It was in places like Hull and Gatineau of the QMJHL, Danbury of the UHL and Cincinnati of the ECHL. Daoust won or came close to titles in all of those places.
Now, he's trying to add Wilkes-Barre/Scranton to that list.
Daoust, 25, is one of the best emerging stories of the first round of the AHL playoffs. A third/fourth-line type heading into the postseason, he burst onto the first line with Jeff Taffe and Chris Minard when Janne Pesonen got hurt in Game 1. In Games 2-5 vs. Bridgeport, he compiled 3 goals and 4 assists, including the series-winner in the final on April 24.
''I was working hard all year to have that opportunity,'' Daoust said. ''When they told me I was playing on the first line, I was excited to play there. It's a real chance to prove myself.''
When you're 5-foot-7 and 160 pounds, you have to keep justifying your minutes regardless of your stats. In Daoust's third season with Hull, he posted 37 playoff points, and the next year, with Gatineau, he contributed 22.
With Danbury in 2005-06, Daoust had 11 playoff points. He added eight playoff points for Cincinnati the next season, and last year put up 18 to help that team to the Kelly Cup.
''You try to take the best out of every league. At the same time, you know what it's like to go back to the lower level. You don't want to go back there,'' Daoust said. ''That (all the playoff experience) helped me a lot. I know what to do, what to not do. You have to keep things simple.''
Daoust kept puttering along in the ECHL during the 2007-08 regular season, leading the league with 51 points in 36 games. Frustrated at his inability to get an extended look in the AHL, he put in a call to Pittsburgh forward Maxime Talbot, his linemate in Hull.
Talbot said he'd pass on a good word to management, and that opened the door. Daoust came up and played 37 games with the Pens, scoring 5 goals and 13 assists. The tradeoff was that Daoust, a top-two line guy all his career, was caught at the end of a long line of talented forwards in the organization.
''We had so much depth, there was really no room for me. When someone got hurt or called up, I filled the spot,'' Daoust said. ''I understood the situation. Guys were very good on the first two lines. I went with it. It's paying off right now.''
Daoust's regular-season numbers (10-18) this year seem to put him on a much different level than established AHL scorers Taffe (25-50) and Minard (34-23). But in taking over for Pesonen, the Pens' leading scorer (32-50) Daoust has added a different type of jump to the combination.
''I'm a guy who likes to bring energy on the line,'' he said. ''They are two excellent players. You just have to pass them the puck and they put it in. It's exciting to see them on the ice, what they can create offensively.''
With so many influential types watching how he comes through in this postseason, Daoust hopes to whip up something a little better than his current AHL deal for next season. And this time he'll let his effort speak for itself. Daoust keeps in constant touch with his good buddy Talbot, but said he won't be hitting him up for another recommendation.
''I don't want to put him in that situation,'' Daoust said. ''He cannot negotiate for me. He did everything he could for me. That's the end of that.''
"You try to take the best out of every league. At the same time, you know what it's like to go back to the lower level. You don't want to go back there. That (all the playoff experience) helped me a lot. I know what to do, what to not do. You have to keep things simple."
-- Jean-Michel Daoust
At 6-foot-5, 225 pounds, Worcester rookie forward Frazer McLaren is an exception. He doesn't go into the shadows. He creates big ones of his own.
McLaren, who paced the Sharks with 181 penalty minutes this season, found another gear to his game in his team's first-round playoff win against Hartford. His three assists tripled his total in 75 regular-season games, and his four points overall were half his total in that stretch (7-1). He continued a move up from the fourth line to the third that began at the end of the season and also got regular power-play minutes for the first time this year.
''I played all those roles in juniors. It's just a matter of trying to mimic what I did in juniors at a higher level,'' he said. ''I figured I'd be in the lineup during the playoffs. I wanted an opportunity to play more.''
Still, a watchdog has to do what he has to do. McLaren picked up a $100 fine for a little back-and-forth before Game 2. McLaren's version had Hartford's Brodie Dupont bugging Sharks goalie Thomas Greiss, McLaren telling Dupont to bug off, Dupont going after McLaren, McLaren slashing Dupont, and, well, you know how these things go.
''It's tough being in that (enforcer) role and putting up points, but you have to stick with it,'' McLaren said. ''I'm never going to lose my toughness side, but I feel I can play on the third or second lines.''
A whole new look -- The AHL's Board of Governors approved a major facelift for the league in 2009-10 during its spring meeting on April 28.
The league hit the 30-team mark with the approval of a franchise in Austin, Texas. The Texas Stars will begin play as the affiliate of the Dallas Stars at the new 6,800-seat Cedar Park Center in the Austin suburb of Cedar Park.
The Flyers are moving their farm team from Philadelphia to Glens Falls, N.Y. That team will play in the Glens Falls Civic Center, which was home to four Calder Cup championship teams during the 1980s and 1990s.
And Calgary is switching its affiliate from Quad City to Abbotsford, B.C. It will skate in the Abbotsford Entertainment and Sports Centre.
League alignment will be addressed at the AHL's summer meeting.
Around the AHL -- Nashville has extended the contracts of Milwaukee coach Lane Lambert and assistant Brad Lauer. In two seasons running the Admirals, Lambert has accumulated a 93-51-3-13 record and 202 points, the second-most points by a Milwaukee coach in his first two years in franchise history. ... Portland has been named host of the 2010 AHL All-Star Classic. ... Houston has signed Brian Kaufman, captain of NCAA runner-up Miami of Ohio, to an AHL deal for the 2009-10 season. ... Although Worcester and Providence are less than an hour apart, eight days will separate Games 1 and 2 of their playoff series. Providence's Dunkin Donuts Center is hosting the circus and Worcester's DCU Center is hosting professional bull riding. ... Hershey and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton are meeting in the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season. ... Hershey closed the book on the Philadelphia Phantoms' 13-year history by sweeping them out of the first round. That was just the second losing sweep in Phantoms postseason history. The attendance at the GIANT Center for Game 4 of the series was 7,409, the largest crowd for a first-round playoff game in Hershey since 1974. ... Worcester's first-round win against Hartford made it the fourth fourth-place team since the AHL went to its current playoff format in 2004 to eliminate the division champions in the opening round. The Sharks joined Iowa (2007), Providence (2005) and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (2005) in accomplishing that feat. ... Overall, four lower seeds won their first-round series, the most in a playoff round since there were five upsets in the first round of the 2005 postseason. ... Also, four teams who lost Game 1 in the division semifinals came back to win the series, the highest total since four Game 1 losers also prevailed in the 2004 division semifinals.