73 Days Until The Season Begins
Photo credit:Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
By Cam Lewis1 month ago
Throughout the summer and into the fall, we’ll be counting down the days until the Edmonton Oilers begin their 2023-24 season with a daily trip down memory lane. Today at No. 73, we have Vincent Deshanrias, a defenceman who worked his way up from a minor-league contract to Edmonton’s blueline.
Born and raised in Laval, Quebec, Desharnais was selected in the 11th round of the QMJHL draft by the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada but he opted to take the American college route rather than playing Major Junior.
Desharnais spent the 2013-14 season playing high school hockey in the United States with Northwood School in Lake Placid, New York. He then made the trip out west to play for the Chilliwack Chiefs of the British Columbia Hockey League for the 2014-15 season.
After one season in the BCHL, Desharnais joined Providence College, a Division I NCAA hockey program. He scored just one goal and two points over 19 games for the Friars in his Freshman season but the Oilers liked what they saw from the big defender so they selected him with their seventh-round selection in the 2016 draft. It was Desharnais’ third year of draft eligibility as he had been passed over twice before.
Desharnais developed into the Friars’ top defenceman over his four years at Providence College. He was named Hockey East’s Best Defensive Defenceman following his Senior year in 2018-19, an award previously won by the likes of Josh Manson, Brian Dumoulin, and Justin Braun.
The Oilers didn’t sign Desharnais to an entry-level contract after he graduated from Providence College but kept him around on a two-year, minor-league contract. He started off his professional career with the Wichita Thunder of the ECHL in 2019-20 and earned a call-up to the Bakersfield Condors of the AHL later that season.
After another season split between the ECHL and AHL, Desharnais established himself as one of Bakersfield’s top defencemen during the 2021-22 season. He scored five goals and 27 points over 66 games and posted the highest plus-minus in the AHL at plus-36. That performance earned Desharnais a two-year, entry-level contract with the Oilers.
If not for a wrist injury suffered during Edmonton’s rookie camp in the fall, Desharnais might have cracked the big league roster. Instead, he underwent surgery and didn’t make his 2022-23 season debut with the Condors until November. He played in 13 games for Bakersfield before getting the call to the NHL in January.
“It’s been crazy. Being able to tell my parents was such a great moment,” Desharnais said after his first practice with the Oilers. “I’ve been waiting for this moment my entire life.”“I left home 10 years ago to go to prep school, to learn English and to go on a long path. There were so many times I thought it was just, you know, just playing hockey for fun. And next thing you know, 10 years later I’m here and standing in front of you (media) guys.”“All summer I worked very hard. I was fortunate enough to sign my first NHL contract after three years on an AHL deal. I wanted to prove to the management that they were right.”
Desharnais logged 15:04 in his NHL debut against the Anaheim Ducks and the Oilers subsequently went on a six-game winning streak. The big defender endeared himself and became a fan favourite because of his ability to throw big hits and his willingness to block shots. He became a mainstay on Edmonton’s blueline for the rest of the season and scored five points over 36 games while posting an impressive on-ice goal differential of 20-to-12.
Now 27 years old, Desharnais figures to fill that same role on Edmonton’s blueline as their big, tough defender who kills penalties and makes life difficult for opposing forwards. That’s a huge win for a seventh-round pick and somebody who was told time and time again that he’d never make it.
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