Chris DeSousa is about as seasoned a prospect as you can get. The 24-year-old played five seasons in the OHL with Mississauga, then joined the UPEI in the AUS for four years, and finished last season in the ECHL. He's been around.
The undrafted DeSousa has also attended camps in St. Louis, Boston and Buffalo before this year's camp in Chicago, and last night the small forward made a big impact on the Habs' Gabriel Dumont with five minutes remaining. DeSousa was tossed, and Habs fans didn't like the hit.
DeSousa's hit on Dumont. In a 4-1 game. In preseason. Dumont was dazed. pic.twitter.com/4SLVszXvsN— Marc Dumont (@MarcPDumont) September 26, 2015
DeSousa was in Chicago's second round of cuts from camp this morning, and took a few minutes to chat about the hit, the atmosphere, his game, and — inevitably — how he can't talk about the Patrick Kane saga.
Congrats on making it so far in camp, Chris. How was your experience? Do you ever get starstruck with some of the big names in Chicago?
Thanks! I'm excited to start at Rockford tomorrow. I was kind of expecting to be sent down, to be honest. I had a great exit meeting with the coach.
I was never really starstruck. I've been on the ice with these guys before, and I'm not the type to get starstruck anyway. We're treated really great by those guys, but I guess the closest I got to being overwhelmed was being told by Jonathan Toews that I was a great player and that I stood out to him. Coming from a player like that, yeah, that's as close to starstruck as I've ever been.
The Bell Centre in Montreal, the United Centre in Chicago - those are two of the best buildings in hockey. What was the difference in atmosphere?
You know, both of those places are incredible in their own ways. The noise in Chicago is incredible. In a lot of places, it's quiet during the anthems, but in Chicago they cheer throughout and that's special. The Bell Centre is a little closer to home, though, so my friends and family made it to the game.
I sat through the [2009 entry] draft at the Bell Centre with my coach and my agent. Teams passed over me for seven rounds. I remember saying to [my coach and agent], I'm going to play in this rink someday.
So last night must have been vindicating for you.
It was, yeah. It was fun.
Do you feel your role changes when you're trying to prove yourself to an NHL team?
No, not at all. You stay true to yourself. You want to be the player you are, and you want to play to your strengths. Me, I think I can fit anywhere in the lineup - offensively, defensively, I can be an agitator, anything. Of those roles, it's probably easiest to be an agitator when you're a smaller guy.
Speaking of agitation, you laid a big hit on Gabriel Dumont last night. Let's talk about that a little bit. You grew up a Leafs fan, right?
Oh yeah. Die hard Leafs fan.
How did it feel to be the villain in Montreal?
(Laughs) It felt great. [Being physical] is a huge part of my game and it makes me stand out - being a smaller guy, I have to prove that I can keep up and win battles, that I can go above and beyond. I play a six-foot-four game rather than a five-foot-nine game. It's good to get on the scoresheet, and I'm glad [Dumont] is okay. I thought it was a clean hit.
You mentioned physicality is a big part of your game. Are there any players you've modeled your game after?
Growing up a Leafs fan, I liked Tie Domi - I wear number 28 because of him. He was very physical, not afraid to fight. I like to think I've got a higher skill set, that I can play more offensively [than Domi did]. Lining up at the faceoff with Brendan Gallagher last night, we were kind of giving it to each other a bit, and I was thinking that I'd fill the same job description that he does.
I've got to address the elephant in the room. Obviously, there's been a lot going on in the media with the Patrick Kane situation in Chicago. How has that impacted the atmosphere at camp? Did the team prepare you for questions you might get about the story?
I can't really talk about that, no. I don't really think it's my place to comment on it, and I don't really want to. There's a legal process for a reason. The team hasn't told us not to say anything, but I just don't think it's something I can talk about.
(Full disclosure: The writer and DeSousa both attended the University of Prince Edward Island at the same time. However, the writer was not cool enough to know DeSousa personally, and they weren't in any classes together.)