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What’s all the fuss about Stéphane Da Costa?

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Every year, someone seems to grab the NHL fans’ attention at Worlds. Sometimes he ends up with a contract too.

Ottawa Senators v Toronto Maple Leafs
Da Costa back in the day with the Senators.
Photo by Abelimages/Getty Images

Everyone and their dog is talking about Stéphane Da Costa right now, and as always happens, the Maple Leafs get dragged into the conversation.

You likely remember Da Costa as the scrappy little guy that never quite made it on the Ottawa Senators. If you’re an AHL fan, you might remember his three good years on the Binghamton Senators. He spent the last two of his seasons there second to Mark Stone and then Mike Hoffman in points.

He’s on everyone’s lips now because of a good performance for France at the IIHF World Championships.

The Russians are talking:

Who isn’t rumoured to be about to sign in Vegas? Try Hilary Knight, guys, her name is perfect for you.

The French are talking:

See? The Leafs are in the rumour mix right away.

The translation and results:

The fever heated up a couple of days ago when he shot up the points rankings at Worlds:

After Sunday’s action the leader board looked like this:

The caveat on that is that two of Da Costa’s goals are shootout winning goals. They count those at Worlds. The counter-caveat is that here’s one of them:

Je ne comprendes pas l'idiome “deux laits, deux sucres”.

Edited to add this lovely explanation:

Okay, so that’s the fuss. What’s underneath it?

Da Costa played well in the AHL, but could not crack the Senators lineup, so he went to the KHL and played three seasons with Moscow CSKA, Nikita Zaitsev’s most recent team there. Da Costa had one great year and then managed only 24 games in each of his next two due to injury. His contract with CSKA has expired.

I haven’t fact checked that, but Da Costa gave a similar date in an interview last off-season.

He also said his 2015-2016 injury was to his knee and required surgery. He came back that year and played in the playoffs. He wasn’t interested in going back to Ottawa last summer, and Ottawa showed no sign of trading his rights, so he played another year in the KHL. He missed more time, came back for the playoffs and excelled there.

I’ve seen him play a great deal while watching Zaitsev in the 2015-2016 season. Da Costa turns 28 this summer and is a smooth, fast skater who handles the puck very well, passes very well, and is excellent on the power play. He is a centre who shoots right, and is good at faceoffs. This is what seems to have caught the notice of Leafs fans.

If there is a secret formula to deciding if a KHL player will succeed in the NHL, I don’t know it. It’s not goals or points. Petri Kontiola leads a list of very good to excellent KHL goal scorers and points getters who failed in their NHL adventures. It might be easy to say a league leader like Alexander Radulov will do fine in North America, but once you get past the obvious names like Evgeny Dadonov, Nikita Gusev and Vadim Shipachyov, it’s tougher to predict who can make the leap.

There is another list of players who were good to great in the AHL, couldn’t make the NHL and are succeeding in the KHL. Peter Regin, an old Binghamton teammate of Da Costa’s, is one of them, as is Da Costa himself.

I was very skeptical of Radulov. Skeptical does not mean I thought he would fail, however. I just wasn’t absolutely sure his game would translate. For a player projected to come in on the fourth line like Da Costa, it’s even harder.

I am very, very skeptical of Miro Aaltonen ever making the Leafs roster, but I think Da Costa is a much better player. He’s scrappy and physical too, for all he is a classic 180 cm/80 kg player. He is actually listed at 82 kilos which makes him 181 lbs, but I’m not absolutely sure he’s really 5’ 11”.

For Da Costa himself, he might want a team like Vegas where ice time comes easier and there’s already a KHL player on the roster. But does he just want an NHL shot? Or does he want a shot on a good team?

Depending on the contract, the Leafs could do worse, and someone was recently complaining they have no centres.

Stéphane Da Costa

Season Team League GP G A TP PIM Playoffs GP G A TP PIM
Season Team League GP G A TP PIM Playoffs GP G A TP PIM
2004-2005 Viry U18 France U18 9 11 3 14 10 Playoffs 6 14 1 15 24
2005-2006 Amiens U18 France U18 9 15 8 23 34
Amiens U22 France U22 1 0 0 0 0
France U18 WJC-18 D1 5 3 6 9 2
2006-2007 Texas Tornado NAHL 50 23 17 40 31 Playoffs 10 4 3 7 6
2007-2008 Sioux City Musketeers USHL 51 12 24 36 22 Playoffs 4 1 2 3 8
France U20 WJC-20 D1 5 5 5 10 8
2008-2009 Sioux City Musketeers USHL 48 31 36 67 23
France U20 WJC-20 D1 5 4 9 13 4
France WC 6 0 2 2 0
2009-2010 Merrimack College NCAA 34 16 29 45 41
France WC 5 1 2 3 14
2010-2011 Merrimack College NCAA 33 14 31 45 42
Ottawa Senators NHL 4 0 0 0 0
France WC 5 0 1 1 6
France (all) International 5 0 1 1 6
2011-2012 Ottawa Senators NHL 22 3 2 5 8 - -
Binghamton Senators AHL 46 13 23 36 12
France WC 7 1 5 6 4
France (all) International 8 1 5 6 4
2012-2013 Ottawa Senators NHL 9 1 1 2 0 - -
Binghamton Senators AHL 57 13 25 38 26 Playoffs 3 0 1 1 0
2013-2014 Ottawa Senators NHL 12 3 1 4 2
Binghamton Senators AHL 56 18 40 58 32 Playoffs 4 2 2 4 4
France WC 8 6 3 9 6
France (all) International 8 6 3 9 6
2014-2015 CSKA Moskva KHL 46 30 32 62 12 Playoffs 11 4 4 8 8
France WC 4 1 2 3 2
France (all) International 7 2 9 11 6
2015-2016 CSKA Moskva KHL 24 7 7 14 14 Playoffs 18 7 5 12 6
2016-2017 CSKA Moskva KHL 24 9 11 20 10 Playoffs 10 4 4 8 2
France OGQ 3 1 1 2 10
France WC 4 5 3 8 0
France (all) International 4 1 1 2 10
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