Adam Mascherin was once a top-50 prospect for the 2016 NHL Draft. Since then, he has spent time in the American Hockey League (AHL) and the Swedish Hockey League (SHL), but has never played an NHL game. Adam Mascherin announced his retirement last week, and this surprised me and fans alike who had been watching him closely since 2014.
Today, I will reflect on his career timeline to demonstrate the unfortunate situation of a gatekept and forgotten star. This article may enlighten fans on the harsh realities of the business side of the NHL that, sometimes, prevent great hockey players from realizing their childhood dreams.
Adam Mascherin Retirement: Junior to Pro Timeline
Adam Mascherin was drafted 2nd overall in the 2014 OHL draft by the Kitchener Rangers after putting up 67 goals and 62 assists for 129 points in only 61 U16 AAA games. He also played some OJHL “Junior A” games with the Georgetown Raiders where he also excelled offensively during that U16 year.
In his first OHL season, Mascherin put up 29 points in 62 games, which could be seen either as a decent progression to a faster, tougher league or leaving you wanting more out of your 2nd overall pick. All doubts were squashed the following year when Adam Mascherin put up 81 points in 65 games and looked like a star.
As such, Mascherin was drafted in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft by the Florida Panthers 38th overall. He was seen as a player with a high offensive upside because of his combination of NHL-ready shot, awareness, and energy despite being only 5’10”. His biggest negative was his lack of foot speed. Does this remind you of anybody?
The following OHL season, Mascherin put up 100 points in 65 games, which again was proving his worth as a future professional hockey league player. This is the point in his career where the business side of sports seemed to interfere with his athletic development and pro opportunities. Specifically, he did not sign with the Florida Panthers in 2016, nor did he sign with them in 2017.
He did not sign with his NHL-drafted team so long that he became eligible to re-enter the NHL draft despite being 20 years of age in a draft that primarily consists of 18-year-olds. The stats projected him as a pro hockey player, where very few OHLers are able to put up 100 points at age 18.
There were rumors of him declining an entry-level contract, and we might not ever know exactly what happened in discussions, but GM Dale Tallon is quoted as saying that Mascherin did not want to be a Florida Panther despite being offered what Tallon deemed to be a fair contract.
It is possible that the athlete was low-balled when it came to an Entry-Level Contract (ELC), guaranteeing him little money if he were to play more years outside the NHL, as he arguably had 1-2 more OHL seasons left based on his age and trajectory. Zach Hyman also did not sign his ELC with the Florida Panthers in 2015 so there could have been some general negotiation issues/turmoil surrounding prospects in the Panthers’ system.
Regardless, Mascherin re-entered the NHL Draft in 2018 and the Dallas Stars drafted him at 100th overall in the 4th round. Very few prospects re-enter the NHL Draft after being drafted so high like 38th overall in 2016. However, at this point in Mascherin’s career, it looked like he finally had a home. It also seemed that a large amount of credit for this selection was due to Joe McDonnell, long-time Director of Amateur Scouting for the Stars, who resides in the Kitchener-Waterloo region.
McDonnell was able to use his local connections and evaluate the Florida incident thoroughly in order to make a calculated decision on drafting Mascherin. This commitment to the player was further cemented by the exciting announcement on July 13th, 2018 that Adam Mascherin and the Stars had agreed to an Entry-Level Contract.
The ball looked to be rolling quite well at that point, as Mascherin had just put up 86 points in 67 OHL games in the 2017-2018 season, which was a bit of a regression from his 100-point campaign, but it was still a promising offensive year that would bode well enough to make it deep into the 2018 Dallas Stars training camp before heading to the AHL for his first professional hockey season.
On Texas in the 2018-2019 season, Mascherin put up 44 points, including 18 goals, in 75 games as a rookie. This was 6th on the team in scoring, behind the likes of youngster Denis Gurianov, believe it or not. He received an NHL Call-up during the ‘Black Aces’ period in the playoffs alongside players like Nick Caamano, Gurianov, and more. He did not play a single game. He was cut the next training camp again, and the minors cycle continued.
