Jason Dickinson wants to play for the Dallas Stars, but he knows it will take more than just talent. It will take hard work and commitment as well. Dickinson and several other Dallas Stars prospects spent the past week getting advice on just what it will take to be a professional hockey player at the team’s development camp in Frisco.
“If we want to make it here, it is our decision,” said Dickinson, the Stars’ first round pick (29th overall) in last month’s NHL Draft. “It’s about being committed to it and those who are committed make it.”
Dallas Stars General Manager Jim Nill has talked about players needing to be everyday pros and the goal of the camp was to help lay the groundwork of that in the team’s newest batch of draft picks and other prospects.
“It’s the whole package of what it takes to become a pro,” said Nill.
“All GMs want them to understand that it is a lifestyle,” said Brent Severyn, the camp’s coordinator. “There are details that everybody has to learn about whether it is the physical, the mental or an overview of the systems the Stars are going to be using. Each player has to understand what it is going to take to be a pro. It’s not about evaluations; we’re trying to guide them about what they have to do in the summer and through the rest of their life as a professional hockey player.”
Six of the players the Stars selected at the NHL Draft in New Jersey on June 30 attended the camp, along with 16 other Dallas prospects and another 16 invitees. The camp started last Thursday and concluded with a scrimmage Wednesday morning.
“We want to introduce them to the Dallas Stars system, program and how we do things,” said J.J. McQueen, who is the Stars player development coordinator. “It’s how they go about becoming a Dallas Star, it’s about things that are important to us.”
That’s key for the recent draft picks, who received their first real introduction to the Dallas Stars organization.
“It’s a learning experience,” said Dickinson. “They are teaching us a lot about what they do, how they run things around here during the season.”
“It’s going great and I’m having a lot of fun,” said forward Remi Elie, Dallas’ second round pick (40th overall) in the 2013 NHL Draft. “Meeting a new group of guys, and we’re learning a lot.”
Getting the Dallas prospects together and getting them involved with each other was one idea behind the camp. There was also the introduction to how the Stars will play on the ice. And there was a strong emphasis on skills development, which is what fans who attended the camp saw on the ice. The prospects work on stickhandling, shooting and skating.
Among the key instructors in the skills area were Jack Bowkus and Pertti Hasanen. Bowkus, who is a coach with the Los Angeles Junior Kings, has been a mainstay at the Stars development camps the past several years. Hasanen, director of hockey operations at Boston University, worked with the Stars prospects for the first time last year.
“Pertti does things similar to what Jack is doing, but he does things a little different,” said McQueen. “It’s another way to attack it.”
The drills can be challenging, forcing the players to lose the puck, stumble around a bit or even fall on the ice. The thought is that taking them out of their comfort zones will help develop their skills and help them get better.
“They make us do stuff we’ve never done before or that we’re not used to, so you just practice at it and get better, and it’s helping me a lot with my skill development,” said Elie.
“That’s what you look for in a camp like this. You’re not getting better if you are doing stuff you are already capable of doing,” said forward Devin Shore, a second round pick in 2012. “When you stretch those boundaries, get out of that comfort zone it is hard at first, but over time, even over the course of the week, you find yourself getting better.”
There was a lot of off-ice work as well at the camp, including plenty of time with Stars Strength and Conditioning Coach Brad Jellis.
“Brad was in there talking about training, what to do, how to do it,” said Severyn.
McQueen will follow up with players during the season, visiting them and making sure they are on track as far as their training. There was guidance on nutrition as well. All of it designed to help the players understand what’s necessary to be a professional hockey player.
“They expect us to be training at a high level and eat with the right intentions,” said Dickinson.
Texas Stars Head Coach Willie Desjardins gave them an overview of Dallas’ AHL affiliate and what is expected there. Players learned about dealing with the media and got advice on using social media.
“It’s a good week. You learn a lot,” said defenseman Ludwig Bystrom, a second round pick in 2012.
“It’s just like school. Every year you come you learn something new,” said defenseman Dmitry Sinitsyn, a seventh round pick in 2012.
And the Stars want the prospects to take what they’ve learned at the camp and apply it the rest of the summer and beyond. The Stars have set up a website where players can have access to information about what was covered at the camp, including video of the drills that were run.
“Some of the videos and some of the drills are online for them to watch,” said Severyn. “We also help with the scouts a little bit as well; give our feedback just seeing them over the short period of time. It may be the way they go to their left, their stick position or hand position. We give a little bit of feedback on that, so they bring a lot back from here.”
There were individual meetings with each player to go over the past week and set some goals for improvement moving ahead.
“So, when they go home they have a focus,” said McQueen. “It’s all about introducing them to the Dallas Stars and explaining what our philosophy is.”
“We are teaching them what it takes to be a pro,” said Nill. “We hope they grab 75 percent of it and it makes them a better player.”
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