Alex Chiasson sat in the Dallas Stars locker room after Tuesday morning’s skate and shook his head. He wasn’t on board with the math exercise that was taking place around him.
The exercise – poking fun at how expectations can get out of hand – involved a simple word problem:
If Alex Chiasson scored six goals in seven NHL games last season, how many goals would he score over 82 games if he scored at the same rate?
“70.2857,” someone answered after doing the math on his iPhone calculator. “A little pressure.”
“Not happening,” Chiasson said, shaking his head.
“But those are the expectations.”
“Okay,” Chiasson said less than enthusiastically.
The talk of goal projections is silly, but Chiasson knows there are high expectations for him after he scored those six goals in seven games with the Stars at the end of last season before he was sidelined with a shoulder injury. He knows his performance put him in a good position for this season, but he is not taking anything for granted and includes a roster spot.
“I don’t expect anything, or anyone to give it to me,” Chiasson said. “I’m coming into training camp with the goal of making them keep me. I am going to work through training camp trying to be the best player I can and get a spot on the team.”
Chiasson just arrived back in town after spending his summer in Quebec, where he worked out with a group of NHL players that included Boston’s Patrice Bergeron, San Jose’s Marc-Édouard Vlasic, Phoenix’s Antoine Vermette and Montreal’s David Desharnais.
“We had a good group of guys,” Chiasson said. “They were pushing me, trying to get better. It was a good summer for me.”
Bergeron has emerged as one of the top players in the league in recent years, and is someone Chiasson looks at as a role model.
“His work ethic is tremendous and he’s giving back to players,” Chiasson said. “He is a guy who is easy to talk to. It was great for me.”
This will be Chiasson’s second year of professional hockey. While there was that late season flourish in the NHL, the big right winger went through a learning curve during his time in the AHL with the Texas Stars. He got off to a bit of a slow start before getting on track and finishing the regular season with 35 points (13 goals, 22 assists) in 57 games.
“I had to adjust to the level and the way things are, professional hockey and a lot more games. I wasn’t really used to that,” said Chiasson, who played three seasons at Boston University. “I thought Willie (Desjardins, Texas head coach) did a great job with me, really pushed me to become a different player and pushed my limits every day. That was good.”
That short time in the NHL was good as well. It provided confidence and a nice base to build on for this season.
“I started on a lower line and worked my way up to playing with Benny (Jamie Benn) and Whits (Ray Whitney). It was good for me to get the games with those two guys,” Chiasson said. “I got a lot of experience, played five-on-five, power play and some four-on-four. I know what to expect and what the games are like.”
Chiasson missed the final six games of the NHL season with a shoulder injury, but once he was healthy he was back in the AHL for the Calder Cup Playoffs, where he picked up two goals and an assist in seven games for the Texas Stars.
Now, the focus is on the upcoming season. Like the rest of the Stars, the 22-year-old Chiasson is excited about the offseason changes and the direction the team is taking under new GM Jim Nill. Tuesday was his first chance to skate with some of the new guys in the organization like defenseman Sergei Gonchar, goaltender Dan Ellis and 2013 first round draft pick Valeri Nichushkin.
“It was exciting to be here with the new guys,” he said. “The atmosphere is great. You can tell that the guys are excited to get back at it. It’s good to be here.”
Chiasson will spend another week here before heading off to Traverse City, Michigan to play for the Stars at the NHL Prospect Tournament. Then he will head to Fort Worth for Stars training camp, where he’ll try to build on what he did last season and secure that NHL roster spot.
“The success I had (last season), that was awesome. There are expectations that come with that,” Chiasson said. “I just want to focus on my game, do the good details and I think the rest is going to come with it.”