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Laurent Dauphin, last-minute fill-in, shines at CHL Top Prospects Game

Laurent Dauphin was in on Team Orr's first two goals (Rene Senechal, The Canadian Press)

HALIFAX — Home Hardware, title sponsor for the CHL Top Prospects Game, might not care for this plug for their competition. But Laurent Dauphin was like Albert in the old 1980s Canadian Tire commercial on Wednesday — the last guy picked for the team, the first star of the game.

The rookie Chicoutimi Saguenéens centre was a last-minute replacement for Team Orr after illness kept the Medicine Hat Tigers' Hunter Shinkaruk in sick bay in Southern Alberta. Dauphin, 17, only practised with Team Orr during the gameday skate on Wednesday. He looked a step behind after being on the wrong end of a Ryan Hartman seek-and-destroy open-ice check in the game's opening moments, but set up an Adam Erne goal the next time he was out. His early second-period goal completed a two-point night and put Team Orr on its way to a 3-0 win, the first shutout in the event's 18-year history.

Every year, some ambitious puck prodigies overthink playing in the CHL's showcase for draft-year players. Being informed on Monday that he needed to get to Halifax, stat, helped Dauphin relax and pick up two points.

"I think it's an advantage to be called just before the game because you are right in it and you don't think, 'oh, there will be many scouts,' " Dauphin, 17, who's the third-leading rookie scorer in the QMJHL, said. "You just play."

There was a lot of Haligonian tooth-gnashing throughout the night as the host Halifax Mooseheads' Jonathan Drouin and Nathan MacKinnon were goose-egged, along with the rest of Team Cherry. But the all-QMJHL Team Orr line of Dauphin between Quebec Remparts wings Erne and Nick Sorensen ended up scoring two of the game's three goals.

Like Dauphin said, he didn't have time to lose focus.

"Sometimes when you arrive at the last minute, you don't have too much time to think about it and he just played," said Team Orr assistant coach Dominique Ducharme, who coaches Drouin and MacKinnon with Halifax.

It came as no surprise to linemate Erne, since they play against each other in the Q's Telus East division.

"He was good tonight, especially for being a call-up," Erne said. "He stayed focused. So did Nick too, Nick played an awesome game. As a line, we clicked right off the bat, we passed the puck well and kept our shifts short.

"I think he [Dauphin] always seems to get one or two goals against us [for Chicoutimi against Quebec]. He's always a threat and he's really impressive."

Dauphin, started the game inauspiciously. Clad in the No. 14 jersey originally made for Shinkaruk, a surefire first-round pick, the reedy Repentigny, Que., native listed at 6-foot and 166 pounds got freight-trained just inside his own blueline by shift-disturber extraordinaire Hartman, who was a valuable energy player for Team USA during its gold-medal run at the world junior championship. It might have let Dauphin know he was in a hockey game.

"It got him going," Team Cherry bench boss Don Cherry said during the post-game press conference.

"I was a little bit dazed," Dauphin, 17, said with a hint of smile. "But it's part of the game, I came back after that and managed to set the play up.

Dauphin was a first-round choice of the Saguenéens in 2011, but deferred his entry into major junior, perhaps since he was only 153 pounds at the time he was selected. Instead of being spot-welded to the bench as a 16-year-old while struggling to keep up with bigger and older players, he thrived while staying in AAA midget with the Collège Esther-Blondin Phenix, who fell one goal short of capturing the Canadian midget championship. Now he and former Phenix teammate Fréderik Gauthier, now with the Rimouski Océanic, are 2-3 in QMJHL rookie scoring.

"Last year really helped me," Dauphin said. "[Blondin coach] Paulin Bordeleau really passed me a lot of experience. This year, the more more the year goes along, the more confidence I got to do what I do the best."

Serious QMJHL observers have been well-aware of Dauphin's potential as his rookie season has unfolded in Chicoutimi. It's safe to say that on a national level, no one was hyping him much prior to the game. The Top Prospects Game is only a one-off event, but the showing could convince a few teams to give a longer look to Dauphin, who is NHL Central Scouting's 41st-ranked North American skater.

"I just want to continue to grow and help my team go far in the playoffs," he said. "I think I'm a playmaker who is able to score and can play defence, strong both ways."

Suffice to say, Team Cherry could have used a guy like Albert on Wednesday. Or Laurent.

Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet. Please address any questions, comments or concerns to btnblog@yahoo.ca.

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