This is Jeff Deslauriers as a rookie pro in the uniform of the Edmonton Roadrunners. He was 20, and the year was 04-05. His journey from the 2002 Entry Draft to the starting job at the NHL level in 09-10 is a long and winding road.
Last night we found out the Oilers signed JDD to a 1-year deal for $1.05 million dollars (per Rishaug’s twitter). Eight long summers after he was drafted, Deslauriers is still looking to establish himself in the NHL. His draft day scouting report looked very promising, and from tough markers Redline Report no less:
- 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. He isn’t as clean or consistent with the glove as you’d like, plays too deep in net, and doesn’t cut off shoot-ins behind the net well yet.
Early in his minor league career, Deslauriers was a hockey nomad, owing to the Oilers decision to share a minor league team with other NHL teams. It had a major impact on JDD, as he was a seldom used backup at age 21 because the Montreal Canadiens/Edmonton Oilers shared depth chart included Yann Danis, Jaroslav Halak, Olivier Michaud, Ty Conklin and Christobal Huet. Deslauriers managed 666 playing minutes and an .897 save percentage that season, putting him in the middle of the group listed here (Halak was .927).
The following season he was once again on a shared team (Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins) but found himself playing 40 games and posting a .908 save percentage. Things were looking up, and the next year Edmonton moved to Springfield and once again had a home to call their own.
The season Deslauriers appears to have established himself with the organization was 2007-08. He was the starter in Springfield, posted a team best .912 save percentage in 57 games and in July 2008 won himself a one-way deal from the Edmonton Oilers. Kelly Buchberger, who had coached him in the minors, spoke well of Deslauriers: "He’s been outstanding for us all year. He’s been there every night. He has to play the same (way he did against Providence) for us to have success and everybody else has to pick up the slack."
I summed up my own feelings on JDD as a prospect in the winter of 2008: However, his junior and minor league seasons rolling out over half a decade tell 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 didn’t play much anywhere in 2008-09, just 10 games (.901SP) in the NHL and a 5-game conditioning stint to the AHL (.897SP). This past season he was finally a strong contender for a roster spot and won the day with a solid training camp performance. He would backup Nikolai Khabibulin for 2009-10.
Luck and timing conspired to make Jeff Deslauriers the Oilers de facto starting goalie. He began the season as a backup to NK and ended the season being outshone by Devan Dubnyk, but for the heart of the season Deslauriers was the man. The acrobatic, sometimes out of position, suspect glove, man. Here are his numbers:
- Boxcars: 48gp, 3.26
- SP: .901
- WLT: 16-28-4
- SP behind starter: .008
There were 6 rookie goalies who played over 1,000 minutes in the NHL this season. They were: Rask (Bos) .931; Howard (Det) .924; Varlamov (Was) .909; Gustafsson (Tor) .902; Deslauriers (Edm) .901 and Dubnyk (Edm) .889. JDD played in front of a poor team but you’d be hard pressed to include him among the league’s top rookies at the position. Deslauriers had some outstanding games (3 SO’s tied him with Howard for 2nd among first year G’s) but there were some poor moments. The SP behind the starter total above is for all situations, JDD trailed Khabibulin by a mile at even strength (.905 to the veteran’s .924).
Just as luck was on JDD’s side during the 2009-10 season, it looks like he (or Dubnyk) will be saved by a Nikolai Khabibulin event for at least awhile in 2010-11. The veteran Russian has some issues to resolve before he can be an Oiler again and that likely means both of the young goalies come to training camp this fall.
I would not have placed a bet on Deslauriers playing for the Oilers next season, but things change. To quote the great philosopher Joacquin Andujar – “There is one word that says it all, and that one word is, ‘You never know.’”