Comments / New

Logan Stankoven in an exclusive interview: “My time in Dallas can‘t come soon enough”

I’ll start by cutting right to the chase.

That Logan Stankoven – the player – is one of the most tantalizing hockey prospects in the world right now, we already know. You don’t have to be an expert to see that his 2.25 points per game pace this season is short only to another young phenom, Connor Bedard. You know, the one that teams are praying to draft first overall this summer.

Also during the time this article was being put together, Logan Stankoven scored in every one of the 27 WHL games he’s played this season. He’s been a well known commodity in Western Canada for a few years now. Hell, even Connor Bedard idolized Stankoven as a player when he was a kid. But what about Logan Stankoven, the person? Especially with young players, prospects and teenagers in general, it’s great to see the player behind the jersey.

Talking with Stankoven – albeit for a short period of time – was one of the most enjoyable and thoughtful conversations I have had with a 19-year old that I can remember. Listen, we’re all guilty of being mentally too involved in hockey. But sometimes, we forget it’s not all about goals and assists, or the corsis or expected goals. There are more important things in life and it’s safe to say that both of Logan’s parents – Wes and Deana – did a pretty good job raising the person behind the jersey.

This is Logan Stankoven.

The 2021 NHL Draft class for the Dallas Stars has the potential to become the second wave of franchise-altering players to boost and maintain the team in the echelon of true and perennial contenders for many years to come. It’s always a feel-good exercise when somebody does a re-draft of a selected year and two or three of the team’s picks appear in the Top 10 with the benefit of hindsight.

That’s what happened to Dallas in the 2017 draft with Miro Heiskanen (selected 3rd overall), Jake Oettinger (26th overall), and Jason Robertson (39th overall). All of them are going Top 10, if not Top 5 in a re-draft. If you could do the same for the 2021 draft right now, a mere 18 months after it happened, there is a very solid chance two of the Stars’ picks are also making the Top 10 in their class. I’m obviously talking about Wyatt Johnston (23rd overall) and Logan Stankoven (47th overall). Furthermore, the class features some other intriguing picks like Artem Grushnikov (48th overall), Conner Roulette (111th overall) and Francesco Arcuri (175th overall).

The Dallas Stars scouting department did an overall fantastic job of identifying hidden talent in a wiped out season due to COVID-19 in some cases (Johnston). But with Logan Stankoven, the issue amongst scouts has always been more about his height and his ability to translate it to the NHL level. Basically, the same conversation that was circling about one Alex DeBrincat during the 2016 NHL Draft.

The Stars whiffed on the possibility of taking DeBrincat in 2016 (as did all other 29 teams, to be fair — some even twice) and selected Riley Tufte instead. They weren’t making that mistake this time around. Fortunately for them, what Logan Stankoven lacks in size he definitely makes up for in effort, and he certainly does not play small.

Quite the opposite, actually:

The talk of the town in Dallas has been recently tied to another high-profile prospect from that draft class — Wyatt Johnston – and deservedly so. He’s made the NHL team while still eligible for major junior hockey and proved that he belongs in the big league with 12 goals already to his name in just under 50 games. He scored a beauty on his debut and hasn’t stopped ever since. On the contrary, he is improving and becoming a better player on a game-to-game basis to the point it’s no longer a fluke, per coach Pete DeBoer and also analytics-wise. What was so exciting during this season’s training camp is that Dallas could have very easily had two 19-year olds on the opening night roster.

Logan Stankoven was very close to making the NHL roster out of training camp.

He was amongst the very last cuts but due to the current NHL–CHL agreement, he couldn’t be assigned to the AHL. It was either NHL or back to the Kamloops Blazers, the host of the 2023 Memorial Cup.

If you think Stankoven has wavered in any way from his desire to make it to the NHL as soon as possible, you’d be wrong.

When he was assigned to Kamloops he wasn’t bitter about it. He took it as another year of opportunity to work on his game and to come back to Dallas as a more complete player. “My goal coming into that training camp was to stick around for as long as possible and try to make my name in front of the (new) coaching staff,” Stankoven said. “I kinda understood that they had to send me down, as having two 19-year old rookies in your roster is a bit risky and also there wasn’t probably any roster space left for me, too.”

