Wild forward Nicolas Deslauriers sat down for our scheduled Zoom interview Thursday, and the rigors of his role were immediately evident.
His right eye was discolored from a recent fight. There were stitches on the bridge of his nose, which was broken during a fight a couple weeks ago. His beard already looked playoff-worthy, even if he's never appeared in an NHL postseason game.
Compared to the photo that accompanied the news release announcing the Wild had acquired him shortly before the trade deadline, he looked like one of those "before the pandemic, after the pandemic" memes you might find on social media.
But he wouldn't have it any other way.
On Friday's Daily Delivery podcast, Deslauriers talked about his evolution as a hockey player: drafted as an offensive-minded defenseman, then transitioning to forward and settling into a role in the NHL as a gritty, check-finishing fourth line energy player who will step in and fight the league's biggest and toughest players.
"To stay in the NHL for me was to be that guy. I got better and better, and that's where I am now. To be honest with you, I love it. I love scoring goals. I wish I could score 50 goals. But you need different roles, and for me that's the thing that put bread on the table," Deslauriers said. "Sometimes it's just a hit, sometimes it's a blocked shot, sometimes it's fighting. Teammates respect you and then know there aren't a lot of guys who can do that. Sometimes I don't look to great after that, but it's fun."
The Wild was thrilled to get a player to add some extra muscle, taking some of that burden off of top-nine forward Marcus Foligno. Deslauriers was ecstatic to be plopped into the middle of a playoff race with a team that welcomed him immediately.
"It's special. It's hard to explain how easy this transition was," he said. "It's overwhelming with how everybody is so close. The team, the staff, the organization. It made me feel like I was there the whole year."