In Alex Chiasson, Valeri Nichushkin Stars Betting Upside Outweighs Youthful Tendencies

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

They have their rookie moments, but they're also scoring in bunches during preseason play.

The Stars wanted to see a full NHL lineup tonight against the Colorado Avalanche. They wanted to see some better detail work and a more complete 60 minute effort after an up and down, mostly down, game in Colorado Tuesday, albeit a win.

Lindy Ruff got some of that. The Stars controlled the game at even strength early. They got a lead. They got excellent goaltending when they needed it, but held Colorado's shot total down early.

But perhaps the real take away from a contest like last night's should be the effect youth has as it finds its way in professional sports, and what Dallas' season is liable to be like.

Consider the case of Alex Chiasson.

In the first period he saw the play developing. He saw Goligoski driving hard with the puck down the left side. He saw the Avalanche changing and the chaos in their defensive coverage. He barreled straight down the gut of the slot, found the anticipated rebound and put it home to give the Stars a lead.

It's what makes him, we hope, special. That ability to sniff what's going on and be in the right place. It's a goal scorer's trick, and a rare one.

"First shift," Chiasson mused on the goal. "That's a great way to start but there's a lot of things I've got to still work on [on] my game. Of course, goals are nice but there's a couple of things in my defensive zone I've got to get a little better and I think that will come in time."

Emblematic of that in the second period he caused a bit of a fire. An errant pass in front of his own changing bench and a failed clearing attempt later in the shift lead to a Ray Whitney giveaway, a point-blank scoring chance for Colorado, an icing, a timeout, and then a minor penalty taken by his line. They were on the ice for what seemed like eternity - I would hazard a guess at between two and three minutes. That kind of shift can change a game in the other team's favor, though it didn't because it was the Avalanche.

It was a ruinous series of events that put them back on the kill after they had already survived a three-minute power play splitting the first and second periods. It took 10 minutes to get their first shot of the frame and settle things back down.

Then he went ahead scored the Stars' fourth goal in the third period on the power play, his second of the night, and it was all smiles again.

He's great around the front of the net," Ruff told the Dallas Morning News. "I think he's going to become our net-front guy on the power play on a permanent basis. I don't think there is anyone better right now."

Then there's Valeri Nichushkin, who is as electrifying as he is frustrating at times. His puck possession skills are obvious. His speed is somehow impressive while his skating is, at the same time, sloppy. He tries to bully his way through opponents, usually resulting in a turnover. He's raw. He throws his body around with reckless abandon. He's 18, in other words.

Yet you know he's going to score some exciting goals this year. Like when he bolted up the right side Thursday and cut hard to the net, turning the corner past his defender and scoring a spectacular goal while falling down.

And that has to make a coaching staff think. Will the frequency of their success outweigh their failures over the course of the year?

Maybe that's just the way it's going to be this season. The fans want the youth. The team wants the youth to succeed. There are just going to be growing pains along the way and we're all going to watch and live through it.

The team is set up with veterans peppered throughout to limit the effects, and the offensive upside of Chiasson and Nichushkin is just too good to leave in the press box or out of town altogether.

"Erik Cole really helps me out with that," Chiasson said, singling out the veteran after the game. "It makes it a lot easier for me. He's just a guy who takes me under his wing a little bit. He's been there before. It's a lot easier for a young guy coming into the league."

Jamie Oleksiak will need some of the same. Brett Ritchie may get his chance down the line. Kevin Connauton as well. The youth will be served as the rebuild continues. It will be up to Jim Nill and Lindy Ruff to temper it in with deft direction and timing.

Raw though they may be, these guys have got to play. Now.

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