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This fall was supposed to mark Dawson Barteaux’s graduation to the pro ranks.
But a global pandemic has forced many plans to change, including the intended career path mapped out by the 20-year-old Winnipeg Ice defenceman from Foxwarren.
Barteaux, who signed a three-year, entry-level deal worth US$2.375 million with Dallas in September, was expected to start 2020-21 with the Stars’ AHL affiliate in Cedar Park, Texas.
However, the AHL suspended its season on March 12 and cancelled the remainder of the 2019-20 season and playoffs on May 11.
Now, the NHL’s top minor league may not restart until November, December or later to allow for the current Stanley Cup tournament to be completed.
Most concerning is Texas is currently in the midst of a major outbreak of COVID-19.
The WHL, which has targeted Oct. 2 for the start of a new season, could be a natural landing spot for players with pro contracts who might not otherwise have a place to play.
Sources suggest two dozen or more older players in a similar situation could be returning to the WHL if the AHL has a delayed start. You can count Barteaux as a potential member of that group.
"Obviously my goal is to try and make that next step and be able to play in Texas next year," said Barteaux earlier this week. "But you know what, if that doesn’t work out, obviously I’m not disappointed one bit on being coming back to Winnipeg.
"I know we have a great squad here, great coaches, it’s good for my development still. Either way it’s a win-win situation so, yeah, I’m just looking forward to get it going. Obviously a great, tough challenge and making that next step at a younger age, but if it doesn’t happen I’ll be back in a Winnipeg jersey."
Barteaux was acquired from the Red Deer Rebels in a trade-deadline deal in which the Ice gave up four second-round draft picks, a fifth-rounder and a conditional third-rounder. The third-rounder kicks in should he return to the WHL for his overage season.
Winnipeg, which also received fifth- and sixth-round picks in the deal, was content to make the deal despite the expense.
Barteaux became an integral member of the club, earning an ‘A’ as an alternate captain only weeks into his tenure with the club.
He would be a major addition to the Ice if he returns in 2020-21.
With little or no ice time available near home, Barteaux has been concentrating on dryland training while also using Marsblade inline skates to better simulate his on-ice technique. And the only place to do that was a 500-metre stretch of the lone paved road in Foxwarren.
Lately, his training has been more conventional.
Being traded to Winnipeg has had an extra benefit for Barteaux during the pandemic. He established a connection with the staff at the Ice’s home base at the Rink Training Centre and is in his second week of on-ice workouts — making the 3 1/2-hour drive to Winnipeg part of his regular routine.
The situation has proved so convenient that teammate Connor McClennon, a right-winger and top prospect for the 2020 NHL Draft, is considering an early relocation to Winnipeg from Wainwright, Alta., to have better access to ice time.
"It was definitely a big plus of moving from Red Deer — that kind of got my foot in the door with the Rink people," said Barteaux.
"And so I’ve been fortunate enough throughout this whole thing to be able to come in and skate a few times and have (veteran skills and skating coach) Jon Cara help me out with that."
Mike has been working on the Free Press sports desk since 2003.
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