Let’s clear something up right away.
Philippe Dupuis and Pascal Dupuis are not related.
Yes, both Penguins forwards share the same surname. Yes, both players grew up in the same city, Laval, in the Quebec providence. Yes, they both share the same dark features. And both players even have the same affinity for the No. 9.
But Philippe and Pascal share no familial blood.
Philippe has been setting the record straight for years. However, that hasn’t stopped people from asking.
“It’s the No. 1 question that everyone has asked me since I was 19 years old,” said 27-year-old Philippe with a grin. “Is he your brother? Are you guys related? I get that all the time. We’re both from Laval. We both have dark hair. I like No. 9. It’s my favorite number, too. I get a lot of questions about that.”
Not only are Philippe and Pascal, 33, not related, they’ve never even met each other – although Philippe is a fan of the elder Dupuis.
“(Pascal) is a great player. He played junior with my cousin back in the day in Shawinigan,” said Philippe, who signed a one-year deal with Pittsburgh this summer. “When I was younger I used to go see him play. He was so good in the Q (Quebec Major Junior Hockey League). He was one of my favorite players for sure.
“I like the way he plays. But no, he’s not a part of my family.”
Philippe, 6-foot, 196 pounds, also played junior hockey in the QMJHL, splitting five seasons from 2001-06 with Hull, Gatineau, Rouyn-Noranda and Moncton. He won the QMJHL championship three times – back-to-back wins with Hull (2002-03) and Gatineau (’03-04) and another title with Moncton (’05-06).
Dupuis proved he could put the puck in the net. In his final two years of junior hockey he scored 34 goals, 84 points (‘04-05) and 32 goals, 108 points (‘05-06).
Dupuis, a fourth-round pick (104th overall) of Columbus in 2003, has spent the previous six seasons between the National Hockey League and American Hockey League. He’s appeared in 116 NHL games with Colorado and Toronto and 286 AHL contests with Syracuse, Lake Erie, Toronto and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
Last season Dupuis’ Toronto Marlies advanced all the way to the Calder Cup Final, falling to current teammate Trevor Smith and the Norfolk Admirals.
“He’s a very experienced guy and has got a lot of NHL games,” WBS head coach John Hynes said. “Went to the Calder Cup. We respect his background and he’s a guy we think has the leadership potential.”
While Dupuis was a high-end scorer at the conclusion of his junior career, he has adapted his game into a well-rounded and defensively sound forward in pro hockey.
“Dupuis is a real competitor,” Hynes said. “He’s a good skater, tenacious, very good penalty killer. He can play center and wing. He’s a strong guy along the wall in the offensive zone. He has good skills. He’s a good mixture of a two-way forward that can skate and has some offensive skill.”
Playing in the AHL, Dupuis is a top-6 forward and is expected to be more of an offensive threat. But in the NHL, Dupuis has been a defensive-type player.
“It’s kind of hard sometimes to figure out my role,” Dupuis said. “I do different roles in the AHL and when I go up to the NHL I have to change my game a little bit, block shots, play physical, PK guy, more defensive role. It’s a different game, but I don’t mind doing both.”
Dupuis certainly wouldn’t mind doing it for Pittsburgh. As a child, Dupuis idolized Mario Lemieux and was a fan of the Penguins. That’s not surprising considering Lemieux torched the QMJHL record books while playing for Laval, Dupuis’ hometown.
Even though Lemieux played in Laval before Dupuis was even born, Mario’s legend and influence in the city still had a profound impact on Philippe. The youthful Dupuis wanted to play hockey with Penguins like his hero Mario. Now, the older Dupuis may just get that chance.
“It’s a team that I’ve been watching since I was a kid, because of Mario Lemieux, my favorite player,” Dupuis said. “And lately with all the teams they’ve had with ‘Sid the Kid’ (Sidney Crosby) and (Evgeni) Malkin. It’s a team that I want to play for.”
Dupuis took a step closer to wearing a Penguins sweater in July when he received a phone call from the Penguins with a contract proposal. He didn’t hesitate to scribble his signature on a contract and join the organization.
“They were interested in me. As soon as they called me I was really excited,” Dupuis said. “I like their system. I like the way they play. It’s up-tempo, it’s fast, a lot of skill. That’s exactly what I want.”