by Josh Fisher || AHL On The Beat Archive
The future for Dallas continues to shine in Cedar Park, Texas, with a trio of rookies making their case for the NHL.
All-Star selection Matt Fraser, smooth-skating defenseman Brenden Dillon and former first-round pick Scott Glennie are all developing at a rapid pace, preparing themselves to make the NHL club in the near future.
Fraser leads Texas in goals scored, ranking among the top rookies in the AHL for scoring throughout the season. Dillon has been a stable on the blueline, eating up minutes and helping bolster the Texas defense. And after a slow start due to an injury, Glennie has come on strong with a point-a-game pace since late November.
All three players are overcoming the obstacles that come with being a highly-touted rookie.
“They are all in the same boat and have a done a great job,” explained Texas head coach Jeff Pyle. “There are high expectations for these youngsters. When we started camp, you could see the talent they had right off the bat. There is a lot of pressure on young prospects to perform and the earlier the better. Those guys understand there is a commitment level that comes with being a pro. They are learning to not let the ups and downs of a season detour them from where they are trying to go. The key for them now is to work on the little things that will make a big difference in the long run.”
Glennie praises the support around him.
“I have to give a lot of credit to the coaches and management; everyone has been a big help to me. There has been some adjustment, forcing me to alter my game a little bit. A lot of my teammates have looked after me, teaching me how to be a pro.”
Being a pro is something some rookies struggle with. These young Stars have noticed the differences between being a professional and an amateur.
“There is a lot more responsibility here on you to be a pro and take care of yourself,” said the defenseman Dillon. “In juniors you are pretty much told what to do. It’s almost like you are prepared by someone else, whereas here, it is up to you to prepare yourself. Doesn’t matter if you are coming off a six- or seven-hour bus ride to Oklahoma City, it’s up to you to get your rest, eat right and be ready to go when they drop the puck. On top of that, you need to be consistent and counted on to do your best no matter what the circumstance.”
It’s not just X’s and O’s, systems and bus rides. Rookies have to adjust for life at home as well.
“To start the season, I had never done a load of laundry in my life,” said winger Fraser. “Not only are you learning how to be a pro on the ice, but off the ice as well. You need to have the discipline to be at home getting your rest and eating right. You have to take care of your body. Right now, my body is my business. The better I can treat my body, the longer I can play.”
A big advantage for 21-year-old Dillon came at the end of last season. The undrafted free agent signed with Dallas once his junior season concluded in Seattle. After posting 59 points in 72 games as one of the top scoring WHL defensemen, Dillon joined the Texas Stars for the final 10 games of the regular season. He also played in all six of the Stars’ first-round matchups against Milwaukee in the Calder Cup Playoffs, something he says helped him tremendously.
“That was an invaluable experience for me,” Dillon explained. “It was eye-opening to get to this level and see what it’s like for the first time. The guys are so much bigger and stronger here at this level. The AHL is a quality league with a lot of very good hockey players. When I came into camp in the fall, I had a much better idea of what to expect. I felt I had a mental advantage, giving me more confidence in my game.”
After suffering an injury in training camp, Glennie was delayed in his emergence as a top rookie. The soon-to-be-21-year-old winger scored only four points in his first 14 games. The eighth overall pick in 2009 has since responded with a point-per-game average since late November. Two months later, he finds himself among the team leaders in goals, assists and points.
“When I got started this season I was not getting much ice time and they were really good about easing me back into things because of the injury,” said the Winnipeg native. “We all knew the circumstances and they told me I would be brought along slowly. I was patient and kept working hard until I got my chance. After a few call ups I was given a good opportunity to do more. I wanted to make the most of it. At the end of the day, I have to give credit to those that helped me.”
Similar to Dillon, Fraser was an undrafted free agent. After putting up outstanding numbers in Kootenay of the WHL, Fraser was signed by Dallas to join the Stars organization. The 21-year-old is on pace to break the team’s single season record of 27 goals in a year, and he was selected to the 2012 AHL All-Star Classic as the Texas’ lone representative.
Throughout the season, Fraser has regularly ranked among the top goal scorers in the league, but despite his offensive success, he is still dialed in on becoming a complete player.
“It’s been a bit of an up and down season at times,” said the Alberta native. “I want to be a player that contributes in many ways, whether it’s scoring goals or blocking shots. Offensively, I feel I have done well, but sometimes you feel like you can never do enough.”
Both Fraser and Dillon have already enjoyed their first NHL callups this season. It would not be surprising to see Dallas take a look at Glennie before this season is over. Either way, the future of Dallas shines brightly, deep in the heart of Texas.