This was most definitely a "best player available" type picks...no doubt. He was ranked 8th overall among North American Skaters by NHL Central Scouting, was the 2nd rated North American Defenseman by NHL Central Scouting, and was the top ranked player in the entire Quebec Major Junior Hockey League by NHL Central Scouting. On the Versus telecast last night, they mentioned that he was their 18th ranked player overall, and were surprised when he fell into our laps at #30. In pre-draft mocks on NHL.com, both Adam Kimmelman and Shawn Roarke projected Despres to go to the Sabres with the 13th overall pick, while Brad Holland projected him to Boston at #25.
I think it is awesome that his primary defensive partner in Saint John this season was Alex Grant, who the Penguins drafted in the 4th round 2 years ago. Perhaps they can come up through the system together. I would love to see the two of them develop as a defensive pairing (the more offensive minded defenseman Grant with the most defensive minded defenseman Despres) with my Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins when the time comes before hopefully moving up to the big club.
Here is his scouting report:
North American Skater
Saint John, QMJHL
Final Rank: 8 Midterm Rank: 6
Position: Defenseman Shoots: Left
Height: 6' 4" Weight: 205
Born: July 27, 1991 Hometown: Laval, QC
Born in: Laval, QC, CAN
• In 2008-09, Després led his team with a plus-16 rating and led the way in defensive scoring with 32 points (2-30-32) in 66 games. He had four assists in four playoff games before the Sea Dogs were knocked out in the first round by Cape Breton.
• Represented Team Canada as an assistant captain at 2009 Under-18 World Championships in Fargo, North Dakota, finishing fourth in the tournament with two assists and a plus-five rating. He was also a member of Canada's gold-medal effort at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial tournament in 2008.
• Després was selected to participate in the 2009 CHL Top Prospects game and for the second straight season he represented the QMJHL in the Canada/Russia Challenge.
• As a 16-year-old rookie, he recorded 14 points (1-13-14) and a plus-18 rating in 64 games after being selected first overall in the 2007 QMJHL Draft. He tied a Saint John record with five assists in one game (Jan. 18, 200 and was selected to the QMJHL All-Rookie Team for his efforts.
• He was nicknamed ‘Horse’ by his teammates early in his career for his ability to log big minutes on the blueline.
• Credits Jim Webster for having a big influence on his career, working with him from the age of seven and lists Daniel Pauzé as his favorite minor hockey coach. His first ever hockey team was with Delta Laval.
• He had a hole in one in just the second round of golf he had ever played.
NHL Team: Montreal Canadiens
NHL Player: Pavel Datsyuk
Shootout move: “The Datsyuk”
Movie: Van Wilder
Reality Show: Loft story
Actress: Jessica Alba
Cartoon: The Simpsons
Book: Harry Potter
Restaurant: East Side Mario’s
Sport (other than hockey): Golf
2008-2009 Saint John QMJHL 66 games, 2 goals, 30 assists, 32 points, 74 penalty minutes
NHL Central Scouting’s Chris Bordeleau
"I think for a potential pro player, he's got the size and mobility. I've seen him many games, and he never seems to make a bad play. He's never going to get 100 points, but definitely, when you want a guy to play defense, he's your guy. He does it all, he'll block shots and he moves the puck at the right time.”
Saint John Sea Dogs head coach Jacques Beaulieu
“Simon is a very good skater with and without the puck. He has good hands for a big man and he has outstanding vision as well as hockey sense. To make it to the next level he will need to improve his upper body strength and his shot, but overall Simon is an outstanding person on and off the ice. He loves the game. He is without a doubt an NHL prospect.”
On his style of play: I'm a defenseman that can log a lot of minutes. I like to play physical. I like to skate with the puck, move the puck up the ice with good vision.
On his childhood hockey hero: My idol when I was young was Mario Lemieux, for perseverance and everything he's gone through, everything he's achieved. I think he was the greatest player of all time.
