Being drafted in the first-round pick in the NHL Entry draft is both an incredible honor and burden. It is expected that the player will be in the league within two to three years and will be a top six-level forward or top two pairing defenseman.

For Denis Gurianov, there was a period where that did not seem to be the case. The 2015 first-round pick for the Dallas Stars seemed to be on his way to bust status. It was just a year and a half ago that Denis was healthy scratched during the Calder Cup Finals.

Depending on who you asked, some said it was an attitude issue with the young forward while others reported it was a performance issue. The knock-on Gurianov was that he could not play a full 200-foot game. He was a liability on defense and he was simply ineffective without the puck. Much like teams will do with a first-round pick, Denis was handed a spot out of training camp because of where he was drafted. But his play was not where it needed to be and he was sent back down. Where he immediately scored a hat trick and the rebirth of his game began.

It is amazing how things change in the span of a year and a half. Gurianov has been one of the best players on the ice for the Stars since his return from Cedar Park. Denis currently sits at 6th for the Stars at 6 points in 12 games, including 4 goals.  Two of those goals have been of the game-winning variety, the first coming against Anaheim and the other against Montreal, which leads the team.

From potential first-round flame-out to NHL standout is quite the turnaround. The most impressive development in Gurianov’s game is that he is engaging at both ends of the rink, with and without the puck. He is checking opponents and using his speed to pressure other teams. He has bought in and has such a confidence level. A player does not need to register a point to have an impact on the game.

Hopefully, Denis can continue his excellent play, because the Stars need him. Plus, imagine watching Gurianov and Roope for the next decade with Miro on the blue line. It is impossible to do so without smiling.

Featured Image: Michael Ainsworth, AP
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