The 20-year-old situation for the Kootenay Ice got a little more complex Friday as right-winger Jaedon Descheneau was sent back to Cranbrook from the Chicago Wolves of the American Hockey League.
The Ice made the announcement via Twitter Friday afternoon. There has yet to be any official announcement from the Wolves, or the team’s NHL parent club — the St. Louis Blues.
Descheneau was in the building but didn’t dress Friday night as the Ice claimed a 5-2 victory over the Spokane Chiefs at Western Financial Place.
He made his 2015-16 WHL debut Saturday against the Lethbridge Hurricanes, grabbing one assist in a 5-1 loss.
“He’s got a huge amount of talent and you can see that,” said Luke Pierce, head coach of the Kootenay Ice, of Descheneau’s debut onSaturday night. “But for Jaedon, similar to when Luke [Philp] first got back, you’re trying to do a little too much maybe at times.
“I understand it. He wants to make an impression and he’s excited to be back with his teammates…He’s going to be fine when he settles in a little bit.”
Descheneau, who finished second in scoring on the Ice with 81 points in 70 games through the 2014-15 WHL season, was a fifth-round pick (124th overall) of the St. Louis Blues at the 2014 NHL Entry Draft.
Prior to going into regular camp with the Blues this fall, Descheneau joined a handful of NHL veterans, including defenceman Alex Pietrangelo, for summer training in August.
After a stint at Blues camp, the 20-year-old native of Edmonton, Alta., spent time with the team’s AHL affiliate in Chicago before he was returned to the WHL.
“It was good, I learned a lot from my first year to this year,” Descheneau said Saturday night. “How my body needs to be in shape and the speed of the game.
“I learned a lot about what it takes to be a pro, about how they work — even in summer skates, how competitive they are, which brought that upon me. Now, I think I’ve grown up a bit. It really helped me become a more mature person.”
The Blues have yet to sign Descheneau to an entry-level contract, a factor that could see a determined and motivated goal-scorer bolster a young Ice squad.
“They like what I’ve done and I already know what I need to work on — it’s everything,” Descheneau said. “I’m not perfect at anything. Every player needs to work on everything. There’s no individual thing that stands out that’s terrible. Everything needs work. They were really happy with my progress from last year, it just didn’t work out for me [to go pro] this year. Hopefully next year.”
Centre Luke Philp, 20, spent a whole lot of time alongside the 5-foot-9, 185-pound Descheneau last season and is just one of the returners tasked with helping get the Blues prospect up to speed with the all that’s new in Cranbrook.
The duo lined up together in Saturday’s loss to the Hurricanes.
“Desch is an unbelievable player,” Philp said Friday night. “I played with him all last year and we have lots of chemistry. He’s a great player to play with. He obviously brings a ton to the table for our team and a lot of offensive ability. He’s probably one of the best playmakers I’ve ever played with.
“It’s real nice to have him back.”
In addition to Philp and Descheneau, the 20-year-old contingent is a crowded one in Cranbrook.
Goaltender Wyatt Hoflin, the team workhorse in 2014-15, remains one of the team’s most reliable players.
Defenceman Tanner Lishchynsky has yet to suit up this season as he works his way back from a lower-body injury.
Another defenceman, Tyler King, also hasn’t seen any playing time as he recovers from off-season knee surgery. King isn’t expected to be available until late November or early December.
WHL teams can carry as many 20-year-olds as they like up, but may only dress three on any given night, up until Oct. 16, at which point clubs can only retain three players born in 1995.
That leaves less than two weeks for Ice general manager Jeff Chynoweth to determine how his 20-year-old situation will shake out.
With Descheneau, Hoflin, Martin and Philp all ranking as players capable of having an immediate impact, Chynoweth’s position is not an enviable one.
The Ice GM already dealt away another 20-year-old, defenceman Tanner Faith, in a pre-season trade with the Moose Jaw Warriors that landed a conditional fifth-round bantam draft pick in return.
Right wing Jon Martin is off to a strong start with three goals and four points in four games, but was dealt to the Swift Current Broncos in exchange for a fourth-round pick Sunday night.