Five months ago, the Bruins were just finishing up the regular season and embarking on one of the most memorable playoff runs in the history of hockey, starting with the Montreal Canadiens.
20 weeks ago, the Red Sox started off the season a miserable 2-10 and yet managed to turn it around just weeks later.
But five months ago, UNH senior Phil DeSimone turned in his jersey for the last time and waited to hear what his story would be and what his next step would entail.
And he waited.
The Washington Capitals third-round draft pick, the 84th overall draftee in 2007, sat dormant for months while negotiations for his playing rights were discussed and mulled over. He saw his former teammates like Mike Sislo, Matt Campanale and Paul Thompson get picked up right away by NHL teams–all undrafted free agents.
Even more time elapsed and DeSimone took residence in Connecticut with current Montreal Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty to train during the summer, still not knowing who or what he was training for. He hadn’t received any word from the Washington Capitals, and time was winding down for them to offer him a contract before he became a free agent.
“It was frustrating at times,” DeSimone said. “But I just learned pretty quickly that after college, it’s not just hockey, it’s a business and that’s just the way things go and I guess it’s better to learn it now when I’m a rookie rather than down the road.”
The unknown plagued DeSimone until August 15th–the day he became a free agent. The Capitals did not offer him a contract and for the first time, he and his agent had a little bit of wiggle room. A mere ten days after his new found freedom, Pacioretty made the announcement on twitter– “Congrats to my best buddy Phil Desimone signing an ATO with Montreal. He’s going to impress a lot of people at camp!”
Now time starts speeding up.
In less than three days, DeSimone departs from Connecticut to Montreal, with only twelve days before the first preseason game between the Canadiens and the Dallas Stars. Within that time frame the 6’0, 190-lb center has to convince the coaching staff and organization that those five months in waiting weren’t all for naught.
With the speedy offense that Montreal possesses, DeSimone feels like his approach to the game would only accentuate and complement the already established Canadien style on the ice. His ability to see the ice and create plays makes him a worthwhile asset to the Habs quick puck moving abilities.
“I guess my goal in there is to showcase my ability to make plays and do all the little things that I can, right,” DeSimone said. “And hopefully that gets me a contract with Montreal.”
But it will take a little bit more than that to earn a spot on the Canadien team. While play making is obviously an important aspect of the game, the hits come harder and the speed picks up, leaving little to no time to decide on plays. DeSimone recognized that and tweaked part of his game to adjust to the big leagues of the NHL.
“This summer I’ve kind of been working on goal scoring and shooting more so I can be a little more selfish when it comes to shooting,” DeSimone said. “Because I feel like the last few years, I didn’t take as many opportunities that I should have and I think at the professional level, you have to make the most of the pucks because they don’t come as much as in college, so I’ve worked on that.”
Through the training and the negotiations over the five months, DeSimone has not let it discourage him from his ultimate goal. From playing in the USHL, with UNH and now onto the next level, the goals have been the same. Now that the dream is tangible, DeSimone is no longer loathing time, but instead embracing everything that has come to fruition.
“Obviously it’s everyone’s goal to play professional hockey and it’s been my goal my whole life,” DeSimone said. “I have the confidence that I can play at the next level next week and heading into Montreal’s training camp. Hopefully I will be able to prove that, so I’m pretty excited right now.”