Young players are told all the time to trust the process, but does this generation really understand what that means?
With entitlement and instant gratification at the forefront of today’s culture and society ‘trust the process’ has taken on an entirely different meaning.
Many young aspiring athletes demand success right away, due in large part to the supposed ‘sacrifices’ that they have made along the way, not fully understanding the true essence and significance of the journey.
Charlie Desroches’ journey in the game continues as the young highly skilled defencemen is set to enter his sophomore season in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League with the rebuilding Saint John Sea Dogs.
The native of Days Corner, PEI is also entering what some call the ‘most nerve wracking year of their lives’, his NHL Draft year.
A Mother Knows Best
If you have ever had the privilege to watch Charlie Desroches skate, one word would come to mind, natural.
Desroches appears to float on ice. The young phenom’s stride is effortless, effective and efficient. One can quickly run out of superlatives when describing Desroches’ talent on the blades.
The 17-year-old elite level defencemen is quick to credit his mother for not only the introduction to the game, but also his amazing gift.
“My earliest recollection of the game would be learning how to skate with my mom,” Desroches said proudly.
“She’s a powerskating coach and worked on my skating all through minor hockey.”
As they say, a mother knows best.
Julie McNeil and her son spent hours upon hours working on mastering the most important skill in the game.
You see Charlie Desroches has trusted the process from the moment he strapped on the blades. Every time he stepped on the ice, young Charlie Desroches understood things don’t come easy, even if you have a God given talent, you have to work and continue to refine the skill to reach your full potential.
Every young player needs a role model, someone to look up to, and to push them to be their best.
Under the watchful eye and expertise of their mother Charlie Desroches and his older brother Jack had quickly becoming a force on the blue line in the Summerside Minor Hockey Association.
To suggest the Desroches brothers didn’t push each other would be an understatement. Sibling rivalry took on entirely different meaning in the Desroches household, nevertheless, the competition and natural rivalry was always healthy.
“Jack has been a great role model for me,” confessed the soft-spoken defencemen.
Jack and Charlie Desroches have vastly different styles, but the common denominator between the brothers is a shared passion, love of the game and a work ethic to match.
“My brother has had a big impact on my career.”
“We are always competing against each other and striving to get better.”
The pair has only played together on one occasion for the Kenningston Wild of the NB/PEI Major Midget AAA League, when Charlie was granted exceptional status at the Midget level.
The Desroches brothers had instant chemistry and balance, they were the Yin and Yang on the Wild’s backend.
Jack played a hard nosed, shut down defensive style on the left, while young Charlie showcased his offensive transitional style on the right. The Desroches boys logged an incredible amount of ice time that season and played in every situation.
The Wild won their fair share of hockey games that year, but it was extra special season for the entire family especially Charlie.
“Playing midget as an underage was a great decision for me, because it allowed me to keep improving at the highest level possible.”
“Playing in an older league helped me develop good habits and know how to play the game the right way,” admitted Desroches.
That’s one thing you can always count on, the Desroches brothers playing the game the right way.
Jack was selected in the 11th round by the Charlottetown Islanders in 2015 QMJHL Entry Draft. For the past two seasons Jack has applied his trade with the Miramichi Timberwolves of the Maritime Hockey League and has become one of the top defensive defencemen in the circuit.
The year after the Jack and Charlie played together with the Wild, Charlie decided to leave home and play south of the border.
It would be the farthest the brothers had ever been apart.
Every young player and sibling for that matter, needs a role model someone to look up to and admire, someone to lean on when facing adversity or someone to kick them in the ass when needed.
That was Jack and Charlie.
On and off the ice, rest assured they always had each other’s back.
Distance and new hockey experiences would and has never ruined the bond they share.
Jack and Charlie’s bond is as natural as their passion and love for the game, which was passed on to them by their parents.
You see Charlie and Jack Desroches were always more than brothers, they’re best friends.
A Coaches Impact
Every hockey player has a favourite coach or mentor, someone that inspired and motivated them along the way.
Aside from his mother, Charlie Desroches had some great coaches over the years that certainly left a lasting impression.
“Rodney MacArthur and Dwayne McNeill, both from Summerside Minor Hockey Association were two coaches that had a big impact on my career,” Desroches said proudly.
“I’ve known Charlie since he was four years old,” said MacArthur.
“He has always been a Top 2002 born player on the Island.”
The longtime minor hockey coach has been around the game his entire life and always knew Charlie was going to be a special player and person.
“Charlie has always been mature beyond his years. I can honestly say I’ve never seen a silly moment from him.”
“Charlie was never worried about trying to get noticed, but just making the right play.”
Desroches has made a habit of that his entire career.
Making the right play at the right time, in all of the big moments, but more importantly Charlie Desroches has always made the players around him better.
“Charlie is a team first player. Before leaving home for his first year of midget, Charlie and his teams won five straight Provincial Championships, he played a key role in all of them,” MacArthur said.
MacArthur has coached some of the Islands best over the years and believes Desroches is certainly in that category.
“Charlie has often been compared to Noah Dobson,” explained MacArthur.
“I coached both and they have many similar qualities.”
“Charlie, like Noah is a great skater and puck mover, possesses tremendous hockey IQ and has tons of consistency and dependability.”
If you are mathematically inclined and love stats, check out Desroches’ offensive numbers throughout his career.
You will quickly realize and fully comprehend what MacArthur is referring to.
