When forward Jacob Peterson cracked the Dallas Stars lineup as a rookie in 2021-22, it was quite shocking.
The forward had played very little on the smaller North American rinks and was overshadowed by many players that seemed destined for the roster. But after a full season in the NHL, Peterson had a ‘real average camp', according to Stars Coach Pete DeBoer, and was sent down to the AHL after playing in just one game.
The reason for the demotion was simple: get Peterson into some games, as he ‘didn’t have a spot’ on the Stars lineup, especially once they signed Jason Robertson.
Of course, it didn’t help his cause when Matej Blumel scored five goals in his first four AHL games.
“It was just that they wanted me to play games,” he said of his talks with DeBoer and Jim Nill. “I didn’t have a spot up there, so it was good for me to come down here and play games and try to get better. It was a good conversation.”
For any player, being sent down can be tough. But the ones who keep their head up and work hard are usually the ones that get their shot again sooner rather than later.
For the Texas Stars, Peterson has been good. He recorded two assists in his first game back and has one goal and four points in eight games, averaging about three shots per game.
“It’s been good,” he said. “It’s been fun playing games. Team has been doing good. It took a couple games for me to get in it when I haven’t played for a while. It’s a good group of guys too so it’s been fun.”
“It’s a little bit different,” he said about playing in the NHL vs the AHL. “I would say it’s smarter guys up there, so it’s maybe easier sometimes to make plays [in the AHL]. But it’s tough down here too and it’s good hockey down here.”
Peterson is still a young player. The 23-year-old still has a lot to improve to become a full-time NHL player. But what he does have, is the positive attitude needed to succeed.
We saw it recently with Blumel, who embraced the fun of being sent up and down and not knowing where he might play on any given day.
Peterson has taken a similar approach: working on his strengths, addressing his weaknesses, and getting a little bit better every day.
“Trying to be more aggressive out there, win the battles,” he said. “Work on everything every day, be patient, and keep holding onto the puck. I think that’s one of my strengths, to have the puck a lot, so keep holding onto the puck, win battles. That’s what I am focusing on right now.”
As for his position on the depth chart, Peterson isn’t worried. Rather than focusing on the things he can’t control, he simply plays hard and works on his own game.
That is far easier said than done, especially right now.
With Dallas nearly pennies from the salary cap, there is absolutely no room to carry extra players. The Stars have been rolling with 13 forwards and seven defensemen, leaving them very little wiggle room. Just look at the mess that followed Jake Oettinger’s brief injury.
Now with Denis Gurianov, Ty Dellandrea, Luke Glendening, and a few other guys banged up, things are getting a bit dicey. But Dallas simply cannot afford to call up another skater. While this could be stressful on a guy like Peterson, he doesn't seem to mind. In fact, he wasn’t even aware of it.
“No, actually I’m not,” he said when asked if he was asked if he knew the Stars cap situation. “I am just focusing on if I am up there, and I get to play, I play. Or if I am down here, I just focus on playing the games. I just know where I am right now and try to play here so I don’t know actually.”