On getting his start in hockey: It began when my dad and my uncle brought me to a free skating when I was around two years old. And it started from there. Then I’d play outdoor hockey in the parks, I loved it. I stayed there all night and just had fun out there.
On the possibility of being drafted in Montreal: It's going to be very special for me because it's close to my hometown. There's going to be lots of family. My family's going to be very proud. I can't wait. It's going to be a great opportunity and a great experience.
Here are some pre-draft stories on him from NHL.com
Despres presents unique skill set to scouts
Thursday, 06.18.2009 / 9:00 AM /
NHL Entry Draft
By Adam Kimelman - NHL.com Staff Writer
One of the stock questions junior players get asked in their draft year is which NHL player they pattern their game after.
The question was posed to Saint John Sea Dogs defenseman Simon Despres, and his answer spoke volumes about the confidence he has to compete -- and succeed -- at the next level:
"I don't pattern my game after anyone."
No, the package of size and skill Despres presents to NHL talent evaluators is just fine on its own.
"He's a really consistent player who seldom makes a bad play," Central Scouting's Chris Bordeleau told NHL.com. "For a guy that size, he's a real good skater. He's going to be a very strong player on the blue line for quite a few years to come in the NHL."
At 6-foot-3 1/2 and 205 pounds, Despres already has great NHL size. He had just 2 goals and 32 points in 68 games, but scouts believe he has an offensive upside to his game.
And he doesn't hide from physical play.
"It's a physical game and I can punish other players," said Despres. "I'm not scared to do it."
"Simon is a very good skater with and without the puck," said Saint John coach Jacques Beaulieu. "He has good hands for a big man and he has outstanding vision as well as hockey sense. To make it to the next level he will need to improve his upper-body strength and his shot, but overall Simon is an outstanding person on and off the ice. He loves the game. He is without a doubt an NHL prospect."
Despres suffered a painful left hip injury in December that should have sidelined him but he played through. And the Sea Dogs, despite high hopes, finished third in the Atlantic Division and were swept by Cape Breton in the first round of the playoffs.
"We had very high expectations as a team," said Despres. "We went in the other direction and at Christmas and traded all our best players. I was a bit disappointed, but I worked hard all season and did as best I could."
That hard work was noticed by numerous people.
"I've never seen the kid play a bad game," said Bordeleau. "He makes safe plays, and the best offensively is yet to come. He has all the tools and I think he's going to be a real good player in the NHL."
Central Scouting tabbed Despres No. 8 in its final ranking of North American skaters for the 2009 Entry Draft, and he's the top-rated QMJHL player.
"It's only a listing, doesn't mean that much," said Despres. "It means a little bit, but I'm not taking anything for granted. The best players go on the ice at training camp and that's where you have to show what you can do."
By then, Despres should be fully recovered from his hip issue, which started in December and affected him straight through the World Under-18 Championship in Fargo, N.D.
"I was racing for the puck with an opposing player in the corner and we both fell and I hit the corner of the boards with my hip," Despres said. "It carried on since then, the whole season."
He was diagnosed with a bone bruise, and after being hit on the same spot at the U-18 tournament, he learned that his hips were crooked.
"So I was playing at 50 percent in Fargo," said Despres. "I hope it didn't affect me too much for the draft."
Considering he still had 2 assists and a plus-5 rating, tied for second among Canada's defensemen, he should be fine when the draft starts Friday, June 26 (7 p.m. ET, VERSUS, TSN, RDS).
"You can't make your judgment off one event," said Bordeleau. "As far as we're concerned we think this kid is going to be a real good player."
Contact Adam Kimelman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Despres' Draft bark with Sea Dogs being heard
Friday, 01.09.2009 / 10:00 AM /
NHL Entry Draft
By Adam Schwartz
NHL.com Staff Writer
Prior to Simon Despres' arrival in Saint John, the Sea Dogs were hurting. Saint John had finished with the second-worst record in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League in 2005-06 and the worst record in 2006-07.
