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Hockey

Mavrik Bourque and Logan Stankoven Are Biding Their Time

A salary cap crunch prevents Dallas' two top prospects from being called up to the NHL. In the meantime, they'll settle for being the best show in minor league hockey.
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The two forwards are lighting up scoreboards in Cedar Park. Photo courtesy of Texas Stars.

A year ago, Mavrick Bourque was struggling to figure out the AHL. 

As a 20-year-old, he looked overmatched in his AHL rookie season with the Texas Stars. He had 11 points in his first 25 games, only had four primary assists, and was averaging fewer than two shots per game. 

Bourque was a bit player, averaging 14:57 per game during that stretch according to InStat, and he was getting rocked in the faceoff circle. 

A year later, Bourque is the front-runner for AHL MVP honors. Through 25 games, he leads the AHL with 36 points and ranks second in the league with 14 primary assists. He’s averaging 19 minutes and three shots per game. 

Of Texas’ league-leading 99 goals, Bourque has been involved in more than 33 percent of them. That includes a four-goal night and the game-winning goal in overtime on Tuesday night against the Grand Rapids Griffins in Cedar Park. 

But Bourque’s most impressive quality, the reason to get excited about his future with the Stars, isn’t measured in goals and points. 

Bourque stumbled as a rookie and learned his lessons, and now he and Logan Stankoven are running during the 2023-24 season. Stankoven is second in the AHL in scoring with 33 points in 25 games, and he has a seven-point lead on the next closest rookie. 

And Stankoven credits Bourque for launching his pro career. 

Stankoven and Bourque were roommates during NHL training camp, when Bourque took the opportunity to share his past AHL struggles. He told Stankoven how quickly the game jumps from major junior, and they discussed things that worked for Bourque in the QMJHL. 

“In a way he’s kind of been an older brother for me,” Stankoven says. “I’ve learned a lot from him. He went through it last year and knew what to expect. You kind of are supposed to take it day-by-day, but it’s much easier when someone gives you the road map.”

Bourque laughs at the “older brother” comment. He’s only 13 months older than Stankoven. But it is a fair assessment of what Bourque has done beyond his offensive production for Texas. 

Bourque, 21, wears an “A” for Texas as an alternate captain, a decision coach Neil Graham didn’t take lightly. He is believed to be the youngest player with a regular letter in the AHL this season. 

“To be honest, I didn’t expect it,” Bourque says. “I was just doing my normal thing, and when Neil called me in to tell me about it I was kind of surprised. I’m not really too vocal—like I like to have fun with the guys, but I’m not a loud guy in the locker room. I guess I just tried to lead by example.”

Stankoven says Bourque’s work ethic stood out to him: the extra work in the gym and on the ice after practice and the additional reps that Bourque puts in —while he’s leading the AHL in scoring—when he’d probably get a pass if he headed to the locker room as soon as practice ended. 

“It was always something I wanted to do, put in extra work, but when you see a guy like that, it makes you want to push them to be better,” Stankoven says. “It’s not really a competition, it’s more so we want to make each other better.”

Because of the Stars’ cap situation, Bourque and Stankoven are effectively in an AHL holding pattern. Dallas doesn’t have the cap space for a call-up, and the only way Bourque or Stankoven would get a sniff in the NHL would be if two Stars forwards were injured. 

So they wait, and continue to rip apart the AHL at a torrid pace. 

This has happened before in Texas. During the 2013-14 season, Travis Morin was the MVP of both the regular season and the playoffs. Curtis McKenzie was the AHL rookie of the year, with 65 points in 75 games. 

But Morin, now an assistant coach with Texas, was already an AHL veteran. McKenzie, now Texas’ captain, was 22 and had played four years of college hockey. It was AHL domination, but not necessarily chemistry that would someday benefit the NHL club. 

What Bourque and Stankoven are doing can translate to the NHL. Multiple NHL scouts D Magazine reached out to for this story had similar thoughts, and it was hard to find any detractors to the “NHL ready” modifier for the duo. 

So, why does it work so well?

Bourque needed a player with NHL vision like Stankoven. Bourque plays a smart, cerebral game and slices up defenses with cross-seam passes. He didn’t have a partner to execute his visions last season, which is why, just like John Klingberg jumped from the AHL to NHL in 2014, Bourque could be even better at the NHL. 

“I wish I could see the game the way he sees it,” Stankoven says of Bourque. “He finds spaces, he creates. It’s just for me getting to the spots to be able to help him find what his brain sees.”

For Stankoven, being more of a finisher has been a welcome change this season. He’s the focal point by the nature of his line, but his game has taken another step away from the puck. While he needed the puck to dominate play in the WHL last season, with Texas—and insight from Bourque—he has better manipulated space away from the play to create chances that he’s finishing at a high rate with a shot that has worked on since he was a kid shooting in his garage. 

Everyone is taking notice, including other teams. 

This is where Bourque’s experience in battling the adversity last season becomes a tool for both players. Last week in a 2-0 win over Grand Rapids, Stankoven and Bourque were held off the scoreboard, but they controlled the game, grinded through and helped win a frustratingly boring game. 

“That’s the type of game I think we need more of, actually,” Bourque says. “Not to not score, but the kind of game where you get focused on, where you get grinded on. Those are the games that I think will help us figure out how to use our skill in tough games someday in the NHL.”

And someday that will happen, most likely next season when their entry-level contracts will be an asset for the cap-strapped Stars. 

Until then, they will continue to enjoy putting on a show down in Cedar Park. 

Author

Sean Shapiro

Sean Shapiro

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Sean Shapiro covers the Stars for StrongSide. He is a national NHL reporter and writer who previously covered the Dallas…

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