CEDAR PARK — Google routinely helps Radek Faksa recalibrate his life.
Transforming feet into meters. Swapping Celsius for Fahrenheit. It’s all part of the 20-year-old Czech’s growing assimilation as he settles into Central Texas during his true rookie season with the Texas Stars.
“I’m kind of used to it already,” Faksa said recently, referring to the conversions. “I can do some of it in my head, like how many pounds in a kilo. So it’s not a big problem for me anymore.”
On the ice, Faksa is working on another conversion — this one to transform him into a reliable, defensive center.
“Our line’s job is on the (penalty kill) and to win important faceoffs. All things people don’t see that much,” Faksa said. “It’s kind of different than the other guys. My role isn’t really offense, but that doesn’t mean I can’t score.”
Faksa has four points (two goals, two assists) in 22 games for Texas this season, underwhelming numbers for a player who was drafted 13th overall in the National Hockey League’s 2012 entry draft. But his game passes the “eye test” as measured by hits, blocks, faceoff wins and time on the ice — stats that are staples in the NHL but aren’t released publicly in the American Hockey League.
“He’s a player you can trust in all situations,” a scout for an NHL Western Conference team said last week. “He’s got good size and uses it well. He also has good vision; you can see that on the penalty kill.”
Faksa is a staple on the Stars’ improving penalty-kill unit, and he’s often the first center on the ice after an infraction. He’s also called upon to take crucial faceoffs late in games and within the defensive zone.
“He’s been outstanding, and for him to play in the National Hockey League, he’s going to (have to) be a shutdown center,” Stars coach Derek Laxdal said after a Nov. 29 victory against the Iowa Wild, in which Faksa took a crucial faceoff with 3.5 seconds to play. “He’s going to be relied upon, and we’ve really moved forward with his game … we’re going to set him up to be a checking center. We’re going to challenge him to shut down those top units more.”
Faksa found some immediate success after he joined Texas late in the 2013-14 season upon completing his junior career with the Sudbury Wolves. He could have watched games from the press box in a de facto AHL playoff internship, but then-Stars coach Willie Desjardins gave Faksa an opportunity to earn playing time in the postseason.