The path of an NHL prospect isn’t particularly flashy or extravagant for most of those who pursue it.
Sure, some guys get to play in prestigious events such as the World Juniors, while others get to develop in professional leagues in Europe, sometimes playing with and against former NHLers.
However, for most prospects, especially those who play in the North American junior leagues, it’s far less glamorous. Your weekends involve long, cold bus trips to far-flung, little-known places with names like Prince Albert, Rouyn-Noranda, North Bay and Muskegon.
Just because there isn’t much of a spotlight on these prospects, though, doesn’t mean that they aren’t still developing as hockey players.
Red Deer Rebels defenseman Dawson Barteaux falls into this category.
The newly-19-year-old Barteaux — drafted by the Dallas Stars in the 6th round, 168th overall, in the 2018 NHL draft — doesn’t draw much attention outside of the small Alberta city he plays in, but he is quietly, steadily improving at his trade.
The 6-foot-1, smooth-skating defenseman is an assistant captain for the Rebels and logs a lot of minutes for his club, and has produced 24 points in 44 games for his efforts. Red Deer is one of the better teams in the WHL this year, and they wouldn’t be at this point without Barteaux’s consistent, calming presence on the back end.
He recently made a trip to Brandon, Manitoba to play the WHL’s Wheat Kings, the nearest team to his tiny hometown of Foxwarren. A journalist with the Brandon Sun caught up with the local boy while he was in town to pick his brain, including questions about what it’s like to be an NHL prospect and his relationship with the Stars.
After being drafted by Dallas, he attended rookie and main camps. He gained a lot of experience and is grateful for the opportunity.
“It definitely helps, just seeing some of those pros and seeing what they do to get ready for games,” Barteaux said. “I tried to pick up on little things that they do in their game that I can put into mine to make me just a little bit better because the game is filled with all of those little details. I’m trying to pick up a little bit, but not too much where I totally change my game. I just want to input a few them to make myself a little bit better.”
The club delivered the same message to him that NHL teams often give to their prospects: Get bigger, get stronger and continue to focus on the details. He said they’ve been checking in with him all season to monitor his progress and offer any advice they can.
Barteaux still has at least one more year of WHL eligibility remaining before potentially jumping to the AHL, and it’s pretty unlikely that he’ll be suiting up for Team Canada at the World Juniors next winter, so he probably won’t be a prospect that Stars fans hear a lot about in the near future, unless Red Deer challenges for a WHL title.
That’s just as well. He’ll just keep quietly and steadily developing his game in the meantime, long bus rides and all. After all, why fix things if they’re not broken?
North American Juniors
Kitchener Rangers forward Riley Damiani had himself a game to remember recently, registering a five-point night (all assists) against the Windsor Spitfires on Friday. The 18-year-old Damiani currently sits 9th in the OHL in terms of powerplay helpers, which is pretty impressive considering the amount of talent in the league. Video highlights of his big night can be seen below:
Speaking of big point-producing nights, Jason Robertson of the Niagara IceDogs had another one recently, although that’s pretty much par for the course for him this season. He picked up four assists in Thursday’s game against Hamilton, the eighth time this year he registered four points or more in a single game. In total, he had eight points over three games last week.
Ty Dellandrea added two points to his season totals last week, but his biggest highlight might have been an epic donnybrook. Dellandrea predominantly lets his skill do the talking, but we know now that he can hold his own in a scrap if the situation calls for it.
OHL Fight of the Year Candidate— John Morris (@JohnMorrisR53) January 19, 2019
Keean Washkurak and Ty Dellandrea
Washkurak stands up for himself after getting laid out and received an instigator for his efforts. pic.twitter.com/vDR3RUA81g
Riley Tufte had one assist in two weekend games for the University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs, showcasing just how forceful he can be in open ice once he gets a head of steam built up.
Winger and 2018 2nd-round pick Albin Eriksson is now plying his trade in Sweden’s top junior league (at least for the time being) after starting the season in the SHL. The move is likely for two reasons: Skelleftea recently added 20-year-old Chicago Blackhawks prospect Tim Soderlund, who is further along in his development, and Eriksson had hit a bit of a scoring slump in the pros, which is pretty normal for teenagers. Eriksson has three goals and one assist in three games so far in the SuperElit, so don’t be surprised if he ends up back in the SHL sooner rather than later.
It was a week that the Texas Stars probably will certainly want to forget, dropping all four games that they played, all of which came on the road.
Defenseman Gavin Bayreuther was one of the team’s lone bright spots, scoring two goals and adding a helper.
Take a look at Bayreuthers power play goal! pic.twitter.com/0UniRuJPLy— Texas Stars (@TexasStars) January 19, 2019
Texas received reinforcements on Sunday when Dallas reassigned forwards Denis Gurianov and Roope Hintz as the NHL heads into its bye week. Gurianov contributed a goal and an assist in Monday’s 6-3 loss to the Tuscon Roadrunners.
On a positive note, Joel L’Esperance’s dream rookie professional season added another memorable footnote recently, as the forward was belatedly named an AHL All-Star after other forwards were no longer available (although you could make the argument that L’Esperance should have received that honor right from the start).
After spending a bit of time in professional hockey limbo and not playing, 20-year-old goaltender Colton Point is back to making regular starts between the pipes, this time with the Idaho Steelheads. He’s still having to split netminding duties with 24-year-old Tomas Sholl, who has been one of the ECHL’s best goalies so far this season, but at least he’s getting game action. Point is currently sporting a record of 4-1-1 with a .900 save percentage for the Steelheads.