DALLAS — Sure, his NHL resume is all of four games thick, but the early returns on Stars rookie forward Alex Chiasson are definitely encouraging to say the least. Through four games, the 22-year-old Chiasson has four points (3-1-4).
After finding the back of the net in two of his first three NHL games on the road last week, a pair of contests at Anaheim and a Sunday matinee in San Jose, the young winger logged his first career assist in the Stars’ 5-1 win over the reigning Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday night at American Airlines Center.
Dallas head coach Glen Gulutzan realizes it is a small sample size when it comes to what Chiasson has done thus far, but he’s definitely impressed with what he’s seen.
“It is a short sample size but what you do see and more so on video after watch him is just some of the subtleties he had in his game. He’s big and he can protect the puck and he can make some nice plays, but also just some of the subtleties-the way he goes to the net, the way he goes about going to the net,” Gulutzan said.
“He pushes off guys. He pushes guys into the pile. He plays with his stick on the ice. He looks for open space well,” he said. “He’s got a lot of little nuances in his game that you don’t see when the game’s high-flying, but when you watch it on video later you can see why he’s had success in the American League and why it’s something that’s translating here at this level.”
It’s been eight days since Chiasson was recalled from the Texas Stars of the American Hockey League on April 2. He had five points (1-4-5) in nine games in the AHL and although he was with the Stars’ top minor league affiliate for a relatively short time, he feels those games prepared him well for what he would face in his first week as an NHL forward.
“This has been definitely crazy. Yesterday [Monday] was probably the first day that I sat back and realized what was going on. Just the whole experience has been unbelievable for me. I’ve just got to keep this going,” Chiasson said after morning skate on Monday. “Three games doesn’t make a career. I’m playing with two great players and of course, it makes my job a lot easier. But the whole thing about being a good pro, it’s about being consistent and bringing it every night. I think that’s the thing that they really taught me in the AHL. I’m thankful for that. I’m just going day-by-day here and see where it takes me.”
For now, the young phenom is taking it all in with the Stars and is content, at least for the time being to live in a hotel.
“No, I’m staying in a hotel for now. Robi offered me if I wanted to stay at his place but I’m OK for now at the hotel. We’ll see where it goes,” Chiasson said. “We’ll make a decision in the future, but for now we’re OK.”
The Stars rookie admits he was a bit in awe of facing the Ducks last week at Honda Center, especially when he looked out on the ice and saw two players he had been watching for some time. It was then that the biggest difference between playing in the NHL and the AHL truly hit him for the first time.
“Well, of course you get the best out of the best but the top players are a step better than everyone else. First couple games we played Anaheim, you just look at [Ryan] Getzlaf and [Corey] Perry, it’s like they’ve got glue on their tape. The puck’s always around them. They know where to go. That’s the reason they’re All-Stars and I think that’s the main difference I realized,” Chiasson said. “You can’t give those guys too much space. A quick turnover and it’s in the back of your net because these guys don’t need much to do it and that’s why they get paid big money to do it.”
In Sunday’s shootout win over the Sharks at HP Pavilion, he earned player of the honors after finding the back of the net twice for the Stars and that designation carried with it a bit of rookie hazing from one of his teammates.
“Jamie Benn stole my dress shoes, so I had to wear the working boots on the plane. They’ve been really good to me,” Chiasson said. “He [Benn] has been tremendous. He’s been through it and I look up to him a lot.”
Gulutzan, Stars General Manager Joe Nieuwendyk and his new teammates are all waiting to see how quickly Alex Chiasson continues to develop at the NHL level. But he’s not just turning heads in Dallas. Another NHL head coach who led the Kings to the 2012 Stanley Cup, Darryl Sutter, also likes what he has seen thus far from Chiasson and even compared him to a longtime Dallas Stars fan favorite who was recently traded to Pittsburgh.
“Well, the boy they put on right wing with [Jamie] Benn is a young Brenden Morrow,” Sutter said after morning skate on Tuesday. “So knock off 10 years and say that’s Brenden Morrow.”
That’s pretty heady praise for the 22-year-old Stars rookie. It will be interesting to see how he develops in the future but the early returns are definitely encouraging.