Dallas inks Hobey Baker winner

By George Bachul

The Dallas Stars increased the depth of their forward prospects on Thursday as they signed Hobey Baker award winner Junior Lessard to a contract. Lessard signed a one-year, free agent contract Thursday worth about $1.1 million. If he doesn’t make the Dallas team next season and is assigned to the minor leagues, he’ll make about $92,500.

Lessard is the last of the three Hobey Baker candidates to sign, with Brown University goaltender Yann Danis and University of North Dakota center Zach Parise both signing in March.

Lessard, who will graduate from the University of Minnesota-Duluth in the next few weeks, led the NCAA in scoring with 61 points in 35 games this season, helping the Bulldogs to their first NCAA Frozen Four appearance since 1985.

Lessard played his junior hockey in Manitoba winning the 2000 Canadian Junior A player of the year playing for the Portage Terriers of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League.

The native of St. Joseph deBeauce, Quebec has become not only the heart and soul of the Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs this season, but has also become its consummate team player. Lessard is a player who leads by example and possesses a great work ethic coupled with a competitive nature. He has made great strides in improving his overall game in each of his four years with Minnesota-Duluth.

He possesses great hands, scoring ability and hockey smarts. Lessard is an excellent player both around the net and along the boards. He plays bigger than his 6’1”/195 frame and has tremendous strength, especially evident when protecting the puck. Perhaps the weakest part of Lessard’s game is his speed. While he is a good skater, he isn’t necessarily the fastest guy on the ice.

The 23-year-old is the first Canadian to win the Hobey Baker since Jason Krog in 1999 who won the award with the University of New Hampshire.

Several teams were reported interested but Lessard chose the Dallas Stars who appear to be a team in transition. It has been rumored that Valeri Bure will not be returning next season, limiting the amount of scoring depth on the right wing where Lessard patrols. Lessard commented that Dallas was a good fit based on the fact that he will be given a fair shot at making the pro squad. With that in mind, Lessard will focus his off-season towards that end.

DJ Powers contributed to this article.