Quiet efficiency from rookie Chiefs blueliner

Vincent Desharnais isn't putting up gaudy numbers, but he is playing the role of defensive defenceman to near-perfection.

Vincent Desharnais says he doesn’t get sick of it, but how could he not?

The big Chilliwack Chiefs blueliner stands six-foot-six, looming above most people he meets. It’s a certainty that someone’s either commenting or asking about his height on a daily basis.

You couldn’t forgive Desharnais for saying, ‘Yeah. I get it. I’m tall. Can we move on?’

But he doesn’t.

“I’m used to it, so it’s alright,” the Quebec native says with an Alex Burrowsian accent. “I don’t think I’m that tall. Zdeno Chara is tall.”

The Chiefs seem to have at least one tree on skates every year. The last two seasons it was Cooper Rush, tipping the scales at six-foot-seven and 226 pounds.

But, aside from stature, the differences between Rush and Desharnais are stark.

Rush was the very definition of a high-event defender — his rink-length forays and cannon shot resulted in 13 goals and 43 points in 90 games. But he was often caught up ice, and was a crazy adventure in the defensive zone.

Rush played a very noisy game.

Desharnais, by contrast, is a ninja. A growth spurt at 15 years old took him from five-foot-nine to six-foot-big, and like Rush, two strides can get him from here to Maple Ridge, but Desharnais strides in the right direction all of the time.

Rarely is he caught out of position.

He is efficient rubbing out attackers along the boards and defending the slot.

He considers his biggest asset to be his reach, with a massive wing-span and a long stick that constantly thwarts opponents.

“Even one-on-one with our forwards in practice, they’re like, ‘I freaking hate your stick!’” he laughs. “I’m always watching Chara and how he uses his stick. I try to play like him.”

But if Rush could borrow a ton from the type of game Desharnais plays, it’s fair to say Vincent could take a thing or two from Cooper. He has just one assist in 13 games, content to make a good outlet pass and let his teammates rack up the numbers.

In a year in which he is draft eligible and on the radar of the National Hockey League’s Central Scouting Bureau, scouts want to see numbers.

“My focus is defensively, making sure my D-zone is clear,” he said. “But I am working on being more offensive, and I work on my shot every practice. Yes, numbers are important, but I don’t think the points are as important as they are for forwards. If I’m pointless, but a plus-two in a game, I’m good.”

Scouts could take note of Desharnais’s quick and accurate break-out passes, and he has the ability to make beautiful tape-to-tape stretch passes.

Ability is there to be unlocked.

“I think my quick feet, for my size, are also a big asset,” he said. “Central Scouting has me in the C category (fifth round or later), and I want to work my way up to A or B by the end of the year.”

Having dropped two straight games, Desharnais and company are in Langley tonight before hosting the Rivermen Saturday (7 p.m.) in a big Mainland division home and home.

This is the first meeting of the year between the rivals.

Chilliwack (10-3-0-1) leads Langley (7-6-1-3) by three points in the Mainland division standings.

See bchl.ca for scores and stats.