Why Jeff Deslauriers Will Play in the NHL

Most Oilers fans have a decent idea of who Jeff Deslauriers is. Drafted early in the second round of 2002 (as Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers), he was widely considered to be the best North American goaltender available. Redline Report placed him second overall amongst goaltenders (behind only Kari Lehtonen), and said this about him:

”[T]he biggest surprise of the top-enders, is as big as an octopus and takes up virtually the entire net with his 6-4 frame. In addition, he moves extremely well for a huge man. He has great intangibles with very positive body language and an alert attitude that gives teammates confidence. His rapid rise from nowhere this year gives the impression that he’s got a huge upside if he can continue to make the same type of quantum leap from season-to-season.”

Deslauriers has had a bumpy journey since being drafted. He regressed following his draft year, posting a .888 SV% with Chicoutimi before finishing off his junior career with a very respectable 0.916 SV% on a middling team. In 2004-05, Deslauriers turned pro, splitting time between the Edmonton Roadrunners and Greenville Grrrowl. In 2005-06, the Oilers decided not to continue the Roadrunners franchise, and Deslauriers was shopped out to Montreal’s farm team, the Hamilton Bulldogs. Given that Montreal was also busy developing Jaroslav Halak, Yann Danis and Olivier Michaud (not to mention that both Ty Conklin and Cristobal Huet spent time there on conditioning stints), Deslauriers only appeared in 13 games, putting up a .897SV%, and basically burning a year of his development for no return.

2006-07 was a better situation; Deslauriers was again farmed out, this time to Wilkes-Barre Scranton, but with the exception of a brief stint by Nolan Schaefer, he was clearly the starter and got into 40 games, posting his best numbers to that point (22-12-3, 2.47 GAA, 0.908 SV%). Last season, he showed more improvement, playing a career-high 57 games and posting a 26-23-5 record and 2.90 GAA and .912 SV% on a very young Springfield Falcons team.

Let’s compare his last season with some other goaltenders of note.

Jaroslav Halak – 15-10-2, 2.10 GAA, .929 SV%

Brian Boucher – 23-16-1, 2.47 GAA, .917 SV%

Cory Schneider – 21-12-2, 2.28 GAA, .916 SV%

Deslauriers – 26-23-5, 2.90 GAA, .912 SV%

Curtis McElhinney – 20-18-2, 2.28 GAA, .911 SV%

Ondrej Pavelec – 33-16-3, 2.77 GAA, .911 SV%

Marc Denis – 11-17-2, 2.91 GAA, .910 SV%

Justin Pogge – 26-10-4, 2.34 GAA, .908 SV%

Jim Howard – 21-28-2, 2.83 GAA, .907 SV%

Tuukka Rask – 27-13-2, 2.33 GAA, .905 SV%

Erik Ersberg – 10-13-2, 2.92 GAA, .897 SV%

Thomas Greiss – 18-21-2, 3.09 GAA, .892 SV%

Marek Schwarz – 14-14-2, 2.79 GAA, .891 SV%

Looking at those names, there’s some quality there. Pavelec, Pogge, Howard and Rask are all highly regarded as prospects, while players like McElhinney and Ersberg are getting NHL jobs this season (Calgary and Los Angeles).

The point here is that Jeff Deslauriers didn’t have an awful season last year- he didn’t shoot out the lights at the AHL level, and frankly I think he should spend another year in the minors, but he’s a long way from a complete bust. He’s still young for a goaltender (turned 24 in the summer) and he’s a quality starter in the minors (even behind a mediocre team), and there isn’t any reason to believe that he won’t have an NHL career. It probably won’t be a particularly glamorous career, but for the first time in a long time, the Oilers have drafted a goaltender out of junior, and developed him to the point where he’s on the cusp of NHL duty.

Given the number of obstacles that he overcame along the way, I see no reason why Jeff Deslauriers shouldn’t be proud of his accomplishments to date.

—Jonathan Willis is the force behind Copper and Blue, and a frequent OilersNation contributor.

  • Hippy

    Considering the number of capable goaltenders floating around at any given time, I don't know if rolling the dice on a truly elite goaltender is ever worth it.

    Since this organization loves Detroit, lets ask them how much investment they're willing to put into Jimmy Howard.

  • Hippy

    Sorry cerebral, but that's not going to mean much to me until either I see them, or you back it up by saying something other than "they suck" and "I've seen them." Where? How? Have you lived in one of their AHL cities? A junior city? Highlights?

  • Hippy

    So, apparently I can't watch the feeds since I moved to Vancouver but I'll try to make a point of watching the goalies this season since it doesn't seem like a lot of people "get" the position. I started a couple of weeks ago here.

    I think people are too obsessed with the "difference maker" thing. I mean, relative to what? I doubt most of you have watched him play in the A, and whether or not he's the best looking player on the ice is effectively meaningless. Anyone who says things about watching for goals rather than goalies is in danger of watching for flashy goalies. Flashy goalies are bad. Stats don't account for luck, and like it or not, a lot of luck is involved in playing net.

