When it came time for the Rangers to make the 66th overall pick in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, the Blueshirts scouts at the draft table agreed that Brodie Dupont of the WHL's Calgary Hitmen was a player with the necessary drive and willingness to become an NHL player. The belief at the time was that even if Dupont didn't have the high-scoring numbers of some other prospects, his tremendous character was valuable in any round of the draft.
Just over a year later, the decision to select Dupont is emerging as real draft-day coup. Because not only does he possess the character required of NHL players, Dupont now also has the statistical resume, having redefined himself into one of the leading point scorers in major junior hockey.
As of Nov. 6, Dupont had recorded 12 goals and nine assists for 21 points in 19 games, along with 32 penalty minutes. Through 19 games in his draft year (2004-05), Dupont had only four goals and three assists for seven points. Last season, he had five goals and four assists for nine points during the same span.
Dupont always had the ability to put points on the board, but was never seen as a so-called "skill player." His grit, heart, intelligence and character were always the focus of his scouting reports, and were what made him so attractive to the Rangers. Midway through the 2005-06 season, however, something clicked for the Hitmen center, and he went on to finish his second major-junior season with 30 goals.
"Getting 30 goals last year, I don't want to say I thought it was unrealistic, but I knew it would be hard," says Dupont. "The coaches believed in me and they really pushed me. Hitting that 30-goal mark was really important to me. It really helped my confidence."
That confidence has made 2006-07 a truly special season for Dupont. He currently ranks 15th in the WHL with 21 points, seventh with 12 goals and second with four game-winning goals. He has also notched the first goal of the game four times, more than any other player in the league.
From Oct. 8-30, Dupont also recorded an 11-game point scoring streak -- the second longest in the WHL this season. During the streak, he tallied eight goals and eight assists.
"Right now it seems like everything I do, it goes right," said the Manitoba native. "There is no change in what I am doing, and I think it goes back to confidence and experience. I didn't even know I had the point streak going until the media kept mentioning it. My team relies on me and they expect a lot out of me. I am going to try to help us go as far as we can go."
Dupont also claims skating with the Rangers over the summer was invaluable in improving his game.
"Prospect camp, Traverse City and main camp, they helped tremendously," he said. "I mean, when I first came back to juniors, the game seemed so slow. It took a while for it to feel like a fast-paced hockey again."
At 6-foot-2 and 210 pounds, Dupont has always been known to play with grit and passion day in and day out.
"Playing physical is how I play my game," said Dupont, who has registered more than 100 penalty minutes in each of the past two seasons with Calgary. "I don't worry about what it might do to my body now or later on. I play the game at a fast tempo, so I don't think the physical nature takes its toll on me. I am a just a hard-working guy who likes to drive to the net. I like to deflect shots, bang in rebounds and collect those garbage goals. It's hard but it's fun. I think I am also shooting more this season, and that is catching some goalies off guard."
Dupont has no shortage of desire desire, and his competitiveness presents itself every time he opens his mouth. His hunger to win and work ethic are unparalleled.
"Last season showed me that nothing is unrealistic, and if I push myself there is no limit to what I might be able to do," he said. "Right now I am focusing on my defensive game. I am very happy with my plus-minus. I am more proud of that than my point totals. I have really put a lot of effort towards improving that aspect of my game and it has been working out thus far.
"Defensive work is hard, and it's all about the little things. Chipping the puck out of the zone, getting back and blocking shots. It takes a lot of sacrifice and hard work. I am happy with what I have done so far."
Through 19 games, Dupont was firmly in the WHL's top 20 with a plus-9 rating. In 2004-05 he was minus-4, and last year was a minus-1 with a month remaining in the season before going on a tear to finish the season plus-6.
In his constant search to improve, Dupont sought out the advice of Brendan Shanahan at the Rangers' 2006 Training Camp in September. He was eager to pick the 600-goal scorer's brain.
"Shanahan really helped me a lot personally over the summer," said Dupont. "We sat down and talked about what it takes to play in the NHL and be successful. Whenever there was a free moment he would come by and talk, and he didn't ease up on anything. He laid it all on the line for me, and he was definitely one of the most important guys."
As competitive as he is on the ice, Dupont has also been recognized for his off-ice actions as well. Last season, he won the Hitmen's humanitarian award as well as leading the team in three-star selections.
Still, all the personal accolades and accomplishments mean far less to Dupont than winning a championship.
"This is my third season in the WHL, and in my first two seasons we reached the second round of the playoffs before losing in game 7," said Dupont, whose demeanor quickly sours when talking about his team's postseason history. "I mean, we even had leads in both those series. The first one we were up 3-1, and then last year was 3-2. So it is something you don't forget. It leaves a bitter taste in your mouth. It is frustrating, but as a captain I want to make sure our team doesn't forget that. I want to win the cup this year. I think winning the Championships Cup is one of the hardest trophies to win, and I want it."
Being one of the team's on-ice leaders is something he takes very seriously, as this is the second season he is wearing an "A" on his shoulder.
"It's definitely an honor," he said. "But it's also a big responsibility. The main thing is instilling the correct work ethic in our practices. The young guys look up to you, so I am trying to lead by example. Being in the gym after practice, talk about the game with them and basically show them the ropes.
"They skate so well in the (Rangers) camps, and a lot of emphasis was placed on having the right work ethic. Playing very consistent and working hard every night, that is what they are looking for and playing this way helped me a lot. I am really just working hard and playing with a strong work ethic. I realize what it takes now. I know how to work for what I want to get. It is easy to slip back, but I know what I want and how to get there."