The difference a year makes for Chiasson

A year ago Alex Chiasson was a third-line forward in the AHL, learning the ropes in his first pro season.

To suggest even for a moment that 12 months later he would have racked up 14 goals in 34 NHL games, well, he never would have believed it.

Not when even his best year in college hockey was 15 goals.

"I'll be the first one to admit it, I didn't expect it to be like that," Chiasson, 23, said this week. "But you know what? It just feels right, here with this team. I've been fortunate to play with some really good players here.

"Yeah, I didn't expect a start like this, but now that you're in it, you want to keep it going."

The second-round pick (38th overall) in the 2009 draft has played most of the season with Cody Eakin and the Wizard, veteran winger Ray Whitney.

"He's given me a couple of tap-ins," Chiasson said of playing with Whitney. "It's been great. His experience has helped me a lot."

There are certainly worse ways to break into the NHL than having a creative, savvy player like Whitney on your line.

"He's a good kid, a humble kid, he works hard," Whitney, 41, said of Chiasson. "I like to have fun and make him laugh as much as I can. But he's a guy who goes up and down the wing, he's not flashy, he's not going to toe-drag anybody, but he's going to go to the hard areas, go to the front of the net, he's good in his own zone along the wall; all the little things that coaches love. He's willing to do all the tough things, just a complete all-around player."

Chiasson, a right winger, was brought up late last season as a checker/penalty killer. Then he went out and became the first player in Stars franchise history to record six goals in his first six games with the team.

"It was quite the experience," Chiasson said. "When it was happening, you don't really realize it, we were focused on trying to make the playoffs, but this summer I looked back on it and it was kind of neat to do that."

And the Stars, well, they wondered what exactly they had on their hands heading into this season.

"Coming into camp we liked him, but [thought] can he keep it going?" said Stars GM Jim Nill. "He came in from day one and showed he deserves to be here. Like anybody, he's hit the wall a few times scoring, but he's getting back there now."

At 6-foot-4 and 205 pounds, his game is about net presence.

"He's a north-south, up-and-down guy, goes in front of the net, knows his role," said Nill. "He's got a real good shot. A real honest player."

And right now, he's a young player just trying to soak it all in. A year ago, he was just trying to improve as an AHLer with the Texas Stars. Today he's a full-fledged second-line player in the NHL.

What a rush.

"They say a lot has to do with opportunity and timing, and for me it was the best I could ask for," said Chiasson. "I started on the third line in the American League last year, [Stars AHL head coach] Willie Desjardins did a great job with me pushing my game and getting me to another level. When the lockout ended, my role grew on the team. And then they called me up. I tried to jump on the opportunity as best I could."