Ex-Penguins defenseman Simon Despres to attempt comeback with Montreal

July 13, 2018

The Penguins' Simon Despres plays against the Rangers on Jan. 18, 2015 at Consol Energy Center.

Former Penguins defenseman Simon Despres is attempting an NHL comeback.

The Montreal Canadiens announced Thursday that they would invite the 26-year-old former first-round draft pick to training camp on a tryout.

Despres spent last season with Bratislava Slovan in the KHL, recording four goals and 11 points in 44 games. He played 144 games in parts of four seasons with the Penguins before being dealt to Anaheim for Ben Lovejoy at the 2015 trade deadline.

Despres had concussion-related problems in Anaheim, playing only 33 games over two full seasons with the Ducks, who bought out his contract last June.

In an interview with LaPresse.ca last month, Despres said he was willing to start his NHL comeback in the AHL. Montreal’s top minor league affiliate is in Laval, Quebec, which is Despres’ hometown.

Despres said he’s in better position to succeed in the NHL now than he was when he was with the Penguins and Ducks. In an interview with TVA Sports in 2016, he said he learned the negative effects that staying out late and drinking can have on an athlete’s career.

He told LaPresse he has changed his workout regimen to include regular MMA training, which has improved his strength. He said he uses former teammate Sidney Crosby, who has made a successful comeback from concussion-related health problems, as a role model.

“As you get older in hockey, you do not place yourself in positions to hurt yourself. You do not keep the puck too long,” Despres said. “I played with Sidney Crosby. When he returned from concussion, he did not put himself in situations to get hit. He has won the Stanley Cup twice more and is still a good player in the league. It’s possible to come back from concussion and play in the NHL.”

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