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Starting The Journey

by John Tranchina / Dallas Stars

He may have left school two years early, but goaltender Richard Bachman’s education is just beginning. 

The Dallas Stars’ fourth round selection (120th overall) in the 2006 Entry Draft, Bachman signed a three-year entry level contract in late March after completing his sophomore year at Colorado College. 

After posting a 14-11-10 record with three shutouts, a 2.63 goals-against average and a .914 save percentage, Bachman made the decision to turn pro and officially join the Stars organization.

“I looked at it, it’s kind of been in the back of my head for a little bit now and I just felt like the timing, it’s the right time for me to leave,” Bachman said of his thought process. “I’ve kind of seen a lot of different stuff at the college level and felt like it was a good time for me to get out of there and make that next step into the pro game and start seeing some pro hockey with the different level of play and in the situation here, it felt like a good time for me.” 

“I left school after my sophomore year as well,” noted Stars co-General Manager Brett Hull, who attended Minnesota-Duluth before turning pro with Calgary in 1986, “and I think it’s just, as a player, you get to a level where you have to keep going, and some people don’t need the four years of college. I think he is one of those guys. He wants to play in the NHL and the best way to do that is to go on and start playing with better competition at the pro level. I think it takes a lot of time for those guys to find their way. I think he just felt it was time for him to do it and we just want him to keep developing like he has. He’s a very skilled player and he’s proven himself, but now it’s time to change levels and do it again. He believes he can do it and so do we.”

Bachman arrived in Dallas for a few days down the stretch to meet with management and, even though he wasn’t eligible to get on the ice with the team, to talk to the players and get a taste of what it’s like to be around an NHL club, with an eye towards preparing himself for his first professional season next Fall.

“I know a couple of them, it’ll be nice to see them and meet some of the guys I haven’t met before,” Bachman said. “It’s a great environment and it’s fun to see what it’s like up here. I’m just enjoying it.”

Stars goaltending consultant Andy Moog has had plenty of chances to watch Bachman since the Stars drafted him and in assessing his readiness for the pro game, holds him in very high regard.

“Richard is probably one of the most technically-sound goalies I’ve seen in a long time,” Moog said. “He’s got a determination to work through any kind of problem, which is his solution to anything, just work harder. That’s encouraging about him. His challenges will be to make his college game fit the pro game and that’s battling for position, holding ice in the crease so he could fill the net. Those questions will be answered as he goes into his first pro season.”

Bachman’s second year of college was actually considerably tougher than his freshman season in 2007-08, when he experienced a dream season that ranks among the best in NCAA Division I history. Bachman fashioned an impressive 25-9-1 record while leading the Tigers to the WCHA conference championship. Along the way, he posted four shutouts along with a miniscule 1.85 goals-against average and a stellar .931 save percentage - both school records. He became just the second player to ever win the WCHA Rookie of the Year and Player of the Year awards in the same season, and was also named the national Rookie of the Year as well.

But while he did not experience nearly as much success as a sophomore, when CC was upset in the first round of the WCHA Playoffs after finishing third in the regular season, Bachman feels the up-and-down year was a very valuable learning process for him to go through.

“It definitely was a whole different season for me,” admitted Bachman, who will be 22 by the time next season starts. “The first year, I saw nothing but great things. (This season) was actually, I think, a good year for me to mature, see some different stuff. We weren’t scoring a lot, I had to learn to just play my position and not try to do too much and our guys picked it up in the middle there, we had some good times and some bad times. So it was really good for my maturity level and seeing a lot of different situations on the ice, and I think that will help me at the next level.

“I feel like just going through some of those tough times and having to bounce back the next night, will definitely help me in the future and it won’t come as a shock when things don’t go my way all the time. It was just a good learning experience as a goalie to see all that different stuff.” 

While Marty Turco is fully entrenched as the number one goalie in Dallas, the rest of the organization’s goaltending situation remains in flux. Backup Tobias Stephan becomes a free agent on July 1 and likely won’t be back, so there will be roster spots available for netminders either in Dallas or with the club’s new AHL affiliate based in the Austin suburb of Cedar Park, the Texas Stars. Bachman acknowledged that the opportunity to grab one of those jobs was one reason he decided to come out now.

“I know I need to get some training in and stuff, and get a little bigger and stronger,” admitted the 5-foot-11, 172-pound native of Salt Lake City, Utah. “It’s definitely right there and I want to try and make that step and reach that goal, but just being in the organization with all the support they can give me and the help they can give me in my game, I just felt like it was good fit for me, the right time.” 

Where he ends up next season, of course, will depend primarily on his performance at next September’s training camp. Stars coach Dave Tippett doesn’t expect him to start off in the NHL but acknowledges that anything is possible. 

“I don’t see that as the plans right now,” Tippett said. “Now that might change - everybody is going to get an opportunity in training camp next year and you never know, he might come in and steal the show. I don’t want to rule that out, but normally, players like that need to continue to work on their game and that’s a tough position to jump in (at the NHL level). And the other thing about it is, you wouldn’t want to take a player like that and make him the number two here, because his playing time would be diminished. You’d rather see him playing.” 

“It’s hard to say - he’ll be at training camp and that will play out,” Hull said regarding where Bachman was most likely to play next year. “You don’t know how people react to the new league. And for the most part, the goalies, they take longer and the experience they get, whether it’s playing in Austin or wherever, it’s invaluable. But then again, there are some goalies that are just great, so you just have to wait and see how they do.”

Moog pointed out that wherever Bachman plays, even if it’s with the Stars’ ECHL affiliate in Idaho, which is another rung down the ladder, he will still continue to learn and progress towards becoming an NHLer in the future.

“I expect him to come to camp and demonstrate his abilities and skills and wherever his situation lies, we’re going to take advantage of it and see where it develops,” Moog said. “We’ve seen that one place or another isn’t necessarily good or bad, whether it’s Mike Smith or Dan Ellis or Matt Climie most recently, you develop your skills and your abilities wherever you play. It doesn’t matter if it’s the American League or the East Coast League, but I fully expect him to challenge to be an American League player.”

No matter where he begins his pro career, Bachman, who was recently ranked as the organization’s top goalie prospect by The Hockey News, looks destined to wind up in Dallas at some point and the journey starts now.

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