Given rookie left-winger Luke Gazdic's cordial and pleasant off-ice demeanor, you would never guess his on-ice role. In his own words, "All I'm going to do is go out there and hit everything that moves and defend my teammates, if need be, by any means necessary."
The 21-year old Canadian, the Dallas Stars 6th round draft pick in 2007, racked up the penalty minutes, earning 155 PIMs in 49 games with Texas in their inaugural season. The rookie also chipped in 3 goals and an assist.
Gazdic, however, was sidelined for the Stars playoff run with a shoulder injury. The injury from early in the season was exacerbated when he was hit awkwardly in a game against the Moose on January 2nd. Gazdic missed some time in January but recovered to finish out the season. Luke, who was not on the Stars Clear Day roster, opted to have shoulder surgery at the end of the regular season and watched the playoff run from the press box.
"I thought I was going to be able to get on the ice [at development camp]," said Gazdic during this weekend's Stars Development Camp in Frisco, Texas. "I'm only about halfway. Usually a full recovery is 16 weeks. The goal is probably the tournament at Traverse City. Hopefully I should be ready for that."
Gazdic engaged in off-ice team building exercises and off-ice conditioning with JJ McQueen this past weekend. He also skated briefly between team practice sessions on Sunday afternoon.
It was hard for the rookie to watch his first professional playoff run from the press box, especially some of the more physical games. "[With the] type of style of game I play, it was definitely hard to sit back and watch some of those games go on." Gazdic was spotted many a time on the verge of falling out the press box to get a better look at the scrums. "[I was] thinking about coming down to ice level, but I kept my cool up there."
Gazdic is aware that he has some big fans in the arena who have latched on to his physicality. "If [the fans] have taken a liking to my style of play, that's also nice to see. You see a lot of Gazdic jerseys and t-shirts out there, and it's definitely nice when someone's showing you support. I'm glad I have some fans out there."
Moving forward, the young winger knows that he is still growing as a player. "[Next year] I won't be a rookie anymore, but I'm still only 21 years old."
Showing maturity, he also knows his role on the Texas Stars roster. "I'm not a skilled hockey player, I'm not a skill guy. I believe I have the ability to play, but that is not my role on a hockey team."
"If I can chip in offensively every once in a while with a couple goals, that would be nice as well." And the crowd will surely go wild whenever he does.