Number cruncher : Deconstructing Desharnais

Thursday, 03.04.2014 / 11:46 AM canadiens.com

MONTREAL – From the top line to the press box and back to the top line again, David Desharnais has had quite an eventful season. Despite going undrafted and playing in five different leagues since turning 18, he also happens to be one of the most consistent and unheralded offensive performers of his generation.

An unusual streak

Recently nominated for the 2013-14 Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy, the Laurier-Station, QC native has silenced many critics since breaking into the NHL with the Habs on a full-time basis back in 2010. Despite opening the season with one meagre assist in 17 outings, Desharnais has righted the ship and is now sitting at 49 points in 74 games through April 3, 2014. In doing so, the fifth-year NHLer is poised to extend a personal scoring record. Indeed, beside the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season, the five-foot-seven pivot has never finished a hockey season with fewer than 50 points since his minor hockey days a decade ago. A reliable scoring threat no matter the environment, Desharnais has been a point-a-game player in lower levels while compiling a very respectable 0.63 point per game in the National Hockey League.

League Years GP Points PPG

QMJHL 2003-07 262 374 1.43

ECHL 2007-08 68 106 1.56

AHL 2008-11 183 184 1.01

NHL 2009-14 252 160 0.63

Switzerland 2012 16 16 1.00

In search of comparables

There are 25 centermen currently aged between 26 and 28 who have played at least 200 NHL regular season games since the start of the 2010-11 regular season. On a per-game basis, six players lead the pack: Evgeni Malkin (1.20 PPG), Nicklas Backstrom (0.95), Anze Kopitar (0.91), David Krejci (0.80), Patrice Bergeron (0.75) and Mike Richards (0.70). All were heavily scouted, internationally-experienced juniors. With the exception of Krejci and Bergeron, who were drafted in the second round, these all-star performers were also exclusively first-round picks.

Seventh on the list is David Desharnais, who ended his major junior career with exactly zero NHL or AHL job offers. After a single all-conquering season playing for the ECHL’s Cincinnati Cyclones, during which Desharnais won Rookie of the Year, league MVP and the scoring title in addition to leading his team to a Kelly Cup, the adept playmaker moved up to the AHL and headlined the Bulldogs’ offense. In 2009-10, he played sparingly in a six-game trial with the Canadiens but made the team for good the following season, after his 24th birthday.

Among his immediate peers, such a late ascension from fringe prospect to top-line pivot is virtually unmatched. In the 25-man list we referenced earlier, only five other players have debuted in the NHL as such an age: Tyler Bozak, Mathieu Perreault, Colin Greening, Tom Pyatt and Andrew Desjardins. The only other top-six scoring threat in the group is Bozak, a University of Denver alumnus who was signed by Toronto in 2009. He also went undrafted and has put up 0.60 points per game since 2010 playing mostly alongside Phil Kessel.

Jack Han is a writer for Canadiens.com

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