DALLAS — Radek Faksa never expected to be here.
Sure, he knew someday he’d be in the NHL. But, less than a month into the 2015-16 season? And less than 10 months removed from shoulder surgery on his 21st birthday?
But, here he was preparing for his sixth NHL game at the American Airlines Center on Thursday morning. His youthful smile beaming as he discussed the upcoming game with Vancouver Canucks and tossed a practice jersey into the laundry bin in the middle of the room.
“It feels good,” Faksa said, pausing to untie his skates. “And I feel good.”
Faksa’s emergence has been a boon for the Dallas Stars after Curtis McKenzie was injured earlier this month. He’s quickly adapted to the NHL game and he’s opened the eyes of many critics that questioned the first round pick.
“Lots of people didn’t notice or realize what I could do,” Faksa said. “Now, I’m showing that up here.”
And one of Faksa’s first critics, who quickly turned believer, was on the opposite bench Thursday as Willie Desjardins returned to Texas.
“I know he’s there, he’s a great coach,” Faksa said. “I can’t worry about that too much … but I would say hello if I see him (off the ice).”
Late in the 2013 season — after finishing his junior season with the Sudbury Wolves — Faksa arrived in Cedar Park and played a pair of games for the Texas Stars. Desjardins gave the Czech center a chance to earn a spot on the playoff roster, but he wasn’t ready.
One year later, Faksa joined Texas again and grabbed that spot before the Calder Cup Playoffs. He then appeared in all 21 playoff games and helped hoist the team’s first championship. Desjardins used that success to land his current position in Vancouver.
“The step he made in that second year was huge,” Desjardins said. “He really came in and was huge. That line with him (Matej) Stransky and (Kevin) Henderson was big as we won that championship.”
The narrative the following year is well known. Faksa injured his shoulder and missed half the season. Whispers of “bust” started circling his name on message boards and prospect rankings.
But, Faksa showed up this season and shut up his critics.
He scored a pair of goals in the Texas Stars season opener and was the best player on the ice. That quickly escalated into his first NHL call-up and now he’s playing big minutes in the NHL.
“He’s a guy who’s played in every situation,” Dallas Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. “He’s played last minute of games, (and last minutes of) periods. He’s been in on our penalty killing. And I think anytime you bring a young guy up, and he can be responsible defensively, you’re in good shape.”
Part of Faksa’s success on the penalty kill is the cohesiveness between the Dallas and Texas systems.
While there are a couple tweaks and modifications, Faksa was simply asked to step onto NHL ice and do what he does best in Cedar Park.
“That’s really it,” Faksa said.