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Chiasson making strides while developing in college

by John Tranchina / Dallas Stars

Alex Chiasson continues to progress as a Dallas Stars prospect and as he keeps taking incremental steps, his long-term goal of eventually landing a roster spot with the NHL club remains on target.

Chiasson enjoyed a strong sophomore year at Boston University last season in which he led the perennial powerhouse school in scoring, establishing team bests with 10 goals and 29 points in 26 conference contests.

Shouldering considerably more responsibility - and ice time - than he did as a freshman, the 6-foot-4, 195-pound right winger flourished as a sophomore and hopes to continue the trend in 2011-12.

“I had a pretty good season,” confirmed Chiasson, who was the Stars’ second-round selection (38th overall) in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, following a 17-goal, 50-point performance in 56 USHL games with Des Moines that year. “I definitely had more ice time this year, I had a lot of power play time and PK time, and (BU coach Jack Parker) had a lot of confidence in me. I did great and now there’s still a lot to work on and hopefully next year will be a pretty good year for myself.”

After such a successful college season, Chiasson briefly considered whether or not he might leave school early to turn pro. That would have meant continuing his learning process with their AHL club based just outside Austin, the Texas Stars, but after discussing his options with Dallas General Manager Joe Nieuwendyk, Chiasson decided to remain at BU.

“It’s something I talked to Joe about,” admitted Chiasson, who totaled 14 goals and 34 points in 35 games overall last season. “We’re going year-by-year. I think at the end, it’s up to me, that’s what he said. He went to Cornell and he’s a big believer in college guys, how they get stronger and stuff. We’ll see how next year goes and then we’ll make a decision after next year and if I have to go back to BU, then it’s a great school to be at. I love being there, the coaches are great, and it’s a great place to go to school. But if I’m ready to make the jump, then we’ll see how it goes.”
“Chiasson is really coming on - he probably could have turned pro this year, but for his development, he made the best choice,” noted Stars Director of Scouting and Player Development Les Jackson. “We didn’t push him to come out at all. He’s in the right place. He gets all kinds of ice time.”

As someone who has always placed considerable value in a good education, Chiasson was more than happy to return to school, both for hockey development reasons and for academic ones.

“It’s amazing going to school, BU’s a great school and Boston’s a great city,” said Chiasson, a native of St. Augustin, Quebec. “It’s a great experience. It’s been something that, I was always a good student at school, A’s and B’s, and I thought college would be the best experience for myself. You never know with hockey, if it doesn’t work out, there’s always a Plan B. Obviously, I want to be a professional hockey player, but you never know what’s going to happen.”

As he prepares for a big junior season at BU, Chiasson acknowledges he still has a few aspects of his game he needs to upgrade before he’ll be ready to compete for a job in Dallas.

“I’m trying to fill in my body a little bit, add 5-10 pounds on,” said Chiasson, who recorded a +4 plus/minus rating in conference games last year, while finishing tied for 10th in the nation with five game-winning goals. “Then other than that, I want to keep working on my quick feet out of the corners - those are the two main things I’m working on.”

“He’s got NHL attributes all the way,” Jackson said. “I think there are two things he is going to continue to work on - his overall strength, his leg strength and that will help his skating. He’s got really good hands, he competes and shoots the puck like a top player. I think he’s made excellent strides. He’s a real good prospect for us.”

Chiasson looked good during the Stars’ annual development camp in early July, the second such gathering he’s attended. He also enjoyed meeting up with his fellow Dallas prospects, although he had some difficulties dealing with the local climate.

“There’s a lot of guys that came back from last year and it’s always good to see the guys that you don’t see a lot, because I play in college and the other guys play in major junior,” noted Chiasson, who will turn 21 just before the season starts on Oct. 1. “And it’s good to meet with the coaches and do the things you have to work on, and at the same time, try and get the positive out of it, coming to Texas and seeing how hot it is. I’m not used to the heat yet, but it’s definitely a great week.”

One fellow Stars draftee that Chiasson’s quite familiar with is recent first-round choice Jamie Oleksiak, his cross-town rival over at Northeastern last season. As someone who’s had to face Oleksiak on a regular basis, Chiasson approves of the Stars’ selection of the big defenseman.

“Northeastern’s about five minutes away from BU, and we played a lot at the end of the season,” Chiasson noted. “We had a home-and-home series and we played against each other in the playoffs - they had the better out of us. I played a lot against him, he was out a lot against me and he’s a tough guy to play against. He’s so big and he’s got that long reach - it’s hard not to notice a guy that’s 6-7, 240 pounds out there. I’m sure he’ll be good in the near future, he’s a good addition to the team.”

With the addition of Oleksiak, who opted not to return to Northeastern this coming season and will instead play junior hockey for Saginaw of the OHL, not to mention other prospects such as recent second-round choice Brett Ritchie and 2010-11 Dallas rookie Tomas Vincour, among others, Chiasson noticed that the overall talent level, and the size of those players, had increased over last year’s development camp.

“Just being on the ice out here with Jamie and that Ritchie guy, he’s a big, big kid at his age,” Chiasson said. “Vincour’s pretty big too, there’s a lot of big guys. Brenden Dillon’s big. Guys are really good this year. I thought last year was great, but this year, there’s a lot of guys that are good - they’re fast with a lot of skills, too. It should be looking pretty good for the future.”

“We’ve got some good young guys in the bank now, we’re starting to build a nucleus of good players,” added Jackson, including Chiasson in that group. “There’s a number of guys that have a chance to play. It’ll be interesting to watch them grow and move ahead. I think we’ve stocked that cupboard pretty good, and I think it’s just a matter of time. They’ll all have to go through their learning experiences and their trials, just like everybody else, but it definitely looks like a good group of young guys.”

Nieuwendyk also expressed excitement about the Stars’ replenished crop of prospects, specifically singling out Chiasson among the future bright spots.

“I think we’re starting to see the players come into our system now,” said Nieuwendyk, who, incidentally, left Cornell after his junior year to turn pro with Calgary in 1987. “I think we’ve been a little draft pick-deficient over the years, but I think we’re starting to see some of the kids, the Alex Chiassons, the Reilly Smiths, the Scott Glennies, names you’ll get to know over the next few years. We have some good young players that are starting to come into Austin, young college players, young junior players, that are going to stockpile our system a little bit, so we’re clearly on the upside.”

And as long as Chiasson continues his progression, he’ll be right in the middle of it.

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