Laurent Dauphin has proved he can score — now it's all about the finer points.
The shifty centre was a poster child for steadily moving up the hockey ladder during his rookie season with the Chicoutimi Saguéneens. Coming in as a 17-year-old, the 6-foot, 166-pound Dauphin finished fifth in rookie scoring by tallying 25 goals and 57 points, including a league-high nine game-winners, across 62 games for a young Sags outfit that finished in the middle of the QMJHL pack. The Repentigny, Que., native also held his own in showcase events; he was named a top player during the CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game after being added as an injury replacement just 48 hours before puckdrop and was also a top-six forward and power-play contributor while helping Canada win the IIHF world U18 championship for the first time in five years.
Dauphin, ranked 28th among domestic skaters by NHL Central Scouting, could prove to be a good value pick if his acceleration and physicality progress once he becomes a drafted player.
"Next year, for sure, I need to improve my physical game," Dauphin says. "Be more explosive in my legs and stronger in battles along the walls. I'm not so afraid of it. There's time to do that; you cannot train your height, but you can train your weight.
"It's always about energy for me," Dauphin adds when asked if any aspect of his first season with Chicoutimi was a letdown. "I was a little down toward the end of the season, and hopefully I can work on that."
The foursome ahead of Dauphin in the rookie scoring race — Baie-Comeau's Gabryel Paquin-Boudreau and Valentin Zykov, Moncton's Ivan Barbashev and Rimouski's Frédérik Gauthier, Dauphin's former midget teammate — each played on more successful teams. As a centre, one question with Dauphin over the years to come will be his ability and willingness to distribute the puck, so it might be worth keeping an eye on how much he can improve on his first-season total of 32 assists.
On the other hand, the likely second-rounder has shown he can deliver in the higher-stakes game. As a 16-year-old, Dauphin, along with Gauthier, helped the Collège Esther-Blondin Phenix win the silver medal at the Canadian midget championship. That extra year of minor hockey with coach Paulin Bordeleau helped launch him into the QMJHL waters.
"I went to Chicoutimi with the thought in mind to prove to everybody that I had a place there, even if I didn't play as a 16-year-old like the others," he says.
1. It didn't get a ton of media attention, but how do you look back on having helped Canada capture the world under-18 championship earlier this season?
"It's tougher to win that tournament than the world junior. You're missing guys such as [Nathan] MacKinnon, [Jonathan] Drouin, who are still in their playoffs. The U.S. has its full team. We were very proud to win. It was a good experience. I was in triple-A [midget] with [Rimouski centre Frédérik] Gauthier. I made friends with [Charlottetown's Yan-Pavel] Laplante. It was amazing to play with Connor McDavid, too. That was a great opportunity."
2. Which NHL player(s) do you watch closely because his, or their, style of game is similar to your own?
I like [the Boston Bruins'] Patrice Bergeron — he's a two-way forward who really competes hard and is good when there's a situation with a high level of pressure.
3. Hockey is so all-consuming; what is something you like to do to get a mental break from it?
"Probably just take it easy. Go play pool. Or be with my teammates. I have to do so much school because I'm in science. I take a lot of math, chemistry, just to keep every door open at the university level. My mother [Manon St-Jean] is a chartered accountant, my brother's a chartered accountant and my dad [François Dauphin] is a general manager for a small city [Val-David, Que., pop. 5,000] so education is very important in our family."
4. Other than the Saguenéens, who has the nicest jersey in the Q?
"I think I like the black Halifax jersey the best."
5. If hockey did not exist, what sport would you play?
"Probably football, or basketball. I played football for a couple years when I was younger — linebacker or defensive back."
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet. Please address any questions, comments or concerns to firstname.lastname@example.org.