Dallas Stars fans had reason to cheer when Julius Honka made the team’s 2017-18 opening-night roster. The talented defenseman, still just 21 years old, already had nearly 200 AHL games under his belt, and his intense and galvanizing style of play had helped make him the Stars’ No. 1 prospect.
Now he’s found himself in Big D with the big team still carrying eight defensemen – although this particular experiment appears to be winding down, as indicated by GM Jim Nill’s tough choice to waive Patrik Nemeth (who now plays in the top 4 with the Colorado Avalanche).
The team believes Honka will learn more even by watching in the NHL than he can by toying with the opposition in Cedar Park, and so does he.
He already has logged three seasons and 191 games in the AHL, so the 21-year-old defenseman is ready to move forward. However, he's also an inexperienced player who is going to make mistakes, so the Stars have decided to keep Honka in the NHL and both play him and teach him.
"I try to take as much as I can," Honka said. "I work hard every day and try to make myself better. I definitely think you can learn from watching, so I'm trying to do that."
The last thing many Stars fans want is for one of the team’s brightest prospects to be sitting in the press box when the team could use him. But the combination of watching and video work with defensive coach Rick Wilson is meant to get Honka to NHL speed faster, and keep him there for longer.
Honka said he understands what he needs to do. The 14th player selected in the 2014 entry draft, Honka is known for his slick skating and dynamic passing. However, he has shown a tendency to skate himself into trouble in the past, so coaches are trying to help him make better decisions.
"I can't be thinking too much," he said. "I want to be confident, and then just let my play take over. I know the skill is there and that I can play out there, but it is a process. I want to play in this league a long time, so I want to make sure I'm doing it right."
There’s more in Mike’s Stars Notebook. [SportsDayDFW]
Tonight’s game is also Reunion Night with former captain Brenden Morrow. Scott Burnside sat down with Mini-Mo to talk about his life and career in Dallas.
If you can’t get enough of Li’l Murderface, Honka also leads off Sean Shapiro’s Friday mailbag – where the Stars’ NHL.com correspondent also considers Jamie Oleksiak’s place in the lineup.
Sean also has more on the newly rediscovered special-teams efficiency that has helped the Stars find a winning groove. [Wrong Side of the Red Line]
You probably heard Tyler Seguin’s postgame comment on Thursday about how the team is trying “not to get quiet on each other.” Heika examines how the Stars’ uptick in performance may be tied to its increasingly verbal leaders.
Razor’s Emporium is always more enjoyable when the Stars are winning, and Mr. Reaugh enjoyed the heck out of the Stars’ first road victory of the season.
Now that Alexander Radulov has a Texas driver’s license, will a rotary-wing permit be next? There’s more Radulov, and Seguin, and Jamie Benn, in the Stars’ latest “Open Ice” video.
Around the league(s)
All of last night’s #MDK action took place in one game, as the Winnipeg Jets picked up a win against the Minnesota Wild. The ever-terrifying Patrik Laine scored twice in the 4-3 victory. [Arctic Ice Hockey]
Alex Ovechkin scored his 20th regular-season OT goal in last night’s 4-3 Washington Capitals win over the Detroit Red Wings – and with it, the Great 8 broke a tie with Jaromir Jagr for sole possession of the NHL record. [The Sporting News]
Meanwhile, the Wings’ 0-2-1 week against elite opponents shows the importance of never taking a shift off, writes Helene St. James. [Detroit Free Press]
With Hischier, Timo Meier, Mirco Mueller, Nino Niederreiter, Roman Josi and Kevin Fiala all playing in the NHL, it’s never been a better moment for Swiss hockey, writes Paul Gackle. [San Jose Mercury News]
Jared Clinton of The Hockey News has a preview of Doug Gilmour’s new memoir, Killer: My Life in Hockey, coming to a store near you on Tuesday.
Greetings From Scenic Cedar Park
In his preview, Stephen Meserve asks if this is the year both these teams are good enough at the same time to meet in an all-Lone Star playoffs series (which would be like some alt-universe version of the Hank Hill Prayer). [100 Degree Hockey]
The Stars (both teams) sure do love these light-up bracelets – and if you’re going to H-E-B Center tonight, make sure you pick one up.
Yesterday marked the 17th anniversary of the first NHL victory for Marty Turco. The now-retired Star held down the net for a 5-1 shellacking of the Chicago Blackhawks. Enjoy it now as you no doubt enjoyed it then.