Thursday, July 17, 2014

Descheneau trying to overcome odds smaller players face

Blues' fifth round pick looking to follow path others have paved in NHL

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- It would have been a moment Blues prospect Jaedon Descheneau would have savored. 

But a funny thing happened on the second day of the 2014 NHL Draft.

"I was sleeping when my buddy called me and told me I got picked," Descheneau said of his being drafted by the Blues in the fifth round. "I had no idea until he told me."

And with that, the 19-year-old of Leduc, Alberta was an NHL prospect. Not a ton of fanfare, not a ton of adrenaline. Tough to process it all once one wakes up.
Jaedon Descheneau

"The time change actually screwed me up, so I thought the draft started at 10 (a.m.)," said Descheneau, who plays for Kootenay of the Western Hockey League. "But I was in Edmonton, so it actually started at 8. ... My friend called me, his little bro got drafted so he was at the draft and he called me and I had nothing on my phone. In the middle of our conversation, my phone just went off. My parents, my friends, my twitter and stuff. That's kind of how I figured out he wasn't lying to me."

Descheneau, listed at 5-foot-9 and 186 pounds, recently spent a week at Blues prospects camp and will attempt to overcome what so many considered undersized must go through: win over a league that seems to thrive on players in the mid-six feet range and carry 220-230 pounds.

"I think for me, my size enables me to play how I play," Descheneau said. "If I was a bigger player, I wouldn't be the same player today. I use my speed and skill and I kind of ... I'm more quicker and use more agility to get around guys. I try to use that to my advantage. I really think my size is why I am the player I am today.

"People always say things about size and stuff like that, I just ignore it. Some of the top scorers in the league this year in the NHL aren't very big. (Sidney) Crosby himself is not very big. But I just kind of play my game and do what I'm doing."

Descheneau, who lit up the WHL with 44 goals and 98 points in 70 games this past season after putting up 30 goals and 78 points in 69 games the previous season, used to allow the detractors to bother him. Not anymore.

"When I was younger, I did," he said. "When I was younger, I had people say I wouldn't make it. I would never even make a rec team. Nowadays, I'm more mature and it doesn't bother me. 

"I just look at (Marty) St. Louis, Crosby, (Patrick) Kane, (Tyler) Ennis ... they're not very big. They're playing some big minutes in the NHL."

Descheneau is tied in with one of the top picks of this season's draft: Sam Reinhart, the second overall pick of the Buffalo Sabres and the first forward chosen. The two were teammates at Kootenay as well as linemates and are good friends.

"If you didn't know who Reinhart was, a second or third overall pick, you might have thought it was (Descheneau)," said Tim Taylor, the Blues' director of player development. "That's a feather in his cap to know that he came out of the games and played very well. He's just got to go back and have another good, solid year. At 18-19, we want them to come in here and get a baseline of where they're at and try to build off of that.

"Here's another guy where we (tested) his body fat and his weight and the correlation between the two affect his play on the ice. He can get much stronger and he can lose body fat. There's probably about four or five pounds of muscle that he can build. It's going to make him quicker and stronger on the ice in order to dart in and out of those areas to score goals. We're hoping when the guys come in, they take that nutrition, they take the work ethic that Nelson provides them and obviously what Hitch has talked to them about, if they combine those three and take any of those and take them back and work out through the season, they have a good chance of making an NHL roster."

Descheneau described his game as that of a guy who isn't afraid of going to the tough areas but doing so at opportune times.
(Getty Images)
Blues prospect Jaedon Descheneau (right) doesn't mind
parking himself in front of the net to find success, as he
does here playing for the Kootenay Ice last season. 

"I try to play more like (Montreal's) Brendan Gallagher and St. Louis, a bit of both," Descheneau said. "Gallagher goes hard to the net and that's what you've got to do to score. St. Louis has that skill game that I try to play, too. Those two players are who I try to play like."

Descheneau got a pretty good idea the Blues were interested in him. Multiple conversations with part time amateur scout Jesse Wallin gauged the interest. And after the season Descheneau had, there was strong indication he would be picked.

"I just got an opportunity. I had a good coach last year," Descheneau said of Ryan  McGill. "They really developed me as a player. I struggled at the start of the year, but my coach helped me out. He pushed me and gave me an opportunity and that's why I'm the player I am today. I believe he's the biggest part of my success to this day."

Playing with Reinhart may have helped, too.

"I learned a lot from him," Descheneau said of Reinhart. "We complemented each other a lot out there. The guy is smart, the way he can make plays is unbelievable. I don't think I've seen a player be able to do what he does. ... I was fortunate enough to play with him and he's helped me out along the way. He's a big part of where I am today. It was a lot of fun playing with him."

Descheneau plans on another year in Kootenay. The dream is to get to St. Louis one day but getting a taste of prospects camp offered up a taste of what professional life will be like one day.

"You get a glimpse of what it's like to be a pro," Descheneau said. "There's so much stuff you've got to do, nutrition, workouts and stuff that I've never been a part of. It's a good experience and I'm enjoying it.

"Obviously I'd like to play here, but I have a good junior team back home. Too young to play in the American (Hockey) League, but I have a good junior team back home. We're going to have a good team this year, some good players to play with. Going back there to develop, nothing wrong with that at all."

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