Defenceman Dawson Barteaux received a unique directive from the Red Deer Rebels coaching staff last season.
In some ways, it laid the groundwork for what happened on Thursday for the kid from the small town of Foxwarren, Man.
Barteaux inked a deal with the Dallas Stars, the team that spent a sixth-round flier on the blueliner in the 2018 NHL Draft.
After attending Stars training camp last year and playing in the rookie tournament, it was a challenge from head coach Brent Sutter that changed the course for the 19-year-old.
“Dawson was able to put his ego aside and change the way that he played, so he could get what he wanted to get at the end of the day, which was an NHL contract and his best opportunity,” said Rebels assistant Brad Flynn, who works with the Rebels’ defencemen.
“Especially for a young player, that’s not easy to do. You have your parents, you have minor hockey coaches, you have friends – especially from a small town, telling you you’re a superstar and you play a certain way. It takes a lot of maturity and a lot of self-discipline to put your ego aside. One of the ways Brent wanted to do that, was he wanted him to compete and play harder.”
That led to a career year for the rearguard, where he posted seven goals and 27 assists in 67 regular-season games. He then impressed enough through the eight-team rookie tournament in Traverse City, Mich. and also suited up for his first NHL exhibition game earlier this month.
What a day. Life long dream signing with the @DallasStars. Thanks to my coaches, teammates, fans, and my family for the support. Looking forward to the future!
— Dawson Barteaux (@24Barteaux) September 26, 2019
Those last two events were critical in helping Dallas see the type of player Barteaux had the potential to be, according to Flynn.
“That was the first thing that Rich Peverley, their director of player development said to me. How impressed he was at Traverse City, that he played like a man– he played physical, he played strong and played an old-school game. Compared to a more finesse game,” added Flynn.
“All the credit goes to Dawson because he had the wherewithal to put his ego aside and change his game, which is very challenging to do especially as a young player.”
Although signing on the dotting line wasn’t a complete surprise– Barteaux said he had some indication leaving camp last week that they might offer him a contract soon, it was still a dream come true.
“Obviously, it’s a huge accomplishment and something I’ve been looking forward to since I was a little kid, dreaming of playing in the NHL,” Barteaux said ahead of Rebels practice on Thursday.
“That’s the next step in the journey. I’m super excited about it, but there’s a lot of work to come.”
The Dallas Stars have signed defenseman Dawson Barteaux to a three-year, entry-level contract.
— Dallas Stars (@DallasStars) September 26, 2019
Some of that work happened this summer, too. Barteaux said he put in plenty of work in the off-season to become a tougher player to play against and it has paid early dividends.
“I think that had a lot to do with me focusing on my summer training and making sure I was getting bigger and stronger, so I could come in and be more of a physical force,” he said.
“That’s something that Brent has been harping on me and I’ve deserved it for sure. I have to play with more of an edge and I’ll keep that going. Obviously, it’s been working so far.”
Wearing the ‘C’ for the Rebels this year, Barteaux has also taken on more of a leadership role for a young Rebels club that is in the middle of a rebuild.
Flynn noted that since the 19-year-old has been back from the club, he’s noticed him be more professional in his approach to all aspects of the game– on and off the ice. That’s a critical step for a leader on a WHL club.
“A great leader can put his ego aside. Some games he’s not going to have his best game but he still has to lead the team and he has to worry about that,” Flynn said.
“Put his ego aside and not worry about him, be unselfish and always put the team first. When I think of Dawson Barteaux, I’ve coached a lot of really good people in my time, he’s right up there at the top of the list.”
Signing a three-year, entry-level contract for $925,000 per year (if in the NHL), with a $92,500 signing bonus, it would certainly be easy to gather a bit of an ego.
It is similar to the deals his former teammates Brandon Hagel and Reese Johnson signed last year. Barteaux however, is unsure of how to spend the bonus, citing his frugality. But he has heard from Hagel and Johnson, who provided some tips.
“I haven’t quite thought about it, we’ll see. I’m sometimes a little cheap, so we’ll see,” Barteaux said.
“I’ve been talking to them, they’ve been asking about it. It’s good to have those guys giving me a little advice.”