(photo credit: Dinur Blum x2)
SAN JOSE- Sharks center Andrew Desjardins is one of those athletes who you can’t help but root for. Not only did the 27-year-old Ontario native go undrafted, but he was also a long shot of long shots to ever make it to the NHL.
Desjardins, in his third full season, grew up in a mining community. He told me last season in an interview that if not for hockey he’d probably be working as a millwright.
San Jose’s current fourth line center even played a portion of his long minor league journey in Laredo, Texas which borders with Mexico. It was there playing with the CHL’s Laredo Bucks that Desjardins said he was given more of an offensive, power-play type role where he was allowed to be more creative with the puck.
Although quick to note he’s primarily been a checking type player, Desjardins, who had two key assists in kick starting San Jose’s 7-2 comeback win over the Kings in Game 2, doesn’t get the play-making credit he deserves.
“Yeah [that offensive role was] in Laredo. That was back in the day. I’ve pretty much just been a checking kind of guy” commented Desjardins after the Game 2 win. “[But] we’re all here for a reason, we all have some skill.”
Unlike many long time fourth line players, Desjardins doesn’t look out of place when put in more of a scoring role. During his first full year in the league in 2011-12 he played a number of games on the left wing of Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski. That tells a lot about what the coaching staff thinks of him offensively.
Despite often playing with wingers of sometimes borderline NHL skill, Desjardins doesn’t seem to miss a beat. He’s typically reliable for 15-20 points per season and is dominant in the draw with a career 54.3 % success rate.
He can cycle, shoot, make creative passes, deliver a game changing hit, and is a big presence on the penalty kill. He does just about everything you could possibly ask for out of a fourth line center. He’s one of the more versatile fourth line players in the entire NHL.
The two assists Desjardins picked up were a testament to his hockey smarts and offensive skill. On the Mike Brown goal that got San Jose back within one, Desjardins didn’t make the most difficult pass in the world but he put it in the exact perfect spot. Sometimes an inch or two here or there can be the difference between a quality shot and a mis-hit, even when the player shooting is wide open. In this case Desjardins put it in Brown’s wheel house, allowing him to beat Jonathan Quick clean to the far side.
On the Torres goal, the fourth line had been defending their own zone for a long time before rushing up the ice. Many times in this situation you would see a fourth line center either dump the puck in or shoot the puck himself while entering the zone. Desjardins however had the presence of mind to listen to Torres call for the puck and leave it for him to skate into. Torres then gained some space created by Desjardins and wired home a wrist shot top shelf.
It’s not a stretch to suggest that if Desjardins played with a player of Torres’ caliber for 82 games that he could be a 30 plus point center. Again, he’s not out of place playing with highly skilled players, he can complement them quite well.
If the Sharks are to go deep into these playoffs, you can bet Desjardins will continue to be a significant contributor. Perhaps not on the score-sheet as often, but one way or another, he will continue to make a positive impact.
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