Late last season, Dallas Stars fans got their first glimpse of Alex Chiasson at the NHL level and the early returns were quite solid on the young right winger as he was a point per game player (6-1-7) in the first seven games of his NHL career.
So, when the 23-year-old forward who was a second-round pick of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft picked up right where he left off to start this season, his first full campaign in the League, few were surprised.
Of course, Chiasson or “Chaser” as he is referred to by Stars first-year head coach Lindy Ruff as well as his teammates, has since seen his production level off a bit. But through 26 games, the young Montreal native has 15 points (8-7-15) and his eight goals are third most among all NHL rookies and his 26 points put him in the top 10 among his fellow rookies.
However, while his offensive numbers are rock solid, one unsung part of his game has been how much he has contributed to the Stars both on the power play as well as on the penalty kill.
But being on the Dallas PK isn’t something the former Boston University star sees as much of a big deal since it’s something he has been doing for as long as he can remember.
“Yeah, I played (on the kill) in college. I played in college my last two years and last year I would play too. Gully had confidence in me there. I always feel more comfortable (on the kill) because as a player being part of every situation on the ice puts you right in the game. When you’re on the PK you’ve got to think differently than when you’re 4-on-4 or power play,” Chiasson said. “I think it’s something that I embrace. I really focus on that too. Being offensive minded is great but I try to not put pressure, but just (be) responsible for the other things too.”
As expected, Ruff has seen some of the inconsistency he’s come to know from young players in Chiasson but the veteran NHL bench boss likes the fact that his young rookie winger considers making meaningful contributions in all three parts of the game such a high priority and feels that has definitely helped accelerate his development.
“Well, I think it’s one way (to speed up his development),” Ruff said. “We use him a little bit on penalty killing, think he’s had a couple moments there where he had a couple bad reads in couple of games, but he defends those situations well. His power play net front (presence is good). When we do a better job getting pucks around, he’s as good as there is in front of the net.”
But no matter whether or not he’s skating on the Dallas attack, back tracking on defense, playing on the Stars power play or on the penalty kill, Chiasson continues to do his best impression of a sponge, learning all he can about every phase of the game from not just his new head coach in Ruff as well as from his veteran teammates, but also by seeing what opposing players he lines up against do that they find successful.
“Yeah, when you do that (play on special teams) as a player you really feel like you contribute to the success of the team. Regardless of if you score goals, some nights you won’t have it and you have to focus on trying to block shots and other parts of the game. I think those are the things that make you a complete player. Of course, this being my first year really it’s been fun to be part of all parts of the game,” Chiasson said. “For me, (the goal) is just trying to get better every day. There’s things I need to work on. I’ve said this before, but it’s a tough league to play in. There’s no night off. There’s great guys to learn from here. Just trying to do a little more every day and hopefully I can bring my game to another level.”
But one thing Chiasson doesn’t get too caught up in is doing a lot of talking about what he does on the ice. Instead, he lets his play, no matter whether it’s on offense, defense, on the power play or penalty kill, do all the talking for him.
“Yeah, I’m trying to feel a little more comfortable. I’m not really a big talker. There’s other guys that are here for that and I think that will just maybe come with time,” Chiasson said. “I try to (say) here’s my game and show how much I care about this team and the group of guys.”