Daoust filling in nicely on Pens’ top line

by Lindsay Kramer || NHL.com

Lindsay Kramer, the AHL correspondent for NHL.com, profiles an up-and-coming player each Monday during the season, and his AHL notebook appears each Thursday on NHL.com.

daoust09b_200.jpgThere was plenty of evidence that right wing Jean-Michel Daoust knew how to help a team win in the playoffs. You just had to know where to look to find it.

It was in places like Hull and Gatineau of the QMJHL, Danbury of the UHL and Cincinnati of the ECHL. Daoust won or came close to titles in all of those places.

Now, he’s trying to add Wilkes-Barre/Scranton to that list.

Daoust, 25, is one of the best emerging stories of the first round of the AHL playoffs. A third/fourth-line type heading into the postseason, he burst onto the first line with Jeff Taffe and Chris Minard when Janne Pesonen got hurt in Game 1.

In Games 2-5 vs. Bridgeport, he compiled three goals and four assists, including the series-winner in the finale on Apr. 24.

“I was working hard all year to have that opportunity,” Daoust said. “When they told me I was playing on the first line, I was excited to play there. It’s a real chance to prove myself.”

When you’re 5-foot-7 and 160 pounds, you have to keep justifying your minutes regardless of your stats. In Daoust’s third season with Hull, he posted 37 playoff points, and the next year, with Gatineau, he contributed 22.

With Danbury in 2005-06, Daoust had 11 playoff points. He added eight playoff points for Cincinnati the next season, and last year put up 18 to help that team to the Kelly Cup.

“You try to take the best out of every league. At the same time, you know what it’s like to go back to the lower level. You don’t want to go back there,” Daoust said. “That (all the playoff experience) helped me a lot. I know what to do, what to not do. You have to keep things simple.”

daoust09a_200.jpgDaoust kept puttering along in the ECHL during the 2007-08 regular season, leading the league with 51 points in 36 games. Frustrated at his inability to get an extended look in the AHL, he put in a call to Pittsburgh forward Maxime Talbot, his linemate in Hull.

Talbot said he’d pass on a good word to management, and that opened the door. Daoust came up and played 37 games with the Pens, scoring five goals and 13 assists. The tradeoff was that Daoust, a top-two line guy all his career, was caught at the end of a long line of talented forwards in the organization.

“We had so much depth, there was really no room for me. When someone got hurt or called up, I filled the spot,” Daoust said. “I understood the situation. Guys were very good on the first two lines. I went with it. It’s paying off right now.”

Daoust’s regular-season numbers (10-18) this year seem to put him on a much different level than established AHL scorers Taffe (25-50) and Minard (34-23). But in taking over for Pesonen, the Pens’ leading scorer (32-50) Daoust has added a different type of jump to the combination.

“I’m a guy who likes to bring energy on the line,” he said. “They are two excellent players. You just have to pass them the puck and they put it in. It’s exciting to see them on the ice, what they can create offensively.”

With so many influential types watching how he comes through in this postseason, Daoust hopes to whip up something a little better than his current AHL deal for next season. And this time he’ll let his effort speak for itself. Daoust keeps in constant touch with his good buddy Talbot, but said he won’t be hitting him up for another recommendation.

“I don’t want to put him in that situation,” Daoust said. “He cannot negotiate for me. He did everything he could for me. That’s the end of that.”