📝 by Stephen Meserve | AHL On The Beat
Six years later, it’s all come full circle for Texas Stars rookie Matej Blumel.
Blumel earned his first NHL callup this week to join the Dallas Stars. He’s one of the AHL’s top rookie scorers, with five goals and eight points in his first five AHL games.
And his recall means a return to Dallas, whose practice facility in Frisco, Texas, was the site of Blumel’s first experience with hockey in North America back in 2016.
“I was in Dallas for the Five Nations tournament, and I really liked the area,” said Blumel. “I loved the facilities and the weather. Since I knew Dallas was interested [in signing me], I wanted to end up in Dallas.
“We saw the gym, the recovery room, meal room and every part of the locker room in Frisco. I’m not going to lie if I say that the experience helped me a lot [to make the decision].”
The following year after helping his Czech Republic squad earn a silver medal in the Hlinka/Gretzky Cup, Blumel saw an opportunity to play junior hockey in North America ― but he had already missed the Canadian Hockey League draft. The United States Hockey League was still an open option, but his performance in the Cup wasn’t enough to put him on any USHL club’s radar screens.
The University of Connecticut saw some promise in the then-16-year-old Blumel as a future prospect. Seeing that he wanted to come to North America but had no connections, a scout for UConn connected him with the USHL’s Waterloo Black Hawks, who signed him and had him in Iowa within two weeks. He was a point-per-game player in his second season there.
“I had to go through the USHL, and it was probably the best decision of my life to come over to the USA and play hockey here.”
Blumel planned on lacing them up in college, committing to UConn after the USHL and heading to campus in the summer of 2019. He spent summer school in Mansfield, Conn., but decided to leave college and head home to his native Czech Republic to go pro.
The Edmonton Oilers drafted Blumel in the fourth round in 2019 but did not sign the young forward. He went to the free agent market instead, and as soon as he heard Dallas was interested, it was a great match.
Now that he’s found linemate chemistry, it’s gotten even better.
“The coaches down here in Austin put me, Riley Barber and Tanner Kero together for the first practice and I’m really glad to play with those guys. We stayed together all the way to our first game of the season,” said Blumel.
“I feel like we’re doing pretty good so far and I feel like it’s started to look like we have been playing together for a year or two.”
Blumel sees himself as a two-way forward. He played power play and penalty kill in equal measure his last season for HC Pardubice and wants to continue that trend in North America. It’s a good plan as that is the path most likely to earn him time on the NHL roster.
Quicker decision making is the one thing that Dallas focused on as Blumel was sent down originally during training camp. Coming from the larger ice sheet in Europe, there is less time in the AHL to make a choice to skate, pass or shoot before someone is pressuring you.
The good news is that Blumel has a close confidant who made the same transition. His roommate, Marian Studenic, played in the Ontario Hockey League after growing up in Slovakia. The two share an apartment in a “cool neighborhood” where they both enjoy the great weather and fine dining that Austin has to offer.
They’re even able to converse in the same language. Blumel noted that his native Czech and Studenic’s Slovak are as close as British and American English, so they can understand each other quite fluently without having to use English as a go-between lingua franca.
“It’s so nice to have someone like Marian here,” said Blumel. “He’s helped me with a lot of things since he’s been here for some time already. I’m happy we can support each other in our native languages.”
Time will tell if this is Blumel’s chance for his first NHL game and the exhilarating rookie skate in warmups. With the way he’s been scoring, he is sure to make his way back if this particular callup isn’t the one.
“If anyone had told me before starting the season that I would be scoring like this, then I would probably take it for sure,” said Blumel. “But I just don’t really think about points. I want to be the best for my team and I want to help the team as much as I can if it’s the goals or assists. I don’t really care what my role is; I’m trying to do my best.”
Stephen Meserve is the editor of 100 Degree Hockey, which has covered the Texas Stars since their inaugural season.