Toledo Walleye defenseman Simon Denis, who was a key part of the team’s success the past two seasons, signed a contract to play overseas next season.
Denis, a 26-year-old from Burnaby, B.C., announced Friday he has signed with a team based in South Korea called the Daemyung Killer Whales.
“I’m extremely excited to announce that I have signed for next season with the Daemyung Killer Whales in the Asia League,” Denis said on Twitter. “Looking forward to this new journey in South Korea.”
Denis was the team’s top scoring defenseman in each of the past two seasons, when he played in 119 regular-season games.
As a rookie in 2016-17, Denis produced 55 points with 15 goals in 70 games. Last season, Denis tallied six goals and 29 assists in 49 games.
The outgoing and personable 5-foot-10, 185-pound defenseman quickly became a fan favorite.
“It meant the world to me to be surrounded by an organization that’s first class and a fan base as amazing as Toledo’s,” Denis said. “It’s something I’ll never forget, and I’m so grateful that I began my pro career as a Walleye.”
Denis endured his share of hardships playing for Toledo.
In the opening round of the 2017 playoffs, he gained respect when he took the high road after he was viciously cross-checked seven times by Kalamazoo captain Ben Wilson in Game 2 of a Central Division semifinal series.
Denis was sidelined for eight games after suffering the injury. The ECHL suspended Wilson for 20 games.
Then in this season’s Central Division final series against rival Fort Wayne, Denis was sidelined after an illegal hit in Game 4, getting cross-checked from behind by Dan Maggio. Denis was lost for the rest of the season. Maggio was suspended for one game.
Denis, Toledo’s quarterback on the power play and one of its top overall defenseman, played in 17 Kelly Cup playoff games for the Walleye. He had two goals and three assists in nine games last season, when Toledo reached the Western Conference final series. He had one goal and six assists in eight games this postseason.
Denis’ father, Dan, is French Canadian, and his mother, Mitsuko, is Japanese. Denis said part of the reason he opted to sign with a South Korean team was his Japanese dual citizenship. The league has a shorter schedule and is more financially lucrative. His dual citizenship allows him to be counted as a nonimport, according to the league’s rules.
Although only in his second year with the Walleye, he was named an alternate captain before the season.
Before turning pro, Denis played in 141 games at Ferris State University. He tallied 15 goals and 45 assists in his college career. Denis helped lead the Bulldogs to the Western Collegiate Hockey Association championship in 2016 as an assistant captain in 2015-16.
This past offseason, Denis created a clothing brand company called Be Yourself Apparel, which donates 25 percent of sales to charity.
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