The Dallas Stars’ top defensive prospect Lian Bichsel has elected to exercise the European Assignment Clause in his entry-level contract and return to Sweden for the rest of the season. The Stars will officially reassign the player to the SHL on December 4th.
The 19-year-old Swiss blueliner was the 18th overall pick at the 2022 NHL draft and had made the decision to cross the Atlantic for the start of the season to join the Stars for training camp. He was sent to the club’s AHL affiliate, the Texas Stars, to start the year and has played in 13 games, scoring five points.
A hulking six-foot-six, 233-pound defensive behemoth, Bichsel has actually been playing a solid role in Texas. He’s been a staple of their top-four on defense and has seen time on special teams as well.
While he hasn’t received a call-up opportunity yet, it was certainly a possibility that Bichsel would receive a call-up and play in his first NHL games before the end of the season. Now, that possibility has been made significantly more remote as he won’t be back in North America at least until his SHL season ends.
Since Bichsel has reportedly elected to play for Rögle BK instead of Leksands, he’s going to be joining a team that currently sits 11th out of 14 SHL clubs. Rögle could very well miss the postseason, which would pave the way for Bichsel to return to the AHL before the Stars’ season ends.
This is unlikely to be the development path the stars would prefer for Bichsel, but it’s a possibility they have to have at least expected. Ultimately, while the AHL may have been the preferred route heading to Rögle is far from a significant step down in terms of development opportunities. He’s likely to play quite a bit there and the club has a history of helping NHL first-round picks in their growth, including Detroit Red Wings star Moritz Seider.
By the time the Stars 2024 training camp rolls around, the additional experience Bichsel will have gained this year could very well be the deciding factor in whether or not he makes the Stars’ NHL roster at the age of 20.