Sometimes, a player doesn't need to jump right into the next level of competition to showcase his worth. Justin Bailey, who was profiled as a prospect on Monday, was one such player. Instead of going right into a junior league, he spent a season with the Long Island Royals. He was not only able to still make the choice between the NCAA and the OHL, who had his rights, but step right into a Kitchener team and display his talents for many scouts. Today's prospect profile took a similar route. He didn't jump right into the QMJHL at age 16 even though it may have been a possibility. Instead, he destroyed at the midget AAA level. In this past season, he did step up to the Chicoutimi Saguenéens and made his mark as a rookie. The player is Laurent Dauphin and he's someone New Jersey Devils fans may want to get familiar with as a potential second round draft pick.
Who is Laurent Dauphin?
Based on his official profile at the QMJHL website, Laurent Dauphin is a six foot, 166-pound center who played his first season in the major junior league for Chicoutimi. The vitals in Elite Prospects profile has him as an even smaller player, but the point remains the same: he's not big. Dauphin has a March birthdate, so he turned 17 as the season ended. As a rookie, he suited up for 62 of the team's 68 games and was five points shy of a point-per-game season. He was also a part of the gold medal-winning Canada team at this year's World U-18 Championships. His four goals was second on the team only to 2015-eligible Connor McDavid. All told, it appears that Dauphin had one heck of a first season at the major junior level.
His 57 points was good enough for him to finished fourth on his team in scoring and fifth among all QMJHL rookies. His 25 goals do include ten power play goals (second on the team), three shorthanded goals (tied for first on the team), and nine game winners. While the game winning goals surely include some coincidences, the total of thirteen special team goals is evidence that he played in all situations for Chicoutimi. That's very good for a rookie. Clearly, the extra season in the QMAAA didn't hinder his development much (and got named Telus Cup MVPfor it, too).
Since Dauphin played in the Q, we can delve a little deeper into his numbers. Dauphin had no aversions to firing away when he had the chance. He finished third on the 2012-13 Chicoutimi team in shots on net with 200. That's an average of 3.22 shots per game, which is impressive. Moreover, Dauphin was credited for 102 dangerous shots, so a little over half of his shots were threatening. Clearly, he didn't just ride a hot stick for points; he definitely put the work in. Throw in a productive World U-18 tourney and it appears to me that he's quite the offensive talent.
What Experts Have Said About Laurent Dauphin
His short blurb at Future Considerations is very complimentary about his offensive skillset.
Dauphin is a smart player who combines heady play with a decent skill set. He generates good speed in his skating and is shifty off the rush. He handles the puck well and displays tricky-quick hands. He's creative both in his stickhandling and distribution and is alert in all three zones.
Now, this is what one wants to read about a forward prospect. He's got hands, handles, and a head with something in it. It's similar to the short reasoning given by Kyle Woodlief of Red Line Report according to this USA Today article from a few months ago, when Dapuhin was listed as a "Rising" prospect. let's see what others have to say about him beyond that.
Corey Pronman of Hockey Prospectus went into a bit more detail in his ranking. He ranked Dauphin 34th in his list of 2013 draft-eligible prospects. Here's what he had on Chicoutimi's rookie pivot at Hockey Prospectus, which goes deeper than FC's short take but also reveals an issue:
Dauphin had a good rookie season for Chicoutimi, displaying a high amount of upside. He is a skilled player with the puck, with the kind of soft touch and control that a top forward prospect needs. He has shiftiness in his game, as he is able to make quick movements with his feet and hands. He couples strong acceleration with a good top gear. He is quality passer who makes nice saucer distributions, and he can make plays with limited time and space. Dauphin's main area of improvement will have to come from his strength level. He can easily be pushed off of picks, and he has an undeveloped frame. Despite that, he has a good on-ice work ethic, and he battles and backchecks well. His physicality should progress with time.
It's an opinion of two halves. The first is what you'd like to read about a forward prospect: he's got potential, skill, control, and good skating abilities. The second is a big reason why he's being thought of a second round prospect and not a first round prospect: strength. One could surmise from his height and weight that he's not big but reading that he's been muscled off pucks is a concern. A smaller player can definitely make it but he's got to be able to take it. Pronman did cushion the criticism well and I do agree with his ending statement about it, but it's something that needs work.
Over at The Hockey Guys, Carl Hamilton's profile of Dauphin states a similar take. He did note that Dauphin was a last-minute replacement in the CHL Top Prospects game and made his mark. I wonder if that's when he really started to get more attention? In any case, I found this bit interesting:
Somewhat undersized at 6’0″ 166lbs, Dauphin has excellent agility and lateral quickness and protects the puck well for someone as small as he is. He’s a good skater, but it’s an area he can still improve in and get faster. He also has above average vision, slick hands and an extremely quick and accurate release. What he lacks in size he makes up for in tenacity and hard work. While he will lose his share of puck battles, he rarely gives up on a play and isn't afraid to go to the dirty areas.
