It’s not every day a 16-year-old rookie gets promoted to his team’s top line, and Gabriel Desjardins knows it.
“I’m lucky, you know?” the Halifax Mooseheads left-winger says.
But as the old saying goes, you have to be good to be lucky and lucky to be good. And Desjardins is good.
The Montreal native is described by his coaches as having one of the most consistent work ethics on the team, despite being as many as four years younger than his teammates. He has been fast-tracked to the top line as a result, skating with Czech snipers Tomas Knotek and Jan Stransky in recent games.
He says he’s having a blast. Turns out, he’s not the only one.
“They enjoy playing with him as much as he enjoys playing with them,” says Mooseheads head coach Cam Russell. “Skilled guys like a hard-working gritty player who’s going to be first on pucks in the corners and doing a lot of legwork.”
Russell calls Desjardins a “throwback to the old days.” The five-foot-11 191-pounder’s skate blades have barely touched the ice before his legs are churning in pursuit of the puck, and you’ll be hard-pressed to catch him taking a shift off.
He leads by example and sets the bar high.
“All the time, I say in my head, ‘Let’s go, Gabe … You can go, go get the puck,’” he explains.
“There (are) 20-year-olds, 19-year-olds (in this league) and I’m 16. It’s hard, but I don’t think that in my head. I go hard and never mind (my age).”
Desjardins was drafted in the second round (24th overall) in last year’s QMJHL draft. His numbers are modest — eight goals and eight assists for 16 points in 45 games — but he has established himself as one of the league’s top prospects.
Although his NHL draft year isn’t until 2011, Russell thinks he could be selected in the top couple of rounds.
“He has what every scout, every coach and every general manager looks for: good skill level with great work ethic to go along with it,” Russell says. “He’s a guy we’ve talked about to lead this hockey team the next couple of years.”