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 27, 2015, 9:29 PM EDT
But are any teams mulling his return?
Jul 27, 2015, 8:21 PM EDT
Where he’ll work as a community liaison.
Jul 27, 2015, 7:22 PM EDT
“I want to go free.”
Jul 27, 2015, 6:21 PM EDT
24-year-old forward would require waivers to be sent down…
Jul 27, 2015, 5:22 PM EDT
“I’ll have to start thinking about it more and more in the next couple of weeks.”
Jul 27, 2015, 4:28 PM EDT
Hence the six-year, $39 million contract.
Jul 27, 2015, 3:26 PM EDT
Looking to become a full-time NHLer after suffering a series of injuries at the start his pro career.
Jul 27, 2015, 2:22 PM EDT
The alignment debate rages on.
Jul 27, 2015, 1:27 PM EDT
Russ Brandon takes over.
Jul 27, 2015, 12:49 PM EDT
Click to see the full list.
Jul 27, 2015, 12:17 PM EDT
Click to see who’s still left.
Jul 27, 2015, 10:49 AM EDT
Hearing scheduled for Wednesday.
Jul 27, 2015, 10:19 AM EDT
No arbitrator required.
Jul 27, 2015, 10:00 AM EDT
He calls it the six-year, $25 million contract “good for both sides.”
Jul 27, 2015, 9:00 AM EDT
Monday’s collection of links.
Jul 26, 2015, 11:02 PM EDT
The only certainty is short-term.
Jul 26, 2015, 9:57 PM EDT
Playing between Gabriel Landeskog and Nathan MacKinnon would excite plenty of people.
Jul 26, 2015, 8:50 PM EDT
Holdovers are noticing a summer of improvements for Buffalo.
Jul 26, 2015, 7:30 PM EDT
The two sides avoided arbitration on Sunday.
Jul 26, 2015, 6:00 PM EDT
Columbus hasn’t had a long history of being a “cap team.”
- NBC Sports to broadcast 105 NHL games in 2015-16 50
- Wilson signs with Preds, leaving just four arbitration cases to go 2
- Rangers sign Stepan — six years, $39 million 62
- Deal with the Devils: New Jersey re-signs Larsson to six-year contract 14
- Stepan seeks $7.25M in arbitration, Rangers counter at $5.2M 24
- Capitals investment: Holtby signs five-year, $30.5M deal 21
- Redemption time? Montreal, Semin agree to one-year deal 26
- Full autonomy: Lamoriello’s place in Leafs’ chain of command 26
- Lamoriello’s departure removes any doubt: Devils are Shero’s team 21
- With Lamoriello hire, Leafs hammer home their culture change 23
- Post expansion, could NHL realign with eight divisions? (138)
- NHL to ‘focus exclusively’ on expansion bids for Las Vegas and Quebec City (89)
- He’s baaaaaack: Leafs pull a stunner, hire Lamoriello as GM (Updated) (84)
- Rangers sign Stepan — six years, $39 million (62)
- Ah, arbitration: Holtby reportedly asking for $8 million, Caps countering at $5.1 million (59)