The Dallas Stars are desperate for defensive answers as the regular season chugs along. Is Julius Honka quickly becoming one of those solutions?
The Dallas Stars made a bold move last week when they called up Julius Honka and Esa Lindell from their AHL affiliate Texas Stars. Their less than impressive defense led them to the realization that despite the praise he had received, John Klingberg needed to get a message.
As No. 3 sat in the press box, both Honka and Lindell took the ice. It was Honka’s NHL debut and he played rather well, tallying an assist in the 3-2 overtime victory over the Minnesota Wild.
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He has only suited up twice since his debut, three games total, but No. 6 has been notably impressive.
Boldness with the Puck
Julius Honka’s only point to date was a beautiful set up from the top of the circle near the goal line. He made a rather impressive move to get the puck to the front of the net, which was then tipped in by Brett Ritchie.
This is not the kind of play expected from a 20-year-old defender playing in his first NHL game. Mainly because it is the kind of play that requires skill and a sense of confidence in the offensive zone.
Honka’s ability to not only pinch on this play successfully, but to identify the opportunity to pinch as a reasonable risk to take is something that will only benefit him moving forward. It is a difficult league to skate in and the fact that the Finnish native took the chance to get in on the play in the offensive zone is commendable.
One of the biggest issues young defenders deal with is patience, or rather lack thereof. It is such a fast-paced game that requires precision in a very short period of time. The window for outlet passes is incredibly small, but Honka manages to find a way without rushing.
He is composed and can identify the need to wait before moving the puck. No. 6 is not simply moving the puck because he feels pressure to do so, but rather because he is methodical in his play.
Knowing where to ideally place the puck and actually putting there are two entirely different things, but through three games Honka seems to know the difference. Overall his hockey intelligence is way ahead of his experience in this league.
Not to mention that he plays a simple game. That reinforces the theme of the Dallas Stars’ defensive strategy is another thing that makes him shine brighter than the average rookie defender.
All in All
Honka is not the No. 1 Stars defender at the moment, but he has played well enough to earn a temporary spot in the line-up. With Stephen Johns being sent down to the AHL, Julius Honka has the opportunity to cement his place on the roster and truly take advantage of the injury to Johnny Oduya.
From the very small sample of three games played thus far, Honka seems to be moving in the right direction. He is the kind of player the Stars need right now and, who knows, he could be around for longer than expected if he maintains the level of play he has had in his NHL career start.