WATERTOWN — Michael and Dallas Desjarlais have ventured all the way from their native Alberta to Watertown to pursue their dream of playing pro hockey.
And the two, both forwards with the Watertown Wolves, have achieved another aspiration, they’ve done this while playing together, like they have in other levels of the game.
“It’s been going really well, actually,” Michael Desjarlais said. “We’re both enjoying it here.”
Dallas and Michael Desjarlais first came to town for the team’s free-agent camp back in October.
Their teammates, as well as Wolves coach Paul MacLean who sought them out, are sure glad they did as they’ve proven to be valuable contributors to the team.
Watertown will host the Columbus River Dragons in a pair of Federal Prospects Hockey League games at 7:30 p.m. today and Saturday at Watertown Municipal Arena.
The 28-year-old Michael Desjarlais, primarily a winger, has proven to be versatile for Watertown, as he’s recently skated as a defenseman.
Dallas Desjarlais, 21, is a centerman, but has played on the wing as well for the Wolves.
“I like to hit a little more then he does, but he still does,” Dallas Desjarlais said of his brother. “Our playmaking is similar, but he likes to pass it a little more and is very good at it.”
The two have skated on the same line at times this season, which has added to the experience for the pair.
“It’s awesome,” Michael Desjarlais said. “We played a lot together on the same line back home and people thought that we played really well together, so it kind of worked out for us.”
“Honestly, I can say it’s a dream come true for myself being the youngest in the family,” Dallas Desjarlais said. “And looking up to him in hockey, I would say it’s a dream come true playing with him for the last three years.”
The younger Desjarlais first got the call to attend FPHL training camp, but he convinced MacLean to let Michael attend camp as well.
“We play really well together,” Dallas Desjarlais said. “Having two brothers that play very alike, I think the Watertown Wolves can use that, so we got the call to come here.”
Both have similar personalities and are similar in their style of play as well, particularly in their defensive duties.
“Defensively, they’re very good,” MacLean said. “They’re very responsible there and they both kill penalties. ... If you don’t play well in the defensive zone, it’s pretty hard to get to the next level.”
Michael Desjarlais, who made his pro debut back in the 2013-14 season when he played eight games for the Dayton Demonz in the FHL, has played on defense of late, called into action due to a shortage of defenders on the team.
“Paul asked me to play wing when I got here and then he asked me to play some center,” Michael Desjarlais said. “And then we had more bodies out with callups and injuries and he asked me to play defense. I played a little bit growing up, but playing it here, it’s nice, I don’t mind it.”
The older Desjarlais has shown an offensive flair as well as he recorded two assists, including setting up Tyler Gjurich’s game-winning goal in overtime in a 3-2 win over Elmira last Saturday night.
“That was cool, we have some chemistry there,” Michael Desjarlais said of himself and Gjurich. “I was doing whatever I could to get a shot off. ... “That felt good. I think we needed that one.”
Michael Desjarlais has totaled 15 points, including five goals, in 24 games with the Wolves this season, while Dallas Desjarlais has compiled eight points, including four goals, in 25 games.
“They have pretty good offensive skills, even though their stats don’t show what they can do,” MacLean said. “They are starting to score and they consistently give their linemates opportunities.”
Dallas Desjarlais, who has been skating on a line with Jamie Lukas and Liam Little, was injured in last Saturday’s game and hopes to return to action tonight.
“My season’s going good,” Dallas Desjarlais said. “With my role here, which is on the third line, I just penalty kill, mostly. And I’m known to be (one of) the hardest workers on the team, so I’m very good on the penalty kill. ... Just winning draws, being first to pucks, letting my wingers and defense have their chances on the net.”
Michael Desjarlais has played in Alberta for their hometown team of Bonnyville in the North Central Senior Hockey League and most recently, for the Innisfail Eagles in the Allan Cup Hockey West League, with Dallas joining him with both teams the past two seasons. Both are senior hockey leagues, but the latter includes former pro hockey players, even those from the higher ranks.
“It’s a really good league,” Michael Desjarlais said. “It’s cool, because I was playing with ex-NHLers last year. Allen York was our goalie, Darren Reid played for Philadelphia, Peter Vandermeer played for a couple teams.”
Both brothers played for Innisfail in last season’s playoffs, as the team reached the league final.
“Mike played last year in the Allan Cup in Alberta, which is the top championship for senior hockey in Canada,” MacLean said. “That level of play is very good, there’s NHL and guys who played in the AHL as well, and Brian Sutter coached Mike’s team.”
The Desjarlais brothers were referred to MacLean by Justin Nattress, the son of former NHL defenseman Ric Nattress.
“We knew him, he’s a family friend and he just wanted to help us play better hockey,” Dallas Desjarlais said of Nattress. “So he said coming over here would be a great opportunity to get noticed and try to go to the next level and just enjoy ourselves.”
Justin Nattress, a defenseman, signed with the Wolves earlier in the month and made his debut with the team Jan. 3-4 in a pair of games at Columbus. He will be with the team this week, as will former Wolves forward Tyler Prendergast, MacLean said.
The Dejarlais brothers believe their time with the Wolves will provide the exposure that they seek in the pro ranks.
“Definitely, there’s like only 18 guys on the roster every night,” Michael Desjarlais said. “And there’s only three lines, it’s definitely more of a development thing for a lot of guys when you’re playing more, which is good.”
Both brothers, who enjoy the outdoors, spent part of their summer hiking, mostly in the Canadian Rockies in western Alberta.
“During the winter, right now it’s minus-40 (celsius) back home,” Dallas Desjarlais said.
Both Desjarlais brothers are considering taking up fire fighting back in Alberta as careers beyond hockey, but for now they’re just enjoying the ride.
“At this point, I think we can do more, because we’ve got new bodies coming in and injuries are happening,” Dallas Desjarlais said. “Other guys have to step up and play their roles and do their job. I think that’s slowly happening more and more, more guys are getting comfortable, which is good.”
“Originally it was just Dallas that was coming here, but I’m glad Mike made it, too,” MacLean added.