Strong Summer Leaves #Pens Forward Tryout One Step Closer To His NHL Dream

Thursday, September 12, 2013
Jean-Sebastien Dea takes the face-off for the Penguins during their second game of the 2013 rookie tournament in London, Ontario.

Born in the Montreal area, Jean-Sebastien Dea was in skates at age two, learning balance and other useful techniques and playing hockey by the age of four. 

But it wasn't until after his first year in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) during the 2011-12 season and being passed over at the 2012 NHL Draft that Dea began his real push towards making his dreams of becoming an NHL hockey player closer to reality.

"After not being drafted [in 2012], I was disappointed," Dea said. "A lot."

It wasn't that Dea didn't have the talent on the ice. He tallied 32 points (17 goals, 15 assists) in 50 games during his rookie season in 2011-12. His skating ability was never questioned, but his size was a concern as he was a small forward who was light on his skates at under 6 feet tall and less than 150 pounds two years ago.

"I worked hard not this summer, but the summer before to arrive bigger and stronger. I had a lot of confidence when I arrived," Dea said, talking about the work he put in during the off-season before last season's sophomore scoring surge.

Dea arrived for his second season with the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies (QMJHL) in 2012-13 and started the season on a torrid scoring pace, netting 16 goals in his first 12 games, picking up where he left off towards the tail end of his rookie season. 

All in all, Dea tallied 45 goals and added 40 more assists in 68 regular season games. He didn't cool off in the 2013 QMJHL playoffs either, scoring 12 goals in 14 playoff games.

Dea's coach with Rouyn-Noranda, Andre Tourigny, spoke very highly of Dea when Adam Kinelman of caught up with Tourigny last fall:
"We knew his [Dea's] ability, his capacity to score, his hockey sense," Tourigny said. "He grew 2 inches and 10 pounds over the summer [to 6 feet tall and 155 pounds]. I knew he was bigger. I'm not surprised [at his start]. I cannot say I was expecting him to score more than a goal a game, but I'm not surprised by the fact he's had a lot of success."
After a development camp with the Montreal Canadiens earlier this summer, Dea came to the Pittsburgh Penguins annual camp two weeks later showing that he hadn't slowed down his offseason weight building routine that helped lead to his success a year prior. Not being drafted only motivated Dea even more to prove people wrong about his size.

"I gained almost 20 pounds during [this past] summer," Dea said. "I got bigger and stronger and I just want to prove to all the teams that they made a mistake at the draft."

I have to admit I didn't know much about Dea myself when I first arrived in Pittsburgh back in July for Penguins Development Camp, but he showcased his skills with impressive skating, puck handling and shooting that week. I wasn't surprised when he was invited back to the Penguins to be on their rookie roster for last weekend's 2013 Rookie Tournament in London. 

Dea was one of a few guys who got to play in all three Pens rookie tournament games. In the 2nd game against Toronto, Dea added the primary assist on Scott Harrington's power play goal in the first period to open the scoring. Dea also was the lone Penguin goal scorer in the shootout in that game.

"I felt prety good on the ice," Dea said.  "I didn't know what to expect and after the first game I became more confident of myself."

Dea ended the rookie tournament with his best game of the weekend, forming a nice pair with Penguins forward Tom Kuhnhackl and finishing the finale against the Blackhawks with a goal and an assist.

"Yes we showed good stuff together," Dea said of the pair formed with Kuhnhackl in Sunday afternoon's rookie tourney finale. "He's a good hockey player. It was a good experience to play against other teams. You can see what you need to be a pro player and it was a great experience," Dea said of his time in London. 

When Pittsburgh's main training camp opens for it's first official on-ice practice of the 2013-14 season today, Dea will take to the ice at Consol Energy Center as one of 31 forwards wearing a Penguins uniform. 

His hard work to turn his 140+ pound frame into a more solid 5-11, 176 pound hockey player in two years (almost identical to Harry Zolnierczyk at 5-11, 175) and impressive showings in the Penguins development and rookie camps this off-season leave Dea with one more obstacle before the possibility of becoming a professional hockey player is more imminent: his first NHL contract. 

Only Dea, an amateur tryout, and Chuck Kobasew (recently signed to a professional tryout) are forwards not under contract by the organization as training camp opened yesterday. After the summer he has had, a confident Dea is ready to show the Pittsburgh brass that he has what it takes to be an NHL player in the future.

"I'll keep working hard," Dea said, "and when I leave Pittsburgh to go back with my junior team, I'll have that contract."


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