Stars call up top prospect for season finale
This wasn’t the ideal situation for Denis Gurianov’s first NHL call-up.
In an ideal setting Gurianov, the 12th overall pick in 2015, would have earned his chance sometime next season with the Dallas Stars. He would have built on a strong first season in North America and after roughly 100 AHL games he likely would have been ready for NHL action as an injury call-up.
But injuries and a disappointing season in Dallas ultimately disrupted those plans.
Justin Dowling (upper body) and Brett Ritchie (lower body) joined the legion of the walking wounded this week and injuries in the AHL left Dallas with just four NHL-contracted healthy forwards to choose from in Cedar Park as Jim Nill scrambled to find 12 healthy forwards for the Stars' season finale.
So Gurianov will make his NHL debut on Saturday against the Colorado Avalanche. He’ll be joined by Mark McNeill, who arrived in a trade from the Chicago Blackhawks before the deadline, and it’ll be a one-game glimpse at a potential future, well, star, in Dallas.
It’s added more intrigue to an otherwise listless game, but patience still is going to be a virtue with this call-up. No matter how well Gurianov plays against Colorado, the Stars need to stick to the proper development path.
Gurianov is an explosive skater and oozes raw talent. His first step is deceptively quick, and he can make defenders uncomfortable.
However, he still needs refine the finer points of his game to be an NHL success story. His understanding of the game has improved drastically since October, but there are still steps he needs to take in the AHL and he needs to grow as two-way player with the Texas Stars next season.
The good news is Gurianov is committed to the process.
The teenager pushed to come over to the AHL this season when he opted out of the second year of a KHL contract -- a somewhat messy situation. He’s worked hard to improve his English and he’s been the ultimate team guy with the Texas Stars.
“It’s been great, he became a big part of that group right away in Cedar Park,” Jason Dickinson said. “Language was an issue at first, but we quickly figured out how to understand and communicate.”
While Gurianov is making his NHL debut, McNeill’s Dallas debut will be a one-game showcase for a player that wasn’t expected to play in the NHL this season (sound familiar?).
McNeill is a first-round pick that never clicked for Chicago. His career path was following a similar path for former Dallas bust Scott Glennie, but an injury-aided call-up to Dallas might be the chance he needs to prove he’s still a viable NHL option.
Either way, it’s created another reason to actually watch an otherwise meaningless game between two of the NHL’s worst teams.
And no matter what happens, remember that patience is a virtue and Gurianov will be fully NHL ready in due time -- hopefully for opening night of the 2018-19 season.
Follow Sean Shapiro on Twitter @SeanShapiro.