The Arizona Coyotes‘ on-ice product has given their fanbase little to be excited about this season. The focus, instead, has turned to the future, and with a plethora of young prospects primed for NHL success in the next two to four years, there’s reason for optimism.
Players like Max Domi, Christian Dvorak, Brendan Perlini, Anthony Duclair – not to mention the possibility of Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel – can reinvigorate a franchise in a hurry. But a team cannot be comprised solely of top-six scoring types, so that’s where Laurent Dauphin comes in.
Selected in the second round of the 2013 NHL Draft with little fanfare, the Chicoutimi Sagueneens center quietly built an impressive three-year QMJHL career with the franchise, one which came to an end in early April after a first-round playoff exit. Dauphin was an offensive star in the ‘Q,’ as evidenced by his 75 points in 56 games this season, but it’s his two-way game that has people within the Coyotes organization excited.
“I’m a big fan of Laurent Dauphin,” Coyotes development coach Steve Sullivan recently told Craig Moran of FOX Sports Arizona. “He’s not as explosive or dynamic as Max Domi. It’s more a case where, at the end of a game when you re-watch the tape, that’s when you see all the good things he does in a hockey game.”
Sullivan is a fan of Dauphin’s 200-foot game, and he’s not the only one. Yanick Jean, head coach and general manager of the Chicoutimi Sagueneens, is well aware of what he’ll be without next season when Dauphin turns pro. Jean arrived in Chicoutimi mid-season and only had the pleasure of coaching the Coyotes’ draft pick for a few months, but saw enough to realize the player’s importance to the team.
“If you’ve got a quality center like Laurent Dauphin, then you’ve got a good start to an organization,” Jean noted prior to a game against Moncton in the first round of the QMJHL playoffs.
His combination of foot speed and on-ice intelligence seemingly always has him in the right spot on the ice. He’s a valued leader – he wore the ‘C’ for the Sagueneens this season – and a solid penalty killer.
Dauphin was given plenty of responsibility in his rookie season with the Sagueneens, playing second line center behind Sebastien Sylvestre, who spent this season with the ECHL’s Bakersfield Condors. Dauphin finished fourth on the team in scoring with 57 points in 62 games, but as a second-line pivot, learned the importance of being strong in other aspects of the game, rather than just in the offensive zone.
“I think it was during my first junior year,” Dauphin recalled of when he began focusing on the defensive aspect of the game. “I was the second center at 17 and my coach told me I had to play both sides of the ice if I want to play.”
And that message has been reiterated since the Coyotes brought him into the fold; he has attended two training camps with the team, learning critical lessons from both players and coaches alike.
Before he returned to Chicoutimi for the beginning of the 2014-15 season, Dauphin skated in an exhibition game for the Coyotes, but suffered a sprained ankle that cut the experience short. Still, the Repentigny, QC native said it was an eye-opening experience in which he learned the subtle nuances necessary to become a seasoned pro.
“I think I learned that you have to work hard all the time, if not then you will not take the next step,” he explained. “It’s very fast, so I have to work hard every summer.”
As expected, Dauphin had his best offensive season this year; he likely would have been amongst the league’s top scorers had he not missed about a month due to appendix surgery. It was the second time in consecutive years that he missed a chunk of action due to injury or illness – in 2013-14 he was out of the Sagueneens lineup thanks to shoulder surgery.
The shoulder surgery is something many hockey players get used to; however, it took time for Dauphin to get back to form following the removal of his appendix in December. He dropped 15 pounds and, even when he returned to action, struggled to get back to the form he was in prior to the surgery.
“When I arrived he was playing really good, but then he had his appendix out, so it took him about a month or two or three weeks to get in shape,” Jean noted. “If you take out that five or six week span he has been the best player for us every night.”
Despite losing weight and some of the strength that made him a solid two-way player, Dauphin was unaffected in the faceoff circle. One of the more consistent faceoff performers in the league, he posted a 54.7 percent success rate in December and a 55.9 success rate in January. Overall, he won 53.4 percent of the 914 faceoffs he took this season. Part of that success can be attributed to in-practice battles with Nicolas Roy (2015), who also posted a plus-50 success rate in the faceoff circle.
“It’s part of the 200-foot game and the all-around game that I want to play,” Dauphin explained of his faceoff prowess.
As captain, Jean admitted Dauphin isn’t the most vocal guy, and that’s not hard to notice in conversation with the player. But it’s the example he sets on the ice that made him a perfect leader for a Sagueneens team in transition this season.
“It’s the way he works on the ice,” said Jean. “You saw in Game 1, he was the most physical guy on our team, he works, and he wants to win. It’s a good sign.”
He ended his final playoff series with eight points in five games. The next game of hockey he plays will likely be in the AHL with the Portland Pirates, joining what should be an exciting cast of rookies in 2015-16.
Follow Chris Roberts on Twitter via @ChrisRoberts_7