OTTAWA – The Ottawa Senators announced the signing of French forward Stéphane Da Costa for this and the following season. He will become the third French-trained and born player in the NHL after Philippe Bozon and Cristobal Huet.
Stéphane Da Costa comes from a truly international family. He was born in the Paris region as the son of a Frenchman and a Polish mother. While his brothers Gabriel and Teddy moved to Poland to start their professional hockey careers with Zaglebie Sosnowiec before returning to the French top league last summer, Stéphane, the youngest of the trio, moved to North America at age 17.
After having played in the French U18 league for Viry and Amiens, Da Costa spent three more years of junior hockey in the U.S. with the Texas Tornado (NAHL) and the Sioux City Musketeers (USHL).
The past two years he played for the Merrimack College men’s ice hockey team in Hockey East at NCAA Division I level.
His junior and college career has been well decorated.
He made the USHL All-Star Team in his last junior season, he was the Hockey East Rookie of the Year in 2010 and a member of the Second All-Star Team in 2010 and 2011.
With the Merrimack College he notched 45 points in each of his two seasons, in 34 and 33 games respectively.
Da Costa was the scoring leader in his two IIHF World U20 Championship Division I participations in 2008 and 2009, and when playing his second World Championship with the men’s national team last year in Germany, coach David Henderson selected him as one of the top-three players of his team.
Having three scoring points in five games as a 20-year-old at this level seemed to impress several scouts.
Da Costa already had several offers last year, but decided to accept an NHL contract only after his sophomore season with the Merrimack College. That’s why the Ottawa Senators described him as the college free agent market’s biggest prize. He reportedly had offers from 20 NHL teams.
“There was a lot of interest in Stéphane,” Senators GM Bryan Murray admitted on the official website. His staff has kept tabs on Da Costa during most of his time at Merrimack. “We’re very happy to get him. When you follow people over a couple of year period, you like what they bring to the table. It’s nice going through the process and getting rewarded. He’s like signing a high-end draft pick. (College free agents) add a great deal to the organization's depth wise if they play well.”
He will practise with the Sens for the first time on Friday and he might debut in the NHL on Saturday in the home game against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
“I thought that was the best opportunity, a good fit,” Da Costa said during a conference call with reporters. “I heard a lot of good things about the city and the organization, so I thought it was the best fit for me. Everything was attractive about Ottawa (to me). Like for every little kid, that was my dream, to play in the NHL.”
The Stanley Cup playoffs are out of reach for Ottawa, who are 14th in the Eastern Conference. That’s why Murray is looking for new enforcement in view of the next season and why he has also tested several AHL players recently.
As the season will end for the Senators with three games next week, Da Costa could also play his third World Championship end of April in Slovakia. The French national team would welcome him back with open arms, same as for Cristobal Huet, who got the permission from the Chicago Blackhawks to play his first World Championship since 2008.
“The Senators have no objection to him heading to Slovakia for the 2011 Worlds later this spring if he so desires,” Murray announced on the website. The other option for a longer season would be the AHL affiliate Binghamton Senators that are currently fighting for one of the last spots in the Calder Cup playoffs six games before the end of the regular season.