by Stephen Meserve | AHL On The Beat
When you take a look at the last year of a major junior career and see a two-points-per-game pace, your mind instantly goes to “Just think what they can do in the NHL!”
But Texas Stars forward Logan Stankoven has one word for fans, and himself, as he makes the jump to the pro ranks: Patience.
Stankoven, drafted by Dallas in the second round in 2021, put on a show for Kamloops of the Western Hockey League last season totaling 127 points across 62 regular-season, playoff and Memorial Cup games. Now he comes to the Stars with massive expectations.
“It’d be nice to be called up to Dallas,” Stankoven said earlier this week after practice in Cedar Park. “But there’s no rush to get to that level. Being able to learn how the pro game is played down here and not rushing yourself to the next level [is important], because you want to be fully prepared when you go out there. When my time is ready, I’ll be ready.”
Texas head coach Neil Graham echoed the sentiment.
“It’s not a race to get your first five (NHL) games in. His ambitions are to make a career. Learn pro hockey in general at this level, continue to trust the process, and then when your time comes, you want to stay.”
Even with the preaching of patience, the early returns have been very strong for the young Stankoven. Through Friday’s games, he is tied for second among all AHL rookies with nine points, including five goals, as he mans the wing on Texas’s top line with Matej Blumel and Mavrik Bourque.
“It’s obviously harder to get chances at this level,” said Stankoven. “I’m finding that more and more as the games go on.”
He’s put more emphasis on shooting the puck, as have his linemates. They rank 1-2-3 in team shooting with Stankoven at the top.
“I feel like I’ve been able to put myself in high-scoring areas. I think that it’s paid off for the first few games. I’m just looking to play more consistently and bring that energy, especially being a smaller guy.”
Stankoven’s size, listed at 5-foot-8, is a concern for some who have seen the game trending toward bigger and bigger bodies at all positions.
His head coach is not among those concerned.
“What I liked immediately from Logan’s game is he’s not afraid to finish a bump,” Graham said. “He’s not afraid to take a hit to make a play. He likes to hold his ground. I’m sure there’s a chip on his shoulder. I’m sure people have told him he’s too small. I’m not one of them.”
Making the jump from junior, Stankoven is playing against men now and while he notes that everyone works hard, the players in the AHL work smart, too.
“The players are so good at putting themselves in positions to either receive the puck or even just defensively breaking up plays or having sticks in lanes,” he said. “You’ve got to make sure that you’re passing the puck hard so you’re not turning the puck over.”
Stankoven is not the only one learning those lessons this season. He is one of nine rookies currently on the Texas roster.
“It’s nice all of us can learn from each other and grow as players and as people. I think we’ve got a good mix of leadership and some vets but also guys that bring energy to the team and have young legs, you could say.”
Developing those pro habits is part of the growth, both on and off the ice. The Stars have the good fortune to be located in a booming area of the country where there’s a lot to do year-round. The team encourages players to get out into the community to “invest in the city” both formally through team events and also just enjoying what the Austin area offers with great outdoor spaces and vibrant city life.
Stankoven was in a rush to get to an elementary-school community event after practice. He also had big plans for exploring the city now that he’s in his own apartment after spending every night since mid-September in a hotel room. He’s only had a chance to go to downtown Austin once – on a bus tour with his family during Dallas training camp last year – but is looking forward to more outings.
“I’ve been shopping a bit,” he added, filling up his first apartment with furniture and flatware. “It’s nice to get out, walk around and get some fresh air too.”
He does note that he’s not an in-season golfer, even despite the temperature benefits of living in Texas in December and January.
“I wouldn’t say I’m superstitious, but I try to focus on hockey when it’s hockey season.”
That focus is what will take Stankoven to the next level.
“I try to push myself every day, in the gym and on the ice, to find a piece of my game I get better at,” he said. “Can I improve my cardio today? Or can I work on my foot speed?”
The patience that Stankoven is practicing in the career sense is also part of his in-game mantra. For a player who scored in bunches in junior, that can be tough. A great game could be one where Stankoven doesn’t even see the scoresheet but contributes in all three zones.
“You may not get a point in the first 40 minutes,” said Graham, “but you still have a job to do in the third period. Can that mindset stay neutral? Can you refocus on your pro details and not change because you’re thinking, ‘I gotta get a point and I gotta score’?”
“I’m the guy that likes to score goals and make plays. It’s just about being patient and recognizing where you’re at in the game and understanding that I can’t do too much myself.”
The philosophy overall on in-game patience comes full circle when you apply it to the overall arc of his career, which he and Dallas Stars fans alike hope is a lengthy one.
“You got to play the right way. If things open up as the game goes on, that’s great. If not, you’ve got to be patient and stay positive as the game goes on.”
Stephen Meserve is the editor of 100 Degree Hockey, which has covered the Texas Stars since their inaugural season.