Matej Stransky Makes Big Strides in First Pro Season

Friday, 06.13.2014 / 9:14 AM CT / Inside Edge
By Mark Stepneski
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Matej Stransky Makes Big Strides in First Pro Season

Texas Stars coach Willie Desjardins said he had some doubts about rookie forward Matej Stransky early this season. Doubts that have now been erased.

“He’s come a long way from the start of the year,” Desjardins said. “At the start of the year I wasn’t sure he belonged here. I thought he should probably be in the ECHL, but there were some people on the staff that believed in him and he got a little bit more of a chance.”

The 20-year-old Czech native, Dallas’ sixth round pick (165th overall) in the 2011 NHL Draft, knew he was on the bubble early in the season and did everything he could to stick in the AHL.

“I battled hard. I didn’t want to go anywhere else. I just stayed with it and it worked,” said Stransky. “But it was tough. It was hard to get going. I had to work on some stuff. But over the season I think I proved a lot of things and I feel better about myself.”

Stransky is proving to be an effective player for Texas in the Calder Cup Playoffs as a part of the Stars’ fourth line, which has been outstanding. Stransky is playing right wing with center Radek Faksa and left wing Kevin Henderson in the Calder Cup Finals, which Texas leads 2-1 over St. John’s. Toby Petersen and Taylor Peters have also played left wing on that line over the course of the playoffs. Stransky and Faksa, a fellow Czech who joined the team late in the season after his junior career ended, found chemistry quickly.

“We are from the same country, so the chemistry is kind of natural,” said Stransky. “It feels good playing on the ice. He is the same type of player as me. He is big, he likes to play in the corners and he is pretty simple with the puck. So, yeah, I think we have pretty good chemistry, and I hope it is going to be better and better. Maybe we will play together again next year.”

Stransky and Faksa have developed chemistry off the ice as well, hanging out a lot together. It’s helped Faksa, Dallas’ first round pick (13th overall) in the 2012 NHL Draft, with his transition to playing and living in Cedar Park, and it’s been good for Stransky as well.

“It’s really nice,” said Stransky. “It’s always nice when you can hang out with somebody and talk about stuff from Czech Republic with someone who knows what’s going on. It’s been really good that he is here.”

Stransky has five points (one goal, four assists) in 19 playoff games. His one goal was a big one. He circled behind the net and scored from the bottom of the right circle to give Texas a 4-2 lead in its 6-2 victory over Toronto in Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals.

“He’s really been good since Christmas on, and he’s been really good in the playoffs,” Desjardins said of Stransky. “I like how he holds onto the puck. He is gifted offensively. He’s good down low. And he’s confident. Those things certainly add to our lineup.”

But to become a regular in the lineup Stransky had a lot of work to do over the course of the season. At the top of the list was his skating, which has been seen as a key weakness. It was more evident when he made the jump to the AHL from juniors this season.

“I think the speed [was a big adjustment]. Everything is quicker here. I had to work on my skating,” Stransky said. “[Assistant coach] Doug Lidster worked with me after practices and that helped a lot, and in the gym it was some leg stuff. We practice high tempo, and that helps, too.

“It’s way better. I feel more confident with the puck so I know I can do more things, so that helped me a lot.”

This is Stransky’s first professional season and his fourth in North America. He came over from Czech Republic as a 17-year-old to play for the Saskatoon Blades of the Western Hockey League. Stransky was a big scorer in his final two seasons with the Blades, registering 79 goals in 142 games. The goals did not come easy in his first year as a pro. He had 23 points (9 goals, 14 assists) in 65 regular season games and 10 of those points (five goals, five assists) came on the power play. Playing on the fourth line was a factor in the limited offensive output, but Stransky sees that as an area for improvement.

“We didn’t have the biggest ice time and I didn’t think it was that bad, but still I think I should be better,” Stransky said. “That’s something I want to work on.”

Despite the low offensive numbers, both Texas and Dallas like what they’ve seen from Stransky this season, especially the improvement and the work put in to achieve it.

“He’s done really well,” said Dallas Stars assistant GM Les Jackson. “First, he’s got a great attitude. He’s got a nice skillset and I’d say this year he has taken huge steps in his skating. He’s put in the work and he’s earned the trust of the coaches. For a first year player he has done exceptionally well. There’s a wide gap in his improvement this year. He’s a dependable two-way player, plus he has some hand skills to do damage offensively. He’s had a pretty solid first year.”

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club. Mark Stepneski is an independent writer whose posts on DallasStars.com reflect his own opinions and do not represent official statements from the Dallas Stars. You can follow Mark on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.

SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

WESTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 z - DAL 82 50 23 9 267 230 109
2 x - STL 82 49 24 9 224 201 107
3 x - CHI 82 47 26 9 235 209 103
4 y - ANA 82 46 25 11 218 192 103
5 x - LAK 82 48 28 6 225 195 102
6 x - SJS 82 46 30 6 241 210 98
7 x - NSH 82 41 27 14 228 215 96
8 x - MIN 82 38 33 11 216 206 87
9 COL 82 39 39 4 216 240 82
10 ARI 82 35 39 8 209 245 78
11 WPG 82 35 39 8 215 239 78
12 CGY 82 35 40 7 231 260 77
13 VAN 82 31 38 13 191 243 75
14 EDM 82 31 43 8 203 245 70

STATS

2015-2016 PLAYOFFS
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Benn 9 5 7 5 12
J. Spezza 9 4 6 1 10
C. Eakin 9 0 7 1 7
A. Goligoski 9 3 2 -5 5
P. Eaves 7 2 3 3 5
P. Sharp 9 3 1 0 4
R. Faksa 9 2 2 1 4
J. Klingberg 9 1 3 -5 4
A. Hemsky 9 1 3 0 4
M. Janmark 8 1 3 -1 4
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
K. Lehtonen 4 1 0 .903 2.70
A. Niemi 1 3 2 .872 3.33
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