In a sport that continues to become increasingly more about skill and speed rather than size, Nick DeSimone, San Jose Barracuda defenseman, proves that having all three leads to success in professional hockey. His ability to move the puck as well as his speed on both ends of the ice make him an invaluable player within the San Jose Sharks organization.
Prior to joining the Barracuda in 2017, the six-foot-two,195-pound native of East Amherst, New York played three years at Union College, helping the Dutchmen reach the first round of the NCAA Hockey College Championship tournament. In his final year, he led Union defensemen in goals (9) and ranked second in points (19). Following the tournament loss, Nick signed an American Hockey League ATO with the Barracuda, leaving the Dutchmen for the AHL.
Despite arriving late in the 2016-17 Barracuda season and seeing only four regular season games, DeSimone quickly gained the trust of Barracuda head coach, Roy Sommer, and the entire Sharks organization.
"I ended up having a couple of good games and coach trusted me," said DeSimone. "So, I ended up playing a [few more]." During the 2017 Calder Cup playoffs, DeSimone played in 13 of the team's 15 games, registering six points (one goal, five assists). He skated alongside current Sharks forwards Barclay Goodrow, Timo Meier, Marcus Sorensen, Kevin Labanc and defensemen Tim Heed and Joakim Ryan.
"It helped a ton playing with the guys that were on that [2016-17] team. A lot of them are in the NHL right now, so it was a great environment to learn in," said DeSimone. "Going pretty deep [in the playoffs] helped with gaining experience and confidence."
After a taste of AHL hockey, the 2017-18 Barracuda season offered another opportunity for Nick to prove his consistency as a defenseman long-term. Piggybacking off a playoff run, he had the confidence to tackle the inevitable challenges of his first full year in the league. In a transitional season for the Barracuda, DeSimone played in 59 games, scoring six goals and collecting 14 assists. He finished the year third among 'Cuda defensemen in assists and solidified himself as an everyday defenseman.
With one full season under his belt, DeSimone came into both 2018-19 development and training camps leading the charge. "At the start of training camp, I saw massive improvements in all aspects of his game," said Sommer. "From moving the puck, to his reads, to defending low with his stick, everything [had] improved."
DeSimone is having his best professional season yet. He has registered a total of 31 points (nine goals, 22 assists) in 45 games played, and recently recorded a six-game point streak (two goals, five assists), the longest of his AHL career. Nick leads 'Cuda defensemen in points, goals, and is second in assists. And among all team skaters, DeSimone is third in both points and assists.
Nick has the perfect combination of size, puck control and skating that fits the mold of a successful NHL defender. "He's a guy who is playing 25 to 27 minutes for us [every game]. He's playing on the power play and penalty kill on a pretty good hockey team," said Sommer.
"I'm just keeping things simple and playing smart. I try and play well defensively and work that into my offensive game," said DeSimone. "The biggest part of trying to be an NHL defenseman is being the best you can defensively every night, so that's my goal."
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