What should we expect from Vincent Desharnais in 2023-24?

Photo credit:Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
9 months ago
His first season in the NHL was ripe with highs and lows that you’d expect from a rookie player at the highest level, and with round two only a few short months away, I want to know what we should be expecting from Vincent Desharnais in 2023-24.
One of the biggest surprises from last season, at least from my side of the TV screen, was the emergence of Vinny Desharnais as a legitimate (albeit not perfect) RHD option for the Edmonton Oilers once the calendar flipped. A hulking human in every way, Desharnais provided the Oilers with a dose of physicality on the back end that Jay Woodcroft was not afraid to use in many situations. From the moment he landed, fans were eager to see what the big man could do, and for the most part, he followed through on his end of the bargain with some steady and simple play. That’s not to suggest that every game was a Picasso — we all remember the mistakes from the playoffs when the pace of play really seemed to throw a wrench into his game — but I do think it’s fair to suggest that he’s well past what we probably would have expected from a seventh round pick.
This upcoming season, however, there will be more pressure on Vincent Desharnais to perform at a higher level as the team he plays for is basically going into the year with a “win or bust” mentality. Gone are the excuses of being a rookie, and it will be up to Vinny to find a way to keep progressing, especially if he wants to stick with the big club for the duration of this new campaign. I mean, let’s be honest here for a second, the Oilers aren’t in a position to be carrying any passengers on their roster if they want to keep taking steps forward. That said, I wonder where the ceiling is for the 6’6″ native of Laval, Quebec, and whether it’s even fair to heap lofty expectations on him while he’s still trying to figure out how to stick at the NHL level. What can we reasonably expect from a defenceman with only 36 NHL games on his resume?
Back in May, Jason Gregor spoke to Desharnais about his first NHL season, handling the pressure of playing for the Oilers, and what he needs to work on over the summer to ensure his spot with the team come October. Here’s a quick excerpt from that interview about how Vinny plans on spending his time during the off-season.
Once you get to the league you realize everyone is good. Everyone can skate, everyone has a good stick and it’s just the small details that you can improve. I’m going to take a couple of weeks off to do something else and just get hockey off of my mind. But when I return and start focusing on hockey, I’m going to watch a lot of videos as I want to see some patterns that I’ve been doing.
Obviously, I want to improve my puck play. I thought I got better as the season went on, and even in the playoffs, it got better, but as a big man, it’s always a little bit more of a struggle. It’s something that I really want to improve on because I want to be reliable and I want my teammates to trust me, the coaching staff to trust me in every situation.
And I would say my feet, I mean it’s always something that I have to work on. I think for a big man I can move pretty well, but it’s, I’ve got to improve, I’ve got to keep up because this league is getting quicker and quicker every season. Every year you see it, you show up at camp and guys are faster and so I want to keep up. I want to play in this league for more years. I want to be here. I know I can play. I know I can help this team win and bottom line I want to do anything I can to get better, improve on some details. When training camp starts, I’ll be ready. The bottom line is that I’m here to win. I want to win. I’ll do anything I can to improve and win next year.
After being drafted 183rd overall back in 2016, it took six-and-a-half years before he finally played in his first NHL game. And while he certainly had some highlights mixed in with some struggles just as you’d expect from any rookie, it will be up to Desharnais to keep improving and push his way up the lineup. Vinny had a solid run of 36 regular season games where he averaged just under 14 minutes/game, had four assists, and finished +15, but as we all know, what happened in the past doesn’t matter much when a new season rolls around. All anyone is ever going to care about is what Vinny has done for us lately, and that’s a big question when it comes to what he’ll be able to do as a sophomore.
Given the Oilers’ lack of cap space and the coaching staff’s clear love for the guy, I think it’s safe to assume that Vincent Desharnais will be with the big club when opening day rolls around. What I don’t know, however, is what more we can expect from a player that’s still trying to get his feet wet in the best league on earth. While I have absolutely no doubts that he’s busting his ass this summer to become the best player he possibly can, what I don’t know is if it will be good enough to truly solidify the Oilers at his position. Then again, maybe I’m overthinking his place on the team during these dog days of summer, but as I look at the Oilers’ cap number for the 900th time, it doesn’t take long to realize that they may not have any other options.


2019-20Wichita ThunderECHL310131324-9
2019-20Bakersfield CondorsAHL600070
2020-21Wichita ThunderECHL6044145
2020-21Bakersfield CondorsAHL370101036460116
2021-22Bakersfield CondorsAHL6652227553650112
2022-23Edmonton OilersNHL360553115120228
2022-23Bakersfield CondorsAHL13022191
NHL Totals3605531120228

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