David Bararuk was a fifth round draft choice of the Dallas Stars in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft. The 6’0” 185 pound left winger signed a rookie contract with the Stars this summer after a junior career with the WHL Moose Jaw Warriors.
Bararuk spent most of the 2003-04 season with the AHL Utah Grizzlies, scoring 10 points in 49 regular season games. He scored 15 points in 16 games with the ECHL Idaho Steelheads, and has continued that pace in the playoffs since being reassigned there.
Idaho Steelheads Head Coach John Olver was very complimentary of Bararuk.
“He’s an outstanding offensive talent for a young player, he’s just 20 years old, he’s still learning the professional game. He’s got incredible hands, amazing skill. He’s very dangerous offensively. He just needs to mature and learn the pro game.”
Like so many players moving into the pro game, one thing he needs to work on his is defensive game, “And how to protect the puck and not turn it over,” Olver agreed. “Know when to try to make the safe play and just get it deep. Like a lot of young players, he tries to make a play every time.”
Hockey’s Future spoke to Bararuk following Idaho’s 3-1 loss to the Gwinnett Gladiators in Game 2 of the ECHL Western Conference Finals.
HF: How do you think your rookie season has gone overall?
DB: I started out in Utah there. You know it was more of a learning year for me, going from junior hockey to pro hockey. It was an adjustment in itself, and moving away from home. I had spent my entire junior career living at home and playing in my hometown. But for the most part I thought that I had a pretty good season. There’s going to be higher expectations for me next year. Like I said it’s just a learning year for me.
HF: What did you find you had to change in your game moving to pro?
DB: Well I went from 94 points to 11 points, and it’s quite a transition being on the ice and not being the go-to guy all the time. You can’t use your skill, and try not to slow things down as much. You’ve got to keep it at a high pace at all times. I think that was probably the biggest change.
HF: What was the biggest change off the ice? Are you living with a veteran player?
DB: No, I live with a couple guys who are in their first year in the league. But I think the biggest change is just doing stuff on my own, bigger responsibilities, paying the bills and all that stuff. It’s a big difference. You get a lot more freedom by yourself. I think for the most part I handled myself well over the year.
HF: Who did you live with in Utah and in Boise?
DB: In Utah I was living with two roommates Gerard Dicaire who is up with Tampa Bay right now, and Brett Draney who is down here with me. And in Boise, Lance Galbraith and Zenon Konopka.
HF: Right now you’re the youngest guy on the team, was that true all year?
DB: Yeah, I have been the youngest and it’s a big adjustment in itself as well being the youngest guy. A lot of the guys have wives and kids. That’s a change in itself, seeing kids running around in the dressing room (laughing).
HF: This year was your second Dallas training camp, can you compare how you thought it went this year versus last year?
DB: Yeah, the first year I was always trying to make the right play, trying to do too much. I wasn’t patient with the puck. In the last camp, I thought I held myself pretty good. I was more patient with the puck and made the right plays. I gained a little bit more weight. That’s basically going to make or break me. The summer is the most important for me.
HF: How much weight were you able to put on between the two years?
DB: It’s really hard for me to put on weight. You probably lose 5-10 pounds during the season. I came into camp about 185 this year. Last year I was about 175, so about 10 pounds. I think I’d like to gain about another 10 pounds. Not too much, not dead weight, nothing that would hamper my skating because it’s a big part of my game. Just enough because you’re playing against men out there and they’re strong. You need to win the battles in the corners.
HF: Did you play in any exhibition games in camp?
DB: Yeah, I played one game in Colorado, the first game there. I got a lot of ice time, about 15 minutes. I played in all situations, power play, 4-on-4, and in overtime. I think I had three or four shots on net. Playing against Kariya and Sakic, and Forsberg and all those guys.
HF: Did you think you played well?
DB: I thought I played really well. I thought the speed of the game was good. It was a little bit easier because guys are more experienced up there and they know when to get you the puck. Just position-wise it’s easier.
