Last season was the longest and most fun of Gavin Bayreuther’s hockey career. The defenseman from Canaan played in his first 19 NHL games, recorded his first five NHL points and earned a new contract with the organization he has spent his entire professional career with.
Bayreuther, 25, agreed to a one-year, two-way contract with the Dallas Stars on July 8, choosing to play his third full pro season for the club that signed him as an undrafted free agent in 2017.
The St. Lawrence University product recorded two goals and three assists over 19 games with Dallas and another 25 points (seven goals, 18 assists) in 53 AHL games with the Texas Stars last season.
“Obviously, I’ve loved my time in Dallas as well in Texas down in Austin,” Bayreuther said. “It’s a great place with great management. I feel like it’s a place where I can make the next step in my career and lock down a bigger position and bigger role.”
Bayreuther took a giant leap forward in his career on Nov. 16 of last season when he made his NHL debut in Dallas against the Boston Bruins with his family in the stands. Bayreuther, who was a casual Bruins fan growing up, saw 14 minutes, 48 seconds of ice time, helping the Stars earn a 1-0 overtime win over Boston.
“The best part of all was my family was there and were able to celebrate with me,” Bayreuther said. “Playing the Bruins, it was on NESN so all my family and friends back home were able to watch it. Honestly, it’s a moment I’ll never forget but it also went by very fast. I wish I was able to enjoy it again.”
The Holderness School graduate began last season with Texas in the AHL, recording five points (two goals, three assists) over seven games before receiving the call-up to Dallas.
“Unfortunately, I didn’t make the team out of camp but I knew my time would come soon enough,” Bayreuther said.
Bayreuther recorded an assist — his first NHL point — in his second game with Dallas: a 6-2 triumph at the New York Islanders. After two games without contributing a point, the left-shot blue-liner scored his first NHL goal into an empty net in Dallas’ 6-4 win over Ottawa on Nov. 23.
“Whether it’s an empty-netter or not, it’s such a lifelong dream,” Bayreuther said. “Playing in your first game is special but scoring your first goal is probably a little more special because it happens to so many less people.”
Bayreuther played in 14 more games for Dallas before he was reassigned to Texas on Dec. 28. He responded by tallying an assist in each of his first three games back in the AHL and finished with the third-most points among defensemen on the team.
Bayreuther’s 25 points over 53 games for Texas last year were seven shy of the career-best mark he set over 71 games with the team during the 2017-18 regular season.
“Obviously, I played 19 total (NHL) games due to some injuries,” Bayreuther said. “As soon as all the defensemen were back, it was time to go back down ... When you go down, you just continue to grind and get better so the next time you do get called up you’re ready to go.”
After experiencing the game at the NHL level last season, Bayreuther is determined to make Dallas’ opening-day roster out of training camp this year. He is living in Boston this offseason, training to get faster, stronger and quicker and improving areas like his defensive skating.
With his contract good for only one year, Bayreuther is entering this upcoming campaign with added motivation.
“You’ve got to get to work,” Bayreuther said. “You’ve got one more year to show yourself and hopefully secure a job — make everyone realize you can be a night in, night out NHL hockey player.”