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Heart of a lion

by Jeff Angus / Vancouver Canucks
Former teammate Mike Commodore described Derek Dorsett as having “the heart of a lion.” It is easy to see why after watching the rugged winger play.

Derek Dorsett was an integral part of the 2006-07 Medicine Hat Tigers team that captured the Ed Chynoweth Cup as WHL Champions. He led the team in penalty minutes that year (a common theme throughout his career) and finished tied for second in team scoring with current Red Wings center Darren Helm. That Tigers team waged a few memorable battles against the Vancouver Giants, and due to his playing style Dorsett wasn’t the most revered athlete in this city at the time. The Tigers bested the Giants in the WHL Final but the Giants returned the favour by capturing the Memorial Cup in Vancouver a few weeks later. Dorsett was front in center in almost every game, agitating every single Giant player, coach, and fan.

He really came into his own with the Tigers under the guidance of Willie Desjardins, who likely had a major role in bringing Dorsett from New York to Vancouver this past offseason. Dorsett scored 44 goals over his final two junior seasons while adding a whopping 485 penalty minutes. Dorsett also added an impressive 21 goals and 144 penalty minutes in 43 career WHL postseason games.

Here’s a look at some of Dorsett’s handiwork during his time with the Tigers.

Acquiring Dorsett didn’t come cheap, but the Canucks believe that the Saskatchewan native can help anchor a fourth line that has been a revolving door for players over the past few seasons. On Dorsett, Helm believes that his former teammate is “definitely one of the most competitive guys I [have] ever met.” Dorsett’s playing style is infectious, especially considering his size. At 6-0 and 190 pounds, he routinely takes on opponents several inches taller and 40 to 50 pounds heavier than he is.

He Can Play, Too

The driving reason behind the Dorsett acquisition is his unique skill set. Players who are only on an NHL roster to fight (also known as a goon) has been largely phased out of the NHL. Players that can both fight and play a regular shift are only increasing in value. Dorsett really came into his own in this role in 2011-12 with Columbus, scoring 12 goals and recording 235 penalty minutes. He was one of only three NHL players that season to score at least 10 goals and add at least 10 fighting majors (the other two were Chris Neil and Wayne Simmonds).

12 goals in the NHL while playing a fourth line role is no easy feat. Dorsett is a great skater and has underrated hands and vision.

Dorsett shows off his speed after gathering the puck in the Columbus zone. As soon as he passes it, he knows where to go.

Thanks to some lazy defensive work by former Nashville winger Sergei Kostitsyn, Dorsett is able to receive the pass in full stride and split the entire Nashville team.

And he’s off to the races. The only thing missing from this goal is the Owen Nolan top corner point. Dorsett picks his spot and wires a wrist shot past Pekka Rinne. Having a fourth line that can produce goals against the grain (just like this one) on occasion is extremely valuable and something that has been lacking here recently.

Top cheese.

Dorsett as a Canuck

Injuries have plagued Dorsett in recent years. A fractured clavicle to end 2012-13. A broken right leg in 2013-14. His average size and his aggressive playing style may be to blame, but Dorsett’s injuries weren’t directly related to a fight or initiated physical contact. He is confident that the issues he has faced in recent seasons are one-off situations and not a trend.

As mentioned earlier, the Canucks will slot Dorsett in on the fourth line to start the season. He has the ability to play up in the lineup, but he is at his most effective when playing an energy role. Don’t forget that he has the ability to do things like this from time to time as well:

Desjardins is very excited to coach Dorsett – a player who he thinks very highly of – again. “The biggest thing you can say about Derek is that he is a winner. He won’t accept anything else.”

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