Flexibility makes Dupont true team player
Shifted to center, 23-year-old responded with a big season for Wolf Pack
By Dan David, newyorkrangers.com
In 2007, as a team of young Rangers hopefuls prepared to leave New York for the Annual Traverse City (Mich.) Prospects Tournament, the opportunity arose for a player to file video blog entries for MSG.com.
The choice turned out to be an easy one. Forward Brodie Dupont, heading into his first pro season with the Hartford Wolf Pack, was a great candidate for the assignment. He not only accepted the challenge, but embraced it, filing numerous postgame reports as his team -- which included current Rangers Artem Anisimov, Brandon Dubinsky and Marc Staal -- went unbeaten to win the tournament title.
Dupont took it upon himself to conduct multiple interviews, some of which can still be found three years later on YouTube. That experience came in hand last month, when Dupont returned to his native Manitoba to serve as the Memorial Cup correspondent for a Canadian sports web site.
The enthusiasm he brings to off-ice assignments reflects two important aspects of Dupont's on-ice personality -- a commitment to hard work and willingness to do whatever is asked of him.
"I don't like to limit myself to any one role," said Dupont. "Whatever they want from me, I'll do. Realistically, I think I can be a pretty good third- or fourth-line player (in the NHL). I would be an energy player and a guy that can contribute offensively. I can stand in front of the net on the power play or kill penalties. But I feel like I can do it all, pretty much, and wherever they want to stick me, I'll play."
|Rangers prospect Brodie Dupont showed versatility for the Hartford Wolf Pack in 2009-10, moving from left wing to center, a position he had not played regularly since his days with the Calgary Hitmen.|
Perhaps the only thing that has kept the 6-foot-3, 210-pound Dupont from playing in the NHL already is the Rangers' ability to avoid injuries in the seasons since he turned pro. Able to play both left wing and center, Dupont emerged as a major force for the Wolf Pack in 2009-10, but the Rangers were injury-free on the third and fourth lines, where Dupont was most likely to get playing time.
Some 225 AHL regular-season games after coming back from Traverse City to join the Wolf Pack, the Rangers' first of two third-round picks in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft is one of the most experienced prospects in the organization and is coming off his best year as a pro in 2009-10. Dupont said the three years in the AHL have really made a difference in his game.
"It's developed better habits of being consistent," he noted. "Mentally, it was a little hard my first year, fighting a battle with my own inconsistency. I just couldn't seem to string a group of good games together. This year, I think I did a better job. If I was having a bad game, I still found ways to contribute.”
A 37-goal scorer in his final season of junior hockey with the Calgary Hitmen in 2006-07, Dupont has been a solid two-way player ever since joining Hartford. He has also been one of the team's most versatile forwards with 44 goals, 103 points, 311 penalty minutes and a plus-9 rating in his AHL career.
Although he has yet to play in the NHL outside of the preseason, Dupont is certain he has what is required to make it at the highest level of hockey.
"I think I'm ready," he said. "I know I can play in the NHL now and now it's just a matter of showing up to camp in shape. It's going to be up to the coaches, and I've just got to push them to make decisions. I feel like I'm ready, but now it's a question of what the scenario is in New York and what they need. It's up to me to show up in shape and show them that I'm ready to play. I'm here to fight for a job."
Dupont primarily played center in junior, but he was shifted to left wing early in his first year at Hartford and has steadily developed. Only an unfortunate shortage of centers this past season led the Hartford coaching staff to move Dupont back to his old position. He was all too happy to oblige.
"I love playing center. It's a fun position," said Dupont. "I had played it before, but being put back in that position was fun. I also played a little bit of left wing at the end when guys started coming back.”
|Brodie Dupont skated in a Rangers-Devils preseason game on Sept. 24, 2008. He is eager for the chance to see more preseason action as a Ranger this fall.|
"Brodie was able to go in there at center, and that's a good thing about him," said Gordie Clark, the Rangers' Director, Player Personnel, who has witnessed Dupont's development over the past five years. "However, it did take him away from his up-and-down winger game and there's no question that his offensive production would have been a lot more if he had remained at wing."
Clark compares Dupont to Hartford captain Dane Byers, another Blueshirts draft pick who has improved each year with the Wolf Pack and also plans to make a big run at the NHL roster this fall.
"Brodie and Dane are very similar players," said Clark. "They're both the Western type of player that comes with the grit and plays every game. They are the kind guys where opponents know they are not going to have an easy night playing against. Those are exactly the gritty type of guys that we set out to bring in here a few years ago."
Dupont was one of only two Hartford players to skate in all 80 games last season, and he had some big nights. He was the game's No. 1 Star five times with four other appearances in the Three Stars selections. He also had nine multi-point games and a six-game points streak from Feb. 12 to Feb. 20.
His most impressive stretch came in March, when he strung together three straight two-point games and scored goals in four of five between March 10 and March 20. That scoring surge helped Hartford in its playoff push, although the Pack came up just short -- the first time in Dupont's hockey career that he didn't make it to the postseason.
"We had a tough season," said Dupont. "Any time you don't make the playoffs, you're really disappointed. I found myself looking back at the season trying to figure out what went wrong. I think we hit an injury bug. We had only one regular defenseman in the lineup at one point. I think that's really what ended up costing us our season. We made a good run at the end and won eight out of 11 games, but the push just wasn't enough."
Strong on faceoffs despite not having played center since 2007, Dupont also showed a knack for big goals last season, particularly when used on special teams. Some of the highlights included:
• A third-period shorthanded goal to pull Hartford into a 2-2 tie on Dec. 11 vs. Portland.
• A power play goal to give the Pack a 2-1 lead at 7:44 of the third, followed by the winner with 20 seconds left in overtime on Feb. 3 vs. Lowell at the Prudential Center in Newark.
• A screen that led to defenseman Lee Baldwin's first AHL goal, followed by a shorthanded goal in a 6-1 Hartford rout on April 3 at Springfield.
"Coming into camp, my first goal is to have great (fitness) testing and show them that I am serious about this," said Dupont. "Next, I want to play in preseason games, but right now, I just want to come in, work as hard as I can, and show them that I'm here to play on the New York Rangers this season."
Dupont has been part of the organization since his draft day in 2005. His appreciation of what it means to be a Ranger continues to motivate him as he sets his sights on the 2010-11 season.
"There is so much tradition there. I don't know if that sounds like a cliche or not, but it really is true," said Dupont. "The New York Rangers are one of the finest organizations in the league, if not the best. Anyone you ever talk to says that New York treats you the best, which is absolutely true. Everything is first-class the whole way. I know how much the Rangers want to win championships because that's what fits such a first-class organization.
"They have been doing a good job drafting players, and I think I'm ready to make the jump. I want to win a Stanley Cup for New York, and I want to be in the parade in New York holding the Stanley Cup."