Weekend watch list: Dec. 8-10

Photo: Mark Nessia

Patrick Williams, TheAHL.com Features Writer

First in scoring, first in the Central Division.

That’s how this weekend begins for Mavrik Bourque and Logan Stankoven as they help lead the Texas Stars into a two-game visit from the Chicago Wolves tonight and Saturday. At 11-5-2-1, the Stars have a four-point lead atop the Central Division and rank fourth overall in the Western Conference with a .658 points percentage.

The two highly regarded prospects in the Dallas Stars pipeline also have some recently acquired hardware. Bourque was named the AHL Player of the Month for November after he compiled 17 points (four goals, 13 assists); that effort included a career-high four points, all assists, as the Stars took an overtime win at San Diego on Nov. 29. Stankoven was November’s AHL Rookie of the Month; he amassed 15 points, including eight goals, during his 10 games.

This weekend is a brief pit stop back home for the Stars, who just finished a five-game trip out west (3-2-0-0). After hosting the Wolves, Texas will head back out on the road next week for three more games. Since being swept by Tucson on opening weekend, the Stars have a six-game point streak (3-0-2-1) at H-E-B Center.

Stankoven, a 20-year-old rookie, has blown through the AHL in his first two months as a pro. His 14 goals lead the AHL, and he and along with Bourque has a league-leading 26 points, including a nine-game scoring streak entering the weekend. Dallas’s second-round draft pick in 2021 was the 2021-22 Player of the Year in both the Western Hockey League and the Canadian Hockey League while with Kamloops. He was also twice a part of gold-medal winning clubs representing Canada at the IIHF World Junior Championship.

Bourque, 21, went to Dallas as a 2020 first-round pick and played 70 games with Texas last season, notching 47 points (20 goals, 27 assists). He had an eight-game point streak, his longest as a pro, snapped last Saturday in Bakersfield.

Place Bell is familiar territory for Alex Belzile, the native of Saint-Eloi, Que., who spent five seasons and 174 games with the Laval Rocket. This weekend, the former Rocket captain and the franchise’s career scoring leader returns as his Hartford Wolf Pack visit Laval tonight and Saturday.

Belzile, who joined the New York Rangers as a free agent in July, made his NHL debut with the Montreal Canadiens eight years into his pro career during the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs. He appeared in a career-high 31 NHL games with the Habs last season.

Undrafted out of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, Belzile spent parts of five seasons across five teams in the ECHL before he was able to stick in the AHL as a full-timer with San Antonio in 2017-18. He was named Laval’s captain last season, and represented the host Rocket at the 2023 AHL All-Star Classic. Belzile’s lengthy road to the NHL made him Montreal’s nominee last season for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy, awarded to “the NHL player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey.”

Entering the weekend, Belzile is in a tie for fourth in league scoring with 22 points (seven goals, 15 assists) through 21 games. The Wolf Pack are second in the Atlantic Division at 14-4-3-0 (31 points) have a seven-game point streak that featured six consecutive wins before a 4-3 overtime loss to Cleveland on Wednesday night.

Two Pacific Division rivals will meet in the AHLTV Free Game of the Week on Saturday (10 ET/7 PT) as the Ontario Reign visit the Bakersfield Condors.

The game will complete a home-and-home series between the teams as the Reign host the Condors tonight at Toyota Arena. In the only other meeting between the teams this season, Ontario picked up a 3-2 road win Oct. 21.

The Reign have earned at least a point in 10 of their past 12 games (8-2-1-1) going back to Nov. 8, including a 3-1 home win against Henderson on Wednesday that moved them to within three points of Calgary for the Pacific Division lead. Forward Samuel Fagemo, who returned to the Los Angeles Kings organization on Nov. 11 after being claimed off waivers, continues to dominate with 10 goals and five assists in 10 games since rejoining the Reign. Ontario rookie Brandt Clarke posted a pair of assists in Wednesday’s win and leads all AHL defensemen with 22 points (five goals, 17 assists) in 21 games.

Bakersfield, 3-1-0-1 in its last five outings, received defenseman Philip Broberg on loan from the parent Edmonton Oilers on Thursday, while Ben Gleason was recalled. Broberg, 22, was the eighth overall pick in the 2019 NHL Draft and has played 79 NHL games over the last three seasons.

An AHLTV account is required to watch the AHLTV Free Game of the Week, but no subscription is needed. Visit AHLTV.com for details.