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Why the Stars Should Call Up Denis Gurianov

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The Russian rookie is perhaps the Stars’ best chance to fix the depth scoring issue barring a trade.

NHL: Preseason-Minnesota Wild at Dallas Stars Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

First of all, let’s get the obvious out of the way: the Dallas Stars have a secondary/depth scoring problem. My colleague Rob McClay wrote about this yesterday, and while six games are still a relatively small sample size, it’s enough to tell us that scoring outside of Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn, Alexander Radulov, and John Klingberg is a real issue this team is facing.

Unfortunately, while many fans are certainly daydreaming of a blockbuster trade for William Nylander, Artemi Panarin, or some other top six forward, the odds of that happening are slim. Waivers are technically another option, but realistically speaking, what team is going to waive a skater who can do something like (looks up Connor Carrick’s stats) net four points over six games?

For better or for worse, this is the Stars’ roster for the time being. Which means that the Stars have to solve this problem in house with players already on the roster such as Valeri Nichushkin, Mattias Janmark, and etc., right?

Not so fast, my friend. There is one other option available for Dallas: a call-up from the club’s AHL team, the Texas Stars. It’s the easiest way to get some fresh blood into the lineup without having to give up anything in return, and if the Stars switched them out with rookie Roope Hintz, the Stars wouldn’t even have to worry about exposing a player to waivers.

Still, some players in the AHL are there because they need additional seasoning for a NHL lineup to begin with. Those types are typically called up when a NHL player gets injured. If the Stars want to call up a player to try and help fix their scoring issues, they’d need someone with at least two of the three qualities:

  1. Is one of (if not the top) scorers on the Texas Stars currently.
  2. Has decently high offensive potential for the NHL
  3. Was almost good enough to make the NHL roster in the first place (i.e. one of the final cuts)

Enter Denis Gurianov.

As my other colleague Derek Neumeier wrote about the other day, Denis Gurianov has had a strong start to the AHL season. He currently sits tied with Joel L’Esperance for the team’s lead in scoring with 3 goals and 2 assists across five games, which checks off the first box. He hits the second box as well — his offensive ceiling was why the Stars used a 12th overall pick on him — and if you don’t believe me, just look at some of his goals:

As for the third criteria, I made the case for Gurianov potentially making the NHL roster back in the preseason. He had an impressive training camp, capped off by a good performance in the team’s scrimmage, and he followed it up with a solid preseason. In the end, the thing working against him was the number of roster spots, and he ended up being the odd one out.

In short, Gurinaov is exactly the kind of player that the Stars could use on the team right now. He has the talent to help drive the offense and put the puck into the net, and his offensive ceiling is higher than pretty much any player currently playing in the Stars’ bottom six.

Of course, this is provided that the coaching staff is willing to put the rookie in the right position to succeed. Playing less than ten minutes a game with the likes of Brett Ritchie and Devin Shore would probably not turn out well — just look at Jason Dickinson’s stat lines across 26 games last year. Instead, Jim Montgomery and company should try their hand at putting him alongside a player like Jason Spezza, or fellow Russian Alexander Radulov. If you truly want his offensive talent to blossom, you need to pair him with offensively minded players.

Now, it could very well be that Gurianov is simply having a hot start to the season, and that he’d cool down once facing serious NHL competition. But he’s also waivers-exempt, which means that if he doesn’t live up to expectations, the team could simply send him back down and call (presumably) Roope Hintz back up. There’s no “buyers remorse” that would come with a trade, or the potential to lose a player on the waiver wire as with Remi Elie, who is now playing for the Buffalo Sabres.

Gurianov obviously wouldn’t fix the Stars’ secondary scoring issues all by himself, and it’s quite possible that he fares no differently than any of the other forwards currently on the roster. But giving him a chance to prove himself is a much better option than simply sitting around and hoping someone else steps up.