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Players to Watch in 2015-16: Julius Honka

Jun 18, 2015

Defenseman Julius Honka certainly had a whirlwind season to begin his pro hockey career in 2014-15.

The Dallas Stars drafted him 14th overall a year ago in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft after he scored 56 points in 62 games (14 goals, 40 assists) with the WHL’s Swift Current Broncos and won a gold medal with Finland at the World Junior Championships. Many originally thought the then 18-year-old would return to junior hockey for another year of seasoning. Instead, the youngster was impressive enough in NHL training camp that Dallas Stars general manager Jim Nill opted to assign him to the American Hockey League’s Texas Stars.

“In seeing him in Traverse City and in training camp, he’s a very mature player who is more than ready for this. If we didn’t think he could handle it, we would have made a different decision, but he proved himself,” said Nill back in September.
 

Honka wasted no time to introduce himself to the fans in Cedar Park. In his debut on opening night of the 2014-15 campaign, he drilled a shot from the point with 44 seconds left in the second period to score his first career goal. The power play strike gave Texas a 3-1 lead on the way to a 4-2 victory over the visiting Iowa Wild.

Entering the 2014-15 season as the youngest player in franchise history, Honka quickly tallied five points in his first six games with Texas. As he continued to adapt to playing the game at a higher level, the dividends started paying off in the second half of the season. He notched seven points in 12 February games, added five more in eight games during March and closed out the regular season with seven points in the team’s final nine games in April.

Said Texas Stars head coach Derek Laxdal at the end of the regular season, “I think the biggest differences have been patience and maturity. Coming into the league as a 19-year-old and playing in almost every game and in key situations – lots of five-on-five and power play time – he’s really taken a step in his game.”

Honka finished the 2014-15 season with 31 points in 68 games for Texas on eight goals and 23 assists. Nineteen of those points came in his final 29 games (four goals, 15 assists). He ranked third in scoring among AHL rookie defensemen for the regular season, and also added a goal and an assist in three playoff games for Texas.

“I got more comfortable with the puck and was able to do those offensive plays,” Honka said.

Moving forward to 2015-16, Honka will look to continue to build on a successful second half of last season and improve on the details of the game at the AHL level.

“Myself, I think my game improved a lot through the season and it’s good to build on that.” His main focus for his second season, Honka said will be “the all-around game. How to make the right decision in the right spots and that’s maybe my biggest thing.”

The odds are that Honka will still be the only teenager on the Texas Stars roster when the puck drops on the upcoming season. But it is the on-ice maturity he exhibited as a rookie in Cedar Park last year that makes him a player to watch in 2015-16.

Entering the 2014-15 season as the youngest player in franchise history, Honka quickly tallied five points in his first six games with Texas. As he continued to adapt to playing the game at a higher level, the dividends started paying off in the second half of the season. He notched seven points in 12 February games, added five more in eight games during March and closed out the regular season with seven points in the team’s final nine games in April.

Said Texas Stars head coach Derek Laxdal at the end of the regular season, “I think the biggest differences have been patience and maturity. Coming into the league as a 19-year-old and playing in almost every game and in key situations – lots of five-on-five and power play time – he’s really taken a step in his game.”

Honka finished the 2014-15 season with 31 points in 68 games for Texas on eight goals and 23 assists. Nineteen of those points came in his final 29 games (four goals, 15 assists). He ranked third in scoring among AHL rookie defensemen for the regular season, and also added a goal and an assist in three playoff games for Texas.

“I got more comfortable with the puck and was able to do those offensive plays,” Honka said.

Moving forward to 2015-16, Honka will look to continue to build on a successful second half of last season and improve on the details of the game at the AHL level.

“Myself, I think my game improved a lot through the season and it’s good to build on that.” His main focus for his second season, Honka said will be “the all-around game. How to make the right decision in the right spots and that’s maybe my biggest thing.”

The odds are that Honka will still be the only teenager on the Texas Stars roster when the puck drops on the upcoming season. But it is the on-ice maturity he exhibited as a rookie in Cedar Park last year that makes him a player to watch in 2015-16.

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