PITTSBURGH, PA - JUNE 22: Radek Faksa (R), 13th overall pick by the Dallas Stars, shakes hands on stage with Stars general manager Joe Nieuwendyk during Round One of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft at Consol Energy Center on June 22, 2012 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
All month long we've discussed how the centers the Dallas Stars desired in the 2012 NHL Draft would likely go five to six picks before they were up to bat, and that their decision at 13 could possibly be one of reaching for a center not projected to go that high, or taking the best player available regardless of position. None of it came to fruition as defenseman after defenseman was taken in the first round and Radek Faksa fell right into their laps.
Couple it with 21-year old Cody Eakin, acquired earlier in the evening, and the Stars need for high end center prospects evaporated in the span of 90 minutes Friday night.
The 18 year-old center from the Czech Republic was taken 22nd in the CHL's Import Draft last June as he, like his countryman Tomas Vincour, came to North America to pursue his dream of one day playing in the NHL. Faksa thrived in his rookie season with the Rangers, putting up better than a point a game while climbing his way up the draft rankings.
"We know he's a world-class offensive player," says his (now) former coach Steve Spott with Kitchener, "but I think what makes him attractive to NHL scouts is the fact he might play earlier than expected because he's able to defend at what I consider an elite level right now."
Faksa does not dazzle offensively, yet, but holds his own and scouts say he could be a 40 goal scorer with Kitchener next year. His offensive game could continue to bloom, but it's his work ethic, character, and elite defending that makes people think he can be a good second-line center in the National Hockey League some day.
The question Stars fans are asking is, "Is that day this coming Fall?"
Faksa is 18 years old and has played one season in the CHL. Current transfer agreements limit players drafted into the CHL from playing in the AHL until they're 20 years old, or until they've completed four seasons in Canadian Juniors. Faksa would have to make the NHL roster in camp, or go back to Kitchener for at least another season.
He is considered more NHL-ready than many in the first round of this draft, so development and training camps will be key to guage his progress. With the addition of Eakin and whatever else the Stars do in the trade market and free agency, the need to rush a top prospect like this could be, and should be greatly diminished....
More after the jump
Centre / Kitchener Rangers - OHL
September 1 1994
Hometown: Opava - Czech Republic
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Faksa played junior hockey in his native country, living out of a hotel room for years while playing for a team located about 50 miles from his home town, and told media recently that living away from home in Kitchener was not a challenge for him.
"It wasn't too tough for me because I lived in Czech by myself because I played in other cities. It wasn't problem for me," he said. "Bigger problem for me was English because I didn't speak English before I came here."
He speaks English now and became acclimated to the North American game quickly, boding well for his future development before reaching the NHL level.
His mother, a former figure skater, started teaching him to skate at age three. Faksa credits his success in hockey to both his parents and coaches; his parents for the support they provided and his coaches for allowing him to play with older players to help his development. Faksa's older brother, Martin, was a defenseman and his uncle, Stanislav Pavelec, played professional hockey for seven years in the Czech Republic.
In a pre-season meeting, Spott wrote down the No. 50 to show Faksa where he was ranked to go in the NHL draft.
"Then he drew an arrow pointing down showing that I have to climb to get in the first round," said Faksa.
Still, the team had tempered expectations. Import picks often take a year to adjust to the culture, language and hockey style in the OHL. Not Faksa.
"Socially we saw the most growth," said Spott. "His personality is magnetic. He really became accepted by our team quickly because he has that boyish smile still.
"On the ice, we all saw the emergence of what is going to be a future NHL player."
Faksa became a fan favourite in Kitchener. After years of playing for a few hundred fans in Trinec, he relished the sold-out crowds at the Aud and marvelled at seeing supporters don jerseys with his last name on the back.
News of his highlight reel goals spread quickly throughout the league and back home. Months after his debut, the Czechs added him to their world junior hockey roster, even though he was only 17.
From our prospect profile earlier this month, courtesy DBD writer Huw Wales:
Radek Faksa is clearly a well rounded centre prospect who must be very tempting for an organisation that is lacking in elite centre prospects. Though Faksa is unlikely to be a natural first line centre he is certainly capable of being a very good second line centre. He has done very well for a rookie playing for the first time in North America and this reflects positively for his future in the NHL. There is nothing really to fault in his game, except that he lacks a ‘wow' factor. If he is constantly good and not occasionally amazing and the rest of the time average then I am fine with him not having the ‘wow' factor.
Radek Faksa is one of the prospects that are on top of the Dallas Star's wishlist at the draft. He would go a long way to help put some depth in the centre prospect pool. It's also a possibility that he could be NHL ready by next season. The Stars have been cautious with their prospect development recently so it's unlikely if he was drafted by the Dallas Stars that he would be playing in the NHL next season. In my opinion I'm almost certain that if Radek Faksa is available by the time the Dallas Stars are picking then they will pick him.
Good call, Huw.