This is the kind of fresh start Nicolas Deslauriers was looking for. The 23-year old had been in the Los Angles Kings’ organization waiting, and waiting, and waiting for his chance to make his NHL debut, for an opportunity to even play in an exhibition game.
But it just wasn’t happening.
Then on Wednesday he was traded to Buffalo and was ready to continue his American Hockey League season in Rochester when the Sabres started getting hit with the injury bug.
So before he could play for the Amerks, he flew to Florida and within three days he went from L.A. Kings prospect to making his NHL debut with the Sabres.
And the whole experience has been amazing for Deslauriers, who will again return to the Sabres lineup tonight against the Nashville Predators in First Niagara Center.
“In L.A., I was there for two years and never got a chance, not even a sniff of having an exhibition game almost,” he said. “I’m here just after being traded and have played two games. It’s just unbelievable. I think the team is young but they work hard. I’m a hard-working guy just trying to finish my hits and take some shots and I think I fit pretty good here.”
The Buffalo Sabres are out of the playoff hunt. The tradeline has passed. The roster is hampered with four injured players who are expected to be out for anywhere from one to two weeks.
For players like Deslauriers, this opens doors.
“You talk about a perfect storm for a young kid,” interim coach Ted Nolan said. “He was slated to play in Rochester. He probably wouldn’t have maybe got too many games here but because of the trade deadline, the injuries he got put into a position. Some people take advantage of the opportunity. He certainly has. He’s a big, physical guy. Playing that way, he can skate for a big man. That’s what this organization needs. We’ll monitor his progress.”
His NHL debut came Friday in Florida against the Panthers where he recorded four shots with four hits in 15 minutes of ice time.
Sunday he recorded only one shot in 12:13, but shared the team-lead with three hits.
Dishing out hard hits, that’s the key part of the game for the 6-foot-1, 209-pound converted defenseman.
See, it’s been a year of change for Deslauriers, not only with the change of organization but a change in position.
A defenseman by trade, he converted to forward this season and had 39 points (18 goals, 21 assists) in 60 AHL games with Manchester at the time of his call-up.
“It’s a big change. Especially since I was on D and it’s my first year up front,” Deslauriers said. “I can’t ask for more. I think I had a good start in the A, just scoring goals and helping the team. This is probably the best time of my life right now.”
The best time in his life continues to be one of transition. The biggest difference in playing forward has been skating and making sure he’s constantly moving his feet.
But Deslauriers remembers life as a defenseman.
What did he hate about forwards when he was at the blue line? That’s the type of forward he tries to be.
“It’s probably an advantage I played on D,” he explained. “I know that when you go get the puck and somebody comes to hit you, you don’t like it.
“And if you do this all game, in the third, the D doesn’t want to go get it. I was like that. I think everybody’s like that, so my thing is to just finish my hits every time, to be that guy that bothers you every time the puck is dumped in.”