Alex Chiasson set his own lofty expectations by being just the seventh player in the NHL’s modern era to score nine or more goals in his first 10 games.
Getting traded to the Ottawa Senators from the Dallas Stars for star centre Jason Spezza and being counted on to produce in a top-six role only raised them even further.
Chiasson welcomes the challenge.
“It’s pretty neat when a team goes and trades a big name and the big player like he is to a different team and they’re looking for you. It definitely means a lot,” he said on a conference call Wednesday. “As for pressure, I’m not too worried about that. … I know what kind of player I am, and I’m going to be the same player that I was when I was successful in Dallas and I’m going to try to bring it to Ottawa.”
Chiasson was the only roster player the Senators received in Tuesday’s Spezza deal, along with forward prospects Nicholas Paul and Alex Guptill and a 2015 second-round pick.
“Chiasson is a young, big strong guy that has big potential, we think,” general manager Bryan Murray told reporters Tuesday. “It looks like he has an ability to score points and goals, and he’s a hard-working kid.”
Murray likes how Chiasson fits in with the rest of the group currently assembled in Ottawa, which will have to work for points rather than rely on one or two players to produce them.
The 23-year-old right-winger could slide in on the second line, just behind Bobby Ryan on Ottawa’s depth chart. A conversation with Murray encouraged Chiasson about what his role will be with the Senators.
“I think the opportunity is there for me to jump in,” Chiasson said. “But at the same I’ve never taken anything for granted, I think I’ve always worked for the things that I’ve gotten so far. But it’s really exciting. I think you look at the players and they have a really good group of guys on board, a lot of talent, a lot of speed.”
After losing Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson within the past year, there’s also less high-end talent. Chiasson showed in one brief flash that he has the ability to provide that.
Chiasson scored seven goals in his first six games with the Stars in the 2013 season, then scored in each of his first three this past season. In doing so, he joined the likes of Teemu Selanne and Pat LaFontaine among players with nine-plus goals in their first 10 NHL games.
“The way I started and the way things were going, it was fantastic,” the Montreal native said. “Every kid dreams to play in the NHL, and I feel like the way that I started really boosted me to reach a different potential and to try to get better. I know there’s expectations that come with that.”
Chiasson only had two goals in his next 17 games, and he went into a worse slump around Christmas after getting what he called a really bad flu bug. He lost 10 to 15 pounds in the process.
“With the schedule last year with all the games, we had a lot of back-to-backs, a lot of travelling, so it was hard for me to put the weight back on,” Chiasson said. “I think also it was really my first year in the NHL and there was a lot of learning and things that I didn’t know.”
One lesson came from his year-end meeting with Stars coach Lindy Ruff, who told him he needed to try to be more consistent.
“Sometimes you’ll have downs and things won’t go your way,” Chiasson said. “You have to understand that every day you have to bring it. … I’m not going to be here setting up expectations for goals and points, but I know what kind of player I want to be and that’s for me to show up and prove it to people.”
Note—The Senators announced they signed forward Carter Camper to a one-year, two-way contract and re-signed forward Cole Schneider, defenceman Michael Sdao and defenceman Chris Wideman, who agreed to terms over the weekend.
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