Those poor finishes, however, enabled Saint John to pick first in three consecutive QMJHL drafts, which allowed the team to significantly bolster its blue line with the selections of Alex Grant in 2005, Yann Sauve in 2006 and Despres in 2007.
Since Despres' arrival, the Sea Dogs' bite is beginning to live up to its bark.
Saint John finished second in the Eastern Division last season with a 41-22-4-3 record. This season, they're in third place in the highly competitive Atlantic Division, with a 22-18-2-2 record.
And Despres, an offensive defenseman, is the top-rated QMJHL prospect for the 2009 Entry Draft, according to NHL Central Scouting's Preliminary Rankings, released in October.
Despres had 13 assists and 14 points in 64 games last season; through 42 games this season, he has 18 assists and 19 points.
The stats back up Despres' contention that his ability to play with the puck and help in transition is what makes him an attractive prospect.
"I like skating with the puck and I make a good first pass out of my defensive zone," he said. "I can read the play really well. If I have an opportunity to make good passes and help my team break out of their own zone, then I try to."
Sea Dogs coach Jacques Beaulieu has coached junior-level teams for 12 years and has been with Saint John since 2006, and he believes Despres is the best defenseman he's ever coached. He's almost certain his star pupil will go in the first round of this June's Entry Draft.
"I personally think that he's going to be a first-round pick, but we'll have to wait and see in June in Montreal," Beaulieu said. "I think for sure out of the 12 years of junior that I've been a coach, I think he's the best defenseman that I've ever had. I think he's a more complete package than any of the defensemen I've ever coached in the past."
Despres tries to block out such praise, as well as thoughts about what awaits him this summer. He knows he must continue to post results on the ice if he wants to fulfill his dreams.
"It's just a draft," Despres said. "Hockey is played on the ice and it's about players that come to camp in the best shape. A guy drafted in the first round could get passed by a guy that was drafted in the seventh round. The draft means something, but not everything. I focus on it, but not that much."
It is a veteran statement, one that clearly has been shaped through his exposure to older players that have been through the same process. Foremost among them are his fellow defensemen, Grant and Sauve.
Grant, 19, was selected by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the fourth round of the 2007 Entry Draft, while the 18-year-old Sauve was taken by Vancouver in the second round in 2008.
"Grant and Sauve have been really helpful because they have leadership qualities and they have the experience of being here," Despres said. "They also had the experience of playing in their draft year, which I'm in now. They know what this year is like for me, and when I have difficulty they answer all of my questions. I try not to ask too many questions straight-up, but they are still very helpful."
Despres usually is paired him with Grant, who also is a mobile defenseman not afraid to join the rush.
"He's playing with Alex Grant, who is more of an offensive defenseman as well," Beaulieu said. "He's learned from Alex, for sure. He (Despres) came here last year and it was his first year so he's really grown up with Alex. Alex has certainly helped him throughout his time here."
While Grant, in his fourth season in Saint John, has taught Despres a lot, Beaulieu makes the point that Despres has developed a lot of pro attributes on his own.
"He thinks like a pro and he wants to be a pro," Beaulieu said. "He works very hard off the ice. He's in the gym a lot and he takes care of his body by eating properly, gets proper rest and his time management is very good."
Despres knows that while he and Grant are dangerous offensively, they have to cover for each other defensively when one joins the rush.
"We both read the play really well and we're both offensive-minded defenseman and we are very dangerous in the offensive zone when we are both on the ice," Despres said. "We both join the rush and start the breakout in our zone. When one of us jumps into the play offensively we are aware that the other one has to stay back. I work hard and win all of the little battles, or try to. I try to finish all of my hits so the other team doesn't come back in the corner."
Contact Adam Schwartz at email@example.com.