It’s flat out scary, there’s no other way to describe it.
The consistency at which the young rearguard racks up points is simply incredible.
Nevertheless, one major knock against Desroches coming up through the ranks was his strength and how that might affect his play in his own zone.
The highly skilled d-man has seamlessly adapted to every level, undoubtedly trusting the process all the way and proving his critics wrong.
Every young player needs a mentor and a coach that trusts and inspires them, for Charlie Desroches that was McNeil and MacArthur.
Nonetheless, to this day MacArthur humbly downplays his overall impact on the defencemen’s growth and development.
“Julie is a huge reason why Charlie is where he is,” confessed MacArthur.
A New Path
By the time Charlie Desroches had travelled south of the border to attend the prestigious Selects Hockey Academy for the 2017-2018 season word quickly traveled that the transitional defencemen had verbally committed to play NCAA Division I Hockey for Northeastern University.
The dream to play at hockey’s highest level was still alive and well and seemed in reach. US College hockey was going to be part of the process, the route to his dreams.
Everything seemed to be falling into place, but there was still some slight hesitation or resistance.
For the first time in Charlie Desroches’ career, he and his parents had to reconsider his path, a decision that Charlie didn’t take likely.
“The decision to de-commit was one that I took a lot of time to think about,” confessed Desroches.
“Once I was drafted to Saint John and saw the plan in place, it was a opportunity I couldn’t turn down.”
Desroches fell considerably in the 2018 QMJHL Entry Draft.
Most QMJHL teams didn’t want to take a chance on the kid that had such a strong commitment to play south of the border.
The Saint John Sea Dogs selected Desroches in the 2nd round 32nd overall.
As they say the rest is history.
Every young sixteen year old defencemen experiences growing pains, it’s a rite of passage, but for Charlie Desroches his first experience in the QMJHL was just part of the process.
“As a sixteen year old D-man, I think I handled it pretty well,” confessed Desroches.
“I tried hard not getting too frustrated and just working every day.”
The rebuilding Sea Dogs boasted the youngest lineup in the CHL a season ago, and it definitely showed.
On most nights the young Port City defensive corps looked deflated, overwhelmed and beaten down.
The one bright spot on defence most nights, just so happened to be Charlie Desroches.
“Last year was a difficult season, but I think we got through it by believing in and trusting the process and not getting down on ourselves or our teammates when things were not going our way.”
Spoken like a true leader and team first guy.
Desroches stepped into the QMJHL surrounded by two other rookie defencemen, played in every situation for Josh Dixon and Jeff Cowan, never missing a beat offensively.
Desroches did what he had always done, elevate his game, improvise and adapt, but more importantly put trust in the process.
In 59 games, Desroches scored 10 times and added 17 helpers for 27 points.
The young kid who spent endless hours honing his skating skills under the watchful eye and expertise of his mother was now getting noticed by NHL Scouts and the Hockey Canada.
By early October, Desroches was chosen to represent his country at the World Under 17 Hockey Challenge.
“It’s everything you dream of as a kid,” said Desroches.
“Playing for your country at U-17’s was an unbelievable experience.”
In 5 games, the kid from Days Corner, PEI scored a goal and played a solid two-way style on an international stage.
Last week Desroches was selected to attend Hockey Canada’s U-18 Hlinka-Gretzky Summer Camp.
The prospect of playing for his country and the sacrifices his family have made over the years certainly isn’t lost on the proud Islander.
“My families made a lot of sacrifices to help me get to this point, by taking me to all those practices, or by allowing me to move away from home to pursue hockey.”
“I’m grateful that I have the opportunity to try represent my country again this year.”
“I can’t wait to get out to camp and to try and crack the roster for U-18’s this year.”
From an outstanding rookie campaign in the QMJHL to the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge and the prospect of representing his country once again this year has undoubtedly peak Charlie Desroches interest, but there’s no mistaken the 17-year-old Islander will try to keep things in perspective entering his NHL Draft year.
“I’m just going to focus on our team game and help my team win more hockey games.”
“Everything else will take care of itself,” confessed Desroches when asked about the pressure of his draft year.
“I think this is going to be a fun year, so I’m just going to make the most of it and not take anything for granted.”
Sea Dogs Head Coach Josh Dixon witnessed Desroches’ unbelievable skill set and compete level on a nightly basis a season ago.
“Charlie was as impactful a sixteen year old as we had on our team last season,” said Dixon.
“His 200 foot play, ability to play against other teams top lines while also being an offensive threat both 5on 5 and on the power play added to the impact he had with 27 points in his rookie year.”
Dixon believes Desroches can certainly become an even more well-rounded and complete defencemen in his sophomore season.
“His progression next season will require him to continue with the offensive strengths he possess while developing his first pass on transition and defensive skills without the puck in addition to seeing more playing time on the penalty kill.”
“Given his easy going, level headed approach, I’m confident that Charlie will be able to handle the highs and lows of his draft year with maturity and perspective, while staying focused on getting better everyday with the right attitude and habits.”
“He trusts the process and his coaches believe firmly in his current abilities as well as his potential to be an NHL player in the coming years,” explained Dixon.
“We all look forward to continuing on with his journey to the NHL.”
Charlie Desroches has experienced all the highs and lows that the game of hockey can offer, but through it all, he’s not only learned to respect the process, he’s learned to love it.