Stars defense prospect Gavin Bayreuther was passed over in three NHL Drafts, but he turned it into a positive. Disappointment provided motivation.
NHL teams passed over Bayreuther in the 2012, 2013, and 2014 drafts. In his final year of eligibility - the 2014 NHL Draft - he was coming off an impressive freshman season at St. Lawrence University in which he ranked third nationally in points per game among defenseman with 36 points (nine goals, 27 assists) in 38 games. NHL Central Scouting had him ranked 48th among North American skaters, but no takers.
"I was very upset, to be honest, but it was the best thing that ever happened to me," Bayreuther said. "It made me work so much harder, take nothing for granted. Prove everyone wrong."
Now, Bayreuther hopes he is on his way to proving his point. After three more solid seasons at St. Lawrence where he was among the top scoring defensemen in the nation, he was one of the more sought after free agents coming out of college. And after sorting through offers from a handful of NHL teams, he signed a two-year entry-level contract with the Dallas Stars in March.
"A dream come true," Bayreuther said at the time of the signing.
Stars GM Jim Nill showing up to watch him practice helped tipped the scales towards Dallas.
"That meant the world to me," he said.
And the allure of the warm Texas climate didn't hurt with the New Hampshire native.
"This is the peak of it all. It's really nice here," Bayreuther said during the recent Dallas Stars development camp in Frisco. "I've lived in the cold my whole life, so it's a great change of pace, and I am really looking forward to it."
Bayreuther got his first taste of Texas late last season, joining the Texas Stars of the American Hockey League after signing his NHL deal and getting a head start on his professional career.
"It was an unbelievable experience," Bayreuther said. "It's a huge jump and had I not done that I'd be so much lower on the level. I feel doing that has made me such a better player and a better person. I've learned so much, and I am very grateful for it."
The 23-year-old Bayreuther and other Dallas prospects received advice on being a pro in development camp earlier this month, but that time in the AHL late last season allowed Bayreuther to soak it in firsthand.
"It's cliché, but it's true - just being a pro," Bayreuther said. "You see the older players doing the same thing [to prepare] every day. Those are some of the things I learned the most."
Bayreuther played a total of 15 games with Texas late last season, registering five points (two goals, three assists).
"It was great for his development," said Dallas Stars assistant GM Scott White. "I think he learned a lot. He probably learned that he needs to get a little stronger, bigger. He knew that, but I don't know if he knew the level. But the experience is good."
The scouting report on Bayreuther, who is listed at 6-1, 195 pounds and is a left-handed shot, is that he is a smart player who reads the game well, has good puck skills, a good shot, and good skating ability.
"He gets to the puck quick, he moves, he can hang onto the pucks that extra second and make a play," White said. "He's not just going back there and rimming it around the wall. He's seeing the play and making it. He has a good shot on the power play."
Bayreuther played four years at St. Lawrence University in upstate New York, recording 111 points (35 goals, 76 assists) in 142 games. The college path was ideal for Bayreuther, whose family put a high value on education. It was important enough that after the Texas Stars season ended he went back to St. Lawrence and completed his degree in sociology.
"[Education] was ingrained within my family," Bayreuther said. "If you ask my mom it was very important. That's something she taught me, and I am very fortunate for her to push me through that. I am very glad I have that in the books, in my back pocket."
And now it's onto that professional hockey career, which will get in full swing this season and give him an opportunity to prove a point to those who had doubts about him.
"I am one step there with five steps to go. It's always something I have had to do. I've always been the underdog," Bayreuther said. "I am not laughing yet, but I want to be ultimately. I have a ways to go, but I am looking forward to it."
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 DallasStars.com reflect his own opinions and do not represent official statements from the Dallas Stars. You can follow Mark on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.