David Desharnais has three goals and 14 points in 11 games this season. (Photo courtesy Hamilton Bulldogs/Pellerins Photography)
NHL teams, scouts and other powers-that-be passed on David Desharnais when he was draft eligible, but the Hamilton playmaker is establishing himself as a legitimate prospect, anyway.
The 24-year-old is sixth among American League scorers with three goals to go with his 11 assists in his first 10 games. The American League is only the latest circuit whose scoring charts Desharnais has shredded.
"It’s always about having a chance to play," Desharnais said. "I know that I can do it. It’s just a matter of having a chance and taking it when it’s time to take it. I think there are a lot of players who can play, but I think it’s a matter of having your chance."
Desharnais’ 5-foot-7 stature has conspired against him at each level. Even with this knock, he was still an offensive force over a four-season Quebec League career with Chicoutimi, posting consecutive seasons of 100-plus points. But the effort never managed to earn Desharnais a spot on the NHL’s draft board.
A brief stint with Bridgeport at the end of the 2006-07 season didn’t lead to anything more, so Desharnais shuffled off to the ECHL, where he landed a position with the Cincinnati Cyclones for 2007-08. There, Desharnais posted a 106-point season and tacked on another 33 post-season points for the Cyclones en route to a Kelly Cup championship. That effort earned Desharnais rookie and MVP honors, with his playoff point total standing as the second-highest total in league history.
With the ECHL conquered, Desharnais earned a full-time job with the Bulldogs for the 2008-09 season and continued his push towards an NHL career. He recorded 24 goals and 58 points over 77 games with the Bulldogs in his first full AHL season and earned his first NHL contract with the parent Montreal Canadiens.
Last season, Desharnais was limited to 60 regular season games, but still managed to rank fifth in scoring with 78 points, setting a new Bulldogs record. Desharnais set another franchise mark with 23 points over 19 playoff games en route to a Game 7 loss in the conference final.
Along the way, Desharnais appeared in his first NHL game with the Canadiens Nov. 25, 2009 in Pittsburgh. He went on to play another five games with the Canadiens, culminating his long, undrafted road to an NHL dressing room.
Recalling stepping onto NHL ice for the first time in his home province of Quebec, Desharnais admits to having a case of the jitters.
"Next time I’m going to be less nervous and more focused on what I have to do," he said.
In the meantime, Desharnais continues to refine his scoring touch and all-around game with coach Randy Cunneyworth’s Bulldogs, who figure to play a big role as a Calder Cup contender once again. The Bulldogs’ 6-1-1-2 mark places them atop the AHL’s North Division.
Where Desharnais goes next depends on his play, but it also depends on the decision-makers in Montreal. If the call comes, Desharnais is ready.
"That’s all that I’m looking for,” he said,” a chance."
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• The AHL named Keith Aucoin of the Hershey Bears its top player for October, Portland’s Luke Adam its top rookie and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s John Curry and Brad Thiessen as the top goaltenders...
• The AHL’s second outdoor game will see the Connecticut Whale host the Providence Bruins Saturday, Feb. 19 at Rentschler Field in East Hartford. Last season, Syracuse hosted Binghamton in front of a crowd of 21,508 in the AHL’s first al fresco venture...
• Adirondack gained the services of Denis Hamel, signing the veteran sniper Nov. 1. Hamel will help replace departed leading scorer Patrick Maroon, who was sent home by Philadelphia management...
• With three wins last weekend, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton is off to an 8-0-0-0 start and is closing in on the AHL record of 11 wins in a row to start a season. Two of the Penguins’ games this weekend will be at Rochester. The Americans started the 1984-85 season with 11 consecutive wins.
From THN.com American League correspondent Patrick Williams, Around The AHL keeps tabs on the world's second best circuit, details all the news and notes and profiles prospects destined for the next level. It appears every Thursday only on TheHockeyNews.com.