Without trying to make a thing out of it, I was about to ask how Stankoven took Wyatt Johnston, another junior player, making the NHL team while he didn’t. I didn’t even need to. “Wyatt had a great training camp and he definitely deserved to make the team, so there are no hard feelings from me,” he said. “We’re actually pretty close friends with Wyatt but also Mavrik (Bourque), Francesco Arcuri and of course my teammate here in Kamloops – Matthew Seminoff. When we had free time during the training camp in Dallas, we hung out together, went to the malls, and we’re really rooting for one another.”

So, with the crazy schedule Stankoven has had during this season, does he have time to follow his potential future teammates playing all across North America?

“I watch Wyatt quite a lot, but that’s because he’s on the TV all the time,” Stankoven said. “I have to admit, I don’t follow Mavrik’s games that closely but I know he’s playing great in the AHL, too.”

The season Stankoven has had so far has been nothing short of adventurous. Let’s just summarize the teams he has played for since August: Canada’s U20 team at World Juniors, Dallas Stars prospect team in the Traverse City tournament, Dallas Stars in the pre-season, Kamloops Blazers in the WHL and then again a different Canadian team at the second World Juniors tournament within just four months.

He was a top-three player on both Canadian teams winning the World Juniors tournaments. Playing for multiple different teams and achieving medals might have its advantages, but it also came at a cost for Stankoven. “I’m a really big believer in summer training camp for hockey players. That’s the time I have for myself, where I can really dig in and focus on myself as a player: work on my stickhandling, my shot and the things that make me the player I am,” he said. “Obviously, having your summer training cut short wasn’t ideal, but then again, playing for your country is probably the greatest honor in our sport, so I wasn’t complaining at all. Winning that gold medal in summer made the participation in the World Juniors tournament that much better.”

It’s a marvelous coincidence that Tom Gaglardi, the owner of the Dallas Stars, is also part-owner of the Kamloops Blazers — and they are on a mission. Hosting the Memorial Cup is no small thing, basically giving you a 25 percent chance of winning the Cup already at the season start. “That’s a really great motivator to come back to Kamloops for one more year, having that shot at the Memorial Cup once again,” Stankoven said. “I’m beyond excited for this challenge as a captain of the Blazers.”

While it is a great challenge to cap off his extremely successful juniors career, many fans in Dallas already wish to see the name Stankoven in Victory Green. He’s tenacious, plays a strong physical game, and is as equally a good playmaker as he is a finisher. He’s exactly the type of player the Stars are missing in their current roster construction, especially within the top nine forwards. The problem is, they will have to wait for the next season for that to materialize.

Or do they?

I already hypothesized the crazy possibility of Logan Stankoven joining Dallas in my previous article. But this time, I could lay out this masterplan to Logan himself. Here’s how the conversation went:

JK: You know what date is the Memorial Cup final? (I asked this question totally expecting Logan to know this answer just vaguely, but then…)
LS: Yeah, is it June 4th or June 5th? It’s definitely one of the two.

JK: (very clearly impressed) … Wow, I didn’t expect you to just shoot the correct answer like that. Let me ask you another question then. You might have a clue why the date June 8th is also slightly significant?
LS: That’s when the Stanley Cup Finals start. (I’m not that impressed at this point, Logan’s bread and butter is clearly raising expectations – not only on the ice.)
JK: Yeah, so I was just thinking. Dallas is currently the top team in the Western Conference. They *could* be in that final spot if they play their cards right and have a bit of luck on the way. Would you be open to joining them after the Memorial Cup, hypothetically?
LS: Oh my god, what a dream. I would jump on the first plane after the Memorial Cup if they’d want me to be there. Even if we’d win the Cup with Kamloops, there would be time to celebrate after. So yeah, definitely! I hope it happens soon enough!

