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Chiasson taking time to develop in college

by John Tranchina / Dallas Stars

He may be on a relatively slow path to the NHL, but right winger Alex Chiasson, who just finished his freshman season at Boston University, remains a strong long-term prospect for the Dallas Stars.

Chiasson, who turns 20 on Oct. 1, was ranked as the club’s fifth-best prospect by The Hockey News late last season and while he endured an up-and-down first year for an NCAA powerhouse program, he has taken some impressive strides since Dallas selected him in the second round (38th overall) in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft.

“It went pretty well, it was a good learning experience for myself,” Chiasson said of 2009-10, in which he registered seven goals and 19 points in 35 games for BU. “As a freshman, there’s other guys there that are older that I got to learn from, other guys such as (Anaheim prospect Nick Bonino) and (Colorado first-round pick Kevin Shattenkirk), who will probably be playing in the NHL next year or in the future.  It was a great year and I’m just looking forward to next year - a bigger role, more ice time.” 

“Alex, he had a good season, and just looking at his raw material, he has a chance to be a good player,” said Stars Director of Scouting and Player Development Les Jackson. “It’s just a matter of getting through the development part and becoming a good player at BU and going from there, but he’s pretty impressive.”

At 6-foot-3 and 187 pounds, Chiasson has some filling out to do in order to eventually handle the physical rigors of the pro game. That’s why his participation at the Stars Development Camp at the beginning of July was so important, because it gave him a valuable opportunity to work closely with Dallas strength and conditioning coach J.J. McQueen. 

When asked what areas of his game he needed to improve the most in order to some day make the big jump to the NHL, Chiasson immediately acknowledged that he could add some bulk to his lanky frame.

“Probably working on my strength,” Chiasson admitted. “The NHL is a hard league to play in - I’m 6-3, I could put some weight on and obviously, keep working on my skating. Those two, it would be great for me.”

It also helps that BU’s strength and conditioning coach, Mike Boyle, enjoys a good relationship with McQueen and the two have shared ideas over the past year to help Chiasson build himself up. 

“Mike Boyle’s there and he’s a guy that’s one of the most renowned guys for physical training and I think that’s a good match,” Jackson said.

“They sent me a packet at the start of the year, and it was telling me what to work on with Mike Boyle - he’s good friends with J.J.,” Chiasson explained, regarding the contact he had with Stars management last season. “At the same time, they leave me alone, they have faith in Coach (Jack) Parker and the BU organization. There’s no stress for myself. I don’t hear from them every weekend, I just play hockey and that’s great.”

Besides the focus on off-ice conditioning, Chiasson had a positive experience at the Development Camp that took place at the Dr Pepper Arena in Frisco.

“It’s been really fun,” he said halfway through the week-long event. “We’ve been practicing and going back to basics with coaches, doing a lot of stuff. It’s been pretty fun meeting a lot of guys and being here in Dallas for the first time.”

As a Quebec native who grew up speaking only French, Chiasson is somewhat of a rarity in that he opted to decline offers to play junior hockey in Canada and instead went the more round-about college route. With that in mind, he enrolled for a year at Northwood Prep High School in Lake Placid, NY, where he first learned English. Then he spent the 2008-09 season in the USHL, the top junior league in the United States, leading Des Moines in scoring with 17 goals and 50 points in 56 games, before heading to BU this past season.

A primary motivation for choosing the path less traveled is the strong emphasis that Chiasson and his family have always placed on getting a good education.

“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,” said Chiasson, who is majoring in Business. “You never know with hockey, if it doesn’t work out, there’s always a Plan B. My dad is a businessman, and my mom works too, and in this business economy, I don’t know (what I would do) - I’m just a freshman and obviously, I want to be a professional hockey player, but you never know what’s going to happen.”

Additionally, as a young man in a cosmopolitan city, Chiasson has enjoyed the other aspects of college life as well.

“It’s amazing going to school, BU’s a great school and Boston’s a great city,” said Chiasson, who speaks remarkably well - and with a minimal accent - for someone who just started learning the language three years ago. “I live right by Fenway Park, I get to go to a couple of games. It’s a great experience. My parents come every weekend to come see me and then there’s always fun stuff to do on weekends. It’s great.”

At this point, Chiasson figures to spend all four years of his college eligibility at BU as he matures physically and assumes more responsibility at one of the highest-profile NCAA programs with a rich tradition of winning. 

“Right now that would be the plan,” Jackson said of Chiasson’s future plans. “He had a learning year and that’s pretty normal - he had a big step. You look at the physical attributes and his attitude, he’s got it all. He just needs to pull it together.”

It may take him a little longer than some other top Stars prospects to do that and eventually pull on a Dallas jersey, but Chiasson aims to prove he’ll be worth the wait.

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