Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Dezzy makes most of spot with Moose

Ex-Thrasher goes to hot from not after getting new chance in 'Peg

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MILWAUKEE -- Last week there was Oscar buzz, but this week in the hockey world there is Dezzy buzz.

Dezzy, as the Manitoba Moose refer to right-winger Guillaume Desbiens, is hot among NHL scouts these days and likely the next in a growing line of Craig Heisinger reclamation projects.

Desbiens was cut adrift by the Atlanta Thrashers last summer and was unsure if his hockey career was over when the Moose came calling with a second chance.

"Zinger (Heisinger) spoke to my agent and said they had a spot open at right wing on the fourth line and if I came to camp and worked hard, I might have a chance to play," said Desbiens, hanging in a downtown Milwaukee hotel lobby on an optional practice day for the Moose.

"They can say that and then not really do it, but the Moose did. They gave me a chance. This has been very, very good for me. I didn't know Winnipeg or the organization, but it's been awesome for me."

One scout told the Free Press this weekend his organization would like to sign Desbiens to an NHL contract and Canucks assistant GM Lorne Henning confirmed that team's attraction to the winger.

"We're interested too," said Henning, who has been on the road with the Moose this weekend and will remain with the club until after its game with the Milwaukee Admirals on Tuesday night. "He's physical and skates well. We've followed him all year. He's a good player. He kills penalties and is tough. He's on our radar."

Desbiens is Moose property through next season, and that gives the Canucks an edge if they decide they want to sign the Quebecer. No NHL club can sign Desbiens without Manitoba's permission until his AHL contract expires at the end of the 2010 season. Heisinger would likely grant permission to the Canucks, but other NHL teams might have to wait.

The Moose don't have a history of standing in a player's way, but before they gave another organization a chance to talk to Desbiens, they'd inform the Canucks and give them first crack.

Much like Alex Burrows, Rick Rypien, Alex Bolduc and Jason Jaffray before him -- players signed by the Moose and eventually the Canucks -- Desbiens would be happy to join the Vancouver family.

"The Moose have given me such a great opportunity, I don't want to break that relationship," said Desbiens, who has 15 goals and 18 assists in 58 games with the Moose. "If Vancouver is interested, I've told my agent that they're the priority. But if they're not, and someone else is, I can't say no to that opportunity."

Moose coach Scott Arniel says Desbiens has opened his eyes and become an integral part of his club.

Desbiens was a bit player in the Thrashers organization for three years after being drafted in the fourth round of the 2003 draft and bounced between the AHL's Chicago Wolves and the ECHL's Gwinnet Gladiators.

"I couldn't tell you if Dezzy played in all of our games against Chicago last year or not. When Zinger asked me about him, I remembered a big guy that could skate and was tough," Arniel said. "But he came to camp and we liked what we saw from the start. He fought in his first game and right away starting scoring on the fourth line.

"We've been able to move him throughout the lineup and use him on the first line when we've had injuries. It's all on Dezzy. He was given an opportunity and he's run with it. And people are noticing. When we were on the East Coast, I had four or five people ask about him."

Desbiens says it all comes down to opportunity.

"Last year in Chicago, I couldn't really get in the lineup on a regular basis. My first goal coming to Winnipeg was to make the team and then stick in the AHL for a full season," said Desbiens, 23. "I've been able to do that. It's great to come to the rink every day and know you're going to be dressed. When you make a mistake, you don't have to worry about being out of the lineup. It gives you confidence and you have to have that to play."

 

gary.lawless@freepress.mb.ca

Moose minutiae

 

"ö Still in first: Despite losing three straight games, the Moose remain in first place overall in the AHL with a record of 38-17-0-5 for 81 points. The Grand Rapids Griffins are closing hard and sit just two points back. Time to start winning again.

"ö To the Max: Defenceman Max Fortunus (lower body injury) will not play Tuesday night in Milwaukee, but is scheduled for X-rays upon his return to Winnipeg on Wednesday.

"ö MIA: Ray Sawada (Dallas), Mark Fistric (Dallas) and Alex Bolduc (Vancouver) are on recall to the NHL, and Mark Cullen, Michel Ouellet, Zach FitzGerald and Fortunus are injured.

"ö In the crease: Goalie Curtis Sanford played with the Peoria Rivermen earlier in his career, so it's likely he'll get the start on Friday night when Peoria visits the Moose at the MTS Centre. So look for Cory Schneider to get the start Tuesday in Milwaukee, or perhaps Arniel will play a hunch and roll in No. 3 man Karl Goehring.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 24, 2009 C4

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