This year’s Flyers draft class has been met with plenty of praise. In an offseason where routines were interrupted and traditional ways of gathering information on prospects were postponed, the team had to think a little outside the box. That’s exactly what they did with fifth-round prospect Elliot Desnoyers.
The team actually moved up to acquire his services, trading away a pair of seventh-round picks to Nashville. There was clearly a vote of confidence that this was the right move, but where did it come from?
At 5’11, 172 lbs, the left-winger started his 2020 season in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey league with Halifax after a trade. He played in 6 games, tallying just as many points (2G, 4A) before the season was put on hold. But it’s what Desnoyers did during his time with Moncton in the year before that stood out.
Desnoyers didn’t leap off the chart statistically. He appeared in 61 games for Moncton in 2019, posting 11 goals and 24 assists, on the back of a season where he recorded 31 points in just as many games. He spent a lot of time on the team’s fourth line, meaning exposure to minutes and stronger supporting talent was often limited. But what did leap off the screen were his fundamental traits.
Desnoyers has a lot to work on when it comes to handling the puck and creating offensive opportunities, but his motor and willingness to be in the heat of the action point towards a player who will grind to make those changes. His ability to chase down the puck and get physical in one-on-ones, regardless of who its against, is really encouraging.
There’s almost a tunnel-vision to his game that ensures he’s going to be around the puck at the time of a big play, regardless of whether it is in the offensive or defensive zone. The aggression on the forecheck and non-stop hounding when not in possession build a really solid foundation for a sneaky-smart left-handed winger to build on.
He’s definitely more of a team-first winger and will seek out assists before letting it rip, but even after the pass has been made, you’ll often see him drive into the lanes or create new ones with that ruthless mentality, crashing into defenders without a second thought.
It’s all well and good seeing that, but taking a gamble on it can be a whole other discussion. That’s where the Flyers shook things up. Looking past analytics and tape in an offseason of limited resources, they were willing to take a shot on Desnoyers due to a hat-tip from former coach John Torchetti..
“I used to work with John Torchetti, who coached Moncton for the first half last year.” Said Flyers assistant GM Brett Flahr. “He gave me the tip on him early as well as our Quebec league guys. Just because of their depth and how good they were up front, he didn’t really get the opportunity. Always mentioned to keep an eye on him. From a strength standpoint, he has a long way to go.“
“Another kid who’s very smart. 200-foot player. Really good engine. Since then in the offseason, he’s been traded to Halifax and now has a prominent role. Our guys have really seen him early this year. He’s stronger. He’s faster. He’s obviously playing with a lot of confidence. Again, he’s a 200-foot player. Great engine. A guy I think coaches will enjoy to coach.”
Desnoyers spoke to reporters after being drafted, backing up what the tape, Brett Flahr, and John Torchetti all said.
“I think I’m a big complement player. I’m the kind of guy that’s not going to be the most flashy and on the first line. I’ll help everywhere else. I’ll be able to compete every night and make the players around me better. Talking about lineup, wherever coaches will want me, I will do my job. I will work hard and compete every day.”
It might be a while before we see Desnoyers make a leap to the NHL, but the team took an educated risk in an offseason like no other, using all of the intel they had and an opinion from a trusted source who worked with the player directly. If all of those ingredients come together in the melting pot, the Flyers may have a late-round steal on their hands.
Photo Credit: Alex Mcintyre