The Dallas Stars made a move at forward Friday, sending right wing Denis Gurianov to the Texas Stars and recalling center Joel L'Esperance, the top goal scorer in the American Hockey League.
This is the first NHL recall for the 23-year-old L'Esperance, who is in his first full professional season and is making quite an impact with Texas. He leads the AHL with 27 goals in 49 games, is tied for second with 11 power-play goals and ranks second among AHL rookies with 42 points.
L'Esperance has been scoring consistently for Texas. His longest goal-scoring drought this season has been six games, and as he heads to the NHL, he has scored goals in five of his last six games in the AHL.
The 6-foot-2, 210-pound L'Esperance, who is a Michigan native, has a nice mix of size, skill, and smarts. He's a well-rounded player, brings a physical element and plays well on both sides of the puck. Is he going to be an NHL scorer? Hard to say. Goal scoring in the AHL doesn't always translate to the NHL. But he's got all the tools be an NHL player. Texas coach Derek Laxdal has compared L'Esperance to veteran NHL forward Jay Beagle, but with more of an offensive upside.
Back in early December, Dallas Stars brass attended a game between Texas and Milwaukee in Cedar Park, and L'Esperance scored twice on a game-high six shots on goal. Laxdal, in his postgame chat with the media, was asked what L'Esperance had meant to the team this season.
"He's a horse. He's a beast," Laxdal said. "He's a big, heavy centerman that seems to be getting better and better every game. He's just growing as a player. You saw him ... playing a hard, heavy game and scoring off a rush on a breakaway, showing some great speed at the end of a shift."
L'Esperance, who was never drafted by an NHL team, signed an amateur tryout with Texas last March after he concluded his four-year career at Michigan Tech, where he tallied 98 points (46 goals, 52 assists) in 152 career games.
He played nine regular-season games with Texas last season, tallying one goal and one assist, and then one goal and three assists in 22 playoff games as Texas made its run to the 2018 Calder Cup Finals.
That strong performance with Texas last season led to Dallas signing L'Esperance to a two-year, entry-level deal on July 1. And now, L'Esperance is on his way to the NHL for the first time.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club.
Mark Stepneski has covered the Stars for DallasStars.com since 2012. Follow him on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.