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Untapped Potential: Julius Honka

Image: Blackout Dallas

“Untapped Potential” is a series of features on Back Sports Page about athletes that had careers derailed by injuries, or just didn’t pan out like expected. In the past we’ve done it for NBA and the NFL. I’m super excited too bring this concept over to the hockey side of the site.


Who was Julius Honka?


Julius Honka was a Finnish defenseman that the Dallas Stars selected with their first round pick in the 2014 NHL draft. He was selected 14th overall in that draft. He played his draft season with the Swift Current Broncos of the WHL, and he previously played for JYP, who plays in the top tier of Finnish hockey. Notable players drafted around Honka was Dylan Larkin, who was taken immediately afterwards by Detroit at 15th overall, and David Pastrnak was taken with the 25th pick by Boston.




Julius Honka representing Team Finland. Image: Bleacher Report


Before ever stepping foot onto a draft floor Honka had already built up an impressive resume playing internationally. Representing Finland he had won gold in the 2014 World Juniors, tallying an assist in seven games. He also participated in the 2013 U18 IIHF World Championships. Julius took home bronze and had a respectable one goal and three assists.


He spent 2011 through 2013 playing for JYP at the top tier of Finnish Junior hockey. His first of two seasons there he only got into two games and had no points. But the season after he played in 42 games. Scoring 4 goals and 11 assists for 15 points.


After the conclusion of the 2012-13 season he made the transition to North America and joined the Swift Current Broncos of the Western Hockey League. Even with the transition to the smaller ice surface, Julius seemed to thrive once coming over. He played 62 games for the Broncos, tallying 16 goals and 40 assists. Since he played his draft season in the WHL he was ranked as a North American prospect instead of a European. He still went into the 2014 NHL draft ranked 11th out of all eligible North American Skaters. Jared McCann now of the Seattle Kraken was ranked ahead of him, and directly after him was Alex Tuch, who is now lighting it up with the Buffalo Sabres.


Julius Honka playing for the Swift Current Broncos. Image:

First Stint With Dallas


Like I said before, Julius Honka was taken 14th overall in the 2014 Draft by the Dallas Stars. The first round of the 2014 draft was expected to be forward heavy, so it was a bit of a surprise to see Dallas take a defenseman at 14. But it seemed like a good decision by General Manager Jim Nill. Honka would be joining a defensive prospect pool with some impressive names already. Names including Esa Lindell, John Klingberg, Jamie Oleksiak and several other defenseman that made careers in the NHL.


Not long after the draft Julius signed his NHL entry level contract, and was assigned to the team’s AHL affiliate the Texas Stars. He wouldn’t crack an NHL lineup at all until the 2016-17 season. But he did get another opportunity to play in the 2015 World Juniors, in which he had a goal and an assist with Finland finishing 7th. To start his pro career he has three impressive seasons with Texas. He had 31, 44 and 31 points in his first three seasons respectively. He would eventually score his first NHL goal against the Arizona Coyotes on April 4th, 2017, which was an OT winner.


Julius Honka with the Texas Stars. Image: 100 Degree Hockey


Because of the contract sliding his entry level deal ended after 2018-19 season. Throughout his deal he never found a consistent job with the NHL club. His stats with Dallas was 87 games played and he only had 2 goals and 11 assists. After the deal ended he requested a trade, not seeing any opportunities with the Stars. Unfortunately a trade partner never came through. Honka was forced to sign with his former Finnish club JYP Jyväskylä, now playing in the top division instead of junior. He’d make his Liiga debut in the 2019-20 season, and had 4 goals and 15 points. The COVID-19 pandemic then cancelled the postseason. He would spend the first month of the 2020-21 season with the Lahti Pelicans. He played 9 games and had 3 goals and 4 assists before getting his second opportunity in North America. Again with the Stars organization.


Julius Honka (foreground) with the Lahti Pelicans. Image:
Etelä Suomen Sanomat


Second Stint With Dallas


Even though his first pro stint in North America didn’t go great, the second was even worse. He signed a 1 year, $700,000 contract that was worth $90,000 in the AHL. Honka didn’t play another NHL game and was put on waivers January 21 of 2021. He went unclaimed and reported back with the Texas Stars. He’d finish the season with 17 games, only getting a single goal and 4 assists. At the conclusion of the season Julius returned back to Europe and is currently playing in the Swedish Hockey League with Luleå HF.


What Went Wrong?


When Julius was drafted back in 2014 he was considered a good puck moving, fast skating defenseman. He lacked size at only 5’10 176 lbs., but his speed was hopefully going to make up for it. Offensive talent was there for Honka, the defensive end of it never came. He wasn’t trusted to stay in the lineup and he never found his groove to play comfortably in the NHL or AHL. He was never a bad player, playing in your own zone at the highest level is hard to do and it takes longer to learn, and it never fully came to him.


To translate his situation into a player on the Stars roster now, Julius Honka is a worst case scenario of Nils Lundkvist. Nils and Julius both have all the offensive talent to be good players in the NHL, just need to pick it up on the defensive side of the puck. Nils is in a much better situation to learn that Julius had, and I think the Stars learned from Honka, and they won’t make the same developmental mistakes again. More can be read on the Lundkvist situation in my most recent “The Stars Check” post.


Julius has seemed to find a bit of a home in Sweden now. 10 goals and 11 assists in 46 games is better than he’s had in a long time. He also has a brother that’s in the Carolina Hurricanes system. Anttoni Honka was drafted 3rd round, 83rd overall in 2019.








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