I'm not sure how to feel about the notion that he goes into "the dirty areas." Is that where an offensively skilled forward who's not all that strong should be? I understand the idea of wanting to get involved to make something happen; it just seems to me it's not all that ideal. Then again, hockey and life often drive us to do what is not ideal. Anyway, if he can get stronger, then I would think he'd be far more effective.
Speaking of effective, Dauphin was just that at the World U-18 tournament. While it's not a full opinion on the player - you'll have to buy their guide for that - David Burstyn of McKeen's had this short assessment of his play in the tourney.
Showed up when it mattered most with his best performance in the gold-medal game where he scored a goal and an assist in the gold-medal final .. a fearless and hard-nosed competitor who would always fight his way into the slot or go hard to the net .. skating was exposed at times but made up for it with keen attention to detail and uncompromising work ethic.
I wouldn't put a lot of weight on this since it is only seven games. Curiously, he was listed as a left wing, even though he lined up at center for Chicoutimi all season (you don't attempt 800+ faceoffs at wing). Perhaps the coach did that to get him significant minutes in the tourney or something like that. Regardless, doing well at an international tournament for a successful team is always a plus, yet another one for Dauphin.
Lastly, the biggest expert on Dauphin is, well, Dauphin. Neate Sager of Buzzing the Net recently sat down with him, who had this to say regarding what he needs to work on the most:
"Next year, for sure, I need to improve my physical game," Dauphin says. "Be more explosive in my legs and stronger in battles along the walls. I'm not so afraid of it. There's time to do that; you cannot train your height, but you can train your weight. "It's always about energy for me," Dauphin adds when asked if any aspect of his first season with Chicoutimi was a letdown. "I was a little down toward the end of the season, and hopefully I can work on that."
I'm admittedly swayed by a prospect admitting what he needs to address for the future. It may be obvious, but I'm heartened that Dauphin knows he needs to get stronger. I love that line about training weight. Given the other opinions stating his work ethic on the ice, I can't help but think he'll definitely bulk up in 2013-14. I'm intrigued that he mentioned his acceleration given that others who have seen him generally have good things to say about his skating. If he can improve there, it could make him that much more of an asset.
Lastly, if I'm a Chicoutimi fan, then that last quote would be really endearing. A rookie who fired 200 pucks on net, played in all situations, and was one of the more productive players on the team thinks he can do more. I'd really look forward to that.
A Little Video
There's not much video of Dauphin that's readily available. There's this media session he had while he was working out with Montreal recently, which is entirely in French. I don't know any French, so I can't tell you if he said anything interesting. However, I did find this full highlight video of his performances at the World U-18 Championships. It's not just goals and assists, either. You'll see #21 take initiative for shots, get into the zone and up close in the crease, win pucks, and so much more.
An Opinion of Sorts
I'll be blunt for a change: if he's available at #39, then the Devils should just rush up the podium to take him. The numbers he put up in his rookie season at Chicoutimi were very good for a rookie and the sheer shot totals indicate that there's substance behind them. Plus, we have reason to believe he played in all situations for his team. This means his defensive game must be at least good enough relative to his peers to play in PK situations. Unless I missed something, he didn't sustain any significant injury. He did very well in the World U-18 tournament, showcasing what he can do amid a talent-laden lineup against talented players in his age group. Those who have followed him and analyzed his skill set have plenty of praise for his offensive skills, his skating, and his work ethic. The main criticism seems to be that he's not strong and Dauphin himself has recognized that. There is a lot to like here from my perspective.
No, he's not going to be big or especially strong, but if all of the other tools are there or could be there, then so what? I'm not disuaded by Dauphin's size and I can't imagine the Devils would also be put off by it. This is the same organization that not only drafted Brian Gionta but signed his lesser-talented and similarly-diminutive brother Stephen. Yes, it takes a lot of talent to make it as a small player and there's risk involved, but it's been done. Provided Dauphin can continue to develop his already apparent offensive and defensive skills while becoming stronger, then he'd be a very fine pick. One that would definitely fill the Devils' current dearth of offensive forward prospects. Of course, I'm sure almost any team would like a prospect like this in their system and so the same reasoning could justify him being selected much earlier than 39th overall.
I clearly like what I've seen out there about Laurent Dauphin. What about you, what do you like and dislike about Dauphin as a prospect? Would you want the Devils to take Dauphin if he's available? Will he even go as far down as #39? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about Dauphin in the comments. Thank you for reading.