Matej Blumel was mostly unknown when he signed a two-year contract with the Dallas Stars in June. He had not reached a deal with the Edmonton Oilers after being drafted in the fourth round in 2019, has minimal experience in North America, and was completely overshadowed by some big names around the Stars organization.
Despite all of that, he was arguably the best player on the ice for Dallas in the Traverse City Prospect Tournament, recording four goals including a hat trick against the St. Louis Blues. Now heading into NHL Training Camp this week, he has certainly gotten the attention of fans, players, and most importantly, the Stars organization.
Blumel has played nearly his entire career in the Czech Republic. In 2017, he made the decision to move over to the USHL and play two seasons for the Waterloo Blackhawks in order to get accustomed to the smaller rinks and perhaps catch the eye of a few NHL teams. Well, it worked. After a slow first season, Blumel recorded 60 points in 58 games for Waterloo and added four points in four playoff games.
"It was probably the best decision I have made to come to the USHL and play for two years," Blumel said. "It helped me on the ice and off the ice. It's way easier to come back now and fight for a spot on an NHL team."
Stars scout Jiri Hrdina was one who had noticed Blumel and kept track of his progress over the years. When Edmonton chose not to sign him, Hrdina made a big pitch to Dallas and Jim Nill made the decision to give the 22-year-old a chance.
"Jiri had seen him a lot, and we were lucky enough to get him as a free agent," Nill said. "It shows that they believe in our program and we have something going right."
Blumel also had his eye on Dallas for a long time and says that the decision was easy for him.
"I had a couple of offers, but I was always interested in Dallas," Blumel said. "I was there in 2016 for a Five Nations Tournament and I really liked the area, so it was an easy choice."
Now, Blumel has put himself in an excellent position. At 22, he is in a similar boat to Riley Damiani, Mavrik Bourque, Fredrik Karlstrom, and Riley Tufte, beginning this season either at the AHL or NHL level. But for Blumel, he performed in Traverse and now has his sights set on finding his way onto the Dallas roster to begin the season.
"You learn from it [Traverse] and grow from it, and you move forward," Nill said. "That's how the process goes, and you have to go through these things. If you just brought players into Dallas for training camp, you wouldn't have this information, so this tournament is a huge part of the process, and now it's onto the next step."