Last week I started this column off by writing about the phenomenon known as the “sophomore slump,” specifically talking about goaltender Jake Oettinger and the challenges he has faced in his second season in the NCAA.
It’s not just college players who can get sidetracked in their second seasons, of course. The sophomore slump can hit players in any league, and often does.
Denis Gurianov’s tough go of things in his second year in North America is another prime example of the slump in action.
The young Russian Gurianov had an impressive inaugural season on this side of the pond last year as a 19-year-old, scoring 12 goals and 15 assists in 57 games with the AHL’s Texas Stars. His hard work and strong play were enough for him to get rewarded with a call-up to the Dallas Stars for their final game of the 2016-17 regular season.
Despite expectations to take a big step forward this season for Texas, Gurianov’s play has produced mixed results. The 12th overall pick in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft still has the same fantastic blend of size and speed that he’s always had, but his impact in games has been inconsistent and his production on the score sheet is down - not up - from where it was last year.
However, sometimes all it takes is one big game to spark a change of fortunes for a player, and Gurianov certainly had one of those games on Saturday.
The 6’3” winger had a dynamic game for Texas, notching a hat trick and producing five shots on net as the Stars toppled their biggest state rivals, the San Antonio Rampage, 5-1.
The goals weren’t just greasy tap-ins either. The first came off of an explosive rush from his own zone that saw him undress a Rampage defender and finish on a breakaway. The second goal was an emphatic one-timer in the slot and the third was another one-timer, this one coming off the rush from a sweet feed by Roope Hintz.
Highlights of the goals (and the rest of the game) can be found here.
The celly on his third goal was pretty nice, too:
Here’s hoping that we get to see this kind of game from Gurianov a lot more often going forward. He certainly has the tantalizing skills necessary to make it happen.
A pair of other Stars prospects had notable outings in that same 5-1 win over San Antonio.
In addition to his assist on Gurianov’s hat trick goal, Hintz also tallied one himself, opening the game’s scoring on the power play. He also recorded with five shots on net. Philippe Desrosiers - called up from the ECHL’s Idaho Steelheads after Texas number one Landon Bow was recalled to Dallas - got his first AHL start of the season and made the most of the opportunity, stopping 23 of 24 shots.
Aside from Saturday, the only other action last week for Texas came on Friday with a 4-2 loss to the same Rampage team.
Jacob Peterson had himself a memorable weekend over in Sweden. The 18-year-old scored his first-ever professional league goal while on a call-up to Bjorkloven in the Allsvenskan.
He also had one goal and one assist in Sweden’s top under-20 league, the SuperElit. Check out those wheels on this assist:
Miro Heiskanen played three games for HIFK in the Liiga, picking up two assists. He will soon be headed to South Korea with the Finnish men’s hockey team to participate in the 2018 Winter Olympics.
North American Juniors
Another week, another batch of points produced by left winger Jason Robertson, as he recorded two goals and two assists in two games. As reported yesterday by Mark Stepneski in his weekly prospect update, Robertson is currently riding a six game goal streak and an eight game point streak.
Brett Davis just keeps finding the back of the net for the WHL’s Kootney Ice. The Ice scored a combined eight goals throughout three games last week, and Davis had half of them. A couple of the markers, from the same game against the Edmonton Oil Kings, were quite pretty:
Riley Tufte extended his goal-scoring lead on the University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs, as he notched his 13th tally of the season.
Joseph Cecconi also found twine with his fourth goal of the season for the University of Michigan Wolverines.
That makes five wins in a row now for Jake Oettinger, who stopped 20 of 22 shots against the University of Massachusetts.
2018 NHL Draft Watch
It has been two weeks in a row now where I’ve used this space to talk about big, two-way defensemen playing for the USA Hockey National Team Development Program, so I might as well continue that trend and make it three in a row, right?
Bode Wilde is the third of these defensemen that I’ve mentioned, but he is probably the best of the bunch. He’s a little smaller than Mattias Samuelsson and K’Andre Miller are, but he’s still pretty stocky at 6’2” and roughly 197 pounds, and is a significantly better skater. An incredibly athletic teenager from an athletic family, Wilde’s combination of size and skating alone make him a tantalizing prospect, but he can also handle the puck at speed, make hard, accurate passes and has a very good shot from the point.
He’s still pretty raw in terms of his understanding of the position, but Wilde’s tantalizing collection of tools make him would make him a no-brainer pick if he falls to 15th or later.
#NTDP: It's just one clip, but it encompasses why I have RHD Bode Wilde (Ranked No. 14) and LW Joel Farabee (Ranked No. 7) as high up as I have them.— Steve Kournianos (@TheDraftAnalyst) January 13, 2018
That's top 2019 draft prospect C Jack Hughes (2001) taking a cross-ice feed from Farabee and picking the short-side corner. pic.twitter.com/ZAGbMCEjoJ