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Insider Only Saint Johns coach Marc Hussey gives an inside look on the development of Simon Despres

2009 1st round pick Simon Despres, the Penguins consensus No. 1 prospect, continues to draw rave reviews in hockey circles and there’s some thought that the Penguins could have another star in the making.
The 6-foot-4, 218-pound defenseman is having a dominating season for the Saint John Sea Dogs of the QMJHL and taking the necessary steps in his development.
In 22 games this season, Despres has collected 9 goals – 17 assists – 26 points and a +19 rating.
Despres has built off of his strong training camp with the Penguins and now has a huge opportunity in front of himself in trying to earn a spot with Team Canada for the World Junior Championships.
There’s not a better person to get a progress report on Simon Despres than Saint John’s assistant coach Marc Hussey (a former Penguins draft pick) who is in his third year of coaching Despres at Saint Johns.
I conducted a 10+ minute phone interview with Hussey (Here’s my interview with Hussey from May 7, 2010) today who had great things to say about Simon and among the highlighted topics included, Despres development this year, his “huge opportunity” with Team Canada, strength and weaknesses, evolving aspects of his game, which NHL defenseman Despres resembles and whether Hussey feels Despres has the ability to compete at the NHL level next season and what he needs to do to have that opportunity.

Marc Hussey talks Simon Despres

On Despres’ maturity after attending Pens camp: “He’s been playing extremely well thonis year but I think you really see the maturity of a hockey player. He’s really taking that next step and he’s at the point where I would say 90% of the time he’s dominating on most nights”
Evaluating Despres play this season: “It’s been really strong, he’s really taken it upon himself to be a leader out on the ice. He’s playing well in all three zones, making good decisions and not taking as many risks as last year and is really playing sound hockey.”
Despres evolving in the transition game: “I think that he’s realized during his maturity as a player that you can do things at certain levels and I think what complements his game is sometimes to a little less than trying to do more out there. You can get away with that at a lower level because he is such a highly skilled player but I think he’s learning that it’s important to keep his game simple and he’s getting more success this year because of it.
His Huge Opportunity to play for Team Canada: “You know what, from what I’ve seen and I’m probably biased because I get to coach him and I see him on a daily basis, like I think there’s no question he’s good enough to play on that team. It’s going to be a matter of having a good camp, and him going out there and performing when it counts.”
“It’s going to be a huge opportunity if he plays there and a huge step in his career to being able to play at a higher level than juniors. It’s definetely going to help him going into Penguins camp.”:
On Despres improving his shot (seen last season by Hussey as a weakness in our interview):

“That’s something we’ve spent a lot of time over the last year working on and he’s definetely turning that into one of his strengths in his game and that’s something a player needs to always work on until they got it down where they become not unstoppable but there’s that type of concern on the ice for the other teams.”
“Still some of the decisions and one of the big things I’ve seen in improvement from last year to this year is consistency game to game. That’s one of his really big strengths this year is that he’s playing really consistent hockey for us and playing well
“Of course the thing with young defenseman, they’re able to make some mistakes and those are going to cut down over down.”
On what will be vital to Despres playing in the NHL next season: “Him being consistent. Consistency is going to be the key to him playing in the NHL next year. I think he’s fully capable of doing that. I think he’s really progressed nicely over the last couple years. But, when he goes up there, he’s going to be playing against guys who are the same size as him or bigger, he’s a big boy.
“He’s really a man among boys some nights in our league but when he goes up to that level, he’s going to be playing against Men all the time and he’s going to need to be consistent up there.
Is Despres close to being NHL ready: “I think so. He’s probably going to be given the opportunity to play and it’s going to come down to him being mentally prepared and physically prepared when he comes to camp and if he’s serious about making the hockey team. The skill is there right now and the size is there.
“Other factors will be outside of the player like how far up he will be on the depth chart in his first year playing professional but It’s really going to be up to him and I think if it’s something he focuses on, he will be able to play there next year.
On which NHL defenseman he resembles: “He’s a guy like Martin {Paul Martin} who you have in Pittsburgh now. Moves the puck well, plays well on the power play, plays his position well, really makes nice passes….. I would compare him in that style.

About The Author

William DePaoli

TIOPS Insider

William DePaoli is the President/Founder of Inside Pittsburgh Sports LLC and can be reached at

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