Matt Tassone is looking at this season as a fresh start. He could use one, especially when you consider what he’s been through the past two seasons.
His 2008-09 season with the Swift Current Broncos of the Western Hockey League was cut short due to shoulder problems. That led to offseason surgery on both shoulders. An infection meant another surgery and more recovery time, which caused him to the first half of last season. And then he was sidelined late in the season with a neck injury.
“It was tough,” said Tassone. “But what can you? This season is a new start, a fresh start for me. … I’m good to go.”
Tassone, who turns 21 later this month, is scheduled to play for the Stars at the NHL Prospects Tournament, which gets underway later this week in Traverse City, Michigan. It’s an opportunity to show that he’s back on track after the injuries and it's a chance to make an impression on Dallas GM Joe Nieuwendyk as well.
“It’s going to be big for me,” he said. “Joe hasn’t seen me play yet, so I have to showcase myself there. That’s where I am going to have to get myself noticed to make my big jump. I just have to outplay everybody and be a leader on that team.”
The Stars selected Tassone, a forward, in the sixth round of the 2008 draft, but because of Tassone’s injury situation the Stars decided not to sign him to an NHL entry-level contract this summer. That didn’t mean the Stars were giving up on him.
The Stars helped him through the injuries, invited him to the team’s development camp in July and included him on the roster for the Traverse City Tournament.
“They’ve been great,” Tassone said of the Stars. “I know there are those cases where players do get injured and the teams that they’re with don’t sign them or give them a chance. Fortunately, Dallas sees something in me. They’ve been there for me and helped me with my shoulders and neck injuries. They’re giving me a chance to showcase myself, and that’s all I want.”
Tassone’s contract situation is still unclear. He could end up signing a contract with the Stars’ AHL affiliate in Cedar Park. His ultimate goal is getting the kind of contract he didn’t get in June.
“One of my goals is to get an NHL contract,” he said. “There are guys here that are my age that have an NHL contract. I've got to prove myself, show that I'm here, I'm good and my injuries aren't a problem and won't affect how I play. I've just got to go out there, play my game and I should be good."
Tassone, who is listed at 6-2, 200 pounds, has a nice mix of skill and grit. He plays a physical style and has shown a scoring touch in juniors as well, scoring 36 goals in 52 games for Swift Current in 2008-09. But his calling card is that hard-nosed style and he vowed the recent injuries won’t deter him from returning to what he does best.
“[The injuries] change nothing. They feel better than ever, they feel stronger. I am not too worried about that,” he said. “I am not going to change my game just because of the injuries I had in the past.”