EDMONTON, AB - Vincent Desharnais stands above the rest.
The 6-foot-6, 215-pound defenceman measures as the tallest and heaviest player at Oilers Rookie Camp as he enters his first professional season following four years in the NCAA with Providence College.
The towering blueliner utilized his frame and defensive ability to earn Hockey East's Top Defensive Defenceman honours in his senior season, also serving as an alternate captain and graduating with a Business Management & Finance degree.
"It was hard. The first year was very hard," Desharnais said of his college experience on Thursday. "I came in when the team had just won a National Championship. The top-six defencemen were the same top six. They were bringing in another freshman like me who was drafted by the Ducks.
"But I learnt to work. My first year I really learned that if you want something, you're going to have to work for it. So after every practice, I was on the ice with my assistant coach just working and working, and I ended up finishing top six in my first year. Then after that, every year I was getting better and better.
Video: ROOKIE CAMP | Desharnais 09.05.19
Desharnais now carries his college experience into his first professional opportunity with the Bakersfield Condors next season after signing an AHL contract back in July, expecting the transition to go much more seamlessly after being put through the four-year college grind.
"I just wanted a shot. I just want to prove to everyone that I can play hockey," he said. "Everywhere it's been like 'He's good' but that's it. I know what I can do and it won't be easy right away. I don't have any experience professionally, but I gained a lot of experience in college. I'm pretty confident I'll be able to prove in the AHL that I can play."
The Laval, Quebec product is confident in his decision to postpone using his degree in order to explore a career in hockey, along with how well his game can potentially translate to the NHL thanks to plenty of precedence set by big men who've had considerable success in the League.
"I've watched many clips of (Zdeno) Chara. That's why I have to be careful with what I say about Boston. I love his style," Desharnais, who grew up a fan of the Montreal Canadiens, said. "(Colton) Parayko with St. Louis, he's in my opinion one of the best. He's so good and so mobile. So guys like that I really try to watch and I try to take a few points here and there and work on it."
Leaning on his size and intensity on the ice as a shutdown defenceman leaves room for Desharnais to dedicate a majority of his time in the off-season towards adapting to the NHL's trend towards speed.
"I don't feel odd, but I just know that I have to work on my speed," he said. "That's something I do every summer. I go back home and I do powerskating twice a week for three months to keep getting faster and faster, because I know I'll never be fast enough.
"You see guys like McDavid and ask 'How is that guy so fast? How can I match his speed?' Which is probably impossible because he's just so fast. But that's what I try to base my game on. I have to be able to give him a good challenge one-on-one, because if I do that I know I can take pretty much anyone."