'No Way' Danis-Pepin Leaving Maine
by Adam Wodon/Managing Editor
Simon Danis-Pepin wants to set the record straight:
He's not going anywhere.
"There's no way I'm leaving Maine. I'm having a great time and I'm improving much more than I would in the 'Q'," he said.
The 6-foot-7 Maine freshman defenseman was the latest to be engaged by a slick public relations maneuver by Moncton, a team in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
Moncton has gotten a reputation for stirring the pot, so to speak — raising a ruckus by insinuating in its local media that U.S. college players are seriously considering jumping ship and coming to its team. (original article) This causes a stir, leads to doubt from the college coach, and leads to ... who knows what.
A lot of major junior teams engage in active recruitment of players already in U.S. colleges — showing up at games, for example, and "saying hello." These are things U.S. college coaches are not allowed to do in reverse.
But rarely is the lobbying effort as overt as with Moncton. The newspaper article in question implied that, because Danis-Pepin showed up at a Moncton game, that he was considering jumping ship. It's a common tactic, last tried with Boston University's Chris Bourque. The insinuation that, because Bourque showed up at a game, it meant he was thinking of leaving, irritated a lot of people, particularly BU coach Jack Parker. Of course, when Bourque actually did leave BU last spring, we in the states looked bad for crying foul. But Bourque was never intending to go to Moncton. He went to the American Hockey League.
Meanwhile, with Danis-Pepin, coach Ted Nolan reasoned that, because Danis-Pepin had only played in three games for Maine so far, he could be looking for a better situation. He, and others, proceeded to give a sales pitch through the media, saying that Danis-Pepin really needed to play a lot of games in order to improve and to get noticed by NHL scouts.
Well ... now listen to Danis-Pepin:
"I couldn't believe when I saw that," he said. "(Maine goalie) Ben Bishop's mom told me and I went to the (newspaper's web) site (to read the article) and I said, 'Wow.'
"You can't start stuff like that."
Danis-Pepin, a Quebec native, naturally has friends in the QMJHL. When Maine teammate Billy Ryan wanted to go see former Cushing Academy teammate Keith Yandle play for the team in nearby Lewiston, Danis-Pepin came along.
"After the game, I told Billy I don't want to hang around and see Moncton," said Danis-Pepin. "I don't want them to think anything. So it was 15 minutes after the game and the arena was empty, and we had to pass by. I said, 'Let's go.'"
Problem was, unbeknownst to Danis-Pepin, Yandle's uncle is in with the Moncton coaches. When Danis-Pepin and Ryan sat with the Yandle family, the uncle passed word along to Moncton that he was there.
"Billy knows all the Yandles. Billy told them that I was drafted by Moncton," said Danis-Pepin. "So he (Yandle's uncle) went out and told the coach that I was here.
"He (Nolan) was talking to me — he was a good guy about it. He was not forcing me. He just said, 'Remember we still want you,' but I said, 'For sure, but I'm having a great time in Maine."
Danis-Pepin said the thought of leaving Maine never crosses his mind. He made his decision to come there a year early, right out of midget, in order to get a head start on his development. And this, he said, is the best way to develop.
"I'm lifting a lot here. I need to gain weight, that's one of my goals. It's better for me to be here," said Danis-Pepin. "And I'm on the ice every day — there's guys here that are eight years older than me. It's definitely good for me to gain experience.
"I talked a lot to the coaches before I decided to come here. I was going to go to the New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs — it wasn't until after the Team Canada (Under-18) camp that I decided to come to Maine because I wanted to play (against) better quality right away. They said flat out, the first half would be hard — coming straight out of midget is a pretty big step.
"We definitely understood each other — me and the coaches.
"Most kids in the Q think any Q team would beat any team in NCAA. I say, 'Are you kidding me?' I don't think any Q team can beat any Hockey East team."
Danis-Pepin would like to wait until the 2007 Draft to put his name in the hat, when he's 19 and has had two years of college under his belt, but new NHL Collective Bargaining rules require him to opt-in at 18. So, indeed, his draft position may fall in June 2006 compared to if he got more ice time at Moncton. But it's not a worry to him.
"Right now I'm not too worried about it (the draft)," he said. "It's fun to be drafted really early, but it doesn't mean a whole lot. I can still keep on going, having a good time. It doesn't matter where I'm drafted."