For the first time in his 12-year NHL career Ales Hemsky is not at Edmonton Oilers training camp.
The 31-year-old forward, who was dealt from the Oilers to the Senators in March, signed a three-year, $12 million contract with the Dallas Stars in July.
“It’s been great. It’s been fun. Everybody has been nice,” Hemsky told the team’s website following Day 2 of camp. “The guys have been great and I am just enjoying my time here. Camp is the same everywhere. It is hard work and you just get through it.”
Hemsky had 17 points in 20 games with the Senators last season playing predominantly alongside Jason Spezza, who the Stars acquired from Ottawa.
“I think he’s a smart playmaking guy who thinks the game really well,” Spezza said of Hemsky. “He works hard away from the puck to get himself open. He’s extremely skilled with it and is really good at buying himself time.”
Hemsky and Spezza have skated on a line together during the first two days of training camp and could start the season together. The Stars’ site also points out Hemsky could play alongside Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn.
“We have a lot of good options. That was the one thing why I came here; I knew they had the good centers,” Hemsky said. “And they have a good mix of guys you can play with. Even in the game, any matchup they do against you, you can flip the forwards around. That’s a big help. Not a lot of teams have that.”
Originally the Oilers first-round pick in 2001 (13th overall), Hemsky has 146 goals and 494 points in 672 NHL games.
Hemsky coupled with Spezza also gives head coach Lindy Ruff options on the team’s power play.
There’s many aspects of Hemsky’s game Ruff likes.
“His passing. I think his compete level is good. I think it is his individual skills,” Ruff said. “You saw yesterday that he had nothing coming on a play from the outside, and on a curl and drag got inside. He turned what should have been a non-scoring chance into a Grade A scoring chance on his own. I think he’s been criticized sometimes for not shooting enough when he is in those situations. He’s a heady player. He can make plays under pressure and I think those are the things that you’ve got to be able to do at this level.”
Hemsky hasn’t been to the Stanley Cup final since losing to the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006. He’s hoping to help the Stars’ capture their first championship since defeating Ruff’s Sabres in 1999.
“It’s been a while. You realize it goes quick. You think you’ll get there the next year. And then you think you’ll get there the next year, but then all of a sudden it’s eight years later you didn’t make the playoffs,” he said. “You are always hungry to make the playoffs. That’s why you are playing. That’s why you are playing hockey, why you are playing in the NHL. You want to make the playoffs and you want to win the Cup. That’s the goal.”
Hemsky certainly gives an already exciting Stars team some added depth as they try to make the playoffs in back-to-back seasons for the first time in six years.