The Dallas Stars made all the right moves when it came to recruiting college free agent defenseman Gavin Bayreuther.
Bayreuther was one of the more-highly sought college free agents after a four-year career at St. Lawrence. He 111 points in 142 college games and earned All-America status, drawing attention from a handful of NHL teams after St. Lawrence’s season came to an end.
In the end, Bayreuther picked the Stars over an offer from the Buffalo Sabres and made his final decision on Tuesday afternoon. The Stars formally announced his signing on Wednesday and the 6-foot-1, 200-pound defensemen had a flight booked for Thursday to join the Texas Stars on an ATO (amateur tryout contract) for the rest of the season.
“He came into my office yesterday and we talked about it,” St. Lawrence head coach Mark Morris said. “I know (Texas Stars assistant coach) Karl Taylor quite well, because we both were in the LA Kings coaching system. I also know a couple of player in Austin right now in Andrew Bodnarchuck and Ethan Werek, so I had a good feeling for the organization. He had questions about playing in Dallas vs a snowier location, and bussing more. He made his own decision, but I gave him the information I had and we talked about it.”
Morris said Dallas Stars general manager Jim Nill made it clear to Bayreuther that he was a priority.
“One of those things that was very impressive to Gavin was that Jim Nill came and watched us practice,” Morris said. “That says volumes when a general manager comes face-to-face like that and that had a big bearing on his decision.”
Rich Peverley’s work with the Stars, a fellow St. Lawrence grad, also had an impact on the decision.
“I should add that Rich, a fellow St. Lawrence grad, being part of the Stars organization helped put his mind at ease,” Morris said. “I’m not sure if they talked directly about it. But Rich has built a great reputation on working with prospects and young players in just a short time in that role.”
The Stars are adding an offensive-minded defenseman with a heavy shot and reminds Morris of Kings defenseman Alec Martinez.
Bayreuther moves the puck well, and can skate his way out of situations. Morris, who coached in the AHL during during the 2015-16 season, said he’ll likely be an even better player as a pro than he was in the college game.
“I try to compare him with some of the guys I had in Charlotte (in the AHL) last season, in some regards he’s ahead. He’s not as proficient defensively yet, but he’ll get there,” Morris said. “The pro game is a much more controlled game, while the college game is a lot of chip and chase. A real fast pace and not as controlled. That eliminates some chances to make plays. I think when he’s with other skilled players it will accentuate his abilities and he’ll be able to play off other players well.”
Morris said it’s a stretch to think Bayreuther will be a full-time NHL player next season, but he’s close.
“He’s improving his defensive awareness, and he’s becoming more and more proficient in that regard,” Morris said. “He’s gotten better at reading situations, and he’ll do well with the coaches they have in Texas find the fit for his game.”
Morris also pointed out that Bayreuther is a perfect teammate.
“He’s got an infectious personality, which he carries over onto the ice,” Morris said. “Real positive influence on his teammates. He wears his heart on his sleeve.”