By Don Stewart
READING, Pa. – Should Dany Roussin live to be 100, people will still be asking him about Sidney Crosby.
Before coming to the Reading Royals this season, Roussin spent the previous two playing on the same line with the prodigy some have labeled the next Wayne Gretzky.
The two performed together for Rimouski Oceanic of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League like Simon and Garfunkel.
Crosby was Simon, putting up unheard of points at center or right wing. Roussin played the role of Garfunkel, overshadowed despite putting up impressive numbers on the left wing.
It proved to be a harmonious relationship as the duo propelled Rimouski to 35 straight wins and the Memorial Cup final.
After scoring 117 points in 66 games two years ago, then 116 in 69 last season, Roussin was selected in the second round and 50th overall by the Los Angeles King in the NHL Entry Draft.
Crosby, of course, went first.
One might think there’d be a little jealousy on the part of Roussin, a little annoyance at being asked for the trillionth time what it was like to play with Crosby.
Actually, the 20-year-old French-Canadian seems to be too lighthearted to feel that kind of animosity.
“Oh no,” he said in his rough English. “No, because he’s my good buddy. I love to play with him. I’m going to be proud all of my life to play with this guy. He taught me a lot, so I can’t deny him anything. I’m happy to have played with him.”
Despite his superb talent and high-level background, Roussin has been surprisingly content in Reading since the Kings assigned him here last month.
Players of his caliber aren’t common in the ECHL. But instead of being angry with the demotion from the AHL, where he wasn’t scoring, Roussin has focused on adjusting his game to the pro level.
In the meantime, his personality has meshed well in the Reading locker room.
“He fits in great,” Royals coach Karl Taylor said. “He’s a good, solid French-Canadian hockey player and the guys love teasing him about his accent.
“He’s excited to be here. He’s having a blast playing lots and getting lots of ice time and getting the confidence back so that, when he gets his opportunity, he’ll be ready to go.”
Roussin had just one goal and two assists in 17 AHL games with Manchester. He’s picked up seven goals and five assists in 12 games with the Royals, including an unassisted breakaway goal in the second period of Reading’s big 3-2 win Tuesday at Las Vegas.
The 6-2, 200-pound lefty said he already feels his confidence returning.
“You gotta make some points,” Roussin said. “I had my chance, but I didn’t score. Every game was down, down. I don’t know what was wrong. When I have my second chance, I’m going to take it good.
“But I like the way it is now. I play, I get a lot of ice. I live day by day now.”
This could be a familiar scenario for Roussin, who struggled to put up points during his first season and a half in the QMJHL. The Sherbrooke Beavers traded him to Rimouski in the midst of his second season, and Roussin responded with 38 points in 38 games.
Maybe he’s just a player who needs to feel comfortable with his surroundings.
“He’s a rookie, he’s a young guy, he’s only 20, he’s playing in the American Hockey League, he’s playing against men,” Taylor said. “He was used in a little bit of a different role. He had to earn his ice time. He’s not used to that.
“When you’re up there, then your confidence becomes a little bit of an issue. So he needs to come back here and play lots and get some confidence. He’s playing great for us. He’s putting some numbers up. But he’s not just doing that. He’s adding the back-end game, playing tough defensive hockey for us as well.”
Taylor, who realizes that Roussin’s stint with the Royals is limited, is obviously cherishing the time that the Kings prospect is on board.
And while he has bigger goals than the ECHL, Roussin seems to be treasuring his time here as well.
“I think I have a bigger role with this team (than Manchester),” he said. “Before, I had big confidence in myself. I lost a little bit at the start of the season, but now I get it back.”