The Philadelphia Flyers may have struck gold when they traded up at last month’s NHL draft for the opportunity to select Elliot Desnoyers. GM Chuck Fletcher sent two seventh-round picks to the Nashville Predators in exchange for pick 135, in the fifth round.
So far, the move is looking brilliant. Desnoyers has been lighting up the scoreboard so far this season with the Halifax Mooseheads of the QMJHL. In 12 outings, he has already tallied two four-goal games. He sits second in league standings in goals (11) and third in points (20) through Nov. 11. For the second time in the last three weeks, he was named the league’s player of the week for the week that ended Nov. 9.
Making The Most Of The Middle
Desnoyers started his major junior career at left wing but shifted to center this season. It’s a move that is clearly agreeing with him.
“I’d say I’m more useful all around the ice when I’m at center,” he said this week, at the risk of understating his season so far.
But don’t let all the goals fool you. The 5’11”, 172-pound native of Ste-Hyacinthe, Quebec, just outside Montreal, says he models his game after high-energy Habs fan-favorite Brendan Gallagher, who he watched while growing up.
“He is a great, hardworking leader and he is always competing everywhere on the ice,” Desnoyers said. “He loves to go in dirty areas and sacrifice himself for his teammates.”
Gallagher was a fifth-round pick himself back in the day, selected by Montreal with the 147th pick back in 2010. Jumping to the NHL after just 34 games in the minor leagues, Gallagher is now eight years into his pro career. On Oct. 14, Gallagher signed away his opportunity to hit unrestricted free agency when he signed a six-year contract extension that cements his future with Montreal, with a cap hit of $6.5 million per season.
A Hard Worker in Halifax
Desnoyers started his major junior career with two seasons on the Moncton Wildcats. The rebuilding Mooseheads traded for him last June.
“He’s a guy that our guys in the Quebec League were high on,” said Flyers assistant general manager Brent Flahr on draft day in October. “This year, he’s moved to Halifax and has a big role on the team. He’s had a real good start. He’s a real hardworking, energy two-way center and wing. He’s playing center right now. He’s a real smart player, real detailed player. A player all coaches like. Our guys just think he’s going to get better and better there so we stepped up on him.”
Talk of a solid 200-foot game and being a coach’s pet might make Desnoyers’ game sound less-than-exciting to watch. But he has been racking up some style points this season, too.
— Halifax Mooseheads (@HFXMooseheads) November 8, 2020
In addition to moving to the middle this year, Desnoyers is playing a bigger role than he did last season in Moncton, getting top-line minutes and some power-play time.
“I think it all started with a big summer,” he said. “I worked really hard with my trainers on and off the ice. I think the team has helped me a lot. They have given me a lot of confidence and put me in a great situation to help the team. For sure, too, my linemates have a big role in this. I am playing with two great players and we are all pulling in the same direction. I think this is part of my success.”
Game Situations Are Key
While many junior-level players have remained sidelined due to pandemic restrictions, Desnoyers has been fortunate to play in a region where life is continuing with some normalcy.
In Canada, the OHL and WHL are hoping to start their seasons sometime after Christmas. The QMJHL was first out of the gate, dropping the puck for 2020-21 in early October, but it didn’t take long before Covid-19 outbreaks among some teams based in Quebec forced the league to restructure the early part of its season.
Because Canada’s Atlantic provinces have kept the virus largely at bay with stringent travel and quarantine restrictions, teams based in those provinces, including the Mooseheads, have been able to continue to travel and play each other — in their own bubble of sorts.
After a pause, teams in Quebec have started to get back on the ice. Clubs in lower-risk areas have been permitted to resume play in their home markets, while the seven squads located in Quebec’s high-risk ‘red zones’ are set to gather in Quebec City to play six games each inside a ‘protected environment‘ between Nov. 17-27.
Desnoyers and the Mooseheads will travel to New Brunswick for a pair of games this weekend. They’ll face off against the Acadie-Bathurst Titan on Friday before meeting the Saint John Sea Dogs on Saturday.
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