I remember the day Edmonton drafted Jeff Deslauriers. Kevin Lowe dealt Jochen Hecht to Buffalo on the draft floor for two second round picks and Lindy Ruff looked like a man who knew he’d just won the lottery. These many years later, Jarret Stoll (the other 2nd rd pick) has played in 444 NHL games; Hecht has played in 489 games for the Sabres. Miles and miles of miles and miles have passed, and Jeff Deslauriers is still trying to establish himself in the NHL.
There were 6 rookie goalies who played over 1,000 minutes in the NHL last season. They were: Rask (Bos) .931; Howard (Det) .924; Varlamov (Was) .909; Gustafsson (Tor) .902; Deslauriers (Edm) .901 and Dubnyk (Edm) .889. The top 3 goalies on the list played for good to great hockey clubs, while the bottom three played for the dregs. At the end of the day, Deslauriers still hadn’t gained clearance on Devan Dubnyk and that more than anything sealed his fate.
It’s important to remember that Jeff Drouin Deslauriers had some draft pedigree. Redline report before the draft: Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers, the 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.
The thing about JDD is that you can pretty much say the same thing about him now (save the last sentence). For some reason, he’s never gained the confidence of the big club, and in truth didn’t get the chances normally associated with high draft picks because the organization (in the EIG era) cut costs that included a designated farm team. It’s worth remembering the timeline:
- 2001-02: As the starting goaltender for Chicoutimi of the QMJHL, he was named to the first all rookie team and also defensive rookie of the year (QMJHL) and was named Top Goaltender at the 2002 top prospects game.
- Oilers select JDD just outside the first round of the NHL Entry Draft.
- 2002-03: Invited to Canada’s WJC camp in August and December but did not make the final team. He did represent the QMJHL against the touring Russian Selects in November of 2003.
- 2003-04:Invited again to WJC camps but did not earn a spot on the team.
- 2004-05: Split time between the AHL and ECHL in his first pro season playing for both the Edmonton Road Runners and Greenville Grrrowl.
- 2005-06: A season of turmoil. He was third string with Hamilton (AHL) and then was demoted to the ECHL where he suffered a knee injury.
- 2006-07: Played 40 games in the AHL and was solid if unspectacular. His .908SP ranked him 21st among AHL regular goalies.
- 2007-08: His .912 SP (in 57gp) moved him up to 16th among AHL goalkeepers. This was certainly his high-water mark as a minor league goaltender.
- 2008-09: Graduated to the NHL (although playing in just 10 games) and his .901SP ranked him 5th among goalies with 10 games or more in the big leagues that season.
- 2009-10: NK’s injury means Deslauriers is the de facto starter. 48 games and God knows he hung in there on many nights when there wasn’t much hope for anyone wearing copper and blue. His .901SP ranked him in a tie for 53rd overall (with names like Steve Mason in Columbus and Mike Smith in TBAY surrounding JDD).
Through all those seasons the Oilers had JDD as a "goalie of the future" but the truth is that once the team selected Devan Dubnyk in 2004 it was obvious a decision had to be made down the line. It took forever. I think the JDD story is a little bit about a prospect unable to successfully reach the next level and also a little bit about an organization that had lost its way. In ranking him as the 17th best prospect in the system December 2008, I wrote:
- However, his junior and minor league seasons rolling out over half a decade tells us he’s a mid-level prospect, properly slotted after the rocket prospects and a few of the flawed men, but well ahead of the muckers, grinders, imps, Coke machines with questionable hands, the Hail Mary’s and the personal favourites.
He remains so today. I suspect another NHL team might pluck him from the waiver wire and maybe a change in message or approach will give him that extra something he needs to become an established NHL goalie. Today is similar to the afternoon we found out Rob Schremp was an Islander: happy that the prospect may have another opportunity but content in the knowledge that the organization made the right call.
Sail on, Chicoutimi Sagueneen. We wish you the best.
JDD’s being sent out doesn’t necessarily mean he’s no longer an Oiler. Should he clear waivers there’s still a chance the young man will return, and just because he’s a free agent doesn’t mean he won’t sign here again next summer. But if he were my son, I’d tell him to find another organization, get a fresh start. Sometimes a change is as good as a rest.
The Oilers may call up a roster replacement tomorrow. My guess would be one of Liam Reddox or Shawn Belle. Reddox could help that horrible PK (although it does show signs of life) and Belle would improve the footspeed along the blue. JF Jacques waits in the wings, but according to Bob Stauffer today JFJ will require a quick trip to OKC. There’s a chance the slot will remain vacant until the Crazy Train is ready.
EDIT TO ADD: As mentioned by Louise (ID), Jacques will be on the big league roster as soon as he’s activated. His time in OKC would not have an impact on his roster spot in the NHL. Thanks Louise!