Denis Gurianov has earned a promotion, if not from the AHL to the NHL then at least to a bigger role. After a tough first week to open the season, Gurianov has become a driving factor on the Texas Stars roster, and been given a spot in the top six. With him and Joel L’Esperance tag-teaming as the best player on ice, Texas has improved to 4-1-1-1 and second place in the AHL’s Central division (the first time the Stars are in the division and they are one point behind first).
Gurianov has seven points in seven games, with a five-game goal scoring streak in the last five games. “Trying to play well in the defensive zone, just trying for more points and more wins” Gurianov said, when asked what had changed. He continued that defensive zone work is what is holding him back, in his opinion, from the NHL.
L’Esperance still leads him and the team with eight points in seven games including a confidence-building performance against the Grand Rapids Griffins, leaving the game with three points.
The other driving factor in Texas’s early season excellence has been goaltending. Landon Bow has been excellent, better than his .903 save percentage would suggest, and Colton Point earned his first professional win by helping to shut down the Iowa Wild in the second game of a back to back.
“To finally be able to play a professional game and say that I’ve won it is a huge accomplishment for me” Point said. This is his first year in the AHL and the young goaltender is just 20.
Youth has also been a factor in Texas’s success. Reece Scarlett’s unfortunate injury has allowed room for the young defensemen Niklas Hansson, Ben Gleason, and John Nyberg to step up. Gleason has done the best, and with four points in seven games, is first amongst Texas defensemen. Adam Mascherin has scored two goals in seven games and so has Nick Caamano. Even Tony Calderone, who has only played in four games, has a goal this season.
Justin Dowling has also been called up to the Dallas Stars, over the young guns in L’Esperance and Gurianov. He has six points in seven games.
Dowling has just not looked as impressive as the two younger forwards, especially of late, and it seems like his passes don’t connect and he looks out of sorts offensively. While this could be a defensive-oriented move, both L’Esperance and Gurianov are working on their defensive games at a high level. L’Esperance especially has been great in his own end.
There are a number of faults with the Texas Stars, despite their early success. The team has been out shot in the first period four out of seven games, needs more from the penalty kill (83.9 percent kill rate is the third-best in the Central, but the team allows a number of high-danger chances that could lead to a worse rate) and the defensive system, while geared towards offensive production, leaves room for opposing forwards.
But their offensive grind has been impressive so far this season, and as they continue to win games, it will be because of young forwards like L’Esperance and Gurianov and offensive defensemen like Gleason.