HF: When you left camp, did they tell you what to work on?
DB: Yeah, they said basically to learn from the older guys. Work with the coaches. You’re not going to come into the league being the top scorer. You’ve got to work your way up. I think the defensive part of the game is the most crucial. And after that the offense. I think that’s the whole part of developing. Got to work on getting your weight up. That’s probably the biggest thing.
HF: Do you agree that the defensive side of your game is what you need to work on most?
DB: Yeah, and I think anyone can work on their defensive game. You start in the defensive zone and work and the offense takes care of itself. When you get confidence shooting the puck, it will go in.
HF: What do you think your strengths are?
DB: My strength is probably my speed and my creativity out on the ice. I see the ice very well and know when to get the puck and how quick. When you get used to a line, you kind of know where a player is going to be without even looking and you can make that play without throwing the puck away.
HF: How did you think you did in Utah when you were there?
DB: It was a little up and down. I thought for the most part, I held myself very well. I didn’t get as much ice time as I’d like to. But saying that, you can always improve. I’m definitely not satisfied with what did in Utah. I know I’ll get a lot better.
HF: What situations were you playing in with the Grizzlies?
DB: The first part of the season I was kind of playing on the third line, more of a checking line there. A guy went down and I got moved up to the first or second line to help generate some offense there. I think the biggest part was you’re trying to get in the mode of checker, you kind of lose your creativity and your confidence with the puck. I think that was the biggest setback I had up there.
HF: Where you playing on the power play?
DB: Yeah, I played power play there. But obviously our power play wasn’t very good. I don’t know what the percentage was. But yeah, I did get a chance to play power play. Never did any penalty killing.
HF: Do you ever play penalty kill here with Idaho?
DB: No. You’re coming into a team where guys have been here for two or three years. They don’t want to mess anything up, get anyone mad. You have to pay your dues, and even if you don’t play that much, it’s one of those things.
HF: Do you get more ice time in Idaho than Utah, or is it about the same?
DB: It’s tough to say. I got my fair share up in Utah and I’m getting my fair share down here. That’s probably the best way to put it. If we’re down a goal or two I play a lot more, trying to help out the offense.
HF: Who were your normal linemates in Utah?
DB: Justin Cox and Barrett Heisman were my linemates up there for the most part. I kind of got pushed back to the extra two for a bit and then got sent back to Boise for a couple weeks there and then came back up.
HF: And who do you normally play with here with Idaho?
DB: I’m playing with Brett Draney and Dylan Gyori.
HF: How do you think it’s working?
DB: I think it’s working well, we’re starting to get a feel for each other out there. I think as we get used to each other. On that line we have four guys who are kind of rotating, with Andrei Vasilyev. So we’ve been rotating and trying to get the feel.
HF: Did you keep up with your junior team (Moose Jaw) much this year?
DB: Yeah I did follow them most of the year. They made it to the second round and lost out to I think Red Deer. I definitely thought they were going to go further than that. They were playing really well.
HF: I read that you had a broken arm the year you were originally supposed to be drafted?
DB: Actually I didn’t break my arm, I broke my jaw. They all thought that I broke my arm, but I broke my jaw there. But since then I haven’t had any major injuries, just your basic hip flexor strain, nothing major, knock on wood.
HF: What have you learned this year that’s made you a better player?
DB: I think what I learned this year is that, where in junior you can kind of slow down the game, stickhandle and wait for something to happen, in pro you’ve got to be where the puck is going to be before it even gets there. You have to read and react more, you can’t be as passive.
HF: Do you find yourself thinking more now, are you worn out mentally?
DB: Yeah, I think I’m more mentally drained out there more than I was before. When you’re out there and you know what’s going to happen, it’s a lot better for you.
HF: What is your main goal for next season?
DB: Next season I want to be more offensive. I don’t know where I’m going to be yet, but obviously depending on where I am, I hope to contribute more and help the team out more, play on the top two lines and move up.