Camp Notes: Laxdal on Julius Honka's Development and Texas' Exhibition Game Strategy

Derek Laxdal coaches up the troops (Credit: Michael Connell)
The Texas Stars held their second day of training camp today as the roster grows with assignments from Dallas. Players assigned from the NHL yesterday were given the day off today.

Coach Laxdal noted that there has been a lot of hockey already for many of those players over the last ten days, so it was best to give them a rest day. Those players included Brendan Ranford, Justin Dowling, Curtis McKenzie, John Klingberg, Radek Faksa and Julius Honka. Everyone else was on the ice for Texas over a 90 minute practice broken up by a short ten minute Zamboni break.

Laxdal picked up the pace today and began working on systems implementation after doing a lot of systems theory over the past few days.

"We're trying to do some system work to get ahead of the ball for the exhibition this weekend," he said. "These kids have taken in a lot of information, so for us we're just trying to work on the situations that we're implementing. Today we're pushing a little more."

For players coming down from Dallas, Laxdal does not see a lot of system differences. He added, "I like to run the same systems as Dallas with just a tweak here and there. It'll be an easy transition for kids going up and down." He made a point of emphasizing that this team will be structured and detail-oriented, as all his teams are.

Julius Honka an unexpected surprise

The addition of Julius Honka to the roster was an unexpected one for most. Laxdal has luckily had some time to get to know the youngster's game. Honka's Broncos played against Laxdal's Oil Kings in the WHL last season.

"[Honka is] a headsy, smooth-skating, and hard to play against defenseman.It's going to be big learning curve for him to go from juniors to the AHL. I'm sure he'll have peaks and valleys in his game, but the fans of Texas are going to see an exciting player."

A seemingly solidified defensive group will have to now balance the rookie first round pick, which means someone will have to be healthy scratched so that everyone can get a chance at game ice.

"He's here to play. Everyone is here to make that next step. Fortunus and Meech want to play in the NHL too and make that next step. There's a balance there. We have to lean on our leadership to help him along, but at the end of the day, we don't want to take away from those players. That's something we have to balance as a coaching staff."

The Stars are expecting that Honka's learning curve will be "sped up" as compared to where he would be in Swift Current.

"I think he's going to surprise a lot of people how poised he is on the ice, and you'll see his game take off as the season moves along."

Exhibition strategy

Texas is playing two preseason games this weekend, Friday and Sunday. Coach Laxdal was quick to point out that it's really a 3-in-3 for many of the players. It sounds like Dallas is going to have some players who have already been assigned to Texas fill out the roster for the Green v. White scrimmage on Saturday. For Laxdal, that puts a clear defining line on his strategy for each game.

For Friday's game, he will be looking to ice a lot of the tryout players to give them a fair shot at showing what they can do in a game atmosphere. That roster will be filled out with Texas- and Dallas-contracted players based on who is needed for Saturday's scrimmage. Ultimately on Sunday, Laxdal would like to ice as close to the complete lineup that he wants against Iowa on October 11th.