Radek Faksa is far from an unknown commodity. After all, the Dallas Stars selected him 13th overall in the 2012 NHL Draft.
However, the young center’s recent offensive surge which saw him net his first career hat trick on Nov. 28 at Las Vegas, finish a four-game stretch with seven points (five goals) and earn NHL Third Star of the Week honors on Dec. 5, was somewhat unexpected.
“The boys helped me a lot, they set me up a few times. That made it much easier, but I felt confident and I felt really good,” Faksa said. “Sometimes everything’s going in for you, sometimes it’s not. That week, everything went in for me and I appreciate that.”
The Dallas Stars (18-14-2) begin a big homestand this week. Nine of their next 10 games are at home, starting with Washington on Tuesday night.
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As for Faksa, he’s found a role with the Stars that will likely grow. In 33 games played this season, he has 17 points, including 10 goals. He has three game-winning goals.
Faksa made his NHL debut in 2015 and as a rookie had 12 points (seven assists) in 45 games. But he really turned heads in the 2016 playoffs, when he had five points (three goals) in 13 games and won over 50 percent of his face-offs, a solid showing from someone making his postseason debut.
His transition to the NHL was seamless, which he credits to former teammate Ales Hemsky, a fellow Czech Republic product who mentored Faksa by taking him into his home and showing him the ropes of what it takes to have sustained success stateside.
Last season, Faksa set a career-high with 33 points (21 assists) in 80 games. However, last season was defined more by what didn’t happen, missing the playoffs, a feeling he’d rather not experience again, than anything else.
“Last year, I found out it’s so hard to get to the playoffs and it won’t happen every year, so we have to enjoy it (when it does happen),” Faksa said. “I still remember the atmosphere in playoff hockey. That’s what you work for, it’s very exciting. I think we’ve got a good chance in the playoffs (this season) if we make it.”
During his first two-plus NHL seasons, Faksa has been a fixture on Dallas’ third and fourth lines.
And as one of the Stars’ top young centers, he has been especially strong on face-offs. For his short career, Faksa has won 49.3 percent of his playoffs. However, this season he is winning inside the circle 52.4 percent of the time.
Faksa’s consistent prowess in the circle has been impressive, but Stars captain Jamie Benn has noticed something equally noteworthy about his 23-year- old teammate.
“He puts the effort in and he’s a great professional,” Benn said. “He’s very consistent with that and he’s still learning the game, but he’s a smart player. He’s can play in all situations. We have a lot of confidence in him and when he’s got that in himself, he’s a pretty good player.”
Someone else Faksa has made a strong impression on is first-year Stars coach Ken Hitchcock, who after a recent practice called the young center Dallas’ “most improved player by a mile.”
“Faksa’s done a great job for us. He’s done a great job killing penalties. He’s gotten so much better over a short period of time,” Hitchcock said. “Where he’s really done a great job is creating offensive opportunities off work, and that’s a real pleasant surprise.”
Faksa came to Texas in April 2014, when he was first assigned to the Stars’ American Hockey League affiliate in Cedar Park, on the northern end of Austin. The following season, he made his NHL debut and shuttled between Cedar Park and Dallas. And on several of those drives up and down Interstate 35, he visited a popular spot in West, Czech Stop. On his first visit to the busy kolache shop, he jokes about asking if they had any fellow Czechs working there. They didn’t.
Those drives are now in the past as Faksa became an NHL regular last season. But no matter whether he’s been in the AHL or NHL, Faksa considers himself very blessed to have spent most of the past four years in the Lone Star State.
“I love Texas. It’s probably one of the best states in the US, right? I love the weather, I love the people, I love the city. I’m really, really happy here,” he said.