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SYDNEY - There's the old adage that what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. Cape Breton Screaming Eagles defenceman Jean-Simon Deslauriers hopes that's the case this season.
The 17-year-old had a rough start to his rookie campaign last year. A separated shoulder suffered in the second game of the season kept him out of the lineup for the first month. Needless to say, it wasn't the beginning the 2011 first-round pick was looking for.
That injury would resurface again in December and kept him from playing for Team Quebec at the 2012 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge Dec. 29-Jan. 4 in Windsor, Ont.
"I was disappointed about it, but my goal was to finish strong the last half of the season," said the native of Trois-Rivières, Que. "I think I improved myself more in the second half because I was playing more. When (Morgan) Ellis was traded, I got more ice time."
Despite missing valuable playing time last season, Deslauriers was still a steady contributor on the Screaming Eagles blue-line. In 45 games, he had a goal and five assists while amassing 10 penalty minutes. Deslauriers was named his team's RDS mid-season rookie award winner.
Heading into the Screaming Eagles' 2012 training camp, Deslauriers dedicated himself to getting stronger and wanted to improve his wrist shot and slapshot, which he considered his biggest weaknesses.
Deslauriers hit the gym and put five pounds of muscle on his 5-11 frame.
"I put on some pounds. I'm stronger, but not way bigger," he said. "With the tests we did at training camp, I'm a lot stronger than last year, so I'm happy with that."
Screaming Eagles head coach Ron Choules said Deslauriers worked tirelessly to improve.
“With J.S., he’s so dedicated. He was in the gym so much to get stronger. Last year at times, I had to tell him to get out of the gym, go home and rest," he said. “He worked really hard. His strength is much, much better. He knows what he has to do and sees the game extremely well. It was more of a maturation process last year, but (during camp), you can see he’s a lot more confident out there and is a lot calmer with the puck. It’s part of the progression with all players in the league.
“With J.S. last year, although it was a challenging year, the adversity he went through will only make him better down the road. We’re really happy with his progression. He sees the game very well and works extremely hard off the ice as well.”
Deslauriers has kept his goals for his sophomore season simple: To learn, get more experience and work hard every day.
"Last year I got the experience," he said. "This year, I know where I'm going and I know the league. I expect more from me and the team for sure. I think we're going to be better."
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