CEDAR PARK, Texas — If the Dallas Stars hit full seller mode before the trade deadline, Matej Stransky could make his NHL debut this season.
The 23-year-old winger has taken major strides in his game over the past 12 months, and he was rewarded a couple weeks ago with a trip to the AHL All-Star Classic.
For Stransky the biggest difference is his movement and decision making.
He used to be a below-average player, but his technique and speed have reached a higher level. He’s also making quicker decisions and taking smarter paths to the puck and has been better away from the play.
It started this past summer in the Czech Republic, where Stransky works with Dallas Stars center Radek Faksa and his younger brother, Simon Stransky.
“We use a skating treadmill a couple days a week, (Faksa) drives over from his hometown — it’s only about 25 minutes,” Stransky said after the Texas Stars 3-2 win on Friday. “That and a lot of off-ice power things to get the legs going. That’s what Dallas wants me to work on, and it’s been paying off.”
Some other observations from Friday in Cedar Park:
Julius Honka was reassigned to the AHL on Friday, indicating that Jamie Oleksiak is likely ready to come off injured reserve.
Honka had a difficult travel day after flying with the NHL team from Ottawa to Dallas and then drove himself down I-35 to Cedar Park.
It was a tough travel day and Honka was good in spurts. Similar to John Klingberg, I believe Honka is a better player in the NHL than the AHL.
In the AHL Honka attempts plays and has vision that other AHL players don’t recognize in their positioning.
In the NHL those plays will actually develop more often, and Honka actually learns from his mistakes. For example, Honka’s gap control needs work, but he doesn’t get exposed in the AHL because of his speed.
I asked Honka about it after the game and he agreed with me.
“I think so, you have to be smart when you play (in the AHL) and you have to remember that you can’t make some of the same mistakes in Dallas, because it will come back to really hurt the team,” Honka said.
Hache and Ebert
I intentionally paid a bit more attention to defensemen Nick Ebert and Justin Hache on Friday.
Ebert was the return piece in the Jack Campbell trade and Hache was recently part of the deal that brought Justin Peters to Cedar Park in exchange for Branden Troock and Brendan Ranford.
Both players looked like mid-level AHL defensemen, which backs up what I’d seen on video and heard about both from scouts.
Ebert has some physical tools, a heavy shot, but isn’t positionally sound and doesn’t make quick enough decisions.
Hache is a better defensive defenseman and was in good position throughout the night. He won’t make many mistakes in the AHL, but he would be exposed by NHL players.
Some other notes:
— I caught up with Brandon DeFazio at morning skate and I was impressed.
A 28-year-old AHL-contracted forward, DeFazio has stepped into a leadership role this season and has helped several younger players, including Denis Gurianov.
DeFazio may not have an NHL future (he did play two NHL games for the Vancouver Canucks during the 2014-15 season), but he’s the type of player the Stars want around the organization.
As a player, DeFazio is like Greg Rallo and will provide AHL scoring. However, he can actually create his own chances, is a better skater, and doesn’t have the same shot that Rallo did.
— I had forgotten about the one referee system in the AHL on some nights. And on Friday that hurt the flow of the game since the ref needed medical attention three separate times for a cut.
With one minute remaining in the second period the referee went to the locker room, leaving the linesmen to handle the game themselves for the rest of the game.
In the third period one of the linesmen served as the referee in title, but it really was two linesmen for the remainder of the game.
— Tucson has an impressive array of right wings between Christian Fischer, Anthony Duclair, and Conor Garland.
— Texas signed Brendan O’Donnell to a PTO from the Florida Everblades in the ECHL. O’Donnell looks like he could be a natural finisher if put in the right spot.