When Toronto Maple Leafs prospect Stephen Desrocher picked up 15 points in 10 games in December, he wasn’t surprised when he was named Ontario Hockey League (OHL) Defenceman of the Month.
“I think it was a good month for me for sure, I mean points wise,” he said on Saturday, ahead of his Kingston Frontenacs’ meeting with the Ottawa 67’s. “I think that’s what they give the award based on and I had 15 (points) in 10 (games).”
He was a little surprised by how well he was able to produce, though.
“For me, that’s pretty good,” he added. “That’s a lot better than I usually am. I’m proud of myself for that.”
He credits his offensive output to a growing team, a young team that wasn’t expected to do well this season but has found its game, relieving some of the pressure from its top overaged player’s shoulders.
“For me it was a team effort, we won eight of those 10 games so we were playing well as a team from our goalie out to our forwards,” Desrocher noted. “That’s a credit to the guys for helping me get that. Hopefully I can continue to play that way.”
In his fourth and final OHL season, Desrocher has felt his game has continued to improve — a positive sign for a player who already has a Memorial Cup under his belt.
“I don’t know if I would say I feel dominant but I would definitely say I feel more comfortable,” Desrocher said. “Every year in the league I’ve got more and more comfortable and I think that’s just kind of how it goes.”
He insists he isn’t done developing, and that his game has more room to grow still.
Through 35 games, he now has 25 points to lead all Frontenacs defensemen by at least nine points, good for third on the team in scoring behind Carolina Hurricanes third round forward Warren Foegele — recently dealt to the Erie Otters — and top 2017 NHL Draft prospect Jason Robertson. This, on a team that has scored an OHL-low 93 goals.
Among all OHL defensemen, Desrocher sits 12th in points. He also sits second among all OHL defensemen in shots on goal, behind only New York Rangers prospect Ryan Mantha.
“Obviously, being an older guy and being out there in more situations and having a lot more experience under my belt, it shows with patience and poise with the puck and I’ve been working on that and it shows and it’s been better for me lately,” he said. “Every year in the league I have got better and that’s something I pride myself on, is not plateauing.”
The Leafs have provided positive reinforcement and regular tips along the way. But a contract has yet to be discussed for the 20-year-old sixth round pick.
“I’ve been in contact with them a bit here or there mostly just about development and just trying to get feedback on my game and see things that they want me to work on,” he said. “We haven’t talked contract or anything like that. I’m just focusing on my game and they’re trying to help me get better everyday and that’s what I’m trying to do to.”
He knows he still has a season to finish off and that he needs to continue to impress like he did in December.
“Whatever it is, every year, and the Leafs have helped me out, every year in the league and every training camp I’ve gone to with the Leafs I’ve looked back on it and thought I was better this year than I was last year,” he finished.
As the OHL trade deadline approaches, he knows, like Foegele, that he may be on the move to a contender to bolster their playoff run. But with his trade status, like his contract status, there’s uncertainty.