On Monday, the Dallas Stars announced they had signed the club’s first-round pick in the 2014 NHL Draft (14th overall), Finnish defenseman Julius Honka to a three-year entry-level contract. Per club and league policy, financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Honka, 18, just completed his first year of playing in North America, spending last season with the Swift Current Broncos of the Western Hockey League (WHL). In the WHL, the offensive-minded d-man amassed 56 points (16-40-56) in 62 regular-season games.
After the season, he was also part of the Finland team that won the Gold Medal at the 2014 IIHF World Junior Championship.
"We are happy to have signed Julius quickly so that the young defenseman can continue the process of developing his game," said Stars general manager Jim Nill in a club-issued press release. "He’s highly skilled, moves the puck extremely well and is very competent at running a power play. We are really excited about his potential and think he has the tools to grow into an NHL defenseman in the near future."
Honka was in town last week for the Stars’ annual prospect development camp at the club’s headquarters in Frisco. One fellow prospect who already knows him quite well is 2014 second-round pick Brett Pollock, as the two squared off various times in the WHL last season as Pollock was a member of the Edmonton Oil Kings.
"Yeah, he’s definitely crafty," Pollock said of Honka. "Going up to the point to try and cover him, he’s always shooting around you or making a move on you. He’s a great player. He’s got great vision. When you’re forechecking him, he always finds that first pass. I think his offensive game is very strong and he’s a great player."
It’s unclear exactly what the Stars’ plans are for Honka in the coming season, but since fellow prospect Pollock is returning to the WHL, seeing Honka play another season there is also likely for this young blueliner.