    Basically, give the guy a chance. If he has the dexterity and will, he's going to be very good (since he already takes up half of the net). Hell, even if he doesn't have the dexterity, he can gain it.

  • Hippy

    There aren't even that many Canadian starting goalies around anymore, and how many of them needed until the age of 24 to play themselves into a mere backup gig? Ironically, Garon might be the only real late bloomer of the bunch. You can hardly count Giguere, as he had to overcome a career-threatening medical condition that went untreated for a long time and yet was fairly simply to fix.

    "Was once good enough to beat out Carey Price" doesn't mean squat unless you think there's any GM alive who would deal Price for a half-dozen of JDD now, plus Price was drafted miles ahead of him. If he's "still on track" then what metaphor are you using for Price's trajectory, a Saturn V rocket?

  • Hippy

    "Deslauriers and Dubnyk have never been difference makers at any level of hockey."

    Winning the gold medal for Team Canada mean nothing to you? He was good enough to beat out Carey Price.

    Dubnyk's still on track dude. He was an All-Star his first pro year, and was only in the ECHL because of a lack of our own farm team.

  • Hippy

    For the record, I think Deslauriers will get a shot in the NHL and ultimately play a few games over the next couple of years, but I don't see an NHL future for him.

    He's sort of following the Steve Valiquette path, and it was around this time in SV's career that he started to put up elite AHL numbers. Maybe the big guys take longer, I don't know, but even with a big jump in Valiquette's performance, he has only recently established himself as a capable NHL backup.

  • Hippy

    Deslauriers and Dubnyk have never been difference makers at any level of hockey. Both are well into their pro careers. There is absultely no indication that they are going to get better. Did they have potential? Perhaps. But the Oilers organization killed their development.

    Both were difference makers in junior.

    As for pro career length, I'll agree on Deslauriers, but Dubnyk's played a total of 80 professional games, and less than 40 of those in the AHL. He's barely begun his pro career.

  • Hippy

    Deslauriers and Dubnyk have never been difference makers at any level of hockey. Both are well into their pro careers. There is absultely no indication that they are going to get better. Did they have potential? Perhaps. But the Oilers organization killed their development.

  • Hippy

    If you continue to devote time and money in your organization to cultivating mediocre backups, you are wasting your time. Goaltending is too important a position.

    I agree that it isn't worthwhile to develop backup goaltenders, but outside of the franchise-type goaltenders, it's pretty hard to project the difference between a backup and a starter out of junior.

    Personally, I think junior numbers give an indication, and if a player is good in junior, it's worth giving them a test-drive as a pro. As far as I'm concerned, Deslauriers could be traded for a 4th round pick tomorrow and it wouldn't bother me, because backups are easy to find. That said, I'd give Dubnyk another season before writing him off, and both Pitton/Perugini have yet to make a their pro debuts and could surprise.

  • Hippy

    LOL

    Best player is used in the context of in comparison to skaters as well. This is a subjective judgment, naturally, but one used by teams.

    If you continue to devote time and money in your organization to cultivating mediocre backups, you are wasting your time. Goaltending is too important a position.

  • Hippy

    There’s really no indication that Jeffrey Deslauriers will be a capable NHL goaltender beyond that of wishful thinking.

    I didn't say capable. I rather expect that he turns into a career backup at the NHL level, but honestly, that's still respectable.

    One question you really need to be asking yourself when assessing a young goaltender is whether he could have been considered the best player on a particular team. This is quite applicable especially when the team itself is poor to mediocre.

    Completely disagree. As an example, Manny Legace (at age 24) wasn't even the best goaltender on his team (that honour belonged to Scott Langkow). Dwayne Roloson, to use an example closer to home, wasn't much of a difference maker in his first pro season (age 25).

    What needs to be clear is performance vs. peers/other successful goaltenders over multiple seasons. Deslauriers has yet to stall; his improvement season-to-season has been measurable, and the fact that he's in front of two guys with NHL jobs this season suggests that right now he isn't very far from NHL duty.

    I really fail to see how it's a stretch to suggest that Deslauriers could make another modest improvement to reach the level of average NHL backup.

  • Hippy

    There's really no indication that Jeffrey Deslauriers will be a capable NHL goaltender beyond that of wishful thinking. Statistics are a double-edged sword. They can show a snapshot of where he stands in relation to his peers, but do not take into full account more important factors.

    Minor and Junior Leagues are full of statistcal leaders who never pan out.

    One question you really need to be asking yourself when assessing a young goaltender is whether he could have been considered the best player on a particular team. This is quite applicable especially when the team itself is poor to mediocre.

  • Hippy

    JD may be the backup quicker than we realize. Or is it JDD? I think I prefer JDD…

    Here at OilersNation, we're all big fans of J.D. Oh, you were still talking hockey….

  • Hippy

    Another year to develop into Garon's backup while Rollie plays out his big contract. Perhaps if he comes along well enough, it will allow Tam-bo to shop Rollie at the deadline if a team is in need, and JD may be the backup quicker than we realize. Or is it JDD? I think I prefer JDD…