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Vincent Desharnais hoping to measure up as newest member of Canucks massive blueline

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Photo credit:Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Jeff Paterson
8 days ago
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Vincent Desharnais wasn’t sure the last time he wasn’t the tallest player on his team. And the 6’7” defenceman isn’t convinced he won’t be the tallest player on the Vancouver Canucks even though veteran Tyler Myers is listed at 6’8”.
Desharnais signed a two-year deal worth a total of $4M a few hours into free agency on Monday. And he joins a Canucks blueline that now has Myers, Carson Soucy (6’5”) and fellow newcomer Derek Forbort (6’4”).
“I will go next to Tyler to make sure he’s not cheating because sometimes you know 6’8”, I want to make sure he’s not pushing it,” Desharnais said with a laugh as he met with Vancouver media via Zoom on Wednesday morning. “It’s exciting when you can have lots of big guys. Big guys are getting better and better. We take a lot of room away. As a forward, the less room you have to manoeuvre the harder it is. So I think we’re going to be a very good D corps. We’re going to be very hard to play against and I think our D zone is going to be a war zone. Other teams’ forwards won’t enjoy coming in front of our net.”
Desharnais admitted some angst when the free agent window opened. A seventh-round pick of Edmonton in 2016, the Oilers were the only National Hockey League organization he’d known. And after getting to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final last month, he wasn’t sure where he’d be headed on July 1st.
But Desharnais was put at ease with a call from the Canucks, who told him they not only wanted him and believed in him but felt with the coaching staff in place, they could help take the 28-year-old’s game to the next level.
“I think the way the coaching staff kind of manages everything, it reflects on the players and on the whole team and whole city,” he explained. “I think it kind of matches my style of play of being a hard worker, north-south, just being hard to play against, I’d say that’s the biggest thing.”
Desharnais scored once and added 10 assists in 78 regular-season games in Edmonton and produced one helper in 16 games on the Oilers’ run to the Final. A late bloomer, the Laval, Quebec native has played a total of 114 NHL games to this point in his career after working his way through both the ECHL and the American Hockey League.
He brings a ruggedness that should fit well with the style Rick Tocchet and Adam Foote deploy in Vancouver, but in today’s NHL, players — particularly defencemen — need to be able to keep up with the pace of play. And there needs to be an ability to process the game and an understanding of the options of what to do with the puck. 
“When you’re 6’7”, the puck skills are always going to be a little bit harder, the feet are always going to be a little bit harder, so that’s why it’s something I work on every summer,” he said. “This summer is going to be a little bit shorter. I’m going to meet my strength coach today to have a plan. We’re going to set up a plan for the next two months so that when I show up at camp, I’m going to be ready.”
Prior to four years at Providence College, Desharnais spent the 2014-15 season with the Chilliwack Chiefs in the BC Hockey League. So he’s no stranger to these parts. He says he has stayed in close contact with his billet family in the Fraser Valley and tipped them off that he was signing with the Canucks.
“I had such a good time in Chilliwack,” he said. “The BCHL I thought was a great league and it really helped me get better. It was the first year I played over 40 games in a season. The junior style of travelling and managing school and hockey, it was a great learning experience. That’s where I kind of realized I was a good enough player to play at a higher level. I’m sure I’ll be making a trip or two to Chilliwack.”
While Desharnais won’t know where, exactly, he slots in on the Canucks depth chart until training camp, there is every reason to believe he will be placed on a third pair with Derek Forbort to start. 
Eager to improve, Desharnais is looking forward to taking his game to new heights in Vancouver — and that’s saying something for one of the tallest players in the league, even if he isn’t the tallest player on his team.
 

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