Mascherin suited up for Texas in the AHL for the 2019-2020 season, where he unfortunately suffered a shoulder injury in December of that year, limiting him to 30 games (and putting him out 13 months). He had only put up 11 points during that 30-game span, which was disappointing compared to such a great rookie year. However, in the 2020-2021 shortened COVID season, a fully healthy Mascherin was incredible, accumulating 34 points, including 18 goals, in just 37 games. Surely, he had earned another NHL call-up? Nope.
Adam Mascherin Retirement: The Move to Skellefteå AIK
To this point in Adam Mascherin’s young career, he had spent most of his time fighting for an NHL roster spot despite great production at every level he played. Mascherin would always have foot speed concerns, but you still don’t say no to a 23-year-old point-per-game AHL player. The athlete eventually left the Stars organization for Skellefteå AIK in Sweden’s top league, the SHL. Mascherin took a leap of faith, after being stuck in the minors for years.
He moved to Sweden to pursue pro hockey and make a bold decision for his development rather than spend more years in the AHL. Unfortunately, Mascherin suffered multiple injuries and missed huge chunks of Skellefteå’s next couple of seasons, including when Skellefteå played in the Champions Hockey League in the 2021-2022 season. Adam Mascherin had a difficult decision to make after playing just 16 games in 2022-2023, where he recorded just 1 assist.
Adam Mascherin Retirement: Retired at the age of 25
As was announced recently, in October 2023, Adam Mascherin retired from professional hockey at the age of 25. He did play ‘professional’ hockey in the AHL and the SHL, but he never played an NHL game.
Now he has to restart his life and decide whether to go back to school or pursue something else. Either way, this is an athlete who, at one point, was destined for a bright career in pro hockey, but now he has to unfortunately reconfigure his routine and find different work. NHL teams like the Florida Panthers and Dallas Stars had time-sensitive windows to see what they had in Adam Mascherin, as do all teams with all hockey players.
As soon as hockey players reach a certain age, they become low-priority assets because of the ‘shiny new toys’ that may or may not work better than these older options. The ‘Adam Mascherins’ of the NHL get forgotten, despite having success in every league they play in. The business of the NHL, sometimes, stops these types of players from making it, despite rules like waivers that are in place to keep teams from supposedly gatekeeping good hockey players in the minors.
This unique situation is close to a tragedy, where a 2nd overall OHL pick and former 38th overall pick in the 2016 NHL Draft is out of hockey by age 25, without a single NHL game to his name. What more could Adam Mascherin have done
Adam Mascherin Retirement: Message to the 2023 Dallas Stars
From a Dallas Stars business standpoint, this investment in Adam Mascherin seems like the waste of an asset. The Stars drafted him 100th overall and signed him to an Entry-Level Contract which cost time, effort, and money, all while he was performing well enough to play for an NHL club. NHL teams must make a conscious effort to give their prospects NHL opportunities, regardless of the team’s supposed ‘window of contention’ or fear of prospects failing.
The Dallas Stars had some great teams during Adam Mascherin’s time in the organization and even while he was still on the reserve list before he eventually retired. Did the Dallas Stars win the Stanley Cup during that stretch? No. Would Adam Mascherin have been worth a couple of NHL games to see if he can contribute positively towards the Stars’ Stanley Cup aspirations? Possibly. He was never given the chance to fail in the NHL. He was never given an NHL chance, period.
In 2023, with prospects like Logan Stankoven and Mavrik Bourque playing in the AHL during a supposed Dallas Stars ‘Stanley Cup window’, I am curious about how long these players will be gatekept in the AHL despite obvious talent and ability that other NHL rosters could fit.
It will be interesting to see how patient the Stars’ management is with its prospects because while every prospect is different, most prospects need NHL games in order to prove that they are ready for the NHL. Adam Mascherin just never got that opportunity.
All the best to Adam Mascherin in retirement.