Name: Simon Despres
Currently: Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL)
Progress: One of the top defensemen in the QMJHL; shutdown role on Team Canada’s world junior team
Expectations: Almost started the season with the Penguins this past fall and could make the club next year if there is room for him. A year in the AHL could be beneficial, though.
Drafted: 1st round (30th overall) by Pittsburgh Penguins (2009)
Acquired: Through draft
Player Type: Low risk, shutdown defenseman
NHL Comparable: Marc-Edouard Vlasic
Every year in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, there is a small group of 19- and 20-year old players who dominate every game. Simon Despres is one of those players.
Despres has basically been the same player since his rookie season in 2007-08. He’s safe, steady, reliable, and rarely makes a mistake on the blue line that will cost his team.
He’s not flashy, and you’re probably never going to leave the rink with a play that Despres made stuck in your mind.
The ‘Big Horse’ just keeps things simple and gets the job down.
He’s an excellent skater and rarely gets beaten to the puck. One of the knocks on Despres has been that he is not overly physical given his size. It hasn’t really been that big of a problem, though.
In Saint John, his calming presence on the backend has really been a huge help to a fairly young defense core. He’s definitely ready for the pro game next year, and time will tell whether that is in Pittsburgh or Wilkes-Barre.