As I mentioned the last time, the single weirdest part about this whole dreamland scenario is that Stankoven wouldn’t even burn the first year of his entry level contract. At most, he would play a maximum of seven games in that series were he to dress then, and without any games at the start of the regular season as a “try-out”, would be well under the nine-game threshold needed to burn the first year of his ELC. Given he’s slide eligible, he would be guaranteed to slide and his contract will actually begin in 2023-24. Having a Stanley Cup ring while your NHL contract isn’t actually triggered would be quite an achievement.

Seeing the jersey collection Stankoven already has through our Whatsapp video call and being a self-proclaimed jersey nerd myself, I couldn’t resist asking. Why does Logan Stankoven wear the number 11?

Well my uncle Jeff Jones was really a big inspiration for me when I was younger,” Stankoven said. “He played for the Merritt Centennials, got the scholarship actually, and played four years at the NCAA level. He was probably the main reason for me to get into hockey and he wore number 11. I thought it would be kinda cool to wear it too. I also wore number 98 when I was a kid – but right now that number is worn by Connor Bedard in the WHL.”

“I kinda like those flashy numbers, because many great players wear those, with Gretzky, McDavid, Rantanen and now also Bedard. I would also really love to stick with the 11 though in the future, that would be so cool.”

When I mentioned to Stankoven that there is an avenue where his favorite number could be available next season, with the current bearer of number 11 in the Stars locker room – veteran Luke Glendening – being an unrestricted free agent, he said, “Oh, that would be so cool to continue with that number. But remember, I gotta make the team, first.”

And this is what struck me the most when talking to one of the most tantalizing hockey prospects in the whole world. His humbleness. It wasn’t just a typical black and white “I ask – you answer” type of dialogue. Stankoven was really insightful in his answers and most of our talk wasn’t even hockey-related at all. He was surprised I was calling him from Bali, Indonesia but he immediately chimed in with a very targeted question, asking if I had food poisoning as he heard many people have that in Bali.

Well, what can I tell you, the Bali Belly as the locals call it, is eventually coming, even for the most resilient ones. Logan 1, Juraj 0.

(Bali Belly probably 2 or 3, but let‘s not go any further.)

Let‘s rather focus on the reason why this interview happened in the first place: as I have just recently found out about Stankoven’s roots, thanks to some amazing investigation by Šimon Čop, a hockey writer for Sportnet, a hockey portal in Slovakia (not to be confused with Sportsnet in Canada).

Turns out, Stankoven’s great-grandfather, Augustin Stankoven, emigrated to Canada from Liptovske Revuce in Slovakia and even today, Stankoven keeps track of his relatives in the country. One of the distant cousins of Logan – Matej Stankoven – also plays ice hockey and is currently a member of the U16 team for Slovan Bratislava – my hometown hockey club (and also having himself quite the season).

That was how we actually finished our pleasant talk during one Sunday afternoon in Kamloops and a morning in Indonesia, albeit the next day already. Stankoven was showing me the jersey which Matej actually sent him signed and was asking me whether I know the logo of the team. I did, mostly because it’s the most recognizable and famous hockey jersey amongst Slovak clubs, and then we chuckled about it.

“I don’t have any hockey jersey to show to you Logan, but I can show you some stray dogs running around the street if you’d be interested,” I said half-jokingly.

But Logan couldn’t be caught off guard that lightly. “Yeah, actually I heard that it’s a thing there, the stray dogs everywhere…”

At that point I realized it clicked to me how Stankoven is actually mature beyond his actual age, just casually throwing out facts about life in Indonesia while never being there, asking about weather, local cuisine, and the overall vibe of the place.

I was genuinely, positively surprised after we finished chatting. But maybe I shouldn‘t have been. After all, Stankoven’s been a positive surprise ever since the Dallas Stars drafted him and throughout his young career so far. Not only defying expectations, but easily crushing them, and doing it with a smile of his own, like it really isn’t that big of a deal.

And while it may not appear to be such a big deal for Logan Stankoven, he is about to become the actual next big deal in Dallas Stars hockey.

Talking Points