If you can believe it, the tiny southwestern town of Foxwarren, Manitoba, has already had three of its citizens play in the National Hockey League. The most recognizable name might be Pat Falloon. The Red Deer Rebels’ Dawson Barteaux hopes to join them on his quest to become the fourth resident to ply his trade in the “big leagues”.
Playing for the Yellowhead Chiefs Bantam AAA program, Barteaux was getting noticed by scouts for his play in Winnipeg Bantam AAA — a fairly competitive league in Manitoba. The league has produced several other defensemen in the WHL, such as Max Martin, Ryan Gardiner, Madison Bowey, and Joel Edmondson.
As a rookie in the Winnipeg Bantam AAA program in the 2013-14 season, Barteaux didn’t put up flashy numbers, but he continued to work on his skills development, which led to a much more prominent role in his second Bantam season. It was this hard work and determination — combined with seven goals and 20 assists — that led to the Regina Pats selecting him 14th overall at the 2015 WHL Bantam Draft.
Barteaux was a prized commodity by the time he reached the WHL in the 2016-17 season. After playing just 18 games as a 16-year-old with the Pats, the team moved him to Red Deer as part of a trade intended to bolster the Regina roster for a run at the WHL Championship and the Memorial Cup.
He played in just 42 games in total that season, but the groundwork was laid for him to continue growing and take a major step forward in time for his 17-year-old and draft-eligible season.
It was then that Dawson made major strides, both in his own end and on the scoresheet. The responsible defenseman scored his first WHL goal on December 28, 2017, and hasn’t looked back. By the time the season was over, he had scored three times and added 29 assists. This garnered attention from scouts throughout the hockey world.
For Barteaux, the big day came on June 23rd, 2018. At the NHL Entry Draft — held in the city that would eventually call his name — Dawson Barteaux had to wait through 167 selections before hearing his name called 168th overall in the sixth round. It was the Dallas Stars that made the announcement.
Barteaux was then off to development camp, hoping to get an invite to the main training camp in the fall. He earned that right, and when he returned to Red Deer, he was ready to prove to the Stars that he deserved a contract.
But one didn’t come in his 18-year-old season, despite being given an increased role with the Rebels. He scored seven times and added another 27 assists on a Rebels’ team that struggled at times to score goals.
His assistant coach, Brad Flynn, noted Barteaux’s role on the team in 2018-19, “Last season Dawson was 18. It was my first year working with him, and he played top two minutes. When Alex was injured or away, especially that crucial time in the playoffs, his role elevated, and the best part for me in the whole season is, so did Dawson’s game. The more that he was given, the better he played, and the more responsibility that was given to him and expectations, the better he was. I thought his best hockey was in the playoffs. Other than when he first returned from NHL camp, it was the playoffs. That’s when he had a lot of pressure to carry a defense corps as an 18-year-old player. That is not an easy thing to do, and I thought that he did a great job elevating his game and his leadership.”
Barteaux will see increased ice time as a 19-year-old, especially with the departure of Alexander Alexeyev to the pros.
“We’re gonna rely on him a lot,” said Flynn. “He has shown that when he plays to his expectations — that he sets for himself and that we set for him — that he is a very good puck-moving, intelligent defenseman in our league. He still has to show up and put the work boots on every day and punch the clock and go to work and make himself better. We expect him, like everybody else in our organization, to show up every day and be a good person off the ice and a fierce competitor on the ice and do what you do well and let the chips fall where they may in terms of ice time. He’s going to have a lot of opportunities to play a lot of big minutes. It’s going to be pretty much up to him how much he is going to play, on how many minutes he is going to be able to handle with his off ice conditioning that he does during the summer, which he works really hard at, and how big of a step he is going to take skill-wise.”
Flynn added to his views on how Barteaux can make himself an even better player through the upcoming season. “The thing he is striving to work on every day is his everyday emotional compete. He’s worked on that, and we saw a huge improvement of that going into the playoffs. He knows that he has it in him, and it’s a long season for guys, and we just don’t want him to get complacent, because when he gets complacent, he can be an above-average defenseman, but when he is playing the way he can play, he can be a very good defenseman.”
Derek Neumeier — a writer for FC Hockey and Defending Big D — had this to say about Dawson Barteaux and the Dallas Stars heading into 2019-2020: “The Stars are an organization that puts a lot of emphasis on the handedness of their defensemen. That should benefit Barteaux, as Dallas doesn’t have very many right-shot defenders in their prospect pool at the moment. If he wants to earn an entry-level contract, though, defensive reliability and puck responsibility will be important factors. Former 1st-round draft pick Julius Honka tumbled down the team’s defensive depth chart last season because he was irresponsible with the puck and struggled to track the play in his own zone. The Stars do love mobile, puck-moving defensemen, as evidenced by how big of a role Miro Heiskanen plays, but if you want to play that role for them you need to think quickly and keep your game mistake-free.”
Brad Flynn also had thoughts on what he believed that Barteaux needed to do to earn himself a contract with the NHL club that drafted him. “To be honest I haven’t heard a word on any of the contract stuff that’s usually done between the player and the team and Brent (Sutter)… the cool thing is that Rich Peverly — the Dallas Stars development coach — was in town a couple of times last year in Red Deer, and (I) got to talk to him, and he called me after development camp, and they are really impressed with Dawson. With his skill development and his skating everything that we have done with him, they have been impressed with. Obviously, they just want him to continue to mature as a player and grow in terms of his on-ice decision making and his intensity and his compete level. Also the finer skills. He is very good at what he does, but they want to see him continue to grow and add to the things he already has.”
With the likes of Alexander Alexeyev and possibly Carson Sass no longer with the Rebels in 2019-2020, it will be up to Dawson to continue to lead the pack on the blueline. He is projected to be the minutes leader on the back end on a line with Ethan Sakowich, and a new crop of youngsters could be joining him, looking for their opportunity to hear their name called at a future NHL Draft.