How Deslauriers quickly bonded with new team, had Flyers' backs from Game 1

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If Nicolas Deslauriers is on the ice with any extracurricular activity after a whistle, you'll always see No. 44 swoop into the fray and look to take charge.

If he's not on the ice, the opposition likely knows the next time he is, whether it's by a conversation or a heavy hit.

It's tough to miss the 6-foot-1, 220-pound Deslauriers when a game turns chippy.

The Flyers realized that from Game 1. But they also saw his team orientation well before the grind of the games got underway.

The 31-year-old winger, coming to a new team after signing a four-year, $7 million deal in free agency, wanted to have his teammates and their families over before training camp. He ran it by Sean Couturier and others. Everyone was on board.

"He asked Coots and I, a couple of other guys, if he could have people over and he did," Kevin Hayes said Oct. 14. "It was great. We got pizza from Angelo's, hung out for a couple of hours. He has an epic house, too."

Scott Laughton enjoyed it.

"I know I was squirting the water gun with all the kids in the pool. I was the big kid," he said Sept. 23 with a laugh. "But, no, it was awesome. I think we need to continue to do that."

Deslauriers, known for his imposing style of play on the ice, is "a big family guy," he said, away from the ice. He has four children 8 years old and younger. His family found its new home in Mount Laurel, New Jersey, with plenty of space.

"I need land," Deslauriers said Sept. 23 with a smile. "I live in the woods back in Montreal."

He was eager to welcome over his teammates.

"We invited everybody. Girlfriends, wives, kids," Deslauriers said. "No reason to not be there and everybody showed up. It was fun, it was good. It was middle of the week, everybody respected that kids have school. It was not a party, it was more of let's eat together, get to know each other, get that kind of family vibe throughout the locker room."

The Flyers came into the 2022-23 season with a significantly new look. For the first time in forever, they didn't have a captain. They had a new head coach. And their roster featured some newcomers and a ton of youth.

With a transitional year ahead and the importance of building chemistry as quickly as possible, getting into town early was important. Players had informal workouts on the ice well before camp, but also had the chance to hang out off the ice.

"That's why I'm so happy they came in early because you have time to do that," Flyers head coach John Tortorella said Sept. 23.

"I think it's really important. ... I don't know what's more important sometimes at this time of year, especially prior to camp — skating or doing something like that. I told them that."

Deslauriers understands his role and why the Flyers went after him in free agency. He has fought four times this season and entered Friday leading all NHL forwards in hits with 63. While Deslauriers' skating isn't the prettiest, Tortorella is looking for the big winger to chip in offensively and play on the penalty kill.

So far, the Flyers have been able to rely on him for a shade over 10 minutes per game. He has played a responsible game and recorded three points (one goal, two assists).

"I've seen him in practice, his skill is underrated," Joel Farabee said Oct. 14. "He plays a huge role for us."

The Flyers feel his sheer presence, though, is most valuable. They hope it goes a long way as games amplify in meaning.

They noticed a much more controlled environment in their season-opening, 5-2 win over the Devils, who are now 14-3-0.

"He's a heavyweight in the league," Hayes said of Deslauriers a day after the Oct. 13 opener against New Jersey. "I'm not going to name names, but last year, there were guys on that team that were running around thinking they were tough guys. No one did yesterday. ... I think it has to do a lot with him."

Farabee agreed.

"Their fourth line was pretty damn quiet because of him," he said. "His presence out there, nobody on their team really wanted to mess with many of our guys because they knew what they were going to get. Having him out there is great."

Game 1 probably didn't feel like Game 1 for Deslauriers defending his teammates. Getting to know them off the ice before camp had to have helped.

"I'm not taking away anything from his game, but one of his roles is to protect the other players on our team," Hayes said. "I think that happens off the ice, as well.

"He's a family guy. I can buy into that at any time."

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