Devante Stephens: Thankful to be Home
Devante Stephens has become a well traveled veteran in the American Hockey League, but the 24-year-old defenceman is thrilled to be back home in BC.
"I'm excited to be in Abbotsford," said the lanky defender on how it feels to be playing hockey in the Lower Mainland. "I'm from White Rock, so it's nice being in the hometown. I haven't really been able to play very much in front of friends and family since I was 16, so it's a nice treat to be here in Abbotsford."
Stephens spent his junior years playing for the Kelowna Rockets of the Western Hockey League. He appeared in 203 games across three seasons with the Rockets. He netted 19 goals, assisted on 38 others and posted an impressive +56 during his WHL career. The Rockets also made a number of deep runs in the postseason, even taking home the WHL title in 2015, and Stephens played a big part in their playoff success.
Devante's strong play as an amateur caught the attention of NHL scouts. There was strong interest from a number of teams leading up to the draft. The Buffalo Sabres jumped at the opportunity to add the 6'2" defenceman, selecting him in the fifth round of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft.
The White Rock, BC product turned pro in 2017 and has bounced back and forth between the East Coast Hockey League and the AHL ever since. He put together a stellar season with the Sabres' ECHL affiliate, the Cincinnati Cyclones, in 2018.19. That year he put up 25 points (8 G, 17 A) with 59 penalty minutes through 69 games en route to posting a +35.
Viewed as a rising prospect around the NHL following his breakout season in 2018.19, Buffalo traded Stephens to the Tampa Bay Lighting in November of 2019. He played the next two seasons in the Lightning organization before signing as a free agent with the Canucks in 2021.
"I've been in Syracuse and Rochester, so I've been playing a lot in the East," said Stephens on his previous AHL experience. "It's been nice getting to know the other guys on the team and experiencing what it's like to be part of the Canucks' organization."
"Devante's a little bit of a Swiss army knife," said head coach Trent Cull on his new blue liner. "We played against him when we were in Utica and he has had a nice camp. He is a big, strong guy. He can even play forward for you in a pinch, so we are excited to have him here."
A highly skilled skater with soft hands and great awareness on the back end, Stephens figures to feature prominently on the blue line for the Abbotsford Canucks this season. Stephens is always smiling and having a great time on the ice. Hopefully his positive energy rubs off on the younger players like Jett Woo and Alex Kannok Leipert.
"We want to win a championship here," said Stephens when asked about his goals for the upcoming campaign. "It would be sick to bring a cup to Abbotsford in our first year. We are a playoff team, I believe that. We want to give the fans a long season and plenty of reason to cheer."
This is going to be an exciting group to watch compete this season, and Devante Stephens will play a role in how far this team goes. The talent is here for a deep playoff run and Stephens' optimistic attitude should give the fans in the Fraser Valley confidence as we embark on our inaugural season.
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