Aug 21, 2014, 10:01 AM EDT
By now, you may know all about Simon Despres. The smooth-skating defenseman has gotten a more than a few looks the past three seasons with the Pittsburgh Penguins, but now he’s at a bit of a crossroads.
As opposed to other players we’ve featured in our series, Despres is in a tricky position when it comes to making the leap. Instead of trying to blast his way out of junior or college hockey, he’s trying to make his way out of the American Hockey League.
The 23-year-old came in highly-touted when he was taken in the first-round, 30th overall in 2009 out of Saint John. He put up strong numbers for the Sea Dogs and turned pro in 2011. Since then, it’s been a bumpy ride that’s seen him get acclimated to taking the bus between Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and Pittsburgh.
One of the highlights to his game coming out of juniors was his offensive play. In four seasons he had 134 points in 240 games (0.55 points per-game). Since turning pro, that part of his game has all but disappeared.
In 85 games with Pittsburgh, he has 16 points (0.18 PPG) and in the AHL he had 45 points in 107 games (0.42 PPG). On the bright side, his possession numbers during his time in Pittsburgh have been very strong, especially the past two seasons. On the other hand, he could never find a way to impress Dan Bylsma enough to stick around full-time.
Perhaps fortunately for Despres, Bylsma is gone and Mike Johnston is in. With Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik now in Washington, the Penguins are going to have one hole to fill on the blue line. Christian Ehrhoff should take over where Niskanen left off, but with puck possession becoming a more vital part to playing defense, the opportunity for Despres to make a good impression is there for the taking.
The problem he’s going to face in training camp, however, will come from other young defenseman itchy to make it to Pittsburgh themselves. Olli Maatta showed last season that age is but a number and solid play will help you stick around. It’s that example Scott Harrington, Brian Dumoulin, Derrick Pouliot, and Philip Samuelsson will be looking to follow.
With hefty competition amongst young defenseman and many others likely holding spots down already (Ehrhoff, Maatta, Kris Letang, Paul Martin, Rob Scuderi), the Pens blue line will be more than worth watching in training camp.
Perhaps fortunately for Despres, everyone will start with a clean slate for the new coach.
Jul 7, 2015, 2:38 PM EDT
Was most recently an assistant under Randy Carlyle in Toronto.
Jul 7, 2015, 1:09 PM EDT
Coming off a 37-goal season.
Jul 7, 2015, 1:08 PM EDT
“He’s a reliable depth forward who we know is capable of contributing offensively at either level.”
Jul 7, 2015, 12:41 PM EDT
It’s been a long negotiation.
Jul 7, 2015, 11:59 AM EDT
Stepped in to play the final four games of the Stanley Cup Final.
Jul 7, 2015, 10:41 AM EDT
Milwaukee is trying to get a new arena built.
Jul 7, 2015, 10:05 AM EDT
Jarmo Kekalainen brings a local boy into the organization.
Jul 7, 2015, 9:00 AM EDT
“He’s obviously a great talent.”
Jul 7, 2015, 8:00 AM EDT
In ESPN’s The Body Issue, of course.
Jul 6, 2015, 11:22 PM EDT
“It happened pretty fast. All of a sudden two fingers are not working.”
Jul 6, 2015, 9:59 PM EDT
25-year-old defenseman struggled mightily last season.
Jul 6, 2015, 8:48 PM EDT
Connor McDavid’s running mate in Erie was the OHL’s leading scorer last season.
Jul 6, 2015, 7:25 PM EDT
Quebec City and Las Vegas have already expressed interest.
Jul 6, 2015, 6:08 PM EDT
Russian forward is coming off a solid rookie campaign.
Jul 6, 2015, 5:48 PM EDT
It’s now a crowded crease in Edmonton.
Jul 6, 2015, 5:26 PM EDT
For the third straight year.
Jul 6, 2015, 4:29 PM EDT
That’s him in the blue shirt, standing next to ex-NHL goalie Dan Cloutier… who is 6’1.
Jul 6, 2015, 3:13 PM EDT
Spent last year with Colorado’s AHL affiliate.
Jul 6, 2015, 2:37 PM EDT
Click for all the cap hits.
Jul 6, 2015, 2:17 PM EDT
His Kelowna Rockets went to the 2015 Memorial Cup.
- Big money: Tarasenko signs eight-year, $60 million extension with Blues 36
- Blackhawks extend TVR through 2017-18 2
- Good start: McDavid scores five in Oilers scrimmage 18
- Caps ink Kuznetsov to two-year, $6 million extension 9
- Bruins sign three — Hayes, Connolly, and DeFazio 12
- Babcock expects Kadri to be ‘an elite player’ 15
- No expansion bid expected from Kansas City 37
- Leafs sign Matthias — one year, $2.3 million 17
- Report: Kopitar, Kings in ‘early stages of negotiations’ for extension 12
- Arbitration filed: Holtby, Nyquist & Stepan highlight list released by NHLPA 13