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Making the most of his opportunity

Remi Elie appears to be sticking around after strong showing in first two NHL games

by Mark Stepneski @StarsInsideEdge / Inside Edge

Remi Elie was an emergency call-up when Antoine Roussel went out with a hand injury, and the Stars needed a 12th forward. But you can take the emergency label off Elie because he's appeared to have earned himself a regular roster spot for now.

"We need the speed in the lineup," said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. "The one thing we've been missing in the lineup is that ability to get in behind, hard to play against and [Elie's] done a nice job in the two games he has played."

The Stars recalled Elie from the Texas Stars on Feb. 25, but he sat out as a healthy scratch for two games before being sent back to the AHL on March 1. After Roussel went out with his injury, Elie was called up again on March 3 and made his debut at Florida the next day. After a strong showing in the Stars' 2-1 victory in that game, Elie earned the opportunity to stick around even as Adam Cracknell came off injured reserve and play in the 4-2 win at Washington on Monday. 

"I felt after that first game, even with Cracknell being healthy, he could help us win another game," Ruff said of Elie.

And now, it appears Elie will be sticking around for a while. Ruff was asked if Elie could with Dallas the rest of the season.

"I look at what we need to be a better team on the road, a harder team to play against, and I think he fits what can help us," said Ruff. "I think the line of [Cody] Eakin, him and [Ales] Hemsky did a really good job. You look at the number of chances he created, the duress he put their defense under and the fact that he is a physical player. You take Roussel out of the lineup, and that's a good replacement to continue down that path where we are hard to play against."

For the 21-year-old Elie, the past few days have been quite an experience. He was caught off guard and excited by that first call-up in late February and excited again when the second call came, knowing that this one would mean his dream of playing in the NHL would become a reality. He soaked in the experience of hitting the ice at BB&T Center in Sunrise, Florida for that first game.

"Just seeing the NHL rink, seeing the size and realizing that my dream had come true, it was unbelievable," Elie said. "My family was able to be there [in Florida], and it was a dream come true for them too."

Elie is in his second year of pro hockey, earning the call-up to the NHL with some solid play in the AHL this season with the Texas Stars.

"What you saw in the first two [NHL] games is pretty much what he has done all season in terms of work, compete, forecheck," said Dallas Stars assistant GM and Texas Stars GM Scott White. "Now, subtle plays are starting to creep into his game offensively. He draws other guys in because of that work ethic. He's taking advantage of it. That is good to see."

Some might even say Elie looked better in his two NHL games than he's looked at the AHL level this season. Ruff said that's not a surprise.

"I think that's always the case. I think that sometimes you get with better players, you get with faster players and you get an opportunity to play with higher skill and you can look better," Ruff said. "I think sometimes when you're playing up, and with more speed, there's times you get the puck, the puck gets in the right place, the defense moves it better sometimes, and if you're a forward, you can look better."

Elie said the there was an adjustment to the pace of the NHL game, but not much changed with the way he played.

"It was the speed of the game. And the positioning of the players. They are always in the right spot, and you don't have a lot of time with the puck, so you have to make quicker plays," he said. "Just keeping my feet moving, getting on the forecheck and be hard to play against and play good defensively."

Dallas drafted the 6-1/203-pound forward in the second round (40th overall) of the 2013 NHL Draft out of the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League. Elie played three seasons in the OHL for London, Belleville, and Erie, registering 161 points (66 goals, 95 assists) in 191 games. He ended his OHL career in Erie, playing on a line with a hotshot prospect named Connor McDavid.

Elie made quite a splash when he turned pro, turning in a strong showing at Dallas Stars training camp in 2015. He was among the final players sent to the AHL before the start of the season, but his first campaign with the Texas Stars had its challenges. There was an adjustment to living on his own and taking care of some of life's everyday tasks away from the rink.

"It's just growing up," Elie said. "I am 21-years-old now, it's time that I do that on my own."

Elie, who had 17 points (six goals, eleven assists) in 64 games last season, has shown improvement in his second AHL season. In 50 games this season, he has 25 points (eight goals, 17 assists) and has played a bigger role on the team.

"There's been growth," said White. "I think he matured over the summer and I think our coaches have done a really good job with him. You have to credit the player."

"It's a good developmental league," Elie said of his time in the AHL. "It's a good experience, and you try to build your confidence and just try to bring it up here."

And Elie's done that in his first NHL two games, which has earned him a roster spot with Dallas for the time being.

"It's exciting," Elie said. "I just have to keep doing what I am doing."

This story was not subject to approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club. Mark Stepneski is an independent writer whose posts on reflect his own opinions and do not represent official statements from the Dallas Stars. You can follow Mark on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.

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