overseas to take part in a Swedish Hockey League training camp.
Ritchie and fellow prospect Scott Glennie practiced with HV71 of the SHL (formerly known as the Swedish Elite League) for a week in August.
“It was pretty cool. I’ve never been to Sweden before. I’ve been to Europe before and Sweden is a really nice country,” Ritchie said after a practice at the NHL Prospect Tournament in Traverse City. “We were there for a week and I learned a lot. They do a lot of different stuff in practice. It’s good to get out of your comfort zone and learn some stuff you might not in North America.”
Ritchie, Dallas’ second round pick (44th overall) in the 2011 NHL Draft, said there was a strong emphasis on skills work in the Swedish camp. A lot of it has to do with the style of the European game, which is played on a bigger ice surface.
“It’s all skill development. We hardly touched a system in practice,” Ritchie said. “It’s a lot of puckhandling. We were getting used to one-on-one’s and a lot more of that stuff that they play on the big ice over there. It was a good experience.”
Ritchie, a right wing, is one of the Stars’ top prospects. He’ll be in his first full professional season in 2013-14. He said Stars assistant GM Les Jackson and Player Development Coordinator J.J. McQueen thought the trip to Sweden would be a good experience and helped set it up.
“I’m thankful we got to go,” Ritchie said. “It was an awesome time.”
Klingberg opts to stay in Sweden one more year
The Stars were hoping that defense prospect John Klingberg would come over to North America to play this season, but Klingberg wants to spend one more year in Sweden to prepare for the move.
Klingberg’s development has taken a hit the past couple years. He missed half of last season due to surgeries on both hips. He finished strong though, helping Skelleftea win the championship in Sweden’s top league.
“I just feel playing one more year in Sweden it would be pretty good for me to be 100 percent sure before coming over here with both head and body,” said Klingberg, a fifth round pick in 2011. “It’s more games in the NHL and AHL, I want to play 55 games in Sweden, play good every game and develop more.”
The 2011-12 season was a setback for Klingberg as well. He signed on to play in Finland’s top league, but didn’t handle the move well, left Finland midway through the season and returned to Sweden, where he played for Skelleftea.
“I was pretty young and it was the first time I was moving away from my parents. How it turned over there was my fault,” Klingberg said. “I wasn’t having any fun at all and was feeling sorry for myself. I think the experience is going to help me in the future. I was thankful for the experience in Finland.”
The 21-year-old Klingberg, a highly skilled offensive defenseman, has already spent some time in North America. He joined the Texas Stars late last season and suited up for one AHL playoff game. He’s back in North America now, playing for the Stars at the NHL Prospect Tournament. He’s picked up one assist and a plus-two rating in two games so far.
“This is a good opportunity,” said Klingberg. “All the coaches and the GM are here watching. Just relax, have fun when you play and try to be as good as possible.”
Klingberg will attend Dallas’ training camp and then head back to Sweden. He could join the Texas Stars at the end of the season.
Gaglardi, other Stars brass in Traverse City
There are some big names from the Stars organization on hand for the NHL Prospect Tournament in Traverse City. Among those who have been watching the Dallas prospects play are Stars owner Tom Gaglardi and CEO/President Jim Lites. Stars GM Jim Nill is on hand. So are assistant GM Les Jackson, Director of Hockey Operations Scott White, head coach Lindy Ruff, assistant coaches James Patrick and Curt Fraser and goaltending coach Mike Valley. Several of the Stars’ scouts are watching the games as well.
Off day at the tournament
There were no games at the NHL Prospect Tournament on Saturday. The Stars had the day off as far as on ice work. They play Sunday afternoon at 2 p.m. (CT) vs. Minnesota.