When the season started, if somebody told me that come mid-February the Montreal Canadiens would be getting an offensive contribution from their third-line center, I would have assumed either Lars Eller was having a good rookie year or veteran free agent signing Jeff Halpern had re-discovered some lost touch.
That’s because, like most people, I didn’t really have David Desharnais on the radar.
The Desharnais details are pretty well known at this point, in that most fans are aware he was never drafted, clawed his way up through the minor leagues and signed as a free agent more than two years ago with Montreal. And it’s pretty common knowledge that even when he was tearing up the American League to the tune of 181 points in his past 172 games on that loop, few believed he’d be able to parlay that success into an NHL career due to his 5-foot-7 frame.
A month-and-a-half of quality play in a limited role doesn’t mean Desharnais is about to make believers out of every observer, but he’s sure opened some eyes. With seven points over his past four games, Desharnais has helped supply secondary scoring to a team that doesn’t get enough goals from primary sources.
His goal and assist against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday perfectly illustrated what he has to do to make it as an NHLer. First, he found Benoit Pouliot with a heads-up pass from behind the net, the kind of feed a small, creative player has to make. Then, he drove hard to the net, showing his size won’t cause him to shy away from tough areas and tipped home a nice feed from Scott Gomez.
Long term, one has to wonder whether the fact Montreal already has so many players in the small-but-talented mold will work against the 24-year-old Desharnais adding to that list. But for now, the team has told him he’s sticking in the NHL for the rest of the year, so at the very least he’s got a couple more months to improve his already-rising stock.
And if there’s anything we can say for sure about Desharnais, it’s that he has rarely disappointed when given a chance.
This article was originally published in Metro News. For more hockey commentary, check out Metro Sports.