Go way back to 1993. Remember some guy named Jamie Langenbrunner? Second round pick, 35th overall, and working on 1,100 NHL games and counting. How about John Erskine in 1998? The 39th overall pick then, Erskine played four seasons in Dallas and is still an NHL defenseman.
The same can be said for Dan Ellis (60th overall in 2000), Trevor Daley (43rd in 2002), Loui Eriksson (33rd in 2003), B.J. Crombeen (54th in 2003), Nicklas Grossmann (56th in 2004) and James Neal (33rd in 2005). All second round picks, all still productive players in the NHL, either on the Stars or another club, and each providing value to the franchise at some point during their careers.
There’s every reason to believe another second round selection will bear productive NHL fruit for the franchise as well. Because by most accounts, one day, we will be putting Alex Chiasson’s name right alongside the rest of that group of second-round NHL finds for the Dallas Stars scouting department.
In fact, despite having yet to play an NHL game, Stars Director of Player Personnel Les Jackson has already handed Chiasson a moniker every young hockey player seeks.
“He’s a pro,” Jackson said. “Like (Jack) Campbell, (Patrik) Nemeth, (Brenden) Dillon, he’s got it. You can tell by watching a player whether or not he’s got hockey intelligence. And he’s got it. There’s no question.”
The 38th overall pick in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, Chiasson is still some four months shy of his 22nd birthday. In the three years since he was drafted, Chiasson has already proved that he not only has hockey intelligence, but also that he isn’t afraid to take on challenges and take the path less traveled.
A Quebec native who spoke no English when the Stars scouting staff first began to look at him, Chiasson played for Des Moines in the United States Hockey League in 2008-09 and was named to the Western Division All-Star team. A year later, he enrolled in Boston University.
So, he not only took on college, in a new country, and playing hockey at that level – he also took on doing all of that in a language with which he was not familiar.
“That was the first I saw of him, at Boston,” Jackson said. “He was a big, strapping guy with a lot of skill. I thought back then he was a kid who really had a good foundation to be a solid player, and that he probably had a strong chance to be an NHL player. The guys in the field really did a great job finding him.”
That “big, strapping guy” now stands 6-feet-4 and weighs in right at 200 pounds. He also, Jackson said, is on the verge of graduating from Boston University in the College of Arts & Sciences.
Apparently, he’s a pretty smart guy too. Smart enough to learn a new language and earn a degree in it in four years or less.
“He’s just such a determined, bright, personable kid,” Jackson said.
Fortunately for the Stars and their fans, Chiasson didn’t spend all his time at Boston studying and learning a new language. There was plenty of hockey as well, and that’s an area where Chiasson excelled and had little trouble with language barriers.
In three seasons with the Terriers he played in 108 games, posting 36 goals and 63 assists for 99 points. He also scored 15 power play goals and led his team in scoring in each of the last two seasons – posting 34 points as a sophomore in 2010-11 before recording career highs with 15 goals, 31 assists and 46 points to top his club as a junior in 2011-12.
It was during this time at Boston University that Scott White, general manager of the American Hockey League’s Texas Stars, first saw Chiasson play, as well.
His assessment, much like Jackson’s, started with – but wasn’t limited to – Chiasson’s large hockey stature.
“I was impressed with his presence and the detail in his game,” White said. “He’s got a big frame, but he also has great attention to detail, especially defensively on his reads and on the forecheck getting back into his own zone. I really like that a lot. It’s impressive to see that kind of detail from a big guy, plus he’s a very strong man along the wall.”
White and Jackson got their next look at Chiasson in late March, when he completed his season with the Terriers and signed with the Stars. He immediately reported to White’s club in Austin, the Stars’ primary development affiliate, and posted five points (one goal, four assists) in his first nine professional games with the Texas Stars.
With a much closer look at Chiasson, White is now able to give an even more in-depth scouting report.
“His skating has improved,” White said. “He’s come a long way in that regard since we saw him a couple of years ago at BU. That’s the only thing we were concerned about, but he’s so much more fluid now than he was then and he really carries the puck with speed when he gets up and running. He’s also added even more power and strength, so I don’t really see any issues with him moving ahead.”
Plus, Jackson said, the Stars expect to see the physical right wing mature even more physically before he dons a Dallas Stars uniform – whenever that will be.
“He could probably play at 220 or so, and he probably will at some point,” Jackson said. “When he’s 24 or 25, he’ll be at full maturity and he’ll be a handful to deal with. He’s got a big body, but right now his mind is more advanced than his body – and that’s not a bad thing. He’s a smart guy who’s got a mind for hockey.”
So the question now is, when does Chiasson put it all together and challenge for a spot in the Stars’ rotation of forwards?
If not to start this season, then it could happen at some point during 2012-13. Jackson said he believes Chiasson needs some AHL time to mature, but both he and White agree the question on Chiasson is when – not if – he will be an NHL winger.
“I think he’s right around it,” White said. “Maybe with a big summer and then some time in Austin, who knows? We don’t know if it will be sooner or later, but I believe he definitely has NHL upside.”