So, we’re back to talking defensemen. The blueline prospects we’ve covered in this countdown so far are Nick Ebert, Colin Miller, and Kevin Gravel; guys who are potential difference-makers for LA but have a ways to go in their development. (And Keaton Ellerby, who’s obviously in his own category.) Now, we reach Nicolas Deslauriers. He’s a guy who could conceivably crack the NHL roster in 2014… and might need to in order to stick around.
|13||02/22/1991||CAN||84 (3rd round)||100|
(Regarding the vote total: please remember that there were 10 voters, ranking from 25 to 1. Thus, the maximum possible vote total was 250.)
Before we get to LA, let’s talk about Manchester and the career progression of Nick Deslauriers. Drafted as a junior player wayyy back in 2009, Deslauriers improved his QMJHL play steadily and was a top offensive defenseman for a Gatineau Olympiques team which nearly won the QMJHL title in 2011. After that season, Deslauriers signed a three-year entry level contract with the Los Angeles Kings. He’s played out two of those three seasons in the AHL, and has continued to strengthen his reputation as an offensive force over that time. Deslauriers led the Monarchs defense in scoring last season, and in four playoff games he led the whole squad in points. He also is what the old-timey scouts would call a character guy. He earned the moniker #EmotionalLeader (yep, just dropping hashtags in the player review) from the Manchester Monarchs’ Twitter account, by showing a willingness to drop the gloves and playing with a full head of steam in all zones.
In short, there’s a lot about Nick Deslauriers that is intriguing. That’s not even getting to his physical gifts. He’s an offensive defenseman with SIZE; whether he is actually 230 pounds is anyone’s guess, but he at least fits the Muzzin/Martinez mold of offensive guys who could learn to throw their weight around. Additionally, Deslauriers pairs that with great offensive skills; Hockey’s Future goes so far as to call him a “wizard” with the puck, while a more conservative Mark Morris has referred to him as a beautiful skater with a strong shot and good passing abilities.
So what’s the problem? Not surprisingly, it’s defense. Adapting to the NHL is hard enough for a young defenseman; as good as Jake Muzzin was in his first two months of NHL action, he took a sizable step back once he started being faced with tougher assignments. But it may have been even tougher for Deslauriers to adapt to the AHL, given that he came from the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. The league is known for playing a faster, more aggressive style of hockey, and while it fit the offensive skillset of Deslauriers quite nicely, it didn’t do him any favors once he moved to the more traditional AHL. Two years after his debut, Deslauriers is still looking for that component. Gann Matsuda did a nice job of summarizing Nick’s struggles and improvements over the past two years, but the key is that Deslauriers still isn’t quite ready on that side of the ice.
Deslauriers is a left-shooting defenseman, along with his highly touted counterpart Derek Forbort. Unfortunately, that’s where the Kings’ logjam is, and even if Mitchell, Ellerby and Schultz leave after 2014, Jake Muzzin and Alec Martinez (and our favorite Buffalo import) could be standing in the way of a full-time NHL gig. If the Kings’ staff still uses +/- for evaluation, it’s bad news for Deslauriers, who won the Jack Johnson Trophy for Manchester by going minus-14 over the season. The positive (other than that +/- can be largely misleading) is that Deslauriers wasn’t being sheltered this season; Deslauriers started getting tougher assignments throughout the year and has at least gotten a chance to take on difficult opposition. Deslauriers has the edge over Forbort in terms of experience, but he’ll need to prove he can hold his own on the back line in order to make the jump.