LAVAL - The season may still be young, but Nicolas Deslauriers has already experienced the full range of emotions this year.
The latest, which it can be assumed was one of great joy, happened on Wednesday night when the Canadiens called him up from the Laval Rocket.
Just a few weeks ago, the 26-year-old forward thought he had reached the bottom of the barrel. The Buffalo Sabres, with whom he had spent his entire career, made it known they were no longer interested in his services. First, they put him on waivers and then, after he went unclaimed, they tried to trade him.
Weighed down by all the negativity, Deslauriers took five whole days off from skating.
"That's when you see you're meant to play hockey," outlined Deslauriers not long before getting the call-up. "When you take days off, it does you good, but five straight days doing nothing, I've never experienced anything like that and it was hard."
Then came the call telling him he'd be Montreal-bound; it only took him a few hours before he was on the move.
"It's really something special," he recalled. "It didn't take me long to pack up whatever I'd need for two or three weeks and by the afternoon, I was already in the car to make it to practice here the next day."
The "here" he speaks of wasn't his number-one choice, however, since it refers to Laval, the home of the Habs' minor-league affiliate Rocket. Deslauriers did not want to play in the league he had grown up in a few years before, but he knew it was the right thing to do.
"I said it pretty clearly. It's not that I wanted people to think I don't like being here, it's really something else. I played in this league, it's the league that helped me grow and make it to the NHL, but I've had a taste of the NHL and I know what I can bring," Deslauriers explained while he was still waiting for his turn with the big club. "I 100% respect all the players in this league and the organization, but it isn't where I want to be. I want to be in the NHL. I want to play in the best league in the world and that's why I'm pretty clear about it. At the same time, I'm here to help the Rocket win and I want to win."
In the end, the LaSalle native didn't have to wait long for his turn to arrive, and he's planning on impressing Habs management and thus forcing their hand.
"It's a dream, for sure. Not just for me, but for my family and all my friends who aren't playing professional hockey anymore," relayed Deslauriers, who played defense before turning pro - and made a return to the blue line in a recent Rocket game. "If I get my shot with the Canadiens, it's going to be hard to take that jersey off. I'm going to do everything I can to keep it on."
The left winger is certainly not lacking in motivation when it comes to achieving his goals.
"I'm doing this for me, but also for everyone I've played with," mentioned the young father. "The Canadiens… are the Canadiens. It's the best thing in Quebec and it's a jersey I will wear proudly."
It would be safe to assume that the QMJHL alum will be able to count on several members of his family showing up to see him play his next - and highly anticipated - game in the big leagues. Among them, his wife Joanie, who's been in his life for 10 years, and their two children, Madison Rose (3 ½ years old) and Jaxon (16 months).
"We've been together a little while! I got married at 21 and had my daughter at 23. She was my girlfriend when I was in Junior in Rouyn-Noranda. I took her with me!" he cracked, before paying tribute to his wife for organizing the family's move "with two kids running around everywhere."
The Deslauriers clan looked long and hard for a place to stay near Laval, but finally decided on taking up residence at their summer home in Berthierville.
The couple had bought that two years ago so that they could bring their kids closer to their grandparents, after having lived almost exclusively in the United States for five years. Deslauriers and his wife were looking for their dream home, and had established a rather large search radius which spanned from Gatineau to Quebec City.
"It's close to the river and my wife's parents bought a house two streets over. We wanted to have an in-ground pool and a big yard for our two big dogs and we found that in Berthierville. I make the trip every day," described Deslauriers, who has racked up 211 games of NHL experience, collecting 30 points (12G, 18A) and 186 penalty minutes in that span. "It's easier like that, because we're in our own element. We had no idea we'd be living in our summer home this year!
"I'm prepared to make that trip every day, it's good for me," he continued. "I'm getting to know the 40 by heart, but I still have the GPS, otherwise I could end up anywhere if my head is in the clouds!"
That said, the 6-foot-1, 215-pounder's head was surely not in the clouds as he mapped out his route to the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard on Thursday.