Asked where he might end up playing in his first professional season, Dallas Stars goaltending prospect Philippe Desrosiers answered it like a pro.
“They told me I am turning pro,” Desrosiers said. “Whether I am playing in Texas (AHL) or Idaho (ECHL), I don’t know. I just want to do the best, and [Stars GM] Jim Nill will decide the best for me. I am just ready to be a pro.”
Desrosiers, who turns 20 this weekend, is turning pro after a stellar career in the junior ranks. A career he capped off by being named the Canadian Hockey League’s Goaltender of the Year, winning the Quebec Junior Hockey League’s Jacques Plante Trophy for best goals-against average and helping his team win the QMJHL championship and advancing to the Memorial Cup.
“They won the Quebec League and got to the Memorial Cup, that’s the best there is in juniors,” said Nill. “On top of that, he was the best goalie in the CHL. That’s the number one goalie in Canadian junior hockey; that’s not easy to do.”
It was a stellar season, but there were some bumps along the way and the young goaltender saw some benefits from the experience. Desrosiers posted a 29-9-3 record with a 2.50 goals-against average and .901 save percentage in helping lead the Rimouski Oceanic to the best record in the QMJHL. While Desrosiers played in 44 of 68 games during the regular season, it was a much different story in the playoffs. Rimouski coach Serge Beausoleil didn’t hesitate to change his goaltenders and ride the hot hand. Louis-Philip Guindon got hot and took a majority of the starts in the postseason.
“I thought that was a good thing for me,” Desrosiers said. “I learned a lot. I am a better goalie since then.”
Even though his playing time dropped in the postseason, Desrosiers came up big at crunch time. In Game 6 of the championship series against Quebec, he took over for Guindon early in the second period and stopped six of seven shots as Rimouski rallied from a 3-1 deficit to win 5-4 in overtime to force a seventh game. In Game 7 he stopped 47 of 48 shots as Rimouski won in double overtime to take the QMJHL championship and advance to the Memorial Cup.
“I had all the pressure on me in Game 7 and I did well,” Desrosiers said. “I am very proud of it.”
The Memorial Cup didn’t go as well for Rimouski, which lost three of four games at the tournament and finished fourth among the four teams. But that didn’t take away from what was an outstanding season.
“We had a great season,” Desrosiers said. “I didn’t play all the games, but at the end we did win, and that’s what we want. We had the Memorial Cup, too, but came up short. But overall I am very happy with my season.”
The Stars drafted Desrosiers in the second round (54th overall) in the 2013 NHL Draft. The Quebec native was coming off an excellent rookie campaign with Rimouski, earning All-Rookie Team honors and the Raymond Lagace Trophy as the league’s top defensive rookie. He also had a superb performance with Canada at the 2013 U-18 World Championship, leading his team to a gold medal with a 0.80 goals-against average and .970 save percentage. He rewrote the QMJHL record book in 2013-14, posting an all-time best shutout streak of 243:35. After Rimouski got bounced in the second round of the 2014 QMJHL playoffs, Desrosiers headed to the AHL where he served as the third goalie during part of Texas’ run to the Calder Cup championship. He didn’t play any games, but it was valuable experience.
“It was nice to live the pro life,” he said at the time. “And to practice with pro players meant harder shots, quicker plays. I think it is a good thing for me.”
The Stars have said training camp will help decide where Desrosiers plays this season. Jack Campbell is expected to be the No. 1 goaltender with the Texas Stars. Texas added another goalie recently, signing 27-year-old John Muse, who has 108 games of AHL experience. That would indicate that Desrosiers could begin his pro career with Idaho of the ECHL, where he should get ample playing time. And that would be OK with Desrosiers. He is just happy to go pro regardless of where he goes to start.
“I want to play at the best level I can,” Desrosiers said during development camp in July. “If they want me to play a lot in the ECHL, I will. I think they will make a good choice for me, and I am looking forward to it.”
Idaho hires new coach
The Idaho Steelheads, Dallas’ ECHL affiliate, will have a new bench boss for the 2015-16 season. The Steelheads have hired Neil Graham as the team’s new head coach and Director of Hockey Operations.
Graham replaces Brad Ralph, who resigned last week to become the head coach of the Kelowna Rockets of the Western Hockey League. Graham served as Ralph’s assistant the past two seasons. The 30-year-old Graham, who also served as a player/assistant coach in 2012-13, becomes the youngest head coach in team history.
Ralph coached Idaho for three seasons, posting a 132-64-20 record.
ESPN ranks top prospects
Denis Gurianov was named the Dallas Stars’ top prospect in a ranking just released by ESPN. Gurianov, Dallas’ first-round pick (12th overall) in the 2015 NHL Draft, ranked 49th on ESPN’s list of the 100 top NHL prospects. Gurianov, who picked up one assist in four games for Russia at the World Junior Summer Showcase in Calgary earlier this month, is expected to play in the KHL this season.
Also making ESPN’s top NHL prospects list were Dallas defense prospects Julius Honka (60) and Esa Lindell (73). Both Honka and Lindell are expected to play with the Texas Stars of the AHL this season.
Traverse City schedule
Dallas Stars prospects will open the NHL Prospect Tournament against the Chicago Blackhawks on Friday, September 11. The Stars will also play Carolina and Detroit at the tournament, which will run September 11-15 in Traverse City, Michigan.
There will be a fourth game for Stars prospects at the tournament that will be determined by their standing after the first three games.
Other teams participating in this year’s tournament are Columbus, Minnesota, NY Rangers and St. Louis.
The Stars’ roster for the tournament is expected to be released within a couple weeks.
Here’s the Dallas schedule for the tournament:
Friday Sept. 11, vs. Chicago, 6 p.m. (CDT)
Saturday Sept. 12, vs. Carolina, 2:30 p.m. (CDT)
Monday Sept. 14, vs. Detroit, 6:00 p.m. (CDT)
Tuesday Sept. 15, vs. TBD
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club. Mark Stepneski is an independent writer whose posts on DallasStars.com reflect his own opinions and do not represent official statements from the Dallas Stars. You can follow Mark on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.