Over the past few years the Dallas Stars have made it a priority to focus on building a successful hockey team not just through trades and free agency, but through an intense focus on drafting quality and skilled players. In 2009, Joe Nieuwendyk's first summer as General Manager, the Stars focused on acquiring skilled wingers to fill a gaping hole in the system. Scott Glennie was drafted in the first round, a high-scoring right-handed winger, with Alex Chiasson going in the second round that year.
Drafted out of the USHL, Chiasson was a right-handed winger with good size and substantial scoring ability who seemed to be more of a playmaker than a true goal scorer. He was touted as a player with above-average ability in both ends of the ice and the Stars saw potential in a player who had not received much exposure at that point.
Chiasson went on to have three good years with Boston University, with his junior season marred by off-the-ice issues with the team (not Chiasson) and a slow start to the season. Chiasson and the Terriers came on strong after Christmas, however, and rode a hot streak into the NCAA tournament when the season ended. Chiasson finished with 15 goals and 46 points in 38 games, the top scorer on his team and the sixth-leading scorer in Hockey East.
Finishing out the season with the Texas Stars, Chiasson netted five points in nine games and showing that he could be ready for the next step sooner than later.
"It really helped the start of my career. I learned how to be a pro," Chiasson said of his time in the AHL. "It's different than college because you are on your own a lot. You've got to take care of your body, your meals and your schedule. Hockey-wise it was great. It's different than college. In the AHL and pro hockey there is a lot more structure."
Chiasson showed great promise in just a few weeks in the AHL and at Stars Development Camp last month the power forward showcased that he's the prospect to keep an eye on, the one that could be the next difference maker for the Dallas Stars.
Dallas Stars Development Camp in July was unlike any other we've seen in recent memory, with a number of highly-skilled and promising prospects taking the ice and showing just how the prospect system has been transformed under Joe Nieuwendyk. Scott Glennie, Jamie Oleksiak, Radek Faksa, Jack Campbell, Brenden Dillon, Matej Stransky, Reilly Smith and Austin Smith were at the top of the list of a number of players that were impressive during camp -- with Alex Chiasson leading the way.
"It's just great to be here, there's new guys coming in and I know I was always looked up to the older guys," said Chiasson. "This year I think I'm one of those guys. This year is probably my last one, just trying to set the example. I think there's a lot to learn here."
Chiasson, painted as perhaps a bit immature his first few years with Boston Univeristy -- justly or not-- has grown into a leader on the ice and it showed during his time in Austin and especially with his work on the ice during camp. Chiasson isn't one to be very vocal but instead leads by example, a physical forward who isn't afraid to mix it up in the tough areas of the ice and who is more than capable of creating offense from those areas as well.
Long considered a top prospect in the system, Chiasson has been unheralded at times and fallen under the radar thanks to the big seasons of Reilly Smith and Austin Smith. Yet Chiasson's skill set and overall polish as a budding power forward have vaulted him to the top of most prospect rankings, with Hockey's Future having Chiasson as the #2 prospect in the Dallas Stars system.
The improvement in his play and what he showed in the AHL at the end of the season have many believing that Chiasson could be the next big Stars forward prospect to make the jump to the NHL. It's a jump that Chiasson knows is coming soon and one that he's certainly prepared for when training camp arrives -- eventually.
"I'm thrilled, I am so excited," Chiasson said. "I've worked so hard to get this close, but this is going to be that much harder. And I've been working hard this summer. I want to make an impression. It's going to be my first one and I want to get a spot on this team."
Chiasson was easily the best player on the BU team in the NCAA tournament, standing out as not just a physical forward with good skills along the boards but one capable of creating offense -- and finishing as well. Chiasson has worked hard on his release and his shot and it's perhaps his best asset at this point, a devastatingly accurate and hard snap shot that would stand out even in an NHL game.
Right or wrong, Chiasson hasn't received as much praise as he perhaps deserves as one of the top prospects in the system. He's not a flashy player but he is easily the most well-rounded forward currently in the system -- better even than Matt Fraser, Reilly Smith and Scott Glennie. Chiasson is a capable defender in his own zone and great in transition and has proven to be a dynamic forward with more than just one trick up his sleeve.
Chiasson, however, realizes he still has a lot of work to do in order to get to the NHL and make the right impression once he's there.
"I think there's a lot with my game I need to improve in order to get to the NHL," said Chiasson. "The closer you get, the harder it gets. I think this summer has been great so far, trying to put some weight on -- I'm trying to add five more pounds. I think, with the way that I play, that it's going to help me out a lot. Keep working on my skating, the game is so fast so you can't be a slow guy out there."
Chiasson has spent time with Gary Roberts this summer, working on his training habits and doing his best to get in the best shape possible to prepare for the grueling season ahead. NCAA players appear in around half as many games as they could potentially play in once in the AHL and NHL and there's generally a transition period needed. Chiasson has worked to bulk up to 210 pounds, at what he says should be a better weight for him to compete at this higher level.
Lots of the focus this summer has been on Brenden Dillon and Matt Fraser getting their shot at the NHL out of training camp but Alex Chiasson should not be overlooked. With a good camp and a big impression in the preseason, Chiasson could be another weapon the Stars utilize on an increasingly-deep group of forwards.