Despres displays talent for scouts
Published Friday January 16th, 2009
Hockey Sea Dogs rearguard pleased with performance in prospects game
BAIE-COMEAU, Que. - Simon Despres hasn't been drafted yet, but he's already enjoying the perks of pro hockey.
Scouts are impressed with Sea Dogs defenceman Simon Despres’ skating and puck sense. One says he would like the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s top NHL prospect to be more punishing on checks and to improve his shot. While his Saint John Sea Dogs teammates sat through a 15-hour bus ride to northeastern Quebec Thursday, Despres was a little bit more comfortable. The 17-year-old defenceman was flying in from Oshawa, Ont., where he played in the Home Hardware Canadian Hockey League NHL Top Prospects game Wednesday.
Despres said he enjoyed his time skating with and against 39 other highly ranked hopefuls for the upcoming NHL draft, even though his Team Cherry came out on the wrong end of a 6-1 score against Team Orr.
"It was a great experience and it was a lot of fun," Despres said by phone while waiting for his plane at the airport. "I think the score doesn't dictate how the game went. We had plenty of scoring chances and a lot of posts and they had a couple of good bounces on their side. It could have easily been a closer game score-wise."
Despres was to rejoin his teammates Thursday in Baie-Comeau, where they take on the Drakkar in a Quebec Major Junior League matchup at 8:30 p.m. Atlantic tonight. The road trip continues with visits to the Chicoutimi Sagueneens at 5 p.m. Saturday, and the Quebec Remparts at 5 p.m. Sunday.
Despres hopes his performance in the Top Prospects Game will help build the solid reputation he's developed with the Dogs so far. The No. 1 overall pick in the 2007 QMJHL draft has climbed all the way to No. 6 on NHL Central Scouting's list of draft-eligible skaters in North America.
"I think I played a fairly good game, and I showed a lot. I did my best out there and worked hard," the six-foot-four, 214-pound native of Laval, Que., said.
"I think I showed what I had and I had a good game. I don't think it hurt my rankings."
Despres also enjoyed the chance to serve as an alternate captain for Team Cherry.
"It felt pretty good I guess. The last time I had an 'A' or a 'C' was in bantam for four games and then I went to midget, so it's been a while since I've ever had a letter on my jersey," Despres said.
One regret was not getting more shifts against No. 1 prospect John Tavares of the Ontario League's London Knights. Tavares left with a shoulder injury after a third-period hit by Zach Kassian of the OHL's Peterborough Petes.
"I wanted to get more shifts against him," Despres said. "I only got one or two. I would have loved to have the occasion to hit him or something, but I didn't get the chance."
Working on his hitting is one of the next steps Despres needs to take in his development, said one NHL scout who attended the propects game.
"We'd like to see a little more physical (play) from him, especially when it comes to finishing his check in the last three or four feet," the scout said. "Let people know that they're going to be punished. When Dion Phaneuf is finishing his check or Zdeno Chara finishes his check, he finishes his check. The quality guys finish their check the last three or four feet."
While Despres' combination of skating and size have vaulted him up the scouting lists, the scout would also like to see him work on his shot.
"He's got an average shot, which needs to get much better because he's got a lot of tools. He has good vision, he's a good skater, he makes good plays with the puck and he contains pretty well one-on-one."
PROSPECTS PITCHED: Sea Dogs president Wayne Long said the team hopes to know by June whether it will host next year's Top Prospects Game.
After selling out the ADT Canada-Russia Challenge in November, the team has set its sights on the prospects game as the next step toward proving Saint John deserves to host the 2012 Memorial Cup.
The game rotates between the three CHL member leagues, with the QMJHL's turn coming up in 2009-10.
"We've let our intentions be known to the league. It's another natural step towards a Memorial Cup," Long said. "It's something we're very keen to host. It's a two-day event with the skills challenge and the game. Obviously what we did for the ADT Canada-Russia was top-notch and we want to do the same for the Home Hardware."