Ever since he was a little kid, Nicolas Deslauriers has had energy to spare. His family owns a moving company, so Deslauriers grew up lifting furniture into trucks before sending pucks into nets.
“It’s always been hard work, energy,” Deslauriers said Friday. “After you wake up you’ve got not even 15 hours to stay up. You just make the most of it.”
Deslauriers’ refusal to slow down has made him one of the most well-liked players in the Sabres’ dressing room. His teammates know Deslauriers is usually doing something worth watching, whether it’s dancing after victories, cracking jokes before practice or sticking up for players during games.
“He’s got the energy of 1,000 men,” Buffalo forward Zemgus Girgensons said. “He brings a lot to the team, not just on the ice but fun-wise and energy-wise.”
Girgensons gets the closest look at Deslauriers’ off-ice talents. Their stalls have been next to each other in the Sabres’ dressing room for two seasons.
“He’s got jokes no one has,” Girgensons said before flying to New York for Saturday’s game against the Rangers.
It is Deslauriers’ knack for bringing levity to an often tense sport that should get him his next contract with Buffalo. The 25-year-old will be a restricted free agent this summer after finishing a two-year deal that paid $650,000 this season.
“It’s up to me again to stay as long as possible,” Deslauriers said. “It’s such a good group of guys, and everybody brings something. I try to bring the energy level every day. Even if it’s a practice day or even a day off, we always have that group text and everybody’s keeping connected.
“It’s really like a familyhood in here, and it’s been fun.”
Deslauriers has embraced his chance in Buffalo partly because it came during a trying time. At the start of the 2013-14 season, the Los Angeles Kings’ minor-league coaches moved the lifelong defenseman to left wing. Though he recorded 18 goals in 60 games, he wasn’t comfortable with his role in the organization.
Buffalo acquired him via trade in March 2014, and he felt at home right away.
“As soon as that happened, I knew that I had to grab it and make the most of it,” he said in First Niagara Center. “That was a weird year. I went from defense to forward, not knowing where my career was going almost. You’re drafted in the third round as a D-man with good numbers in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, and a day after you’re playing forward.
“Even if things change like this, you put your head down and you work. That’s what I did.”
While ideally suited to a role on an energy line, Deslauriers has been skating at the top of the lineup lately. He started last game as the left winger for Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart. The game before he was with Girgensons and rookie Hudson Fasching. One game earlier he skated with Ryan O’Reilly and Evander Kane.
“I’ve been playing with pretty much everybody,” Deslauriers said. “I know the style of game I can bring. It’s more of me doing my job and doing the same thing as if I’m playing on the fourth or with whoever.”
Though he’s been held without a point during the last six outings, the second-year pro found the net three times last month. He has six goals in 66 games after recording five in 82 as a rookie. He has improved his plus/minus rating from minus-24 to minus-13.
“I think his skill’s underrated, for sure,” said Eichel, who tried to set up Deslauriers three times during Thursday’s 4-1 victory over Toronto. “He’s just a great guy. What a guy to have on your team. He’s somebody that you want on your side. He’ll do anything for anybody in this room.
“He brings tons of energy to the games. There’s times where we’re in a lull as a team and we’re not going or whatever. D’lo is the guy that’s there to step up for us as a group and go out there and have a good shift, bang a few bodies. He’s scored a lot of big goals for us, as well.
“I’ve got nothing but great things to say about him.”