Dallas Stars prospect Matej Stransky will turn pro this season, and he’s been hitting up his buddies from Czech Republic for advice in preparation to make the jump from junior hockey.
“It’s going to be tough. All those Czech guys who turned pro, I asked them about it. They said it is going to be different,” said Stransky. “They said it’s quicker and it’s more physical, so I have to gain weight and get quicker. It’s going to be tough, but I am excited. It’s the next step for me.”
The Stars have high hopes for Stransky, a 6-foot-3, 215-pound right wing. The Czech native, who just turned 20, is coming off an outstanding season with Saskatoon of the Western Hockey League.
“He’s a big kid that’s got some offensive gifts,” said Stars Assistant General Manager Les Jackson.
Stransky registered 85 points (40 goals, 45 assists) in 72 games this past season, ranking 12th in the WHL in goal scoring and 15th in points. It was the second straight 80-point season for Stransky, a skilled right wing with good hands, a nice shot and some excellent puck protection skills.
“I had pretty much the same number of points as the year before,” said Stransky, Dallas’ sixth round pick (165th overall) in 2011. “The coaches wanted me to score some goals and I did that. I was pretty happy about the season.”
He and the Blades got off to a slow start, but finished among the top teams in the league. The playoffs didn’t go so well. Saskatoon was swept in the first round by Medicine Hat.
“The start was pretty tough because we traded for some players and the whole team was kind of new. Then we got on a streak and that kind of helped us a lot,” said Stransky. “We couldn’t keep going in the playoffs and that’s why we lost. It was a pretty good year, but it could have been better. I don’t think some of those trades helped us, but it was a good team and a good group of guys.”
Stransky’s season mirrored the team’s. He got off to a slow start, scoring just five goals over the first 19 games. He then heated up, scoring 16 over the next 14 games. He had another stretch in January where he tallied 13 in 13 games.
Stransky got a chance to play in the Memorial Cup because Saskatoon was the host team this year. It was a challenge though. Since the Blades were knocked out of the playoffs in the first round they had to wait 51 days before their first game at the tournament, which also featured the champions from WHL, OHL and QMJHL.
“It was tough, but it can help you in the future. If you work really hard you could see the improvement every week,” Stransky said. “Every guy was working hard for himself and we could all see the improvement after all that time. “
The Blades won just one game at the tournament, upsetting the eventual champions, Halifax, 4-2. In a game that featured two of the top three North American prospects for the 2013 NHL Draft – Halifax’s Nathan MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin – Stransky was among the best players on the ice, scoring two goals and earning second star honors.
His two goals staked the Blades to a 2-0 lead in the game. He scored one goal by going to the net, pushing off a defender and knocking home a centering pass. The other came after he jumped out of the penalty box, grabbed a loose puck and scored on a breakaway, beating Zachary Fucale, the No. 1 rated goalie in the 2013 NHL Draft, with a wrist shot.
But overall, it was a disappointing tournament for the Blades and Stransky.
“It didn’t go well because we didn’t play for so long,” he said. “It was hard, but it was a good experience.”
One he can build on as he makes the transition to the pro ranks. Stransky, who just wrapped up a week at the Stars development camp in Frisco, will spend the summer training in the Dallas area with some other Stars prospects, including fellow Czech Radek Faksa, Dallas’ first round pick (13th overall) in 2012.
“I have to gain some weight,” said Stransky. “Improve my skating.”
After his summer work, he’ll play at the NHL Prospects Tournament in Traverse City, Michigan, attend Dallas’ training camp and then is expected to embark on his pro career with the Texas Stars of the American Hockey League.
The move to the AHL will be a big adjustment for Stransky, but he’s been down this road before. He came to North America as a 17-year old to advance his hockey career and had to adjust to a different game, a new language and adapt to life in a new country. The Stars think he’ll be up to this latest step in his career.
“It will be a big adjustment into the American League for him. He is going to have to get his skating up to par a little more consistently and push himself,” said Jackson. “As far as raw skills, he definitely has the talent. It will be a big adjustment, but I think he’ll adjust fine. He’ll have his bumps like they all do, but I suspect he’ll endure them.”
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