Heritage student and hockey standout in DFW spotlight at Stars Development Camp

Posted Monday, Jul. 15, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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As the youngest player invited to the Dallas Stars Development Camp over the past two weeks, 17-year-old Jeff Baum had some nerves to shake out.

As a rising junior at Colleyville Heritage, he was thrown on the ice with the Stars’ top draft picks from this season, as well as picks from past seasons and undrafted free agents looking to land an NHL contract.

Among those players was the Star’s top pick in the 2013 draft, Valeri Nichushkin, who signed a three-year, entry-level contract for a reported $2.124 million salary cap hit per season during the camp.

There was no question Baum could hold his own against some of the best young talent in the world, but that didn’t keep him from having the scare of his life.

During a drill, Baum shot a puck around the boards, thinking no one was near the high-speed projectile. Little did he know or see, the potential future star of the Stars’ was wheeling around behind the net right as he released the shot.

Luckily the rubber disk whizzed past Nichushkin’s nose, avoiding the biggest, and most costly, mistake of Baum’s life.

But, hey, at least he got the non-English speaking Russian to crack a smile.

“It was the scariest feeling I’ve ever had,” Baum said. “Luckily I didn’t hit him, because that would have cost me, like, $10 million. It was the first time I got him to laugh, so it was pretty funny.”

Baum’s candid storytelling of the near-gaffe fits his personality to the letter. Whenever he was on the ice or anywhere around StarsCenter Frisco during the camp, he radiated his joy and love for the game in a mile-wide grin.

“I like him being around, he always seems like he has a smile on face and I’ve liked what he’s brought to the table,” said Development Camp coordinator Brent Severyn. “I like him being around and he seems to be enjoying his experience.”

Baum was one of three Tarrant County residents to receive an invite to the camp to learn what it takes to be a pro and sharpen their skills from the tutelage of professional coaches. For Baum, it was also a milestone achievement for the hard work and passion he’s put into his game.

He began skating at the age of three when his family took a ski trip to Colorado. After a week of lessons, he looked like someone who had skated for a year, his dad, also named Jeff Baum, said. A few years later, the young Baum joined leagues at StarsCenter Euless, then StarsCenter Valley Ranch, quickly developing a knack for defense. Through his first two years of high school at Heritage he played AAA club hockey in the area, away from the spotlight of football and other UIL sanctioned sports.

In the one season he played with the Heritage club team, just for fun and extra practice, he finally received his due respect when the big man on campus, standout quarterback of the Heritage football team and Oklahoma commit Cody Thomas, came to a game.

“He came to a game of mine one time because his buddy also plays hockey too,” Baum said. “He came and watched and it was pretty funny to see him in the stands. I’m usually watching him play.”

Little did Thomas know, Baum’s talent was growing too big for the campus and even North Texas.

Next season, Baum will play for the New York Bobcats, a Tier III Junior A team, living in New York with a host family during the season. He will, however, still be a Heritage Panther, taking online classes toward his degree.

The experience so far from home will be nothing new to Baum, who spent a year when he was 12 flying by himself on the weekends to Minnesota to practice and play with a club team based in the northern state. When he was 14, he flew to play in the Czech Republic with a team of players he had not met previously, without his parents, and was stuck in Europe for an extra four days because of volcano eruptions in Iceland.

Even after spending a years’ time training with Stars’ strength coach Brad Jellis and getting pointers from Stars’ defenseman Trevor Daley, the professional experience he received at Development Camp was a memory for a lifetime. He was representing the team he grew up idolizing from the time he was three-years old and his dad took him to games during the 1999 Stanley Cup Championship run.

“The first time I stepped on the ice wearing the new logo on my chest and actually be representing the Stars for the week is an amazing feeling,” Baum said. “There’s nothing better than coming out and having professional coaches evaluate you and learn so much so fast.”

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