There was a time not too long ago when depth at the center-ice position was a major concern for the Rangers. But heading into the 2007-08 season, the organization is as strong as ever at center -- from the NHL level down to the prospects.
One up-and-coming center who has really made a name for himself over the past season is 20-year-old Brodie Dupont, who has surged up the depth chart as fast as any prospect within the system
Dupont set the bar high for 2006-07 after enjoying a breakout junior year in 2005-06. In only his second season with the WHL's Calgary Hitmen, Dupont netted 30 goals and 23 assists for 53 points. But last year, the Russell, Manitoba, went even further, recording 37 goals and 33 assists for 70 points and 90 penalty minutes.
He ranked ninth in the WHL in goals and 22nd in total points. He also notched 11 power-play goals and two shorthanders along with 10 game-winners, which ranked sixth in the league
"I've always tried to play like a guy like Peter Forsberg growing up," Dupont said. "But I think I'm more so now like a Tomas Holmstrom. I'm a guy who just gets to the net, and scores those tough goals in the paint, but I still have the ability to set up plays in addition to grinding."
Selected in the third round of the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, Dupont is a fearless player who thrives in the dirty areas of the game. He's also not afraid to drop the gloves and prides himself on sticking up for his teammates when necessary.
The 6-2, 206-pounder is physically tough to contain when he has the puck, but he also has the stick handling skills to embarrass opponents. His soft hands and hard shot make it nearly impossible for goaltenders to play him one-way.
"Brodie is a hard, firm player," said Rangers head coach Tom Renney after watching Dupont at this summer's Prospect Development Camp. "He has a real hard and heavy shot. He has real good work habits. He knows where the front of the net is, and he isn't afraid to go to the dirty areas and pay the price. He is one of those guys that has a physical presence to his game along with the other things you like to see in a young player."
|Brodie Dupont got some off-ice training at the recent Prospect Development Camp. On the ice, Dupont has scored 67 goals over the past two seasons with the WHL's Calgary Hitmen. |
Despite all his accolades and personal achievements, the burly forward always puts his team first.
"Scoring my 37th goal was special and pretty cool, but our (Calgary's) playoff run was the highlight of the year," said Dupont. "We were the surprise team, and it's the best time of the year. No one expected us to get past the first round. It's easier to play when you have no pressure, and we snuck through the first round, and we just started rolling, and that was the most fun I had in a long time."
During that playoff run, the Hitmen's alternate captain notched nine goals and seven assists for 16 points in 18 games.
Just as important as his skill and leadership ability is his desire to not just reach the NHL, but to do so as a member of the New York Rangers. In fact, he has become a big Rangers fan while playing junior hockey.
"I check up on the Rangers through the web site quite a bit," he said. "I go on it every night I have off, and I also watched the playoffs. They had a good run, so that was exciting to see. It's exciting to see the organization starting to take steps towards winning the Stanley Cup again, and I want to be a part of that. It looks like they're going in the right direction."
Dupont's development has not gone unnoticed by the Rangers' brass.
"Brodie was one of those guys who was absolutely essential to his team's success last year," said Renney. "He brought good leadership to Calgary. He is turning pro for the first time, obviously, and we are excited about his opportunity to grow and develop as a player. He is one of those guys that you have to be careful you don't get too excited about, because there is a learning curve here, and you have to allow him to mature and get his head around it at his pace, not ours."
Still, Dupont understands his role and limitations, and embraces whatever his coach might throw at him.
"I'm just a hard-working guy," he said. "I won't flash you, but at the end of the night I am the guy who will do anything for my team and I will go through the wall for my coaches, and I think it's really important that you have a good work ethic."